We take the health of each of our residents very seriously, so regular health checks are part of life at HEEFS.
Like your annual physical, health checks are not what the residents consider “fun”. We establish a clear checklist of items to review and move through it as quickly as possible to try to ensure the least stress on the resident. Each health check takes about 10 minutes.
Health Check Check-in: Sheep and Goats
Health checks are done for our sheep and goat residents every two weeks. The herds are divided into two groups with each group having their health check on alternate weeks.
Regularly scheduled health checks are usually done by Alison Watt, our Animal Care Specialist, with a volunteer helper.
Each two-week health check consists of:
A review of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth/teeth and wool/hair/skin
A check for external parasites (like lice) as well as body lumps and visible injuries, with particular attention paid to signs of injury or infection to the legs and feet
Hoof trimming, to help keep movement comfortable and safe
A check of the rumen, hoof glands and digestive function
And every six weeks
During their health check, we record each resident’s weight using our newly installed large animal scale. The scale enables the animals to walk right on and off, minimizing their stress. Weighing them regularly ensure that everyone is at a healthy weight and allows us to make adjustments to their diet, if necessary. Hooves are also trimmed during the 6-week check to help keep movement comfortable and safe.
Along with their regular health checks, residents are also vaccinated annually for rabies and illnesses specific to goats and sheep. Once a year we also record each resident’s vital signs so we have an up-to-date baseline should an illness be suspected. This includes recording heart rate, temperature and respiration.
And, of course, our sheep have their wool trimmed annually. Domesticated sheep have been bred to retain their thick wooly coats, so they are shorn at the end of May. Along with keeping them cool and comfortable over the summer, shearing them at this time allows our sheep to have a nice, insulating growth back by the time the weather turns cold. Shearing is done as gently as possible and the wool that is removed is either composted or left around the HEEFS forested area for animals to take and use in their nests.
Next month…we’ll check out health checks for our bunnies and pigs.