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January brings three major issues.
Fly strike is a horrible problem where flies lay their eggs in the wool of the sheep, the maggots hatch and then eat the sheep live! YUK! Be prepared - have fly strike knock-down treatment available before it happens! E.g. Fly strike spray or Maggot powder.
- Fly strike is life threatening - it is not something to be ignored or left to be treated to the weekend.
Eggs turn to maggots and maggots will do their damage in a matter of hours, not days. Treat immediately
- Contrary to what you may of heard, fly strike affects not only dirty wool but also clean wool. Especially in New Zealand where we have Australian green blowfly. Strikes may occur anywhere on the body or neck.
- If you shear in November/December, hopefully you will not encounter flystrike before January - however, there have been reported cases as early as November. Be observant.
What to look for
Some indications of flystrike may be...
- Foot stamping or holding a foot and shaking it
- Wool that looks damp - or like the sheep has been lying in poo
- Observe the flock - Are flies buzzing around one sheep in particular? Are the flies returning to the same place on the same sheep?
- The sheep may not move off readily when the flock move or when approached.
- Sheep gets up then rushes to sit down again.
- Any abnormal behaviour or signs of distress
These are indication that you have a serious problem - check your flock regularly - to find issues before they become apparent!
Treatment - What you will need
- Gloves (and mask if preferred)
- Clippers or good (preferably not sharp ended) scissors)
- Fly strike powder or spray - Note: this should be specifically for the immediate knock down of maggots - it may be different from your usual fly-prevention pour-on
- Catch the sheep affected
- Put on gloves and part the wool and carefully inspect the sheep for eggs or signs of maggots. The eggs are small off-white about 1mm. Maggots look like maggots :)
- Clip off enough wool to expose the problem.
- Apply copious amount of the fly strike treatment (do not breath the dust or spray)
- Release and continue to observe the sheep (and all other sheep) for signs of problems
- Check other sheep for eggs or early signs of a problem (I've often been surprised to find a problem upon routine inspection where the sheep is showing no signs of an issue).
- If a sheep is stamping its feet - it may have fly strike in the feet.
Flystrike can be reduced or made less of an issue (thought not necessarily prevented altogether) by the application of flystrike prevention.
There are many preventative treatments available at your farm shop or vet to prevent not only flystrike but also a variety of insects on sheep.
Preventative treatments typically give protection for up to 6 weeks on newly shorn sheep. They may not actually prevent 100% of attacks (particularly if your sheep are not newly-shorn) but they can make the attack less severe. In other words do not rely upon the treatment - you should still watch out for signs of flystrike.
You must apply the preventative chemicals at least to the amount recommended by the manufacturer - this is not something to cut corners with! Money saved by applying to little may cost you a life - or your time - and yuk factor treating a struck sheep.
What you will need
- Applicator gun and tube to dispenser
- Overalls (to protect your clothes)
- Prevention product of choice
Typically application is done with a hand 'gun' that has a spray nozzel attached.
- Down the back of the sheep from the base of the neck to the tail
- AND across the shoulders from leg to leg
- AND around the bottom from leg to leg.
- In addition, I will give a quick squirt to each hoof
If you are going on holiday and must leave the sheep for longer than a day or two, I would recommend doing a booster application just before you go.
Again, I must reiterate, this may not prevent all strike, but we have mostly had great results and have peace of mind if we have to go away for a few days.
Important note: As most prevention products are not water soluable - please check how best to clean your equipment for future use. I do not use water, as this makes my product solidify and renders the gun useless for next time. I clean by pushing through a little olive oil - but make sure you push through all the oil before you do your first on-sheep application.