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September 10, 2009

Farm happenings

One of the sheep did not survive the week. The day we tended to them I noticed the little wether Blackie had a slight bottle jaw—a sure sign of anemia from parasites. I kept an eye on him for signs of trouble and sure enough the next day he was laid flat out in the pasture. I moved him to the barn and worked on supportive treatment for 3 days, just when I thought he had made a recovery and returned him to the pasture, he died. I have since done even more research into nutritional and herbal parasite control. Specifically of interest is the mention of a mineral “lick” (dry powder) to put out for sheep (or all ruminants). The main components are magnesium, calcium, sulfur, cobalt and copper. Sheep can develop copper toxicity, however since we feed kelp which has copper, cobalt and iodine, we do not have to add those ingredients. I found the dolomitic lime and sulfur dusting powder at the feed store/nursery and made up a mineral batch. The sheep have been taking the kelp regularly, but have not seemed to go after this mix yet. The magnesium to calcium ratio is 2:1, which happens to be the ratio for cows to prevent milk fever. My main source for the recipe and mineral information is Pat Coleby’s Natural Sheep Care. She has also written on cattle, and includes much information that is pertinent to all ruminants.

She quotes research done in Australia and the US that shows causation between copper deficiency and pregnancy rates, copper deficiency and parasite immunity, as well as overall health. So, we are on a trial with the mineral lick, in which all the mineral/components are not chelated or processed. Pat Coleby’s quoted research also states that literally no milk fever or mastitis occurred in the sample groups of cattle and sheep when fed the mineral mix.

Her recipe as I mixed it:
55 lbs of dolomitic lime
9 lbs of yellow dusting sulfur
18 lbs of natural kelp
Weigh and mix the ingredients, add DE if desired, feed in a dry area, keep remainder covered.
It can be fed free choice or feedings can be top dressed.

On the topic of pregnancy rates, Hattie is in heat this morning, trying to mount Vera…not a pretty sight. I will AI her this evening.

All the remaining sheep (5 ewes and the ram) look healthy, have nice pink conjunctiva, no appetite or stool problems, so I think the little wether was the only one so affected. One underlying topic of Mrs. Coleby’s discussion is the need for fertile/balanced soil, and mentions drought or flood altering the pH and mineral content to the extent that livestock cannot get all they need from it. It has been 3 years since we tested the soil, so we will need to do that again soon. The final tactical move is to be able to rotate the pastures, which means taking sheep out and letting cattle in; they are immune to other species’ parasites. Once the host animal leaves the area without completing the parasites life cycle the parasites die. Improved fencing and more panels are on the wish list to make this happen, even at the rate of one pasture at a time.

The wish list of things that need to be done keeps getting pushed back due to more urgent home improvements. The water well quit working a few days ago. Thankfully within 24 hours it was repaired, by the most professional and knowledgeable well service company we have ever seen or heard of! (McKnight’s Well Service, for anyone in our area)


  1. Very sorry to hear about your wether. One of my goats had bottle jaw last year, I gave her two doses of two different commercial dewormers/delousers and she pulled out of it. Guess I got lucky.

    You say you do your own AI on your cows -- how did you learn to do it? Are there classes for such a thing? I'd love to learn.


  2. So sorry about Blackie! It sounds like you are on top of things though! That's one of the things that terrifies me about sheep and goats. It seems they fall quickly to parasites.

    What are you going to use for semen on Hattie?

  3. I took a calss at Bovine Elite ( ). It was awesome, my skills are not so awesome yet, though I am determined! Felt like a winner this time.
    I drenched Blackie with sheep drench 2x a day, gave another CDT, gave B12 daily, baking soda, pumpkin seeds, etc... I just got to him too late I think, he was really little too. I hate that he had to suffer for my learning curve.
    We use the FAMANCHA method to check their conjunctiva every 6 weeks (even though I don't have a card nor have been to the class), but I understand the concept...again, just too little of a guy and a little late for me to turn him around. I did wonder when caring for him if we would or should butcher him, which was to be his end originally. Farm life.

  4. Sorry about Blackie!Good luck with Hattie, beaming pregnancy vibes to Texas for her!