November 22, 2010

Battering Ram

I have a bottle baby lamb that is about 7 months old. He was castrated 3 months ago but still wants to butt me and my granddaughter. We were the ones who bottle fed him. When I give attention to one of the "siblings" (those bottle fed around the same time as him), he has to push between us. Some days there is no problem; but he seems quick to jerk his head at us.  Sometimes he back ups, with ears back and jumps to buck, then swings his head. The other day he got me with a horn and cut me and bruised me.
If I can push him with my leg on his side, he backs off.  Many times ignoring him, he will back off; but if we are head on he will not. My granddaughter he goes after all the time, but as a baby (first 5 weeks he was here by himself, no other lambs and in the house) she was his playmate.
I want to train him, I only have 6 lambs all were bottle babies, and no other sheep. 

What can I do? Will he calm down since he is castrated?
Thanks for any help

I really wish I could offer some great ideas here; but to be perfectly honest, I'm not very optimistic about the outcome of this situation.  Once a sheep starts butting behaviour, it only gets worse as he matures; and there's no simple, sure way to curtail it.
Castration will help, but it's usually most effective when done at a very early age (a few days) and before the butting behaviour starts.  Your only options now are to retrain the lamb against his natural urges.  The very first thing I would do is keep him away from your granddaughter.  He obviously feels very comfortable challenging her, and that sounds like a recipe for disaster.  He apparently views her as an equal in your "flock" (using the term loosely here, as this sheep probably considers humans as part of his flock), and probably won't stop until he "wins."  Never, ever, ever allow ANYONE to pet him - or any of your sheep - on the top of the head.  Carry a squirt gun, squirt bottle, or something similar any time you're near him.  A dose of water right in the face will deter him.  Don't coddle him or apologize for disciplinary're trying to make him slightly afraid of you!  Forget about any schemes which might include whacking him with something, as that will only serve to reinforce and encourage future butting.
If you are really serious about keeping him at all costs, keep him away from humans as much as possible.  The idea is to make him more like a natural sheep - i.e., slightly shy or afraid of humans.  It'd be best if he were running with other dam-raised lambs, and had as little future human contact as possible.
I realize I sound somewhat draconian here, but believe advice stems from many sorry experiences.  Although domesticated for millennia, sheep have never really been bred as pets as have been cats and dogs.  And although some rudimentary training is possible (such as walking on a lead), sheep are not trainable as are dogs.  To make matters more complicated, you're trying to un-train natural urges here.  I'm not sure that's at all possible.
I do wish you the best of luck.

Lambs Won't Nurse!

We sometimes have a problem with young lambs not feeding from the mother.  They seem to not  know how to suck.  The ewe has healthy teats and milk.   We have tried  rolling the ewe onto its back, holding the ewe and offering the teat to  the lamb. This works well if the lamb knows how to suck, but if it doesn't  what can we do?  Can you advise?   Appreciate your site.

A chilled lamb usually has no interest in food.  If that's the case, the first order of business is to warm the lamb up by whatever means you can (e.g. hair dryer, immersion in warm water, etc.).  You can try tube-feeding the lamb warmed colostrum or warm dextrose (NOT cold milk or replacer!); usually that helps *if* chill is the problem.  Once the lamb nurses for the first time, it should do ok after that unless something is seriously wrong.
You can tell if a lamb is cold, by the way, by sticking your finger in its mouth.  If it's cold in there, the lamb is chilled.   At the same time you'll be checking for vigor of sucking response.

Your use of the plural here tells me you've seen this more than once. Perhaps it might be a good idea to review your bloodlines, and look for a different and/or more unrelated ram.  Loss of early life vigor is one of the first signs of inbreeding depression.