Scoring the Sheep

Friday afternoon we gathered up our weapons – new shears, Panacur dewormer paste, and scoring sheet – and headed down to the paddocks. Our mission – to score each sheep, check and if necessary trim their hooves, and administer the Panacur (again, if deemed necessary).  So, what does “score the sheep” mean?

(the smudge in the first column is a little sheep poop –
things got nasty at times out there)

In the chart, we first estimated the weights for each sheep.  We’re pretty confident about the smallest – Louise (actually probably closer to 50 than 60) – and the largest – Danny (based on Rick’s estimate when we got him a week ago). These are important for determining the size of the dewormer dosage.

We score the eyes by looking at the membrane under the eyelid. The more red it is, the less likely the sheep is suffering from a high “worm load”. A pale membrane (like Dolly @ 2) means the sheep is anemic because of the worms and needs deworming. We were pleasantly surprised to see more redness than we expected and we ended up only deworming 7 of the 11. (There is actually a system for determining the score, called FAMACHA, which comes with a handy color chart for the 1 through 5 scores.  We need to be trained and certified, however, before we can get that chart.)

Deworming means shooting a slug of the paste in along the side of the mouth.  This isn’t as difficult as it may seem.  They pretty much just swallow it down.

The final “score” column is for body condition. We feel along the spine just above the hip, trying to determine how much meat is there. Here are brief excerpts from “Managing Your Ewe” by Laura Lawson on the five score levels (there is actually a sixth level, which Laura says means “near death from starvation”).

Score 1 – the spine is prominent and sharp, the rib bones have no fat covering

Score 2 – the spine is still prominent but not extremely sharp, the rib bones have a corrugate feel to them

Score 3 – the spine has a small elevation and feels smooth and rounded, the ends of the bones that jut out are smooth and well covered

Score 4 – the spine can be detected only as a line down the back, the fat cover is thick

Score 5 – there’s a depression or dimple over the spine, the spinal bones aren’t detectable even with firm pressure

Healthy sheep are in the 3 to 4 range for condition scoring. The small lambs, Schuyler and Martha need more nutrition.

We were very successful getting our hands on the ladies. Using 4, 6 and 8 foot wooden panels (all 42 inches high) and grain as bait, we pretty quickly got almost all of them isolated so we could look them each in the eye (literally), check and cut their hooves, and feel for condition scoring. However, we did have our struggles.

  • Dolly showed her champion jumping abilities again and jumped over the panel wall with almost no running start.
  • We need to watch more YouTube videos about getting a large sheep on its butt.
  • With the boys, Levi didn’t so much jump out of the pen, as climbed out.  We had a devil of a time getting him penned in, but with plenty of patience and some creative maneuvering with the panels, we got hands on him in the end.

Here are some shots from breakfast on Sunday




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