UPDATE: After reading Tyler's suggestion below, I phoned one more sheep expert - expert number 5.
He is coming out to the farm this weekend to see Larry and might be able to fix the horn without the drastic measures the vet suggests. Just like Tyler said it could be done.
It's a good reminder that I need to get my emergency fund back up, so I'll be going on with the yarn sale. Just not so urgent.
here's the original post:
Larry came to us as a lamb, about two years ago. He's the sweetest fella, always calm and patient. He is what we call a buddy sheep and his main job in the flock is to keep the other sheep calm and happy. He does this with tremendous success. We are very fond of Larry and appreciate all his hard work. He's also very happy to trim the lawn for us. Such a good boy.
The trouble with Larry is that his horn is growing so that it will soon press against his eye. I don't know if you can see in the above photo, but it's already touching against his eyelid a little. If this is allowed to continue, it will be very painful for him. Leaving things as they are is not an option. Even if the horn breaks off, it solves the problem for a little while, but it will grow back again. Something has to be done, and muggins here has to make that decision.
The standard thing to do in this situation is to eat the sheep. He's a wether (balls off - well sort of, the people who did it couldn't count to two) so he has no monetary value as breeding stock. Even if he was 'out to stud', we wouldn't let him at the girls as badly shaped horns is not a trait we want in our flock. His wool is moderately okay. I like to use it, but it's not luxurious enough to sell raw to handspinners. His true financial value is in his personality. That's worth more to us than anything else, so we won't be eating Larry anytime soon.
The next option is to cut off the horns and cauterize them. I feel this is a pretty drastic thing to do, so it's not a decision I take lightly. Not only is it painful for the sheep, but the horns are their main method of temperature control. Massive amounts of blood pump through the horns, a bit like a dog's tongue and panting. When a sheep gets hot - and big wool coat means they get hot! - more blood is pumped through the horns and they cool off. A lot of people poll (cauterize the horn buds) to young animals for various reasons, but to me, I think this practice is horrid. Not only can it decrease the quality of life for the animal, but it's lead to poor breeding choices. Whereas before sheep with poorly shaped horns would not be bred and the trait would be uncommon, we now have sheep like Larry with horns growing into his eye.
It is for these reasons that I am loathed to poll Larry, but after talking with two experts and two different vets, it's basically the only way. The horn has to come off and it has to be prevented from growing back. Saw off the horn, squirt lots of blood, cauterize it.
Next week, I'll take Larry to the vet. The vet will sedate him and cure the horn problem.
I'm still waiting to hear back from the vet with a quote. I have a suspicion that it's going to pricey.
Some of you might know that this last winter chewed right through my emergency vet fund, so I'm basically scraping bottom here.
I have some handspun, hand dyed yarn from Larry's wool that is just about ready to sell. I also have some beautiful silk-wool blend that I'm just finishing plying now. I'll probably lower the prices in my etsy shop depending on how much the vet's estimate is (the final bill is usually double the estimate with this guy, but he's the only one in town that will do it, so that's the breaks). I don't like begging for money, but maybe if you are buying yarn anyway, perhaps you might consider mine?
We've had to saw our sheep's horns several times - the blood supply does not go all the way to the end of the horn. If you trim off a little bit at a time, you might be able to stay on top of it and avoid the "quick." Our sheep are old and their horns have mostly stopped growing, so we haven't had to trim in a couple years.
We sawed the horn with a hacksaw, and protected the face by slipping a piece of plastic between the horn and the face.
That was one of our thoughts too. I think the blood is going right to the tip at the moment as Larry was bleeding a bit from a break there about two weeks ago. If I had caught the problem earlier I would definitely have tried it, but as I've been ill the last couple of weeks - horns grow fast this time of year - I didn't realize how far it had gone.
At the moment, the horn is just touching his eyelid and he's very tetchy if we try to touch it. I'm not confident working that close to his eye especially if he will be fighting back.
The experts and the vets all agree surgery is the best thing to do. I'm loath to do it, but they know more about this than I do. I guess it's what I have to do.
Tyler's post got me thinking so I phoned one last person - expert number 5.
The little horn breaks off all the time. It bleeds a bunch, but so long as there is no infection, it heals up quickly. Even if we cut where the blood is, how would that be any worse than an every-day break?
So I phoned my sheerer. This guy has a lot of experience in Austraila with sheep, and this guy takes a very practical approach to things. He tells me what the vets are suggesting is unnecessary and far more stressful for Larry than a home treatment. I told him what Tyler suggested and he said that's the most sensible thing to do. I said Larry is stronger than me, so this guy (who the sheep adore) will be out on the weekend to cut the horn for me.
I'll continue with my yarn sale, but thankfully it's not as urgent as it was a couple of hours ago.
I just have to say, your yarn is absolutely beautiful! If we weren't on a strict budget and I didn't have a don't-buy-yarn-unless-you-have-a-project-for-it policy (after having bought way too much yarn that I still haven't used...), I would totally be buying the lovely purple, amazing orange, and cozy olive yarn! So lovely!