Spring is a glorious time on the Rock Farm. Blossoms are on the trees, the slow combustion stove is finally allowed to go out and is laid up for summer, and lambs are frolicking in the paddocks.
These gorgeous animals require little in the way of health and welfare checks – but even such low maintenance sheep as Wiltipolls require some intervention. And when the city cousins come to stay, it provides the perfect opportunity to bring in the lambs.
It is always a good idea to stay abreast of best practice – particularly for something we only do once a year. After a quick brush up on the animal welfare standards, we were ready to go. The standards are available online at: http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/sheep/
Marking lambs is a necessary part of raising sheep. The lambs receive important vaccinations and are drenched. The males are castrated, and all lambs have their tails docked. All the other sheep receive vaccination boosters and are drenched too.
We use rubber bands to castrate the males and dock the tails. This is the most humane and cost effective option available to hobby farmers.
The vaccine we chose prevents clostridial diseases in cattle and sheep such as Tetanus. These diseases are frequently fatal. They are caused by anaerobic bacteria and are widespread in the environment – especially in the soil. Protection is provided when all the herd is vaccinated.
We also drenched the sheep with a triple combination drench. The product we chose provides protection against gastro-intestinal roundworms, lungworm, Nasal Bot and Itch Mite. It also provides important trace minerals such as selenium and cobalt, often deficient in Australian spoil.
Cell grazing is another technique to reduce the worm burden in sheep or other livestock. Whilst I would love to develop a cell grazing system on the Rock Farm, this requires a significant investment in fencing and is still a few years away at this stage.
The final job was to put an ear tag in our lambs. These tags are marked with our unique Property Identification Code (PIC), and will stay on these lambs for life. This, in combination with movement declarations, ensures a full audit trail for livestock movements in Australia. The ear tags are also colour coded, and 2017 lambs will wear a white ear tag, allowing easy identification and sorting of stock based on age.
A couple of likely lads also decided to take a couple of tags. They politely declined my offer to put a tag in their ears, but did agree to marking their hats!
And so our marking was quickly over. We let the sheep settle in the yards for a couple of hours with some delicious oats before we released them back into their paddock. All done – until next year 🙂