GeneIn December, our thirteen year old border collie, Gene, was diagnosed with cancer. I had noticed an egg-sized lump on the back of her left thigh a while earlier, and decided to ask the vet to look at it. It was almost like a typical fatty lump seen in older dogs, and she already has some fatty lumps. But this one did feel a bit more “rooted” and it had grown faster than I’m used to seeing in benign fatty tumors. A biopsy identified it as a mast cell tumor, which is common in dogs. So, it was removed after Christmas.

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I’m finally getting around to analyzing my lamb yield from last spring, driven by my need to plan vaccine purchases for 2017 lambing, which is driven by my need to analyze what went wrong from last season!

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I have been sorely remiss in blogging; but my excuse is, I’m just busy! Somehow, blogging is falling down, and off, the priority list; but I’ll try to do better!

Still the biggest focus of my farming efforts is growing this silly pup into a good guardian dog. Bronte, sadly, passed already (I’ll save that topic for another post), so this “li’l” pup is needing to grow up fast and fill big shoes. But, growing she is; as you can see, she’s nearly as big as Moses already, and he’s a 100 lb dog. She is now eight months old. I’ve officially named her Brinsa. Though, often I find myself calling her “Woojee Toodle,” and my husband refers to her as “Dum Dum”; so I imagine one of those two dumb names will stick.

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BronteKneeA few weeks ago, we got some bad news. It started with Bronte showing some lameness on her front leg around the first of July. I wasn’t initially alarmed, since the dogs do injure themselves sometimes with all the running they do on uneven ground. There was a little bit of swelling in her knee, but not much, and she was still getting around just fine and was cheerful. I gave her some NSAIDs I had left over from her spay, and it seemed to improve.

Once the meds were gone, it got worse, however. The swelling increased, as did her lameness, and her demeanor started to change, as if she was in more discomfort. I worried that perhaps it was a bigger injury, like a tendon that needed surgical intervention. I called to make an appointment to have it x-rayed. My description to the vet that it was a strange, “hard” swelling made her instantly say “bone cancer” on the phone, even without seeing it.

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Last week I attended a talk on the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). This continues to be a topic that “everyone is freaking out about” when I don’t think most need be. On hand to present were Amber Itle, a WSDA Field Veterinarian and Cat Marrier, a WSDA Feed Specialist. I was already pretty familiar with the law change, having read up on it when it was proposed in the Federal Register, and following it as it became law. But I did pick up a few tidbits of interesting info I didn’t know!

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2009Lamb

I was pleased to get a post card from WSU’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab (WADDL) a while back, advertising that they now offer a pregnancy test. I had been paying $6.50 at BioPryn, so I was liking the $4.50 price at WADDL.

I sent in a batch of blood samples that were collected 5/1. The report came back saying all the ewes were open. I noticed once was on the hairy edge: her S-N ratio was 0.297, and anything greater than 0.300 is considered pregnant. I had a hard time deciding whether I thought this ewe looked pregnant, or just fatty. Even her  udder was ambiguous, it looked slightly full, and, in the last few days, growing larger; but certainly a long ways from imminent-to-deliver. Well, we were all wrong, she had a lamb this morning (and now her udder looks quite full). WADDL claims a sensitivity of 99.3%, so once again, I seem to have fallen into their small slice of error range, which is… not helpful. I had almost stopped monitoring or looking at this ewe, and had started putting away all my lambing bag supplies, relying too much on the test results to tell me I was done with lambing for the year.

I have not had the BioPryn test be wrong for me in either direction, tho they claim a similar sensitivity. I may go back to them, despite the $2/sample extra charge. They are also much faster at processing and returning results, which is preferable for me, since I’m using the information to plan next steps. Anyway, I was glad for the test to be wrong, as it’s always distressing to have a mature ewe be dry, and I was contemplating what to do with her. Now I know, she lost her pregnancy less than a month in, and re-bred in late December. Which is actually kind of a testament to her prolificacy. It was a nice surprise.

Lambing is cruising along, up to 44 lambs this morning. I am on vacation from work now, which gives me a huge time breather. It is amazing how much of the day is eaten up by the routine: check for newborns and weigh & tag them; check for troubled births, assist; feed the bottle lambs; feed the herd am hay; fill the water buckets in the barn; move the fencing; move the water hoses and troughs; top off mineral feeders (they really hit the kelp hard in these last weeks of pregnancy…); get old ewe in the barn standing up and walking; medicate the ones that need it; launder wet clothes and used towels; feed evening grain; check, check, check. It’s easy to forget to eat in there, and lost sleep is part of the bargain.

On Sunday we had friends over for BBQ. The sheep happened to be pastured immediately below where we eat dinner at our picnic table. So I was able to keep an eye on the sheep until it got dark around 8:30. No births seemed to be happening. Our friends left a couple hours later, so I went down to do a final check around 11pm. As I approached, I saw a ewe on her side with her legs kicking in the air- a sure sign of a struggle to push out a stuck lamb.

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