Monday, June 2, 2014


April may be the cruellest month, according to no less an authority than Mr. T.S. Eliot himself, but it had nothing on May around here. A farm is always a study in entropy, but this month has been particularly brutal. Just a few representative examples:
  • We lost the power to our barn—thank goodness it was after lambing and shearing—and we have no idea why or how to fix it, though it looks like it may involve ripping up our back patio. 
  • The sheep are getting out of the electric fence repeatedly. We finally caught onto the fact that the charger is not charging it for some unknown reason, so it's no wonder the sheep are treating its boundaries as more of a suggestion than a rule. 
  • In the mess of the computer upgrade, we may have lost the vast majority of our photos for 2013. I must admit that I am less upset than I thought I would be by this one. 2013 was a really crappy year.

Also in May, I discovered an abscess on Kevyn's jaw. An abscess on a sheep can be a serious problem, a sign of a nasty disease known as caseous lymphadenitis, better known as CL. CL would be devastating for our flock and for us. We would have to cull heavily in an attempt (probably futile) to get rid of it. Showing sheep would be out of the question this year. None of our sheep could be sold on as breeding stock, and we would have to worry about carcasses being condemned by the butcher.

I was a bit panicked, needless to say.

The abscess is next to my hand.

The vet wasn't able to come out until ten days after I found it, so I did all the research I could and tried to keep calm. The abscess was not near a lymph node, which is where CL is mostly found. The entire flock had been blood tested for CL two years ago and had come up clean, so there was that. All of our replacement sheep have come from CL-free flocks. We have never had a carcass condemned or seen any of the other problems associated with the disease.

The vet was a little less positive. She was reluctant to drain the abscess, because CL is tremendously contagious, but I wanted a culture done on its contents so we could get some answers and hopefully peace of mind. Kevyn was not super happy about the process, as you might imagine, especially the flushing part, but we finally got it finished and drew blood for another test for good measure. Kevyn and her lambs were put in the barn, to be quarantined until the results came back.

Kevyn became downright miserable. She is the leader ewe in our flock, and it killed her to be apart from everyone else. Her lambs were scant comfort. She hollered her head off every day in protest. I felt awful, but there was nothing to be done for it.

Finally, finally, we got the results. Yesterday the culture came back negative. Today the blood titer came back negative. Hooray, hooray, HOORAY! Kevyn was cheering the loudest of all as she was finally able to join everyone else on pasture.

So what was the problem? I am pretty sure it is cruels, another of those marvelously idiosyncratically-named sheep diseases. Cruels is an abscess that forms after a sharp piece of hay, a thorn, or some other prickly irratant works its way into the soft tissue of the sheep's mouth, then becomes infected and forms a walled-off abscess. The location on her jaw was a bit unusual, because it is usually found on the lips or cheek. The greenish color of the pus (sorry) and its thick consistency were classic, however. Despite the vet draining it, it seems to be filling up again so we will have to keep an eye on it.

It can join the list of everything else we have to worry about right now.


  1. I'm so happy for Kevyn (and you) that it's not CL, but the recurring abscess does suck.

  2. So sorry to hear it. What a nightmare. We have been there, unfortunately, twice. One time our ram had a tooth abscess. Hope you can get on top of this and keep her pain free!