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.
Here’s a little timeline of relevant events:
7/24 & 8/21 – trimmed hooves, lots of hoof scald and rot, de-lamination. Some sheep ok, but most of them had some level of problem, and some were very bad. This was during a great, dry summer eating really high nutrient grass.
8/22 – started them on kelp supplement, free-choice, to see if it would help. Upon periodic inspection though, it did not seem to cause an improvement.
10/5 – started feeding dry COB for flushing (one variable)
10/10 – started offering them goat mineral with copper, free-choice, alongside their regular sheep mineral salt. They ate it like crazy!
10/22 – moved them to a pasture with mostly reed canary grass, off of a pasture of mixed grass and broadleaf species (another variable)
11/8 – another hoof trimming, a little too soon to tell results, but things were looking a lot better.
11/23 – started noticing the absence of lameness and sheep kneeling while grazing to take weight off their front feet
12/4 – another hoof trimming, almost zero trace of foot problems!
Wow, are these the same sheep? I swear, I think they all grew entirely new hooves in two months! First, I dug out some pictures I had of typical foot rot I’ve been fighting-the two pix at the top of this post. And these aren’t the worst I was seeing. See how those feet had curled-over sides, but also that the hoof wall was sort of peeling off, like a flaky pastry? Horse people talk about laminitis in horses, but in sheep people tend to lump hoof problems into “scald” and “rot” categories. But I have always thought this seems more like laminitis- the hoof wall completely dis-adhering from the rest of the foot, which then leaves room for mud, stones, and bacteria to get in there and cause trouble. And when you trim off that loosening hoof wall, which you must do to bring oxygen to heal the foot, all that’s left is tender, mushroom-like inner hoof tissue, which is really painful to walk on!
So check out this hoof I saw yesterday, which now has no pockets, holes, or de-lamination; and is rock-hard material. You can see some wrinkles in the hoof wall from healing action, just like how our fingernails get temporary wrinkles from an injury.
Here is a picture of one sheep’s hooves that were particularly bad before. Honestly, I think a maggot fell out of one of her toes when I was trimming them this summer, much to my horror! And this was not due to mismanagement or general ill-thrift- there was no mud, the weather was dry, I was trimming every eight weeks or so, medicating their feet, and the sheep were in good weight.
Now her feet look very, very good. There is still a small pocket of mud on the side, but when I trimmed that back, there was no de-lamination or tissue irritation, the “flap” of hoof tissue was just extra, and a new wall had grown underneath. Her toes are also still a little wide and fat, evidence of how much her hooves have been growing like “elf shoes” in a desperate attempt to overcome disease.
The sheep I bought in September reacted badly to my pasture as well, developing sore feet and lameness within weeks of being here. This below-pictured sheep was also experiencing crazy tissue growth in an attempt to overcome the problem (remember, I trimmed these on 11/8, and them came to me in good shape in September, so all this insane growth is recent):
The most interesting thing was that most of the sheep had copper-colored edges to their hoof material, which I have not seen before. It’s a little hard to see in the photo, but it was quite striking on most of the sheep, in person. I wonder if this could be attributed to copper storing up in their tissues? Or if their bodies are actually accumulating copper in the hoof tissue to drive out bacterial disease? I don’t know! But I thought it was curious!
Anyway, I’m hugely pleased with the results; I can’t say how nice it is to see the sheep feeling good and having no hoof discomfort. Now I’m moving into feeding hay, and will soon be adding dry COB again for end-of-pregnancy support. So, it’ll be a while before I can eliminate enough variables to convince myself this is solely due to the copper supplement. But my gut tells me it is!