This is number 33. She is ten years old. She is a really great ewe, having produced twenty-six lambs in her lifetime so far. She is still going strong. A few years ago, she started developing some warts on her teats. I don’t know what they are from, either some viral source, maybe related to soremouth, or perhaps skin cancer. Over time, the warts have multiplied. Her teats are also large, typical of old ewes, they have grown misshapen and saggy, due to the ravages of time and feeding many lambs.
At first, the warts were not a problem. In 2012, I noticed her lambs having more difficulty latching on, especially to the teat with the larger number of warts. I worked with her bigger lamb, he figured it out, and everything was fine that year. This year, neither lamb could get that teat to work. Part of the problem was that one wart cluster was hanging down lower than the end of the teat. So, the lambs would latch onto that, fail to get any milk, and give up.
I ended up milking-out that side of her udder for a few weeks, until it decided to dry up on its own. Granted, it was simple to hand-milk, the teat is as big as a cow’s, and the ewe is easy to handle. We enjoyed drinking the milk, when I didn’t dump it into the bucket for the lambs. But, it’s still a lot of work, milking twice a day. I bottle-supplemented one of her lambs to be sure there was enough milk from her remaining quarter. I thought, well, maybe it’s time to cull her.
But, it was rattling around in the back of my mind all summer, wondering if there was a simple way to remove those warts and clean up the teats enough to make them useable again. She’s such a good ewe, I’d like to get more of her genetics, and keep more of her daughters. I’m already keeping a lot of ewelambs, and lament giving up a productive, mature ewe, in favor of starting over with a youngster. She’s in great shape, not showing any signs that she’s getting too old to produce. I thought about slicing the warts off with a razor blade, but figured it might be too painful, and bloody. So, I asked the vet to work up a price on doing a little cosmetic surgery on the old girl.
It turned out, it cost less than the price of a lamb, so I figured it was worth it. #33 has been having triplets for years, I have no reason to believe she won’t again next year, she’s in prime shape. The vet used a small, battery-operated cautery tool. We sat the sheep in a “sheep chair” which conveniently immobilizes them, belly-up. First, the vet gave the ewe a shot of Banamine, and some local Lidocaine. The warts sliced off in minutes, and the cautery tool leaves a nice, clean scab behind. We opted not to remove all the warts, only the ones low enough on the teat to impede a newborn lamb’s nursing. Once the lambs get bigger and possess nursing skill, almost nothing can get in their way.
Hopefully, they are as good as new (sort of!), and will enable her to stick around a few more years giving me good lambs.