Archive for February 23, 2008

To Dock or Not to Dock, That is the Question

As some of you out there that are sheep growers know, the question of tail length when docking lambs has been controversial.  The lambs destined for the show ring often had their tails completely docked, leaving nothing where the tail meets the body.  This is regarded (by me) as bad management as lambs that are so radically docked often suffer from rectal prolapse and, if a ewe lamb, vaginal and/or uterine prolapse as well upon pregnancy. 

When I dock tails, I do go below the caudal fold.  As a result, the sheep’s genitalia are completely covered by the tail remnant which just HAS to feel better when the wind is whistling on a cold winter day. 

I have not had any problem with sheep having their tail too long or intact; however, I have had a problem with sheep whose tail has been docked too short.   

I have been told at a seminar put on by a University that shall remain nameless that sheep with tails would not be able to breed or lamb.  My ewes (and rams) with tails, having never gone to college, remained blissfully ignorant to this “fact” and therefore reproduce with great enthusiasm.  However, I am docking tails this year because if I need to sell sheep, the tales* about difficulties with tails do make the sale of sheep with all their original equipment difficult to impossible.  

*Some fat-tailed sheep, such as my Tunis, have evolved to store fat in their rump and tail as a survival strategy as they originated in a desert environment.  If fat tails do run in your particular flock, then docking the tails would probably be better for breeding and lambing success.  I guard against overly fat tails by keeping the flock on grass most of the year, only supplementing with grain late in pregnancy. 

Indeed, one year when I had the ewes and rams on opposite sides of the fence because I wanted no lambs, I happily thought that the sheep couldn’t overcome a little obstacle like being separated by a fence and so fed no supplemental grain at all, just some poor quality grass hay during the winter to supplement grazing.  To my surprise, the ewes started dropping twins anyway and feeding them without difficulty.

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Dolly and Lazarus Return to the Flock

I returned Dolly and Lazarus to the sheep barn today with the ewes in waiting and the ewes with new lambs.  Lazarus, at 5 days old, is much smaller than the 2-day-old twins.   His personality and enthusiasm, however, are much bigger than his tiny frame.  He has been gamboling around the barn and treating every ewe like an ambulating smorgasbord, happily trying to suck from each teat he encounters until firmly dissuaded by a kick from the highly offended ewe.  Undaunted, he tries the next ewe.  Dolly is hoarse with calling for him and, since he is a boy, he mostly ignores her to play with the other lambs.  Yep, the sex differences are apparent in lambs.  The males tend to range further away from their mothers exploring and playing.  The females stick closer to momma’s side.

Dolly is still too thin and weak from her ordeal; however, I think that being among the other new mothers will be good for her.  I really didn’t think she would survive and, if Lazarus had died as I expected he would, I believe she would  be dead now as well.   As it is, her milk output is pretty low.  Lazarus is getting @ 12 ounces of pasteurized goat milk per day as a supplement.  It isn’t enough to completely satisfy him, but I do want to encourage him to keep nursing from his momma.  Ewe’s milk is better for him than milk replacer.  

A hen had made a nest in the lambing pen in a little pile of hay and filled it with eggs.  I left her there undisturbed.   When I put in new bedding for Dolly and Lazarus, I left the expectant mother to her incubating eggs because she was in the corner and out of the way. 

Once Dolly’s obturator nerve paralysis had resolved and she could get up and down on her own, she decided that the hen interloper had to go.  She tried to push the hen out of the pen, but the hen made outraged squawking noises and picked her severely about the muzzle.  “Dolly, CUT THAT OUT!” I ordered as I pitchforked the urine and manure-soaked bedding out into a waiting wheelbarrow and spread clean bedding around the pen.   Satisfied, I went to laboriously push the heavy wheelbarrow through the standing water to the compost bin.  After dumping, I came back to the pen to make one last check before leaving.

Dolly was over in the corner lying down.  In the hen’s corner.  DAMNIT!  I hauled her to her feet, and examined the flattened hen.  She was not happy but no worse for wear for having been laid on, and her body had protected her eggs from being crushed.  Dolly looked up innocently at me as though it was all an accident.  Uh hunh, like I believed THAT.  Oh, yes, definitely time for her to rejoin the other ewes where her chicken-crushing opportunities will be at a minimum.  While Dolly’s appetite has not completely returned, her ornery streak is intact.  

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Burn Patient Becomes 10th Victim of Port Wentworth Sugar Refinery Explosion

AUGUSTA, Ga. — A 10th victim of the Feb. 7 Imperial Sugar refinery blast in Port Wentworth, near Savannah, died in the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital died on Friday, the hospital said.

Thirteen patients from the explosion remain in the burn center in critical condition and two others in serious condition, said Beth Frits, spokeswoman for the hospital.

