Seeking the Holy Grail of Livestock Supps

j0405454[1]After seeing excellent results from offering the Purina goat mineral mix to my sheep, I decided to do a little more experimentation. Before I got my forage analysis results back, I decided to offer two varieties of Sweetlix brand of supplements as an option side-by-side with the Purina mineral.

I had several reasons for wanting to do this, at the time. For one, Sweetlix looked like a better brand overall, it had “more stuff” in it than the Purina mix. And, it offered me the ability to put two similar tasting minerals side-by-side, one with a lot of copper and one with a little copper, because they have both a sheep and a goat variation. I figured this would give the sheep greater control over their own copper consumption. I can’t do this with the Purina goat mix, because there is no low-copper version that’s otherwise identical. Purina and Land O’Lakes apparently don’t make sheep minerals.

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Country Living Expo & Cattlemen’s Winterschool

Washington State University - World Class Face to FaceHere is a plug for an upcoming event in Stanwood, WA that should be well worth attending. WSU’s Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool is an amazing array of 135 classes on all sorts of topics,a jam-packed day of learning, plus a prime rib lunch. The hardest part is choosing which classes to attend! 😛

Here is a sampling of some of the topics:

Fruit Tree Maintenance, Hands on Hay judging, Frisbee Dog Training, Growing Giant Pumpkins and Vegetables, Building Your Own Greenhouse, Native Plants for Wetland Restoration, Arc Welding- Hands on, Soap Making, Cheese Making, Growing Vegetables Year Around, Wild Game Dressing in the Field, Raising and Processing Pastured Poultry, Palatability Control Points for Direct Marketed beef, pork and lamb, Plethora of Pasture and Forage Classes, Chain Saw Maintenance, Beginning through Advanced Specialty Canning, Frisbee Dog Training, Marketing Small Businesses, Cider Making, Honey Bees, Raising Beef, Sheep, Swine, Goats, Spinning, Weaving, equine classes and more.

How can you resist? Get yourself over to the Skagit County Extension website and register asap, as I understand the classes fill fast.

Calculating Copper in a Sheep’s Diet

File:Copper sulfate.jpgWell, I can’t stop thinking about copper, and how much to allow my sheep to eat. And I’m going to keep blogging about it until I figure it out! 🙂 Sorry if it’s getting boring, eventually I’ll get past this phase!

So, as Kirk can tell you, when I’m in a period of indecision, I make a spreadsheet! I love spreadsheets. Looking at math and side-by-side comparisons of things always helps me think through a problem.

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I’m Pretty Jazzed About My Sheep’s Hooves!


I did some hoof trimming on the sheep yesterday, to see how things are looking after the sheep have been getting supplemental copper. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. They are looking SO good, the improvement and healing is profound! I should qualify, though, that there is more than one variable at play, so I can’t yet credit the copper supplement. Though I feel fairly sure that’s what it is.

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Relief in the Results (sort of): Soil & Grass Metrics are In!

Sheep I was excited to get my soil and forage analysis results back on Monday, they were very useful and thought-provoking. I spent many hours delving into the details to divine what it all means.

First, the soil- it looks pretty good overall. I wasn’t sure if it would be a mess from a century of farming, but it wasn’t. Most of the mineral metrics were medium to high, within the “desirable” ranges. The soil pH is a little low for optimal plant growth, so lime was recommended to raise the pH. And, nitrogen was low, so addition there was also recommended. Phosphorous, zinc and iron were all high; and that all translated into the forage measurements to some degree.

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Soil and Forage Testing

Dirt I finally got my soil and forage samples sent off to a lab. I’ve wanted to do this for some time, but have been procrastinating! I consulted with my Farm Planner at the NRCS Snohomish Conservation District to ask what labs they currently recommend. She sent me two local lab names, and I chose Soiltest Farm Consultants in Moses Lake, WA; which is the place WSU is currently recommending.

She also referred me to this helpful Soil Test Interpretation Guide, produced by Oregon State University. This was definitely worth reading before choosing the tests I wanted done. Reading through the menu of possible soil and forage tests is dizzying. I called the lab to ask for some advice, and got a little more help; but still needed to do some reading to understand what the different tests are and why you’d choose one over another.

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Cu for Ewe(s)

Spectacles5 As I study the Pat Coleby mineral supplementation subject more and more, the biggest hang-up I have is over copper (Cu). I can breeze right through the advice for offering the other minerals free-choice, feeling confident in her assertion that the sheep will eat what they need and no more. And most of what’s in her recipe is fairly low-risk, even if the sheep ate a little too much. But not so with copper!

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Mobile Mineral Menu for Sheep and Other Livestock

MineralFeederQuite a while ago, I read Pat Coleby’s book Natural Seep Care. Then I put it on the shelf for a long time, because her assertions and suggestions are a bit overwhelming, and not easy to implement. But I’ve decided to embark on following some of her advice, including offering the sheep individual trace minerals (instead of a commercial proprietary mix) so they can eat what they crave.

The first challenge was figuring out a sheltered, but moveable, device in which to offer this mineral buffet, since the sheep are in ever-rotating pastures. I nagged myself to craft something from scratch, but just wasn’t getting to it. So I finally purchased two nifty mineral feeder stations.

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Flushing Ewes Again This Year


I waffled again this year on whether or not to “flush” the ewes prior to breeding. Flushing is putting them on an increasing plane of nutrition as they come into heat, coaxing their bodies to release more eggs, to render a higher rate of twins and triplets. Last year I did it, and had a 200% lamb crop born, so I think I’m going to stick with the plan for another year or so; and then maybe experiment with dropping it and see how it compares.

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