I haven’t written much about Homer here before for a couple of reasons. For starters, I wasn’t completely sure that he was going to live for very long. You see, Homer is the Jacob ram that came along with Marge and is Lisa’s father. He had some….. issues. Namely, one of his horns was growing back onto and almost into his head. Basically I thought that he might be a little brain damaged. This horn also almost entirely obscured vision in one eye and caused him difficulty eating. Thus he is thinner than he really should be. Add to that the horrible condition that their fleeces were in when they arrived on the farm and you start to get the full picture.
Now getting horns off of animals is seldom simple and often bloody. Very, very, bloody. Animals can die from blood loss from cutting off a horn if not done properly. Other people with a lot more experience in these things were nervous about it. The vet was a little nervous about it. So I feel that I was rather justified in being fairly nervous about doing this.
Until we sheared Homer, I hadn’t gotten a close enough look at the horns to really see what was going on in that mess. My worry was that the one horn (he has four) was actually growing into his skull, which would mean a whole other mess of issues. However, when we sheared him, we were able to clearly see skin underneath the horn in all spots, so we knew that it hadn’t grown into the bone. Another part of the reason that I did leave it for a bit was that I wanted to get that fleece off of him, as it is really stressful to carry two years worth of fleece (and burdock burrs) on your back, and I was worried that the stress of removing the horns would be enough.
The reason that I tell you all of this is so that you can get a clear view of why I chose to hold-off having these horns removed. Horns don’t grow super fast, so it wasn’t like he was in any imminent danger and the worst damage had already happened in his previous homes.
So the vet came to the farm this morning around seven. He set-up a table while I caught Homer. Thankfully Homer has finally succumbed to the sirens call of the magic bucket so he wasn’t too difficult to capture (having handles on your head is helpful too!). The vet carried him out to the field operating table and sedated him. Dad came over to help hold Homer while Doc prepared the wire saw that he was going to use to cut the horns off. Doc and I discussed where he should make the cuts and I chose a spot that looked like a naturally weaker spot that looked like it had been caused my a much earlier stress on his system. As Doc whizzed the saw back and forth with years of practice behind the movement, we all waited for the blood to spurt out from the cut in the horn.
It never came.
Doc finished cutting the section off and looked at the remaining stump. No blood, no blood vessels at all, just horn. We had cut above the part of the horn that was still getting blood to it. All three of us were pleasantly surprised. We start on horn number two, once again waiting for the blood to come. This is a bigger horn and a little further up it so we really expected a lot of blood with this one. Doc saws and saws and finally the cut end falls off and we all look and there are three or four tiny dots of blood. It had been cut exactly where the blood vessels end. By the third horn we aren’t expecting much excitement and are thus rewarded with an utter lack of anything noteworthy.
We left the fourth horn alone since it didn’t seem to be bothering him nor would it anytime soon.
Homer took this all in stride. Then again, he was still sedated. I took his photo afterwards (I didn’t have time to do a before photo, sorry).
I hope that he’s a little more comfortable now. Here’s a shot without dad’s hand in the way.
I took Homer down off the table and put him back in with the flock. He seemed a bit out of it, but no worse for the wear.
These are the horn parts that we removed. They are almost a pound of horn in total. That’s a lot if you think about wearing it on your head all the time!
I am hoping that poor Homer will be able to gain a little more weight now that he doesn’t have all that nasty horn growth in the way.
I don’t blame the folks that I got him from for this. I think that this issue had been going on a long time before they got him. I’m sure that Homer was sent to the sale barn thinking that he would become dinner and not for any other purpose, but alas, the world had other plans for him. I’m glad that Miss Lisa was born a ewe because if she was a ram I would be worried that this would happen again. However, since the ewes don’t grow nearly as extensive sets of horns, I’m not too worried about her. However, I’m not sure that I will ever breed her knowing that these genetics are in her. It’s a good thing that she’s cute!
Horns are lovely but they can cause all sorts of problems. I try to keep an eye on everyone in my flock that have horns or scurs to make sure that they aren’t causing any issues. Remington currently has a scur that has bent back towards his eye, but it’s loose and I think that it will naturally fall off before it causes any damage. I check him about once a week just to make sure that there isn’t anything going on. The rest of the gang has scurs or horns that are not problems, but I still visually check them pretty much every time I look at them (one advantage of them being on their heads).
For those wondering, scurs are what happen when you wether a male sheep. Since it isn’t getting all that lovely testosterone anymore, the horn growth slows or stops completely and what is left is a scur. They have a tendency to break and be a really bloody mess, but typically don’t cause too many other issues. Herbert has a nice example of scurs on a wether.