Smoke asÂ a lamb.
Uzzi and I are feeling sorry for Smoke and Baarley, the ram lambs born this spring. Mom and Dad banded them yesterday. Now theyâ€™ll be fleece wethers instead of rams.
Banding is when humans use a tool called anÂ elastrator to put a strong latex band around a lamb or kidâ€™s scrotum to castrate him. Most people do this when lambs or kids are tiny but Mom and Dad wait until theyâ€™re several months old.
They wait because male goats and sheep are prone to a very serious ailment called urinary calculi. That means mineral stones can get lodged in their urinary tracts and it sometimes happens if a buckling or ram lamb is castrated too young because then his urethra stops growing and itâ€™s too skinny to pass mineral stones.
If a stone forms and then gets stuck, he canâ€™t pass urine or he only dribbles a little bit. Itâ€™s very painful, so he stretches out and tries very hard to pee and he cries and cries. Then, if he isnâ€™t treated (and sometimes even if he is), his bladder bursts and fills his belly with urine. Then he dies.
Smoke as an adult
Urinary calculi is a deadly, scary thing, so people who want their wethers to live a long time wait until theyâ€™re somewhat mature to have them castrated (five or six months is best).
Usually they have a vet castrate them surgically but our farm vets think anesthetic isnâ€™t important. After just once having a vet do it his way, Mom emphatically disagrees.
So, when itâ€™s time, Mom holds the kid or lamb and Dad injects Lidocaine (a numbing anesthetic they get from our horsesâ€™ vet) around his scrotum. They wait awhile and then put on the band, making sure both testicles are descended and the kid or lambâ€™s nipples arenâ€™t below the band.
After that, they give him Banamine (a prescription veterinary pain killer) for several days. In ten days or so his scrotum is very shriveled and dry. Then Dad uses a scalpel to cut it off below the band.
Not every part of farm life is fun. Mom and Dad hate this job but itâ€™s an important part of keeping wethers on our farm (between the rams and me and the goat and sheep wethers, there are 22 of us and in six years no one has gotten urinary calculi yet!).
We also drink a lot of clean water (thatâ€™s important) and eat a diet that helps prevent stonesâ€”but thatâ€™s a topic for another blog!