Frits said the identify of the victim who died on Friday was being withheld pending notification of family members.


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Venezuelan Oil Production Capabilities Questioned

El Nuevo Herald

The financial situation of state-run Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. could reach critical levels that might affect its production capability, both short- and mid-range, experts said Friday.

The financial muscle of the Venezuelan oil company, which has earned gross revenues exceeding $650 billion in the nine years of President Hugo Chávez’s administration, could be severely weakened by the extensive social expenditures the company is underwriting in Venezuela, the low level of investment in exploration and exploitation and an unusually high debt.

Just last year, PDVSA acquired a debt higher than $12 billion and it could be forced to pay about $10 billion to energy transnationals, including ExxonMobil, to compensate for the nationalizations the government carried out in mid-2007, said economist José Guerra, a professor at the Central University of Venezuela.

PDVSA’s president, Rafael Ramírez, has defended the company’s economic performance, claiming that last year 92.5 percent of the oil exports were under state control and that its fiscal contribution increased by 15 percent to more than $42 billion in 2007.

But the weakening of PDVSA’s finances could even compromise its compliance with the accords Chávez signed with more than a dozen Caribbean countries in an alliance called PetroCaribe, said Horacio Medina, an oil engineer and a former PDVSA executive.

During a forum organized by the University of Miami and the El Venezolano publishing group, Medina and Guerra this week analyzed in detail the financial health of the Venezuelan company, revealing a situation with important consequences for the United States, which receives about 1.3 billion barrels of Venezuelan crude a day.

A sudden cutoff of Venezuelan shipments to the U.S. is unlikely, but the Chávez administration is preparing ”a scenario to exit the U.S. market in the medium or long term,” Medina said.

Among the indications of this strategy, is the sale of Citgo’s participation in the Lyondell refinery in Texas in August 2006 and the dissolution of the alliance that Citgo maintained with the convenience-store chain 7 Eleven, Medina said.

Source:  Miami Herald

The only thing Venezuela has going for it are the oil revenues.  I don’t want to contemplate the implosion that would occur should they falter.

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Additional Bird Flu Cases Suspected in Vietnam

HANOI, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) — Vietnam’s Preventive Medicine and Environment Department has said some people hospitalized recently are suspected of having contracted bird flu, local newspaper Youth reported on Friday.    Specimens from the people, including a seven-year-old child from northern Hai Duong province, are being tested for bird flu virus strain H5N1. The child is under treatment at the National Hospital of Pediatrics in capital Hanoi.

    To date, Vietnam has confirmed a total of 104 human cases of bird flu infections, including 50 fatalities, since the disease started to hit the country in December 2003.

    In mid-February, two local people, a 27-year-old man from northern Ninh Binh province and a 41-year-old man from northern Hai Duong province, died from bird flu. On Jan. 18, a 32-year-old ethnic man from northern Tuyen Quang province died from the disease.

    Last December, after detecting no human cases of bird flu infections for nearly four months, the Health Ministry confirmed that a four-year-old boy from northern Son La province died on Dec.16, 2007 from bird flu.

    All the recently-detected bird flu patients have had close contacts with fowls before exhibiting bird flu symptoms.

    Vietnam currently has six localities having poultry being hit by bird flu: Thai Nguyen, Quang Ninh, Hai Duong, Nam Dinh and Tuyen Quang in the northern region, and northern Long An province, the Department of Animal Health under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said on Feb. 21.

    Bird flu outbreaks in Vietnam, starting in December 2003, have killed and led to the forced culling of dozens of millions of fowls in the country.


Since H5N1 seems to flourish during cold weather, maybe a little global warming is in order.

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CDC Report on Measles Outbreak in California

Measles, once a common childhood disease in the United States, can result in severe complications, including encephalitis, pneumonia, and death. Because of successful implementation of measles vaccination programs, endemic measles transmission has been eliminated in the United States and the rest of the Americas. However, measles continues to occur in other regions of the world, including Europe (1). In January 2008, measles was identified in an unvaccinated boy from San Diego, California, who had recently traveled to Europe with his family. After his case was confirmed, an outbreak investigation and response were initiated by local and state health departments in coordination with CDC, using standard measles surveillance case definitions and classifications.* This report summarizes the preliminary results of that investigation, which has identified 11 additional cases of measles in unvaccinated children in San Diego that are linked epidemiologically to the index case and include two generations of secondary transmission. Recommendations for preventing further measles transmission from importations in this and other U.S. settings include reminding health-care providers to 1) consider a diagnosis of measles in ill persons who have traveled overseas, 2) use appropriate infection-control practices to prevent transmission in health-care settings, and 3) maintain high coverage with measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine among children.

