Friday, September 26, 2008


This may be a very strange thing to be excited about. I just got my new NASSA News in the mail and was reading it last night. Heather Ludlam DVM and president of NASSA has an article titled "A Veterinarian's Perspective", Blindness In Lambs. After all tests have been done and animals studied and all other causes of blindness have been addressed "we must consider genetics."

Yes, that is what happened to my lambs this spring. I was in contact with Heather during the summer and gave her information about my sheep and other people who contacted me about their animals having the same problems. This is not merely blind sheep it is in most instances "brain sick" lambs. Born blind and running till they get seizures and die. Not a fun thing to have happen.

We had every test known to man, well it seemed that way, to live and dead lambs with no "definitive cause of death." The necropsy would say things like all mineral, vitamin and disease test were good but maybe it was a deficiency or "birthing trauma". I do hear that birthing trauma can cause blindness but most of my lambs were born in a normal time frame and the lambs I did pull were from non line bred ewes that had all live babies. In fact I do question blind lambs from birthing trauma since in the last 30 years of raising dairy goats, pygmy goats, pygoras and three breeds of sheep I have had only two outcomes to the lambs and kids born of a birthing trauma, dead or alive! Never anything in between. Only my shetlands and only from the last two rams I used did the sick lambs come up.

I lost five lambs at birth. Four ewes had twins and one each of their twins died soon after birth. One ewe had a single and lost him and one ewe, Bella had twins a ram and a ewe and they were the only ones affected that lived. Meet Stevie Rea and Charles. Both are blind.

Stevie's fleece is as soft as air with tiny crimp from top to bottom and walks tall and square and I have to cull her! I will cull Chuck too since he is a very flighty boy and scares easily. If I can afford to keep Stevie she will stay as long as possible for her fleece and her loving nature. This is such a hard year to sell animals and I see people are selling most if not all of their lambs and I can not sell any of my lambs for breeders and feel right about it. Talk about a ruff year. Plus the ram who sired these lambs at 17 months old had horns that were almost squeezing his face already. All his ram lambs are wethers now except one and will be butchered next spring if there are no more fiber boy homes. (Sharon has all she wants) With trouble from rams throwing bad horns and blind babies our freezer is full to the brim. And now I'm culling ewe's. So please cull sheep who produce blind lambs it's a recessive gene and both must stop breeding and know your ram lambs. Too many are left to breed with the "if he has bad horns I will replace him" guarantee. That's too late he has already produced ewes and rams who carry the genes to do the same thing in time or someone has fed him for a year fallen in love with him and then has to send him to market. Now that's not a fun thing to go threw either!


Sharon said...

What a relief to have official confirmation for something you already knew. I wonder if Stevie's fleece is as silky as Micky's. I'm was so pleased to received his processed fleece back and have it be just as lovely as ever.

Boy, I had forgotten about the meat. I asked Ian and we'd like to get some lamb burger from you.

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

I think I told you, but I have a beautiful ram lamb! He is heavy in the chest, long loined, nice level dock... and a white spot below his eye ridge. I could register him, hope that he doesnt throw the white spots, but what of his gets get? Maybe the white spots wont show up for three generations, maybe not at all. But the possibility is there and although a white spot on his face might seem a simple thing, it is a disqualification for registration. I was thinking of keeping him as a wether sire, but with hay at these prices??? I cant afford to keep him.

Kathy said...

I was glad to see that article too, Mim. Of course, I knew it was you - and I was glad to read that Heather thought this was very important to research.
It's been a hard year for sales here too - I have a couple of beautiful ram lambs that should be in a flock somewhere, but will have to take any lambs who don't sell to auction at the end of this month. I can't afford to feed them through the winter. You're not alone.

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