Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Deciding to Cull

We have never had to cull an adult ewe before. We've had some bad luck with losing a few. But being a young farm, our sheep are all relatively young themselves. Shirley is the oldest at 7. The rest are 4 or younger, assuming the ages I was told when we bought them were correct.

We briefly discussed culling when we found out they had CL, which is highly contagious. We now vaccinate for it on all our ewe lambs, and our adult ewes get vaccinated every year.  We also discovered the hard way that they all carry OVH-2, which is what gave Bridget MCF, and caused her to die.  At that point, we had the decision of culling all our sheep so we could continue raising a cow or two, or say goodbye to our cows and not raise any more. I thought it would be easier to keep all our sheep, than to start over.

So we decided to vaccinate for CL, and maybe in 10-15 years it will be gone. We've decided not to cull PURELY because of that.

But we are now facing the decision again. We have plenty of ewes, maybe even too many,. We kept all 6 ewe lambs that were born last season. So we have room to spare some.  And Lucy abandoned a lamb this year. I looked back in her records and saw that this was the THIRD time she has abandoned a lamb. She abandoned her first lamb, Little Orphan Annie. We assumed the dogs got between them, and Atlas was being protective of her. We managed to wean her back onto mom, and thought nothing of it.  This last year, she abandoned Cornelius. I thought it might have been that we handled him too much, and that he got too cold in the snow, and she left him behind. Turns out, she's just a bad mom. She abandoned Charlie this year, too. And we TRIED and TRIED to get her to take him back. To no avail. And to our heartbreak, he actually did freeze to death, and we lost him. So Lucy gets no more chances.

She's a relatively nice lamb when she isn't a mom. She lets us pet her, and is pretty calm, if not a trouble maker sometimes. But when she has lambs, watch out if you are less than 3' tall! She is the ONLY sheep that has knocked Shannon over, and she did it more than once last year. That's trouble. We don't hurt her babies, she doesn't get to hurt MINE.  I wouldn't have culled her just for that, but add it all up - CL, abandonment, mean distemper - we are saying goodbye to Lucy as soon as she weans Annmarie. We won't take her away from her baby until it's time, but we can't have ewes that abandon their babies, when the rest of our ewes are such good moms.  It will get one CL sheep out of the flock, and start us on the path of replacing our ewes with new, vaccinated lambs.

So watch out ladies, you make too many mistakes, and it's mutton for you!