The index patient was an unvaccinated boy aged 7 years who had visited Switzerland with his family, returning to the United States on January 13, 2008. He had fever and sore throat on January 21, followed by cough, coryza, and conjunctivitis. On January 24, he attended school. On January 25, the date of his rash onset, he visited the offices of his family physician and his pediatrician. A diagnosis of scarlet fever was ruled out on the basis of a negative rapid test for streptococcus. When the boy’s condition became worse on January 26, he visited a children’s hospital inpatient laboratory, where blood specimens were collected for measles antibody testing; later that day, he was taken to the same hospital’s emergency department because of high fever 104°F (40°C) and generalized rash. No isolation precautions were instituted at the doctors’ offices or hospital facilities.

The boy’s measles immunoglobulin M (IgM) positive laboratory test result was reported to the county health department on February 1, 2008. During January 31–February 19, a total of 11 additional measles cases in unvaccinated infants and children aged 10 months–9 years were identified. These 11 cases included both of the index patient’s siblings (rash onset: February 3), five children in his school (rash onset: January 31–February 17), and four additional children (rash onset: February 6–10) who had been in the pediatrician’s office on January 25 at the same time as the index patient. Among these latter four patients, three were infants aged <12 months. One of the three infants was hospitalized for 2 days for dehydration; another infant traveled by airplane to Hawaii on February 9 while infectious.  Source:

Parents who have never personally experienced measles because they were vaccinated as children tend to underestimate what a deadly disease measles can be.  They are also counting on a sufficient number of their neighbors immunizing their children so that any potential epidemic is averted, a strategy that I find extremely foolish.  On the other hand, if these people want to remove their progeny permanently from the gene pool through disease, should I really attempt to reason with them?  Unfortunately, infants below vaccination age can contract the disease from an unvaccinated child through no fault of the parent. 

Once ubiquitous, measles now is uncommon in the United States. In the prevaccine era, 3 to 4 million measles cases occurred every year, resulting in approximately 450 deaths, 28,000 hospitalizations, and 1,000 children with chronic disabilities from measles encephalitis. Because of successful implementation of measles vaccination programs, fewer than 100 measles cases are now reported annually in the United States and virtually all of those are linked to imported cases (2,3), reflecting the incidence of measles globally and travel patterns of U.S. residents and visitors. During 2006–2007, importations were most common from India, Japan, and countries in Europe, where measles transmission remains endemic and large outbreaks have occurred in recent years (CDC, unpublished data, 2008). Since November 2006, Switzerland has experienced that country’s largest measles outbreak since introduction of mandatory notification for measles in 1999 (1).

The San Diego import-associated outbreak, affecting exclusively an unvaccinated population and infants too young to be vaccinated, serves as a reminder that unvaccinated persons remain at risk for measles and that measles spreads rapidly in susceptible subgroups of the population unless effective outbreak-control strategies are implemented. Although notable progress has been made globally in measles control and elimination, measles still occurs throughout the world. U.S. travelers can be exposed to measles almost anywhere they travel, including to developed countries. To prevent acquiring measles during travel, U.S. residents aged >6 months traveling overseas should have documentation of measles immunity before travel (4). Travel histories should be obtained and a diagnosis of measles should be considered by physicians evaluating patients who have febrile rash illness within 3 weeks of traveling abroad.

Measles virus is highly infectious; vaccination coverage levels of >90% are needed to interrupt transmission and maintain elimination in populations. The ongoing outbreak in Switzerland, which has resulted in hospitalizations for pneumonia and encephalitis, has occurred in the context of vaccination coverage levels of 86% for 1 dose at age 2 years and 70% for the second dose for children aged <12 years. In the United States, vaccination coverage levels for at least 1 dose of MMR vaccine have been >90% among children aged 19–35 months and >95% among school-aged children during this decade. Although not measured routinely, 2-dose vaccine coverage is extremely high among U.S. schoolchildren because of school vaccination requirements.

Measles transmission in schools was common in the era before interruption of endemic-disease transmission, and school requirements for vaccination have been a successful strategy for achieving high vaccination coverage levels in this age group and decreasing transmission in school settings. In the United States, all states require children to be vaccinated in accordance with Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations before attending school (4). However, medical exemptions to immunization requirements for day care and school attendance are available in all states; in addition, 48 states offer nonmedical religious exemptions, and 21 states (including California) offer nonmedical PBEs. These exemptions are defined differently by each state. The PBE allowed by California requires only a parental affidavit (5). Compared with vaccinated persons, those exempt from vaccination are 22 to 224 times more likely to contract measles (5--7).

The community transmission that has occurred during the San Diego outbreak is consistent with previous observations that the frequency of vaccination exemptors in a community is associated with the incidence of measles in that community; in addition, imported measles cases have demonstrated the potential for sizeable outbreaks in U.S. communities with suboptimal vaccine coverage (5,6,8). The public health response to this outbreak has included identification of cases, isolation of patients and vaccination, administration of immune globulin, and voluntary quarantine of contacts who have no evidence of measles immunity. Costs associated with control of these outbreaks can be substantial. In Iowa, the public health response to one imported measles case cost approximately $150,000 (9).

