I have been vigilant in trying to watch for mastitis in the ewes. It’s not easy to spot until you see a ewe that doesn’t want to get up or is lame. Lame? Yes, the infected side of the udder becomes extremely painful and the ewe doesn’t want any pressure against it so she limps. Have any of you women ever had a breast infection? Then you know what I’m talking about.
I am learning that mastitis in sheep can progress so quickly that you often don’t see any signs until it is too late. Prevention or early detection is the answer. (Do I sound like a health care ad?) I noticed a lopsided udder a couple of weeks ago. I caught the ewe and her lambs. It was obvious that the ewe was not letting the lambs nurse on one side. I found a scab at the top of the teat–maybe something that started from vigorous lambs with sharp teeth (nursing moms can relate to that too). I used an udder cream to help soften the scab and I milked her out. Fortunately the milk still looked good–not starting to get chunky or cheesy. I kept that ewe in for a few days, milking her some, but mainly making sure that she let the lambs nurse–which she did when I used the cream on her udder. She is fine now.
Today in the pasture I saw Athena from the rear and thought that she looked a little lopsided, but not too much. I was able to sneak up on her and feel the udder. Hard. Immediate response needed. I brought all the ewes in so I could catch her and her lambs. Here is what her teat looked like:
It is hard and inflexible. A normal teat is squishy so you can actually get milk out. The good news is that the milk is still OK and I can get milk out if I milk her by squeezing the lower part of the udder and the upper part of the teat. The bad news is that it is very painful for her and she will get mastitis if I can’t keep the milk flowing or unless I dry her off so that there is no milk production at all. You can’t stimulate milk production on one side and not the other.
Here is what her lambs look like right now:
They are 50 & 55 pounds. Although normally I would have let them continue to nurse, at that weight and 2 months old they can be weaned. So they are on their own now and Athena is in a stall with a wether (with whom she is extremely annoyed) on no feed or water for a little while to help with the drying off process (discouraging milk production). Her udder will continue to fill with milk, but that in itself inhibits milk production. I will give her banamine as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory and LA 200 as a prophylactic aid to prevent infection (not normally done when drying off). Hopefully without the stimulus to produce more milk she won’t get mastitis and hopefully the teat will heal without damage that might inhibit next year’s milk production. Athena is a really nice ewe and I’d hate to lose her for this.