Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Trimming a Ram's Horn

When we first got our ram Taj, he had a magnificently wide hornset.

But as he grew, his right horn developed a curl that brought it closer to his face than his left one.

As the horn kept growing, eventually it began to grow into the side of his face, interfering with his vision and endangering his eye. If left to grow unchecked, the horn would have eventually cut into his face and blinded him. If infection and fly-strike followed, it could easily have led to his death.

Often, when a ram develops a flaw like this, the shepherd will simply cull him, to prevent him from passing that trait on to more of his lambs. But Taj is such a magnificent animal in all other ways---his meat conformation and fleece quality are fantastic!---so we decided it was worth it to try to save him by cutting off the problem horn.

It was an intimidating task, so we put it off for as long as we could. But finally, we couldn't wait any longer.

We tied Taj securely to a sturdy fence post. I draped a dish towel over his face to protect his eye and ear, and leaned hard against his body to keep him still while Ken used a wire saw to sever the problem section of horn.

It was hard work, both trying to keep the ram still and pulling the wire saw rapidly to prevent it from binding up in the cut. The wire saw gets VERY hot, VERY quickly. This is good because it helps cauterize any small capillaries you may hit if (as was the case here) you are forced to cut the horn high enough that you end up cutting into the live, "quick" part.

But you have to be extremely careful not to let the wire saw touch you (or the sheep), because it burns. Even though I'd been warned of this ahead of time, I got burned when Taj shook his head and the wire saw jumped out of the groove. It only touched me for a split second, but it laid a clear, painful welt along the sensitive skin between my fingers. Ouch!!

We kept going, though, and soon the offending horn dropped free.

There was a little blood, but not very much.

I treated the wound with Blood Stop powder, and fly repellent to prevent fly strike. The bleeding stopped almost at once.

You can see in the photo below how the horn had been starting to cut a groove into Taj's face. Fortunately, it had only progressed as far as wearing all the hair away where it touched. It had not yet lacerated the skin or touched the eyeball.

It would have soon done so, if the horn had not been removed, though!

Taj did not enjoy this process, but he is very happy to be able to see out of both eyes again! He will be so much happier without the constant discomfort of that horn pressing into his face.