Friday, December 9, 2011

Baaaaaaaaaaaaahd Research




All right, for those of you who are too busy to keep up on breaking medical research that affects our lives, here's a big one:

The Center for Disease Control publishes a weekly report summarizing disease trends. In this week's, among generic items about flu and arthritis, was a case of Campylobacter jejuni (it's a bacterium) infection in 2 sheep-ranch hands in Wyoming.

Normally this bug is spread by contaminated food. But the 2 guys involved hadn't clearly eaten anything known to be an infectious source.

So, after diligent detective work the CDC found this pair had contracted it by castrating lambs.

WITH THEIR TEETH.

Yes, folks. These guys were actually biting off lamb balls. While this was a way of detesticulating sheep back before the germ theory was popular, it's generally fallen out of use.

Except, apparently, for 2 guys in Wyoming.

So, to summarize:

1. Animals carry diseases.

2. When neutering livestock, do not use your teeth as a surgical instrument.

3. Be careful who you kiss on a Wyoming sheep ranch, as you don't know where their mouth has been.

Here's the original article.

Thank you, everyone who sent this in.

34 comments:

Lisa said...

I once saw an episode of "Dirty Jobs", and Mike Rowe did indeed castrate a lamb with his teeth. The rancher he was working with said that is the traditional way of doing it.

Anonymous said...

It's a bacterium. Or they're bacteria. Please.

Anonymous said...

Ewwwww.

Marten said...

@Lisa: yeah, he did a TED-talk on that episode later, explaining why they did it that way. You can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRVdiHu1VCc

Jerry Sandusky said...

What about buggering them? Is that still safe?

Haven said...

That is so disturbing on so many levels. I'm incredibly sad and disgusted.

History Doc said...

People have the dirtiest mouths (bacteria wise) of any species. And we use our mouths all the time for stuff they weren't evolutionarily designed for (opening bags of cheetos for instance). Ask any seamstress how often she uses her teeth as a third hand and watch her blush.

But I think I would draw the line at castrating lambs.

Old MD Girl said...

Wow. So, did they eat the testicles once they'd bitten them off?

Cowboy Mike said...

Cut them some slack. It's not like we get a lunch break.

Don said...

Yes Old MD Girl, they do eat them, but usually, they spit them in a bucket and cook them later. They don't eat them raw

The traditional method does involve using your teeth, but it isn't biting them off. It is more like using your teeth as a third hand to put tension on the scrotum while you use your two hands to safely remove them

Packer said...

After the collapse of civilization we will need those possessed of old skills to rebuild . I suspect those whose outdoors skills consist of 18 holes of golf or sunbathing pool side will not make the cut.

Seriously , people start sending Grumpy funny stuff, not gross stuff

Li'l Azathoth said...

"I didn't MEAN to, but when you teabag enough sheep, accidents are bound to happen once in a while."

Anonymous said...

Wait... So I can get sick from putting my mouth on sheep genitals? There goes my weekend.

Anonymous said...

This must be an extremely contagious disease, why I feel like I'm getting sick just reading about it!

Seriously, if I were anywhere near a farm animal's genitals my instinct would be to put on another pair of gloves, even if I was already wearing one. This ... this is just inconceivable.

Dave Trowbridge said...

I remember, when I was 8 or so, being delighted in the gross-out fashion common to boys at that age, to read about this practice in Errol Flynn's autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways, which I had found hidden in a cupboard in a home where I babysat. I had no idea it was a still-current practice.

Thatgirl said...

I saw it on Dirty Jobs, it is a good episode. I say do whatever you have to do to get the job done with as fast as possible. I've castrated piglets before and if you don't do it correctly the animal has to be put down. I wouldn't want to put my mouth anywhere near a sheep scrotum but then there are people in the world who think my job is absolutely disgusting, so I'm not going to judge.

Anonymous said...

Lamb fries on the hoof!

--littlefoot

pharmacy chick said...

Ok, so now I can't think of ANY reason why MY job would suck more than THAT job...My blogging career is over! LOL

by the way, my verification word today was gotail? how appropro

Anonymous said...

I recognized the Rockies in the background, but didn't realize the topic was going to be about Rocky Mountain oysters, apparently a delicacy in that area of cow (and sheep) country.

Cal said...

Lambs' revenge.

Mockingbird said...

That's disgusting.
Why castrate animals at all? If it was stopped, the herds would increase in number, and the price of all meats would go down. Also, ranch hands could be safe from Campylobacter jejuni!

Margaret said...

