Polioencephalomalacia-Naomi-Update

Naomi - June 2003 - February 2010


We are very sad to say this morning that we lost Naomi as a result of complications from Polioencephalomalacia. She put up a good fight and we worked with her day and night but in the end, I think we may have noticed her symptoms to late to save her. After her first injection of Vitamin B1, she rallied almost immediately. We continued her injections but yesterday afternoon, she went down again and at midnight she was gone. We will miss her so much. What a beautiful and wonderful girl she was, her fleece was to die for and her personality was perfect.

Naomi was born in the June of 2003 and weighed in at 15 pounds. We worried about her Mom (Ada Claire) because she was a very small ewe, but upon returning from work the day she delivered, she had given birth to this monster lamb without incident. Naomi never lambed herself. We figured she thought that just wasn’t for her but she was an awesome baby sitter. She would wait, sometime not patiently, for the lambs to be big enough to play with. Their Mother’s obviously frowned upon Naomi’s behavior but she’d just make wide circles, roust up the lambs and it was game on!! Her fleece was like nothing I had ever seen. She was the granddaughter of Natalina Marie (our grandmother’s names) who was one of our original foundation flock. This is where that magnificent fleece came from..a Rambouillet x Romney x Border Leicester makes for some of the most gorgeous fleece and tons of it. She always produced the highest volume of fleece of any animal on this farm..rams included. I will miss that too.

As my husband stood over her lifeless body he said, “she is safe now in the ultimate Shepherd’s flock”. Goodbye my sweet girl, your’s is a presence that will definitely be missed.

Polioencephalomalacia

Have you ever walked out, looked at your sheep flock and found one standing, with their head thrown back as if gazing at the stars? You try to get them to move and all they will do is stagger in circles and eventually fall over. This is the scene we were met with at feeding time last night. Naomi, a big healthy ewe was showing all of these signs. My first thought was possibly a bone spike from one of the goats butting her. So we took care of her, got her settled in a safe place and went up to the house. This morning she had gotten up, staggered her way to the woods and had fallen over. She was on an angle so she couldn’t get up, even if she had tried.

Time for some help. Unfortunately, our large animal Vets around here are so involved with horses and alpacas, sheep take place at the bottom, so I started researching online what might be wrong with Naomi.  Polioencephalomalacia was the answer. For those of you who find yourself being your own vet from time to time, I will share what I read regarding this condition.

Pathology:

Polioencephalomalacia (PEM), also known as cerebrocortical necrosis, is a disease characterized by a disturbance of the central nervous system. The brain of infected animals becomes inflamed and swollen, and eventually becomes necrotic. Diagnosis is usually done by performing a necropsy on the brain of the dead animal. Dead gray matter will fluoresce under a Wood’s lamp.

Causes:

PEM sometimes occurs on high grain diets, and diets that include plants high on thiaminases and sulfur. Thiaminases are enzymes found in a few plants, such as bracken fern, and the raw flesh and viscera of certain fish and shellfish. When ingested these enzymes split thiamin (Vitamin B1), an important compound in energy metabolism, and render it inactive. Normally ruminants are fairly resistant to thiamin deficiency since rumen microbes provide the animal with sufficient amounts of thiamin. However, the ingestion of thiaminases will lead to deficiency. Additionally, young growing ruminants, especially cattle and sheep, fed high-grain diets are especially susceptible. Diets high in grains can encourage the growth of certain thiaminase-producing bacteria in the rumen. These bacteria, including Clostridium sporogenes and a few species of Bascillus can produce enough thiaminases to induce thiamin deficiency. A thiamine-analogue is also produced within the rumen if there is excess sulfur, which may replace thiamine in important metabolic reactions in the brain. When thiamine is deficient, key tissues that require large amounts of thiamine, such as the brain and heart, are the first to show lesions.

Clinical signs:

This usually occurs suddenly. Affected sheep stand or sit alone, are blind and arch their necks back and stare upwards and become “star gazers”, the medical name for this being opishotonus. They are disoriented, lose their appetite, and they do not want to drink. Temperature and respiratory rate are usually normal but the heart rate may be depressed. Excitement may be seen but is usually replaced with dullness. Normally only a few individuals are affected. The animal may go down on its side with its head thrown back. The legs may be rigidly extended and convulsions may occur. Animals with PEM will often press their head against a wall or post. If not treated on time, most animals with PEM will die within 48 hours.

