A Suburban Farm of 6th Happiness.

What is a Cast Sheep & How to Help it

by Alan - July 31st, 2018.
Filed under: Sheep.



Sheep can be surprisingly agile, especially lambs, so it can come as a surprise to those new to the species that they have a bit in common with turtles.  SHeep do not naturally rest or roll on their backs, and if they end up in this position, they can become stuck.  We lost ourbeloved first ram this way.  We had had a rainy season and uneaven ground, causing him to slip.   Between having a broad back and a wet (thus heavy) fleece due to the rains, his little legs simply could not provide the leverage to right himself.  Pregnant ewes and overweight sheep are likewise in greater danger of becoming cast, although any sheep can be, if the circumstances so conspire.

A cast sheep faces two deadly threats.  First, it is easy prey, not only for the usual coyotes and wolves, but even crows, racoons and badgers.  Second, is the sheep’s biology.   Like cows, they have a four chamberedstomach.  The largest (the rumen) ferments fibrous foods which produces gas, but when the sheep is upside down, the gas can’t escape and instead builds up, putting pressure on the lungs, slowly suffocating them.

To right a cast sheep, give it a good push into an upward position.  As soon as the sheep sees you, or you start to help, it will likely start flailing its legs to try to get back up too (unless it is already very far gone and weak).  If necissary, grab onto the wool and pull it onto its legs.  Whatever you need to do.  Don’t worry about bruising it, or hurting it by pulling wool, these are things it will quickly recover from, whereas death is of course perminant.

Once the sheep is up, watch how it moves- does it quickly run back to its flock mates, or does it stagger and lurch ahead.   Remember that the longer it was on its back, the longer it may have had lower oxygen levels which can affect a number of bodily systems.  If it was in the sun on a hot day, it may also be suffering dehydration.  The sheep should recover in a short while, but if it does not immediately run to its flockmates, keep an eye on it for a while to be sure that it does not fall down again due to weakness.  Weakness should resolve once the oxygen levels in the sheep’s blood have returned to normal, and if it is a hot day, a bucket of water (fresh, not cold as that can cause shock) will likely be appreciated.  If he sheep does not appear to be getting better, even if slowly, or even seems to get worse, it is time to call the vet.  But this would be highly unlikely.  Almost all cases of cast sheep are quickly resolved by simply helping them get back on their feet- er- hooves.

Here is a video demonstrating the simple proceedure:

tags: cast   cast sheep   sheep   sheep health  

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