I will never complain about my job ever again.

was1 said...

Sheep farmers wear rubber boots, too. The trick is to put the sheep's back feet down into the boots and then they can't run away when they're getting screwed. Velcro gloves help, too.

Jenetikitty said...

Why to castrate animals? Because you have to feed every mouth you make. Because you don't want BUTCH the baddest, meanest bull siring all of the calves because he pretty much beat Spotty the sweet little bull away from every cow. Because now all of those calves will have their father's MEAN BULL instincts.

and what if BUTCH has a genetic disposition towards, say, cancer? or benign tumors? Or some other genetic inclination for otherwise undesirable traits that people don't want passed down?

We castrate animals to control them. A castrated bull will never become as aggressive as a intact bull. An intact animal endangers lives. Lives of the humans caring for them, lives of the females near them, and the lives of any other intact animals near by.

only one or two males are needed to impregnate a herd of animals. Castrating the males suggests that they're going on to fulfill some other purpose, rather then.. say... being killed right away like I believe male chickens are.

tl;dr - animals are castrated because doing otherwise endangers unnecessarily numbers of lives and allows the animals to continue to perform some useful role, while also ensuring that only desirable animals mate, procreate and increase the size of the herd while not exceeding the means of the herd's owners.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Campylobacter jejuni the old name for Helicobacter pylori?

RSDS said...

Mockingbird said...
"That's disgusting.
Why castrate animals at all?"

Beyond what Jenetikitty said, when slaughtered for meat, entire males have an unappetizing gamey flavor due to the large amount of testosterone that they produce; which steers, barrows, capons, and wethers do not have.

During the lab portion for Animal Health And Sanitation, my class had a field trip to help a rancher mark lambs. The lambs received vaccinations, and the males were castrated. I learned how to hold a lamb in a restraint position, so that s/he could be marked, since I was too squeamish to do any of the actual marking.

K2 said...

Couldn't they just spray the balls with antiseptic first? Or whiskey?

Anonymous said...

OK, but I can't really blame the CDC guys and gals from putting this in ... if only to see if anyone was reading.

Janine said...

I also remember Errol Flynn talking about this in his autobiography, "My Wicked, Wicked Ways' (though I'm astonished that an 8-year-old boy got his hands on a copy, as it was definitely NOT something that kids should read, LOL!) In Australia it was called "dagging" the sheep, and it was the job always given to the newest man on the ranch (which was Errol at the time), and yes, you spit them out after you bite them off. Errol Flynn's life was quite an adventure, but I don't think he reckoned this was one of the high points.

Kate said...

In my meats class, we were told that people on south American ranches typically do this too. Nasty.

Anonymous said...

That's not how you fellatio a sheep.

Anonymous said...

I am not grossed out by this. I grew up on a farm and there are plenty of dirty jobs to do when looking after livestock.

They used their teeth to assist in removing a bit of lamb flesh. So what? Yes, okay, they got the bacterium infection, yes it's an outdated method, but perhaps a lot of the disgust on here wrongly stems from the concept that this is like a sexually deviant act.

I've seen my dad put his hands inside a female sheep to turn her breech-birth around. I've mucked out chicken sheds. I've helped steady the lambs while he castrated them (we use elastic bands to cut off blood supply on newborns). I've helped clip sheep poop off their tails. I've buried dead, half-eaten bodies of chickens and sheep when illness or predators got them. If someone said "EWWW you put your hands IN POO and DEAD ANIMALS" then sure it sounds like I did something wrong, but it's all how you say it, and where you come from, right? I've also dissected whole animals in the name of science and eaten cooked bull testicles when travelling abroad. So what?

It's country life. It isn't pretty and it was never supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

This is indeed the traditional way to castrate sheep and is described in Youatt's 'Book of the Sheep' a fascinating historical text. In the days before little rubber rings, chewing through the cord was safer than using a knife, because the blood vessels clot better with a ragged, crushed wound than with a cut from a sharp instrument. Any ER doc will tell you that.

Little rubber rings have replaced cutting on farms on which it is realistic to bring the ewes and lambs in several times during the season to castrate all the little lambs, but are not suitable for big lambs, so on an extensive sheep ranch such as those in Wyoming, they are practical.

Uncastrated sheep get a taint in their meat. Not all people can taste it, but as one who can, I can verify that it is disgusting.

Vicki said...

My cousin, who started as a pre-veterinary major 10 years ago at California State Fresno, told me that the students majoring in caring for farm animals had to perform this task as their initiation into the program.

 
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