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.

New Laws For LGDs in SnoCo

image Ok, I’m writing about something other than copper! 🙂 I read about some proposed changes to the Snohomish County leash and noise ordinances that relate to livestock guardian dogs (LGDs). As the law currently stands, dogs can’t run loose in our county, and they can’t make continuous noise (aka kennel barking, where they go on and on for more than a half hour).

But, there is an exemption for LGDs in the barking category, since they are doing their job protecting an agricultural crop. When people purchase land zoned R-5 or Ag-10 in our county, they must sign an affidavit that they understand there will be “agricultural activity, smells and sounds”. (Mmm!) And LGD barking falls under this umbrella. So if people call the county to complain about this, they’ll just be told, “sorry, it’s within the law for your area.”

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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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Ready for Winter Feeding

HayIt’s hard to decide how much  hay to store for winter. It’s cheapest to buy in the summer, so if you don’t store enough and have to buy more at the end of the winter, it costs more. But, if you put up way too much, then you’ve spent money you didn’t need to. And old hay isn’t worth much the following year, so is often just used as bedding material.

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Ready for Winter Flooding

FloodPenI was pleased with myself for being prepared for winter flood season well before it came on. We had taken down our little “flood pen” during the summer so we could mow that area. I re-built it slightly bigger for this year, to accommodate more sheep. It’s far from roomy, and nobody has a good time if it floods and the sheep have to stay crammed in there for a few weeks. But, it’s only a few weeks, so we’d get through it. And now that I have portable hotwire, I’d have some options of moving the sheep around while waiting out a flood.

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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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(Nearly) Vet-less in Seattle

I called our local large animal veterinary hospital, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital, to inquire about doing a parasite load count on my sheep. No can do. Pilchuck no longer offers services for small ruminants. They will still work on sheep and goats brought to their clinic, but for emergencies only. Their website lists four vets who specialize in goats, sheep and llamas- I guess this must be out of date?

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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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