A few ramblings about my week so far....first off, I saw a robin yesterday. Considering we woke up to 3" of new snow and the wind blowing 40 mph this was a surprise. Today the sun was shining DURING a sideways snow...go figure this weather!
Yesterday when the fog lifted I see a ewe, legs up, dead as a door nail. Oh heck, right? Yup...she was due in 2 weeks, full of lambs, very healthy looking but hey, she was dead and that means so were her lambs. The guard dog was helping himself to some real icky stuff along with the magpies. It was a lovely site (not) so first off I got the guard dog out of that pasture and locked the gate. Luckily the rest of the flock was in the shelter with the snow/fog and so I didn't have to herd sheep out. The magpies continued their feast. There was no sign of a coyote kill, no blood or any sort of "fuss." Mystery death. We don't have many of those and we've never lost a ewe like that during pregnancy before.
I called the state vet's office because we're in the scrapie flock certification program and this means when we have an adult ewe die they may opt to test her for scrapie. The vet came and did the "off with her head" thing and sent off samples from her brain, lymph nodes and salivary glands for testing. Yup, that's how they test for scrapie. In case you don't know, scrapie is a disease similar to Mad Cow in cows but it's the sheep version. The USDA has a nationwide program going to eradicate the disease by 2010. We will be a certified scrapie-free flock this summer 2009 which is a 5-year process. We have yearly flock inspections by a state and federal vet and have to keep real tight records on the flock. So, in a few days I'll know the results but the vet said she didn't have any signs of the disease...he just wanted to do samples for their surveillance requirements. The USDA wants more surveillance and testing on sheep but most producers (especially those not in this certification program) don't want the feds or state guys on their place so don't report dead ewes much. I don't blame them but I want our farm to be scrapie free and certified so we've jumped through their hoops. Personal choice. So, I got to see upfront and close how to extricate all sorts of lovelies out of a sheep's head and I tell you it was rather interesting. Once I got over her head being separated from her body and he flipped it over to where I couldn't see her face, the bottom side was pretty interesting with its parts and how he finds them. He did a good job of explaining it to me. I'm sure I told you more than you wanted to know! Sorry. Over and out for now.