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  Don Bailey, D.V.M. Vet Check  

    If you’re puzzled about a sheep health problem, write immediately to Dr. Bailey at the above address. He thoughtfully responds by mail to your sheep questions, and some of his answers get published in sheep! to help readers with similar problems.

    Please do not ask Dr. Bailey to practice medicine over the telephone. If you have an immediate problem, call your local veterinarian.

    Always remember to check with Dr. Bailey for a second opinion. Questions sent via E-mail to sheepmagazine@citynet.net will be forwarded to Dr. Bailey.

Watery Mouth

I have had lambs die within the first week that had started to drool a lot, and quit suckling. I didn’t see any diarrhea. Is this caused by Colibacillosis? I remember you writing in your column about this condition. It would save me tearing up the house to find the issue if you would please repeat the cause and what to do about this disease.

Your diagnosis of Colibacillosis sounds correct. Another name for this disease is “watery mouth.” This is a very serious and costly disease in 2-3 day old lambs.

It is caused by a pathogenic strain of E. Coli. It is also caused by unsanitary conditions and a lack of adequate colostrum.

You don’t need to see diarrhea to make a diagnosis. The lamb usually succumbs before diarrhea appears. It also results in blood poisoning effect (septicemia). So you need to make an early diagnosis.

These lambs are uncomfortable and a little bloated. But the main symptoms are depression and a watery, drooling mouth. My favorite antibiotic is Spectinomycin orally. It comes in a pump dispenser and is labeled for baby pigs. Your veterinarian can prescribe it. I also give Pepto-Bismol® orally.

When you find these lambs early, one dose will straighten them out in a few minutes. If you have waited too long, then heat and fluid are indicated. The big thing in prevention is a high degree of sanitation.

We use “slaked lime” in all of our jugs between ewes-after the solid wood floors in our jugs are shoveled and swept clean. The lime is brushed on with a broom until the floor is dry.

Next, washing your hands with an iodine-based soap is very important.

We keep a supply of surplus colostrum milk in the refrigerator and tube these weak lambs with it.

Be sure to soak all of your utensils, bottles catheters, brushes, etc., in Clorox® water over night every two to three days. I could go on, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of sanitation in stopping this condition.

Selenium, Vitamins, Vaccinations

I have been reading your column in sheep! for a couple of years and I thoroughly enjoy it….

I run about 500 brood ewes (commercial)…outside of Salem, OR. The first question is am I feeding enough selenium to them? I feed 90ppm in the salt ration year-round.

Also, should I give vitamin E shots when I give my 8-way shots two weeks before lambing?

The next question is should I be giving a chlamydia and a vibriosis booster shot at breeding time? It is a closed flock and I have very few abortions. Your help in clearing up these questions would be greatly appreciated.

W.P., Turner, OR

I would say your mineral mix looks good, as long as your consumption is adequate. I do not see the need for vitamin E injections since you are on green grass most of the year.

Since you have a closed flock it is hard to decide whether to vaccinate against abortion or not. As you know, birds can carry the abortion germs from ranch to ranch. So that danger is always around, even in a closed flock. I don’t vaccinate my ewes for abortion. This year I had three abortions in 250 ewes. I spent time and a lot of money for laboratory fees trying to find the cause. Luckily it was not contagious abortion. Maybe it is better to vaccinate and then sleep better at night. (I’ll leave that up to you!)


I am looking for a reason why my sheep start-in the midst of winter-chewing the bark or roots of live trees (pines and maples) and even gnaw the edges of wooden fences (old hemlock).

I read in the March/April issue of sheep! that sheep can be short of phosphorus and wonder if this could be a possible cause. We have had this problem for several years.

The sheep are fed high-quality second cutting hay as soon as their pasture is not productive. This continues until I start graining them about six weeks before lambing. The chewing begins before I start graining and continues through it and thereafter. The grain has 16% protein and among other ingredients, I note .55% phosphorus. I called to learn the source of this and was told that it was naturally occurring in the other ingredients! If true, is it enough?

You advise a free-choice mineral mix that has two parts of calcium to one part phosphorus. But what is the source of these components? Someone here has suggested Dicalcium Phosphate plus ordinary salt.

Why do you think the sheep are so set on chewing wood? And whether a lack of phosphorus is the cause or not, how do I go about making sure they have the right amount? Should it be in the feed or is there a soil amendment?

And, I always wonder about how much selenium they need. There is not much in our soil here as should be and is in the mineral mix but I am not sure it is enough. Thank you for helping me out.

N. F. Weston, VT

From the symptoms you describe I would suggest adding a free-choice mineral mix. This mix should contain: calcium/2 parts and phosphorus/1 part. It should also contain other major minerals and trace minerals, including selenium. If this doesn’t stop the wood chewing, it would suggest to me boredom could be the cause.

The phosphorus source bone meal is ground-up animal bones that have been heat treated to sterilize the material. Since the “mad cow” problem, bone meal is not allowed to be fed.

You need to have a sample of your soil analyzed to see what minerals are missing. I would also suggest a trace mineral test on the fresh liver of a dead animal. After these results are in, a visit with your local veterinarian would be helpful.

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