Dealing With Flystrike
Story & photos by Anne Switzer
Last year was one of rain, rain and more rain. Our regular shearer did not show up on two separate occasions in May and June, and we had been scrambling to find another shearer but not having any luck.
On August 6th we discovered to our horror that one of our ewes (Wendy) had flystrike. Flystrike is a condition that occurs in the summertime when blow flies lay their eggs on the soiled hindquarters of sheep. These eggs hatch into larvae (maggots), which feed on the skin and flesh of the sheep.
I have no idea how long Wendy had been in trouble before we realized it. We do check our sheep every day, but there was one week when we hadn’t been able to get out to see them until after nightfall, and therefore did not see her condition as soon as we should have.
Wendy’s coat appeared to be wet, and when we looked closer we discovered the area was infested with maggots – it was horrible to look at and smelled just awful.
After a fast trip to the vet for advice and supplies, we washed the maggots off with cold water, and treated her with injectible ivermectin, long-acting penicillin, and something for pain. We sprayed the area with scarlet (wound) spray and covered it with an old T-shirt. We sprayed the rest of her with fly spray and kept her inside.
The shearer arrived the next day and we sheared her in a standing position. We then washed and patted dry the affected area, applied more scarlet spray and gave her another injection for pain. We covered her hindquarters with a clean T-shirt to keep the area as clean and dry as possible. She was feeling a little better by now, and starting to eat again. Her milk supply had decreased, however, and we were supplementing her lamb.
We washed and treated her twice a day for the first few days, and continued the pain treatment for the first three days. By the third day Wendy was feeling even better and eating more aggressively.
On the fourth day, at the suggestion of Dr. Tim Slemp, we started applying honey to the damaged area. The honey was much less painful on her raw skin than the scarlet spray had been, and her recovery seemed to really speed up from this point on.
A few days later, Wendy’s milk was coming back and her lamb began to nurse again, and a couple of days later we were able to stop the bottle feeding altogether.
We continued the washing and other treatments for two weeks. Four weeks after the treatments began, there was soft fleece coming in all over her back and hindquarters.
Anne Switzer is a small flock owner and photographer living near Medicine Hat, Alberta.