Sheep Check

This weekend we had beautiful weather, so I went out to trim all the sheep’s feet again and check things out. The sheep all look very good, they are at good weights and seem generally healthy. A couple of the girls are looking big, I think those may already be four months along.

A couple of them still have foot rot, though none are currently showing lameness. This is frustrating. Part of me questions whether I should have had higher standards in only buying sheep with perfect feet. Certainly a lot of books and experts recommend this. But, sometimes I wonder if those experts are all in desert states! For, I don’t know anyone in our area who can claim zero foot rot on their place, our climate is just so damp and warm. I do think I can get them fixed with aggressive trimming, I’ve had good luck with it working on others’ animals at least. But, it is a drawback, for sure, to have this extra work to do.

A couple of the ewes have really good feet, so I do think there is some genetic component, that these two are resisting it better than the rest. I’ll have to note that when I decide which lambs to keep and cull this summer. But, #33 has the worst feet, and her daughter has the best feet- so they must not share that trait in common!

I also wonder about diet deficiencies. I recently read Pat Coleby’s Natural Sheep Care. Hers is an interesting book, that revolves almost solely around mineral supplementation to compensate for deficiencies in the soil. She makes a bold assertion that if you can get this corrected–either in your soil or with custom designed mineral supplements, that all problems (foot rot, parasites, birthing issues, wool quality problems, low production yields etc) should virtually disappear!

Intriguing notion indeed. I do believe that diet plays a big role in health, and we all know that unwise past farming practices have created deficiences in almost everybody’s soil. So, it’s on my to-do list, to have the soil tested, and figure out what I need to supplement and how I’m going to get it and offer it. Pat’s book asserts that just buying a general sheep mineral isn’t enough, that you need a custom one for your soil, so that the sheep eat what they crave/need, and don’t overdose on things they don’t need. She also asserts that most pastures are deficient in copper, and that most sheep need copper in their supplement. But, this goes against common advice, since there are issues with over-dosing sheep on copper; so all sheep supplements exclude it entirely. Food for thought!

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