I know I’ve said it before but there’s only so much you can learn from books. No matter how much you read. And then comes trial and error. Unfortunately for us, farming with animals means that trial and error often involves animals. Sheep have, without question, been our biggest trial. More specifically, the Romney. Which, according to all we knew – and everyone local we’ve talked to – should have been the easiest and best bet. Our neighbors on all sides have Romney. Their Romney are doing fine. Ours? Have had issues from the start. Our current battle is sheep lice. The ram brought it in with him. Be we didn’t know that because he didn’t show signs for months. Now we are waging a war.
The worst affected?
Almost all the Criolla are fine. Most of the Corriedale and PolwarthX are fine. But if one sheep has it, the flock is infected. So we’ve treated them repeatedly. We’ll get it under control, then it’ll flare again. It’s likely our Romney wool clip for this year is useless. Or maybe not. Supposedly the lice only damage the wool at that 1 cm point above the skin. So maybe if the wool is still on the sheep it’s fine? I won’t know until shearing. The good news is that while the sheep look bad, they don’t have any skin lesions or other secondary issues. That’s the upside. They still look terrible, and likely feel the wind in odd places, but otherwise they’re fine. We just treated them again, this time with a new-to-Uruguay product from Australia that is substantially stronger. Also substantially more expensive. With any luck it will hold until we shear the end of September / early October and then we can give all the sheep a bath. Twice.
It took some gentle prying before one of the local farmers finally admitted that sheep lice is a huge problem here. The government used to require that all farmers treat their flocks. Then the government stopped that requirement and the lice population has ballooned. Just like we have to trim hooves while our neighbors don’t, we run through regular foot baths while our neighbors don’t, we will also now also be regularly treating for lice while our neighbors don’t.