The Ark

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Lambs at one week old     

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    Same ‘lambs’ at one year old

Before buying some of those cute little lambs or kids, you need to make sure you have room for them. Yes, when they are babies, you can easily hold two or more of the little darling in your arms, and besides, who doesn’t love to cuddle? But be careful! Those cuddly little babies are going to grow up. And fast! Pretty soon, your little lambs or kids are going to be so big, you can’t even pick one of them up! Before you start buying any kind of livestock, you have to make sure you have room for them to grow and play. Yes, you can probably keep your new baby sheep inside a doghouse when its little, but before its even six months old that lamb is going to need a much bigger house. Much bigger.

So before you go rushing off to buy some critters, do some research. Do you have a large, sprawling farm with a big barn and lost of fenced-in pastures? If so, you get you some livestock!!! Or do you only have a small backyard and one of those little plastic igloos for shelter? If so, don’t even think about buying any animals yet. With such small space, the ideal animal for you would be a Pygmy (or possibly Nigerian Dwarf) goat. But first you need to find someone who actually sells Pygmy goats. You can’t assume that just because the kid you’re looking at is tiny, that it will stay tiny.

Another thing to think about is the fact that you need at least two (2) animals. Sheep and goats are herd animals and do not do well if they don’t have a buddy. Do you have room for two animals? If your answer is “No” then you shouldn’t be considering buying a lamb or goat. This is where you need to remember the Ark. Noah put two animals of each kind on the Ark and there had to be enough room for the animals to be comfortable. The bottom line here is that if you don’t have an adequately sized ‘ark’, then you can’t have your two animals, and if you can’t have two animals, you can’t have an animal at all. Yes, buying two animals is twice the work, twice the money, and twice the trouble, but in the end you’ll end up with twice the profit. You have two healthy, happy animals. And that is the whole point. To have well-cared for livestock.

Please just remember to make sure you have room for any animal(s) you are wanting to get. If you don’t have the kind of room these animals need, maybe you should consider just getting a goldfish or a cat, instead.

 

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Dealing with the dreaded ‘S’ word: Scours

Any seasoned rancher will tell you that scours are a BIG problem. If not taken care of immediately, it will lead to the untimely death of your animal(s). Scours (basically just a different name for ‘diarrhea’ in the animal kingdom) will dehydrate your animal very quickly, as well as keep them from getting any nutrition from the food they are eating. As a general rule, you have three days to get your animal(s) over the scours. If not treated by the third day, the fourth day will be too late and your animal will die.

All animals, big and small, young and old,  can get scours. And it could be caused by any number of things.

I’ve only had a problem with scours in adult sheep after feeding my new ram too much grain. Most likely, he’d never had grain before and the sudden addition of the rich stuff to his diet in too large of quantity was literally poisoning him. I immediately cut the grain out of his diet and started giving him two (2) chewable tablets of an off brand Pepto-Bismol once a day, in the morning. For the rest of the day he was on a strict diet of grass hay and water. He was cleared up by the evening of the third day, though I never offered him grain again.

Now I have had problems with scours in my lambs and goat kids. They were all orphans and I was bottle feeding them. And since I was using a powdered milk replacer (Land’O’Lakes) for the little fellows, they did not have the proper bacteria balance in their tummies as they would have if they were drinking their own mother’s milk. Prompt treatment of scours is detrimental in baby animals as they are far more fragile than adults. For my lambs, they were given one-half (1/2) chewable tablet of Pepto-Bismol (off brand, remember!) a day. Now, for baby animals, you have to grind up the tablets into fine powder and feed it to the baby a little at a time, gently swiping your finger across the tip if it’s tongue to moisten your finger so the powder will stick, and then putting your finger back into the baby’s mouth and rubbing the powder on its tongue. You repeat that process until baby has eaten the entire allotment of powder. Don’t do this longer than three days in a row, or else you may risk the baby becoming constipated, which is also very bad. And if the baby is still being bottle fed, you can start mixing in a few tablespoons of natural, unflavored yogurt into the milk. The probiotics in the yogurt will help your baby keep from getting the scours in the future. After the Pepto-Bismol and the yogurt routine, my lambs were fine.

My baby goats (kids) were more difficult. I tried the Pepto-Bismol and yogurt, but it didn’t seem to be working all that well. So I started feeding about two to four (2 or 4) ounces of electrolytes to the kid once in the morning and once in the afternoon (I was still feeding them milk, as well). You will notice that the electrolytes turn the poo into a disturbing shade of dark green. But after a few days of feeding the electrolytes and still seeing no change, I started using Probios. Probios is another probiotic, but formulated especially for sheep and goats to help cure them of scours. I added the Probios to the milk twice a day (cutting out the yogurt, electrolytes, and Pepto-Bismol.) My kids were immediately better. I used the Probios for two days in a row just to get the babies back on track, and then I went back to feeding the powdered milk replacer as I started off doing. Throughout the whole process of curing the scours, I started putting a few drops of Peppermint Essential Oil on their bedding after eating and before putting them to bed for the night. So it did take more time to cure the goats of their scours, but I did get them fixed and they are just fine now. 🙂

How to deal with a few common problems among sheep and/or goats

The following is a list of fairly common problems you may run into while your blooming sheep or goat herd, as well as naturals ways to cure the different ailments.

