It is probably high up there on the most disgusting chores to do on a farm. Thankfully it is not something that has happened to us too often, but a fly strike and getting rid of the maggots in sheep is not for the faint hearted.
Our lambs were not sheared when the shearer came by (read Sheep chores), when I asked about it he simply said it was not done. Fair enough, thought I, but what I didn’t count on was that the early born lambs had pretty long fleeces by high summer and the weather made it a perfect nesting ground for fly eggs.
My mother, visiting for a couple of weeks, spotted a lamb with what looked like mud on her back. She asked me if the lamb was dirty, but it wasn’t until the next day when I investigated more thoroughly when I saw the maggots crawling around.
A neighbour helped us to dose the lamb, by pouring anti-maggot liquid over the fleece. Unfortunately, this didn’t dent the maggots’ advance and the lamb was only slightly better the day after.
Because these things ALWAYS happen on a Saturday, right after the farm shops close, I could not pop-in into town to pick up the right chemical dosing. My neighbours were of course out of it and I had to research for alternatives.
Lamb with ewe. Next year the early lambs will get sheared as well.
I got stuck into my computer doing research, as I had very little information on how to deal with it and no access to the proper maggot killing chemicals to use. Weighing options, chemicals, traditional cures, organic or herbal cures, prevention strategies, signs to look out for, weather impact, and finally settling on a mode of attack.
On Sunday morning, I made up my own concoction to kill maggots and went looking for the lamb with one of my daughters. The other had had a look at the lamb and maggots the previous day, and it had given her with nightmares that night.
For anyone that may need it, this is what my concoction had. Now, before you go writing it down for your own use, let me make it perfectly clear that this was purely put together in desperation and not based on years of experience.
I mixed a bit of water, paraffin and all the tea tree and eucalyptus essential oils I could find in the house.
We got hold of the lamb, tied up its legs, and while my daughter literally sat on it to immobilise it I started cutting the fleece with my kitchen scissors. Yes, I know, I will get a proper shearer…soon.
I cut and cut, and scraped off maggots as I went along. Following all the paths they made from the rump onwards, making sure I left no maggot trails untouched. One side, then the other, plus the rump and down the legs.
“Can I go and get a book mum?”, my less than interested daughter asked me as she was sitting calmly on the lamb.
“Are you cracked?”, I answered just as the lamb took a chance and tried to shake us off. There was no need to explain further that she needed to pay more attention.
I was finally satisfied that I had gotten almost all the maggots, to my charging I could not get at the smallest ones. This is where my concoction came in handy.
I poured the liquid over the lamb’s affected areas and was able to get a lot of the smaller maggots off, as they tried to get away from my home made mix. I still knew I would have to get stronger stuff to fully kill off the maggots, but this at least helped the lamb survive until Monday. We could tell that she was doing a lot better after this rough treatment, and I could go to bed satisfied that it would survive.
Nosy ewe in the morning.
A few days later, I realised another thing I hadn’t counted on; in the scorching sun we had over a few days, the lamb got sun burned. Calling in to the vet, he just recommended cream, which was fine. But I brought it a step further and got Aloe Vera gel cream that I put on the poor lamb’s sunburned skin.
Not only that, I took and old t-shirt, cut it up a bit and fitted it onto the lamb back to front. The back legs through the arms of the t-shirt and the front legs through holes I made close to the bottom seams. Again, this home made solution proved to be a good one.
Now, I wish I had the presence of actually taking pictures of the whole process. Not that you’d like to see pictures of maggots, I presume. But the whole ordeal took so much out of me, that waving around my mobile phone was the last thing on my mind. So you’ll have to excuse me, that this post is a bit more wordy than usual.