Friday, April 24, 2009

The lambs are all dead.

Sorry for the dramatic headline, but it's accurate. I've talked a few times about starting slow and experimenting with crops, and that sometimes things don't work out. So this time is one of those.

We had 4 lambs. One of the ewes had a single lamb, the other had triplets. I'm inexperienced with lambs and sheep in general, so I was watching to see when the lambed, but really don't know what to expect, or what is normal.

With pigs, it's pretty normal to lose a pig or two out of a litter -- they're stillborn or die a few hours after being born. So when I found a dead lamb in the pasture the day they were born I chalked it up to that. But I didn't find the lamb until after a pig had found it (I assumed) and all that I found was the head and spine. The rest was gone. But the other three lambs were fine.

I excluded the pigs from that pasture on general principles -- I don't know if a pig will eat a live lamb, but I don't want to find out, either. So having done that, all looked good and I watched for the next day or two. I was a bit concerned about the interactions between the lambs and the cows, afraid the lambs might get stepped on, but it looked ok.

But today all of the lambs were dead. Click on pictures for bigger versions if you want to see more detail.

Small wound on ear; not a serious attempt to eat it, just a bite wound. No tissue missing, just some blood.
The throat is how this lamb died. you can see the teeth marks in a line starting a little above my thumbnail and extending across the throat. There wasn't much blood there. I think that they
died from suffocation, having their throat clamped shut. Picture is the bottom of the throat looking up towards the ears
On the opposite side of the head there's a definite tooth mark in the jaw below the eye. Same marks on the other lambs.
I don't think this was a weasel or a fox. The teeth are too big. That fang mark is as big as my fingernail. I don't think it was a coyote because none of the sheep were eaten, and none were carried away. Coyotes might kill a bunch of sheep, but they'll usually carry it away, especially if they're feeding kits.
So what do I think it was? A domestic dog. Which bums me out. I've had three incidents this week with dogs from the dog park chasing and pulling feathers out of turkeys. I think that it's likely that someone thought it was cute to watch their dog "herd" the sheep and it went wrong quick, or maybe someone didn't see their dog go do this.
This is the sort of thing that makes shooting dogs a reasonable option. A few seconds and the lambs are dead.
No lambs for me this year. what a bummer.


Dave said...

My wife raises Australian Shepherds and we also have goats and a Llama. Tow things piss me off more than just about anything else, 1. People not being responsible arounf livestock 2. People who think that just because they are out side the city limits they can let dogs run loose.
Even though we live on seven acres our dogs are always in a fenced area, wish I could say the same for my neighbors.
Sorry you lost the lambs, hopefully next time you will be around when the irresponsible dog owner comes back.

Dean Smith said...

I once bought a farm on Vashon Island. When the seller learned that I intended to keep sheep, he advised me to shoot any dog that came on the place and bury it immediately and not talk about it. He moved to a house several miles away.

Several months later, his dog 'came home' to my place. I immediately caught the dog and locked it in my garage. I called him to come get the dog. He was very grateful that I didn't take his advice. But what if I hadn't been home at the time?

On another occasion, a dog did get in with the sheep. The ewes formed a circle with the lambs in the middle. The oldest ram lamb went out to face the dog. My ram was in a stout pen so he couldn't help, but he was making sounds of support for the young ram. Wish I'd had a movie camera.

I don't know how to solve this except to pen the sheep up when you're not there to guard them, or train a guard dog.

sheila said...

Livestock guardian dog?

Brig said...

Pigs will kill & eat lambs so I'm glad you separated them. There is a good book out (Amazon has it I believe) called: Raising Sheep the Modern Way by Paula Simmons. Get the latest edition if possible.
You might want to try raising an Anatolian or a Great Pyreness with your livestock to protect them 24/7. I have a friend who rents out herds of goats for brush control. He uses Great Pyreness as guard dogs, one to each herd. They are raised with their goat herd, and provide great protection from other dogs, mtn lions, bear, etc. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

You know, if people had their pay docked for these sorts of infractions (equivalent to your financial loss), they might think twice. I feel like this about the foxes here. I've lost a bunch more chickens to them and the typical reaction is, "Oh but the poor little fox has to eat too". I wonder if they lost 20% of their wages every time a fox showed at their place of work would they still feel this way?

Aaron Weber said...

Llamas work pretty well as guard animals too, I'm told.

Anonymous said...

Dang, sorry to hear Bruce, that is so disappointing and frustrating.

We are sure at war with the coyotes this year, we think the flood taking away so many mice has increased their desperation, we are seeing new, really bold behavior, like taking poultry right in front of us! :-<

More than once, I've interrupted them in the act, where they've been forced to leave their kill behind, so it's possible somebody surprised them and they took off before they could eat or take a lamb away.

It seems like a lot of domestic dogs would be inexperienced enough that they'd do body damage before they managed to kill; versus coyotes seem pretty surgical in their method. But, maybe it was a dog that had done it before and knew what he was doing.

Maybe LGDs are the only option, of all the things w've been trying, that's the only thing that's been working for us.

I've been reading a lot about this subject, and more than once have read the discouraging quote, "the reason most people get out of sheep farming is predation from dogs and coyotes..." The statistics of losses from coyotes + dogs are staggering!

Good luck. It is hard not to get discouraged, but it sounds like this is a challenge everyone faces with sheep, we're definitely not alone.


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry, and feel your pain. I just lost my goats to a dog attack. Give you one guess what kind of dog. Animal control is useless, and one of the dogs is still on the loose. What to do...