This outbreak also illustrates the risk for measles transmission in health-care settings. Airborne transmission of measles has been reported in emergency departments, physician offices, and pediatric ambulatory care-settings (10). Persons exposed to measles should be instructed to inform all health-care providers of their exposure before entering a health-care facility. Health-care personnel providing care to suspected measles patients (i.e., patients with febrile illness and generalized maculopapular rash or known contacts with prodromal symptoms) should apply appropriate isolation practices, including airborne precautions, in addition to taking standard precautions for such patients.**

Once a suspected measles case has been identified, prompt isolation of the potentially infectious patient and implementation of appropriate infection-control measures can help to decrease risk for transmission. Patients with suspected measles should be placed in an examination room, preferably an airborne-infection isolation room, as soon as possible and should not be permitted in patient waiting areas. Until placed in an airborne-infection isolation room, the patient should wear a surgical mask. If a surgical mask cannot be tolerated, other practical means to contain respiratory aerosols should be implemented. The door to the examination room should be kept closed, and all health-care personnel in contact with the patient should be documented as immune to measles. Health-care personnel and visitors without evidence of immunity (i.e., documentation of adequate vaccination, laboratory evidence of immunity, born before 1957, or documentation of physician-diagnosed measles) should be restricted from entering the rooms of patients known or suspected to have measles (4,10). The examination room should not be used for 2 hours after the infectious patient leaves. Suspected measles patients should not be referred to other locations for laboratory tests unless infection-control measures can be implemented at those locations.

Measles morbidity and mortality can be reduced through vaccination with MMR vaccine. Vaccination of U.S. travelers can reduce measles importations. Sustained high population immunity through vaccination, effective surveillance, and robust public health preparedness and response capacity are needed to keep the United States free from indigenous measles transmission and control any outbreaks associated with importations.

I have naturally acquired measles immunity; therefore, I made damn good and sure my children were immunized on schedule.

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Infectious Diseases Claim 13,000 Lives in China in 2007

BEIJING, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) — Infectious diseases claimed 13,000 lives in China last year, according to the annual epidemic report released by the Ministry of Health on Friday.    More than 4.7 million cases of infectious diseases were reported, up 2.95 percent on 2006, it said. The diseases led to the deaths of 13,037 people, 2,311 more than the previous year.

    Cases of respiratory tract and blood-borne/sexually transmitted diseases rose by 3.55 and 6.96 percent, respectively, it said.

    Scarlet fever and measles were the two respiratory tract infections to have registered the sharpest increase in the number of people infected.

    The number of reported HIV/AIDS cases increased 45 percent year-on-year.

    “But that doesn’t mean the HIV/AIDS situation is getting worse,” Gao Qi, a project manager with the China HIV/AIDS Information Network, was quoted by China Daily as saying.

    “The increase might be due to more screening tests.”

    The number of hepatitis C cases was up 30 percent, and syphilis cases up 24 percent on last year, the report said.

    As for cholera, there were 164 cases last year, up 2.46 percent, but with no fatalities.

    The report said four human cases of bird flu were reported last year resulting in two deaths. In 2006, there were eight fatalities from the 12 cases reported.

    In general, no mass outbreaks of disease were detected last year, it said.

    But there were sporadic cases, including a dengue fever outbreak in Guangdong and Fujian provinces between August and October, measles in Sichuan province and parts of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and a hepatitis A outbreak in parts of Guizhou and Gansu provinces.


I’m going to have to look into this further when I have more time (I need to go bottle feed a lamb), but this sounds suspiciously low to me in such a large country. 

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Pictorial Evidence of Weight Across Time

I’ve been doing some local historical research that entails going back through high school yearbooks for the past 70 years.   Surprisingly, I found that some of the older teachers were overweight.  Surprising, that is, for younger people.  I fondly remember my grandmother and aunts in their later years.  How could that be?  How could they possibly be overweight?  McDonald’s had not yet been invented.   

I found that some of the students were plump, though not to the extremes that some students are today.  I found that the girls voted “most attractive” were definitely well-rounded and bore no resemblance to the underweight supermodels being promulgated as the modern idea of pulchritude.  I also found that the extreme thinness such as is found on female distance runners was not apparent in the pictures of the female athletes. 

This was of course not a scientific study, but I cannot help but wonder if our preoccupation with a body fat percentage among females that is so low as to affect fertility and ovulation may not also be contributing to the “obesity epidemic” through the mechanism of people starving themselves who are subsequently gaining the weight back.  

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