Updated: Jul 2
As we continue to learn more about sheep farming and the various (and numerous) procedures associated with the lambing process, it seems I have been thrust into the role of vet-tech. I have no prior medical experience other than applying band-aids or the occasional removal of a marble from a kindergartener’s nostril. I guess you could also count injecting one of my diabetic dogs with insulin, but overall, this is uncharted territory for me.
With the onset of this round of lambing I have begun to pick up a bunch of new skills related to a process called T.I.N.T. The acronym stands for: Tails Inject Navels Testicles, although not always in that order. When a lamb is first born, the focus is on making sure it receives colostrum (ideally from its Mother or in a pinch, from a powdered mix we have on hand) and the cleaning of its navel. Lambs usually have 3-5 inches of umbilical cord still attached and it is crucial that the area be cleaned and disinfected as soon as is practical so as to limit infection. Rubber gloves and some iodine do the trick.
The next day, the process continues; an elastrator (think: unusually shaped pliers) is used to apply a rubber band to the tail so that it will be docked to a shorter length. The docking procedure improves the health and welfare of sheep and lambs. It prevents fecal matter from accumulating on the tail and hindquarters of the animal and reduces the risk of fly strike. If the lamb is male, the elastrator is also used to apply a second rubber band to the testicles which will also fall off once they have atrophied. This procedure takes place so that the impact of male hormones is lessened and creates a whether in place of a ram.
While we have the lamb “in hand” during the TINT process, we also apply two ear tags, an RFID tag (for electronic tracking of the animal) and a numbered tag to identify the individual. The method used to apply the tags is not much different than getting your own ears pierced, but the jewellery we apply in the barn is admittedly less fashionable. A small intermuscular injection of selenium (vitamin E) and then the lamb is returned to its Mom no worse for wear and primed for health.
As of this writing, we haven’t had a day in over a week where there weren’t multiple births, so we are getting pretty good at the whole process and are glad to be able to participate so directly in maintaining happy, healthy lambs and ewes.
See you at the barn.