Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Flystrike strikes

One of the most appalling problems that sheep encounter is something called Flystrike[Myiasis].This occurs in spring and autumn when the weather is wet and warm and the sheep have long woolly coats. At this time of year it occurs before the shearer has been and in the autumn it's when the coat is growing for the winter.

There is one species of fly that lays it's eggs in the damp wool of sheep, the eggs turn into larvae that feed on the wool, these then turn into maggots that feed on the flesh of the poor unfortunate sheep. If it's not detected quickly enough the animal will literally be eaten alive. So at this time of year we are constantly on the lookout for the first signs of flystrike, this is usually a ewe looking miserable and not staying close to the rest, dark stains also appear on the wool.

I was checking the flock as usual yesterday when I noticed one of the oldies looking depressed, I went to check her and there were the telltale signs I hate to see. I went back to fetch the OH and the scissors, antibiotic spray and fly reppellant. To treat the problem you have to cut away all the wool that is infested with eggs and maggots, then spray the whole area with the antibiotic spray and finally put on the special fly repellant. It's one of the most unpleasant, no disgusting jobs that I have to do for the sheep but if it's left untreated it must be the most horrendous death imaginable. You can understand where the saying "to make your flesh crawl"comes from. It makes me shudder just writing about it. I finished cleaning her up and had a good look at all the other ewes but they seem to be okay. We left her in the field with the flock. I went out later to check on her and as she was still looking very sorry for herself I decided to bring her in for the night, it would make it easier to keep an eye on her. I also brought in Number One with her to keep her company.

She looks clear of any reinfestation this morning so we put the two ewes in a small paddock where we can keep a close eye on her for the next few days. Now we know that the flies are about we shall have to be extra vigilant until they are shorn. Luckily the flies need atleast 2 ins of wool to lay their eggs so the sheep are safe for the summer months. If it's a mild wet autumn then we treat all the ewes with the fly repellant, it's expensive but worth it for the peace of mind.

I remember Tony Robinson used to do a TV series called "the worst jobs in the world" and cleaning up sheep with flystrike was one of them, and I would agree whole-heartedly. I hope that this will be the only case this year but it's unlikely considering the warm weather we are having at the moment.

One of the least pleasurable aspects of sheep farming!!


liz fenwick said...

My flesh is crawling at the thought. Hope they all stay well.

B.E. Sanderson said...

We have a show like that over in the states called "Dirty Jobs".

Sounds like you've got your hands full. I hope those nasty little buggers stay away from your sheep, and this is the last you've seen of them.

Jen said...

Oh, good Lord, I couldn't do that... I really admire your tenacity!


hesitant scribe said...

Ew! How awful. The rabbits are prone to getting flyblown too but at least we can easily prevent that by cleaning out the hutches regularly - not so simple with sheep! I hope, as liz does, that they stay well!

sylvie on ile de ré said...

bluebells and flies....

it is like HEAVEN and HELL

My father, who is a painter, says: "flies are a big source of trouble" !!! In the summer not even ONE fly is allowed to come into the house , otherwise the fly goes directly into the painting on the wodden palette, lays eggs and after that...it is like the sheep disease!!!

after looking for Easter eggs , now you are looking for flies, I do wish the next job will be much more funny.

Good luck and enjoy your superb blue bells sea while I enjoy the blue sea in île de ré.

JJ said...

Everything I know about sheep (not very much) I learned from James Herriot, but I'd never come across this one. I was worried about my insect infestation recently. Hope they are all recovering.