Monday night, I caught the lame ewe to work on her feet. I took Gene, my 5-year-old Border Collie, down to help catch her. It took about 20 mintes to catch the ewe, both because the sheep aren’t dogged, and because Gene can act like a idiot sometimes. Her lack of confidence always manifests in squirrely behavior and the sheep figuring out they don’t need to take her seriously.
But, I do find that after she gets tired and yelled at quite a bit, she starts to settle down and work nicely. The tiredness makes her choose to work more efficiently, and me taking her self esteem down a few notches softens her demeanor so the sheep respond better to her. We got the job done; and to give her credit, I don’t think there are many farm dogs that can help single an undogged sheep in an open field! We cheated a bit by putting them into the corner, but still, it’s a trick that can’t be done by yourself without a good stock dog for sure.
So, the feet… I used to work my dogs at a place where the sheep had really bad feet, and I spent a bit of time every day I was there trimming hooves to try to ease their discomfort and make them more workable for the dogs. A friend of mine who has an animal sciences degree showed me the basics. I find that not only do you have to create a good flat foot surface so they walk right, you have to be ruthless about hacking away diseased tissue. Making them bleed is actually good, as the blood washes out the wound and encourages fresh tissue to grow. And, you have to open up the bacteria-laden pockets to the air so they can dry out. I also find that the more you trim, the harder the hoof works to recover, and it’ll grow very rapidly. The body wants to heal, after all.
On this girl, only her front feet were bad. Here is one hoof beforehand: you can see the side edges of the hoof curling over. This creates a pocket in which material tends to pack and retain moisture, and then works its way upwards, splitting the hoof. I thought this might be all there was, but as I trimmed, I could see that much of the hoof wall was detached, which is relatively useless. And, where there are tiny holes, if you work the points of your trimmers into those and start opening them up, usually you find lots of “stuff” in there, and a bad smell to boot.
Here is the “after” photo–I’ll take off more material in a week or so, but this was all I wanted to do in one sitting. Despite having a lot of raw, exposed tissue, she was walking better already. Before I let her go, I sprayed her feet with Shreiner’s Herbal Solution. I really like this stuff, it’s a very old-fashioned, natural wound dressing spray that I use on absolutely everything, including myself (though it’s not labeled for humans, so don’t tell them I said that! 🙂 ). I learned about it from a pig farmer, and get it at my local feed store.