Posts tagged lamb

Evaluating ethical lambing practices

Tail docking and castrating of ram lambs… is it ethical? Is it necessary?

Last year we decided to embark on an experiment in ethics and best practices. We decided that we would leave all lambs intact, which means that we did not castrate any of the boys, nor did we dock (cut off) tails.

lamb photo for webOne of the primitive traits of Jacob Sheep is their ability to still fully articulate their tails. Common modern farming technique requires the docking of tails, as lore suggests that many modern commercial breeds of sheep no longer have the ability to articulate their tails sufficiently to move it out of the way of feces and urine (which can lead to disease and infection). This is certainly not the case with Jacob Sheep, and after doing some investigating, we have arrived at the conclusion that it is unnecessary.

Removing appendages, such as the tail,  for “looks only” is not ethical care in our opinion. One of the reasons we began to question this practice in the first place was because we lost a lamb to anaphylactic shock after giving her the requisite anti-tetanus injection that is needed to keep them from getting tetanus in their tail when you band them. We watched a perfectly healthy lamb die within minutes in horrible agony and convulsions due to a shot we had given her so that we could perform an unnecessary procedure on her. Was this typical? Obviously, no. Does it happen? Yes. In fact, that same year another breeder friend of ours had a similar experience in two of his lambs.

In 2013 we raised all of our lambs without incident with tails fully intact. They thrived and we did not have any increased incidents of fly strike, infections, or otherwise. They were able to articulate their tails as needed for their bodily functions, and the ewes bred without any trouble. Breeders in some areas of the country have been leaving tails intact for quite some time, so this is not a new idea. We are simply reinforcing the idea that docking is purely an aesthetic choice, and here at Fat Toaster Farm we aren’t in the business of chopping off animal appendages in order to gain style points.

As for castrating, we have not castrated ram lambs since we began our farm in 2009, and the meat lambs taste mild and indistinguishable. As foodies the quality and flavor of our food is very important. We eat the sheep we raise, and so we want the best tasting meat. Castration can be extremely painful for the lamb (if you see them writhing in pain, you realize that yes, they do feel it — there is no way to explain that away and remain honest with yourself). Castration can also open an opportunity for infection, fly strike (trust me, you don’t want to mess with this), increased care, and sometimes death due to aforementioned complications. Again, if there is no practical gain, there is no reason to perform unnecessary surgical processes. Less work for us, less pain for the lambs, and the meat is fine both ways. Win/win.

Overall we encourage breeders to consider the implications of our findings. For one, it is significantly less work for the shepherd when you don’t need to catch every single lamb yet another time to band their tails or castrate. It is one or two less shots that you must catch them to give (and less risk of anaphylaxis). Certainly it is best for the critters this way also, as they endure less pain, enjoy a higher quality of life, and you don’t have to listen to their cries of pain. Again, win/win.

Happy lambing!

Advertisements

Leave a comment »

Follow us on Facebook!

In addition to our WordPress blog, you can now follow us on Facebook!

Short updates, photos, and videos will be posted there regularly. Check it out: CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR FACEBOOK PAGE.

Fat Toaster Farm on Facebook!

Comments (1) »

Back in Spring, Lambs were born!

I know it is the middle of August, and clearly I’m behind (as usual) in my blogging. I thought you might be interested in our lambs from this spring.

Our Jacob sheep ewes all twinned this year, and in addition we obtained a Shetland ewe with young ram lamb at the side… so in total, we had 7 lambs on the farm. All three of our Jacob ewes lambed when we were away, and without incident. They are wonderful mothers, and their lambs are now happy and healthy. My only complaint? Of the six lambs born here this year, five were pesky boys.

Cecilia was the first to lamb this year on 4/3/10. She had two very healthy 4 horn rams, Calvin and Hobbes.

Calvin, Hobbes, and Cecilia
Zach and Cecilia's CalvinTop photo – Calvin, Hobbes, and Cecilia

Bottom photo - Zach and Calvin

Baby was the second to lamb with a ram (Bocelli “Bo”, 2 horn) and a ewe (Andrea, 4 horn) on 4/8/10

Baby and her lambs, Andrea (top photo) and Bocelli (bottom front)

Baby and her lambs, Andrea (top photo) and Bocelli (bottom front)

And Finally, Roberta came in third a fitting three weeks later with two playful ram lambs on 4/29/10. We dubbed them Conan (2 horn) and O’brien (4 horn)

Roberta with Conan and O'brien

Roberta with Conan and O'brien

And finally, Jasmine, our black Shetland ewe and her white lamb ram. We named him Jasmine’s Aladdin, but his nickname is “little ramb lamb” forevermore. He is now a wether who will live a long life on our farm as a fiber animal. He is a big fuzzy puppy dog of a sheep, and the highlight of anyone’s visit to our farm.
"Little Ram Lamb" Aladdin

"Little Ram Lamb" Aladdin

Of course, it is August as I write this, so all of the lambs have grown significantly.  Many updated photos can be found on the “For Sale” page!
Zach with "Little Lamb Ram" in August, 2010

Zach with "Little Ram Lamb" in August, 2010

Leave a comment »