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. 🙂