Scours. Scours can be a life-threatening problem if not dealt with ASAP. Basically, your animal(s) has a bad case of diarrhea and they are going to become dehydrated very quickly. If left unattended, your animal is going to die. The best was to cure scours is to dose your animal with an off brand of Pepto-Bismol. Usually that should clear them up in about three days. If not, you may need to contact your local veterinarian. Another method to treating scours is to use Probios and/or electrolytes.

Bloat. Bloat can be another life-threatening problem, caused by overeating or if the animal has eaten something high in nitrates, such as oats before they have headed out or alfalfa that has been frozen. The best thing I have found for treating bloat is Peppermint Essential Oil. This oil works extremely well, and the animal needs only to smell it. Do not apply any essential oils directly to the animal without first diluting it in water, as it can make the animal sick. Just put a few drops of the oil in the animal’s bedding in the evenings. This, of course, is only for minor bloat or to prevent bloat. In severe cases of bloat, if you have never dealt with bloat before, you should contact your local veterinarian immediately! One other method to preventing bloat is to leave out a pan of free-choice baking soda. Sheep and goats should, if feeling poorly, eat the baking soda and it will sometimes also help in cases of mild bloat.

Worms. If your animal has worms, it needs to be treated promptly. One of the best natural wormers is Garlic Barrier. Sheep need approximately one teaspoon of Garlic Barrier every two to four months to control internal worm problems. Goats need twice that amount (two teaspoons every two to four months). The best way to administer this pungent deformer is to mix it with a small handful of grain and sprinkle on some sea salt. Most animals will gobble this mixture right up and be worm free in no time!

Pink eye. Medically known as Conjunctivitis, pink eye can easily become your worst nightmare. Pink eye can appear literally overnight and it takes about a month to cure completely. You must diligently doctor your animal morning and night to get this infectious disease under control. It might be a good idea to quarantine the sick animal so that the rest of your herd/flock does not become infected as well. The best way to treat pink eye is with Vetericyn. Use the Ophthalmic Gel to begin with, twice a day, for the first two weeks or until you can see the pink eye gradually getting better. After that, you can start using the Vetericyn Pink Eye Spray twice a day instead, which is much easier to apply and less stressful on both you and the animal. If there is a lot of wind at the time your animal(s) has pink eye, you might consider putting a patch over its eye. You can make a patch out of a piece of denim material and glue it on with any glue that is approved for use on animals. But a patch is not necessary and it can be troublesome to apply, so if you choose to use a patch is your decision. I applied a patch to my ewe’s eye, and it lasted about a day, which was fine because it protected her the day the winds were the worst. Here is a picture after the patch had begun to come off.

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Ear infection. If your sheep or goat has an ear infection, you’ll notice there is a bit of discharge running out of the ear and clinging to the fur. It had an unpleasant smell and with be a yellowish color. The best way to cure up an ear infection is with the juice of an onion. Yep. An onion. Preferably a sweet onion. Just take half an onion and juice it. Then fill an eye-dropper full of the liquid and squirt it right into the ear. You’ll notice that the animal will begin to act as if they can taste the onion in their mouth, and you’ll know that the onion has broken through the infection and your critter will be as good as new. Only administer the onion juice once and use no more than a teaspoonful!

Eat mites. Ear mites are tiny, nasty little bugs that burrow into your animal’s ear and cause problems. The symptoms are much like an ear infection (see above) but the discharge with have a dark brown or red tint to it. A fast cure for ear mites is a little olive oil. Just fill up an eye-dropper and coat the inside of the animal’s ear. This will suffocate the ear mites and your critter will make a full, pest-free recovery! Only use virgin olive oil that has never before been used, and don’t use more than a few teaspoons, and you only need to doctor the animal once.

Pain. A good pain reliever is willow. I had a wether who twisted his leg and was limping, so I gave him three or four small, tender willow shoots, which he loved, and it seemed to ease some of his discomfort.

I will continue to add to this list as I face new problems with my own herd. Check back later for updates!

A good reason to quarantine new animals…

Being new to raising sheep and goats, last fall I rented a Suffolk ram from the local sale barn to breed to my ewes. He was a handsome little fellow, and I wasted no time in introducing him to my girls.

