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Sweet Valentine


As Valentine approaches her fourth birthday, Matt and I noticed that a slight limp she had lately developed had grown more serious.  Instead of a slight lilt to her gait, she had begun heavily favoring her right front foot and touching her left down gently.

For those who don’t know the sheep well, Valentine is most flighty and shy of all of my ewes.  While Meadowlark and Bobolink grab the spotlight and other ewes hang around inspecting, she hangs back with old Peggy, well out-of-range of petting and attention.  Every year, she has delivered a lamb or two for me.  Every year, her fiber has been very soft, and also remarkably clean because she is never in the range of hay falling from my arms as I fill the feeders.  Right now, she’s a soft white cloud, well out of reach.

Even slowed down with a limp, it took Matt and I several tries to catch and subdue her.  Sheep are remarkable in their ability to tuck their legs under their bodies to avoid being snagged, and for their wily dodging.  Eventually, we had Valentine resting calmly on her rear end, legs spread.


A quick exam of her chest and legs revealed nothing.  I was almost ready to let her go when a glance at her hoof showed a small injury on her inner knuckle.  The hoof was intact, but some redness and blood showed above.  Squeezing produced pus, and some clear discomfort for Valentine.  I expressed all of the pus I could and then sprayed her with disinfectant.


There is a serious ailment of sheep called foot rot that has some characteristics in common with Valentine’s wound.  Foot rot in sheep would be like a ferocious combination of trenchfoot and athletes foot in humans.  Two species of anaerobic bacteria work in tandem creating redness, cracking, soreness and bleeding in the interdigital flesh of the hoof, while sores and weakness develop in the hoof wall.  In severe cases, the hooves can separate from the flesh of the foot. Foot rot will be carried by the whole flock but not every individual will be severely lame.


We are keeping a close eye on the rest of the flock on the off-chance that Valentine has foot rot, though the most logical explanation for her foot situation currently is a physical injury from stepping on a stick or a rock somehow.  Some of my hay this year contained sticks, so a stick injury to the foot is possible.


Meanwhile, we’re all hoping that Valentine will feel better and more comfortable soon.  She is hoping that we don’t come into the barn and grab her again.

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We can now observe the sheep, live, 24-7.  The surveillance farm is here.

Matt bought a couple of gadgets on Amazon the other day.  I’m pretty used to seeing a Prime box or two waiting for us on the porch routinely.

This time, I was treated to Matt’s excited kid-on-Christmas tone of voice as he revealed a brand new home security camera, quickly noting “For the barn.”  He also showed me two strange, blue items.  The blue tab-shaped dongles were wireless signal extenders, used to rebroadcast signal across a distance.  A distance like a dirt road and a driveway.

It took two days for Matt to put everything in place.  We had to run an extension cord to the barn for the camera, knowing we’d need power for lamb heat-lamps anyway.  Matt had to calculate exactly where to place the dongles to correctly extend the wireless out the the barn.  Now we have to make sure the sheep don’t live-stream Shaun the Sheep all day!

Setting up the camera took some tape and a little finagling, but getting the signal strong enough to actuate the remote control to move the camera around occupied a day of Matt’s time.  I would ordinarily go into detail about what he did, but I have to admit I don’t know what he was up to other than the basic concept of forming the connection to all of the devices such that it would be maintained and accessible as needed.

What I do know is that I can now see if a ewe is lambing whether I’m in bed or at work.  I can leave work if lambs are coming, and I can stay at work if no ewes appear to be laboring.  I can stop worrying that something is going wrong at home and no one’s on hand to help.  I can check the sheep during the night without completely trashing my sleep.  And most importantly, the sheep will feel more comfortable laboring without my gaze.  They never behave quite normally when I’m around, so now I can get a good eye on what’s really happening.  The camera pans and scans the entirety of the barn, and even has two-way sound.  I’ve already learned not to talk to the sheep – they all wander around looking for me, and then get really disturbed.  We now call the microphone the “Sheep Frightener.”  It also takes pictures and videos.

If you are in Vermont and want a sheep cam for your barn, contact me and Matt can talk about logistics for you.