Treatment and prevention:

Sheep suffering from polioencephalomalacia generally respond very well to treatment if caught early. They can be successfully treated with 200 to 500 mg of thiamin injected intravenously, intramuscularly, or subcutaneously. Because thiamine is water-soluble, it is quickly eliminated from the body through the kidneys and, therefore there is little risk of overdosing. Dexamethasone (you can only get this from a Vet and for our 150 pound ewe, we needed 34 ml for one dose) is often administered along with thiamine to reduce brain swelling. Although recovery is usually quick, if significant brain damage has occurred, the recovered sheep rarely regain satisfactory levels of productivity. Therefore, very early treatment is critical. If a case of PEM is diagnosed in a herd of sheep, it is advisable to inject the remaining animals with thiamine as prevention. Drinking water should be tested for sulfur contents, sources of thiaminases, if any, should be removed and animals should be introduced to grain diets in steps to avoid a sudden increase in thiaminases-producing bacteria in the rumen.

We, as I am sure is the case with many of you who have livestock, you have increased grain feeding due to the harsh weather conditions we have experienced this winter. We do not feed silage, so are fairly confident that the increase in grain feeding had everything to do with this problem.

As of this writing, Naomi has had 2 B1 injections and is now standing and walking. Her head is in its normal position and hubby is on his way to pick up Dexamethasone from the Vet. Looks like we caught it in time and that she will be OK. She, of course,  is now on the watch list for a few days but we expect a full recovery.

Naomi - March 2009


How Weather Affects Us

Wow, so far 2010 has been a royal pain in the #@** with regards to weather in Virginia and many other places. So many of our Blog entries are filled with photos of the latest snowstorms, flooding and mud. From the inside looking out it’s just one big Holiday card waiting to be printed..to the farmer, as we pull on our Carhart’s and boots, it’s another day of adverse conditions to try and do what has to be done or not getting things done at all.

In all fairness, right now I think everyone is having a hard time with the weather though. I know around here, we are simply not use to all of this snow and neither is our livestock. Poor things..they don’t know what to do with themselves. The sheep and goats hoove at the ground, expecting to find grass and there isn’t any..there’s just more snow. My guys have taken to just lying on top of the snow and snoozing. When the grain bucket surfaces they are like mad animals running in all directions, then they look at us like “oh no, not this stuff again”. It’s kind of sad, at least we can go to the market or our local co-op and get fresh lettuces and other veggies.  They can’t nor can we afford to do that for them.

So we do things like talk about spring and plod through our seed catalogs, looking forward to those warmer days. For those of us who are responsible for livestock..weather like this always keeps us at a little higher stress level whether we realize it or not. Be sure to take care of you during this time of year. Eat right and work on that attitude. In the long run you will be better off for it and so will your farm.

It’s Sno-pretty!

Well who knew that the snowstorm the weather people down played this morning would turn out to look like this?

It is still coming down and doesn’t really show signs of stopping. I just walked into the kitchen to see what I might eat next and the kitchen window was full of birds (had the storm window up). The poor things don’t know what to do with themselves.

This photo is what I see when I look out that same kitchen window. The girls were looking for hubs to come feed them.One thing for sure, if you have a camera and you’ve had a snowy winter, you definitely got your shots for next years Christmas card. According to the forecast, we’re going to have more snow Tuesday! Can’t wait.

Be safe and stay warm.

Just Look At These Fleeces!

It’s the time of year when we are starting to get excited about shearing the sheep and combing the goats. Just take a look at the fleeces on these girls.  The other day I pulled on a few of their coats and found staple lengths to average 7 inches. That actually included the 2 Icelandics that were shorn in November.

We’ve decided this year to make a few changes in what the end products will be. Last year we tried our hand at a Fiber CSA, that did really well locally but not so great through the website. So, this year we are going to dump all fleece together and have it processed; 1/4 roving and 3/4 yarns. No doubt much of it will be dyed (since I’m “Jonesing” to dye!). What I should end up with is a blend of Sheep wool, Cashmere, Mohair and Alpaca. My business partner with the Alpaca’s figures we’ve got 148 fleeces this time. In the 15 + years that I have raised fiber producing animals, I have never done anything like this, so I’ve decided to start now making up samples. If any of you think you’d like to try a sample either of roving or yarn email me at breezehillfarm@verizon.net and when they are done I’ll send them out to you.

This is my big entry for Fiber Arts Friday. Have a great weekend, until next Friday!