Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Stepping in it.

I stepped right in it a few days ago.

You'll recall that I had heroically rescued a sheep in our paddock from certain death by tipping it back on its feet.

While I was in the paddock I'd noticed that some of the lambs had scabby bits on their foreheads. When I rang my friend the shepherd to tell him of my good deed I asked him about the scabby bits and he said it was orf. Now he is Somerset born and bred, so he doesn't say orf as they do in Mayfair, e.g. "Ay'm fratefully afraid the prawns hev gorn orf". When he said it was orf, he meant it was a viral disease of sheep which can affect humans.

Now as a doctor I had occasionally seen patients with orf. In lambs it causes small blisters and ulcers around the mouth, which interferes with their suckling, and when farmers or their wives bottle-feed these ailing lambs, they sometimes get blistered lesions on their fingers from contact with the lamb's muzzle. I'd never seen it cause scabby lesions on the forehead though, in either sheep or humans.

So I thought I might learn something from the shepherd, and when I next saw him in the paddock I went to join him. There were two men with him whom I'd never seen before, knowledgable-looking countrymen in tweeds and flat caps, obviously vets. I was even more likely to learn something.

I approached them with a cheery smile, and said "Hello Jim, I hope you don't mind but I'd like to listen in with the consultation, because I've been a bit worried about that sheep that nearly died yesterday and then there's one with a very bad limp and there's all this scabby stuff which you said was orf, but I'm not sure, so I'd be interested to hear what the vets say."

There was a long pause, accompanied by a long hard stare. "Well actually John, they're not vets, these gentlemen are judges from the Melplash Agricultural Show and they've come to judge the quality of my herd".


Well, they would have noticed, wouldn't they? They are judges after all. Nothing that a large bunch of home-grown sweet peas and a bag of plums won't put right.

I hope.


  1. another cracking post - I couldn't see where the story was heading at all and was idly reading whilst waiting for the lovely man at the car insurers gave me a quote.

    I'm sure he thinks I'm barking mad because he was half way though asking me if I has any convictions and I burst out laughing.

    If he sets me a high premium as a consequence, I'll hold you responsible!

    ali xxx

  2. Thank you Alison. I enjoy your comments more than my blogs. Having firm convictions always leads to trouble.
    John B.