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That was a BIG mistake. I should have quarantined him in a separate pen first.  Yes, it takes a bit of time to build that extra pen, set up another feeder and watering tank, and build a shed to keep him/her out of the elements, but that extra time is worth it in the end. If you quarantine your new animal(s), you’ll be able to monitor how they act and see if there are any diseases they might be able to pass on to the rest of your herd.

My newly acquired ram brought ear mites, pink eye, and lice to my little herd. It was a lesson that cost me a lot of time and over one hundred dollars worth of medicines to purge my herd of the pests and virus. I know now that if I ever buy or rent another animal, he/she gets their own pen for a week or two before they are put in with the rest of the livestock.

So please, please remember to quarantine all your new animals! You’ll be thankful that you did!

The Sheepskin Gloves

 

The Sheepskin Gloves

Sleek and thin. Glossy and tan.
But once you were white and wooly and warm.
On long black legs, full of life, you ran.

Young and spry, your chocolaty eyes so full of devotion,
Across the meadows and into the valley deep.
A playful bleat for every emotion.

But then you grew old.
You were no longer a lamb; no longer did you dance and jump.
And so came the day you were sold.

The day came for you to die.
Now you’re just a pair of sheepskin gloves.
I never even got to say goodbye.

***

Please note: I am in no way an animals right’s activist, but I thought up this poem one day and decided I would share it. Please understand that all animals have a purpose in life, whether that purpose is to be a pet for you or your child or if they are raised for meat, wool, milk, or leather. The truth of the matter is most livestock animals are not simply companions for us ranchers. Instead, they provide us with food and clothing. The Lord made humans stewards over the land and animals. We are to care for them and utilize them. And yes, that means that animals do get eaten. It may seem cruel to you to eat lamb chops or steaks, but that is the purpose of these animals.

A few years back some animal right’s activists decided that it was wrong for horses to be sent to slaughter houses and killed. So they put an end to it. No longer were horses shipped off to be butchered. But the animals right’s activists good intentions only hurt the horses more. Many states became overrun with unwanted horses. Owners could no longer afford to feed their animals, and there was no longer a market for them, so they abandoned them. Those abandoned horses were starving and they were suffering. To some, it may have been cruel to kill horses, but it was more humane than forcing slow, agonizing deaths on those the poor, hungry, outcast creatures.

This poem can evoke some strong emotions in you, the reader, but it is not my purpose to make anyone think that the practice of using animal hides for leather is cruel or inhumane. To any of you who are vegans and/or vegetarians or simply just animal lovers, I hope that I have not offended you in any way. Please know that this is just a poem brought forth from my imagination and it is not a true story.

The #1 Priority

The most important thing to any sheep or goat operation-no matter how big or small-is animal health. If you don’t have healthy animals, you don’t have anything. Some key factors of keeping your herd healthy is

1. Easy access to clean, fresh water at all hours of the day, and even at night.

2. Plenty of good quality feed. Either grass or grass/alfalfa hay or a good pasture will do.

3. A well ventilated (but draft free) enclosure that allows your animals to get out of the wind, rain, and/or hot sun as well as a pasture or a fenced-in yard for the animals to get outside and exercise. Animals need fresh air, too!

4. A trace mineral block or a pan of loose minerals (you can buy either of these at any farm supply store.) CAUTION! If you raise sheep, be sure that any trace mineral block, salt block, or a free choice loose minerals that you are getting are for SHEEP! Most products have too much copper and you can kill off your herd in no time. Just make sure that whatever product you are buying is labeled for sheep. There are trace mineral blocks you can buy that are for both sheep and goats, which can save you a lot of time if you have your sheep and goats together. Check it out here: Sheep + Goat minerals

5. If you live in an area where coyotes, dogs, wolves, bears, bobcats, lions, or other predators possibly roam, you have to either 1.) have a guard animal to watch over your flock (I’ll write more about the different kinds of guard animals later) or 2.) have a fence high enough that nothing can climb over and buried deeply enough that nothing is digging in, or 3.) you’ll have to devote the time to shutting your sheep/goats up in a barn or shed every night and letting them out again every morning.

6. You have to make time for these creatures. They do require care. If you’re looking to get a pet that you can leave unattended for days on end, I recommend you get a goldfish. Because the bottom line is, both sheep and goats need a shepherd. They need YOU. That’s right. They need you to pay attention to them and protect and care for them.

If you can’t/won’t give your sheep and goats what they need, you’re not going to have a healthy flock. And if you don’t have a healthy flock, there is no point in having sheep or goats. That’s all there is to it. Take care of these animals. Don’t neglect them or leave them to fend for themselves. They aren’t wild animals. They are domesticated livestock and they need you to watch out for them and keep them safe, healthy, and happy. Do that, and you’ll have yourself a flock that is worth it’s weight in gold. 🙂