The Centers for Disease Control weighed in on the controversial issue of lamb castration this week in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Presented is a case report of campylobacter jejuni infection in two men who used their teeth to castrate baby lambs in a multi day event at a ranch in Wyoming. This is the first such case study ever presented for an activity that has been taking place since the before the 1800's
Evidently these were the only two men to engage in such activity and it should come as no surprise that some of the lambs castrated were also noted to have mild diarrheal symptoms. Campylobacter of course is transmitted through fecal-oral contact and it would take very little imagination to foresee some significant contamination.
Luckily all the sick recovered, including the lambs.
This got me to thinking about an episode of "Dirty Jobs" that airs on the Discovery Channel. In it, host Mike Rowe gets down and dirty while castrating a lamb of his own. To my knowledge he did not fall ill, but did make an argument that can only be seen to be believed.
The CDC is now advising that ranchers use standardized, age specific methods for castrating sheep and to wash their hands thoroughly after contact with animals. I might instead recommend cleaning the surgical area thoroughly prior to castration by mastication as it seems exceedingly unlikely that there would be surgical equipment or a sink with soap handy in the middle of a pasture.