If you’ve always had a question about sheep management, but didn’t know who to ask, well now you do!
Dr. Bailey will respond by mail to your sheep questions, and a selection of answers will be published in this column. If you have questions concerning sheep health, write: Dr. Don Bailey, 510 Jones Rd., Roseburg, OR 97470.
Please do not ask Dr. Bailey to practice medicine over the telephone. Call your local veterinarian instead.
Injecting Cleaning Fluid?
Rainforest Plantation is a sheep ranch and cashew plantation in Belize, Central America.
In trying to create a large-framed hair sheep composite in Belize, I bought an entire flock of more than 60 animals from a breeder who had combined Katahdin, Blackbelly, Suffolk, Hampshire and Dorset, primarily to acquire a single animal, the largest-framed hair sheep I had ever seen. She looked like a Suffolk with a hair coat.
She lost her first lamb on our farm and later developed an infection of the upper jaw, which seemed to respond to readily-available antibiotics. However, she relapsed and stopped eating.
I called in the leading vet in Belize, formerly the head of the Belize Animal Health Department. He said the most powerful antibiotic he could give was Nolvasan, which he said is very expensive in Belize but relatively cheap in the U.S., and the best drug for us to keep on hand.
The ewe showed no improvement after 10 days of Nolvasan injections and died of starvation despite our force-feeding her with grain and minerals in a liquid slurry.
When I returned to the U.S., I was not able to find any antibiotic under the Nolvasan brand name, only antiseptic cleaning fluids sold by Wyeth. I wrote to Wyeth but never received a reply.
My question: Is there a Nolvasan antibiotic for ruminants? Or were we injecting my irreplaceable queen ewe with cleaning fluid?
D. T., Harwich Port, MA
I found your description of a big Suffolk with a hair coat interesting.
You are right about Nolvasan. I have used it for years in my veterinary practice to sterilize equipment. I can’t imagine injecting it for use as an antibiotic. If the ewe you described had a swelling along the lower jaw involving the jaw bone, I could suspect a tooth problem. Because the upper molar teeth face down it is unusual in my experience to see infected upper molar teeth. Another possibility could have been a nasal tumor, which affects the nose and is always fatal.
Copper Poisoning Potential
My neighbor has a ten-acre cherry orchard. He would like to have my ewes pasture it off. He has sprayed copper on the trees. Would it be dangerous and maybe cause copper poisoning?
Before putting your sheep in to graze this orchard, it would be wise to have the soil tested for copper levels. As you probably know, copper is a cumulative poison and sheep are very prone to copper poisoning. If the soil test comes back showing only a trace amount of copper, then I would feel safe in grazing the orchard.
Lumpy Wool Disease
We just finished shearing and many of our ewes had hard lumps of wool on their backs and sides. There were brown scabs also in the same areas. What can I do to prevent this from reoccurring? I sell wool to spinners and they object to lumpy crusts in the fleeces.
What you describe is called “lumpy wool” disease or mycotic dermatitis. It occurs very commonly and especially in rainy, wet climates. The bacterium that causes the infection also infects cattle, horses and other species, including man. In young lambs it causes a dry scaly lesion on ears and around the face. Sometimes it works in conjunction with sore mouth and can be confused with sore mouth. Lambs will sometimes develop red lumps on the hoof, called “strawberry foot,” and is caused by the same bacterium.
My advice is to shear twice a year. Treat the infected area by removing the wool and applying antibiotic ointments or powder. In major outbreaks, injectable penicillin is useful. Try not to feed hay in “over the head” feed racks. Keep hay and chaff off of the sheep’s backs.
Sheep Foot Bath Methods
After a particularly wet spring, my lambs are having a hard time with scald between their toes. We do have a little foot rot in our ewes. Nothing seems to cure the lamb’s scald. After giving injections of tetracycline, they seem better for a few days and then go back to limping. Those are pastured lambs and are in wet grass continually. What more can I do?
If you do not have a footbath, pen or chute, you will need to make one up. To do foot bathing, 10% zinc sulfate is the chemical to use in the footbath. Formalin is too dangerous to the shepherd and disappears rapidly in the atmosphere. Copper sulfate is inactive in organic material such as feces.
Besides foot bathing, there is a vaccine called Volar that some producers have reported good results with in preventing foot scald, by giving two injections to lambs before scald appears. It is a troublesome condition and does reduce lamb performance. Time spent in the footbath varies with the severity. Just walking through is not as effective as standing in the zinc for up to an hour. A liquid detergent soap is also used to help absorb the zinc. The only other recommendation would be to move you and your flocks to a dryer climate.
What is the best way to control coccidiosis in lambs?
Prevention is the best way and prevention is accomplished by keeping ewes and lambs on clean pastures.
The coccidia oocysts can live on pastures for one year. A year’s rest for pasture is impractical for most producers.
My recommendation is to start adding Deccox (2 pounds per 50 pounds of trace mineral) to the free-choice mineral 30 days before lambing. Then continue feeding to the ewes and lambs for two months longer. By two months of age, most lambs have developed immunity to coccidiosis.
In a few cases, in severely infected pastures, the dose of Deccox will need to be 3 pounds per 50 pounds of trace mineral salt.
The advantage that Deccox has over Monensin Sodium is the fact that Deccox does not destroy all of the coccidiae, but lets a few pass through. This stimulates immunity in the lambs. Monensin destroys all of the coccidiae; thus the lamb does not develop any immunity and is subject to outbreaks of coccidiosis.
Identifying Copper Poisoning
I am confused about the copper situation in sheep. First I read that copper will kill, then I read about copper deficiency where lambs develop the shakes or die because they don’t have enough copper. How do I manage the flocks so that their copper levels are where they are supposed to be?
First, know the two extremes:
Copper poisoned ewes pass coffee-colored urine with very yellow mucus membrane in eyes and mouth.
Secondly, know that copper deficiency lambs can be born dead or die shortly after birth. Those that live can be shaky or unable to stand or have weak bones that break easily.
Now the objective is to have a level between those extremes. When you butcher a lamb or have a ewe die of natural causes (such as age) have your veterinarian send in a liver to a lab for analysis. From that report, then you and your veterinarian can work out either a copper supplement plan or plan to reduce copper-if such plans are needed.
It has been proven that lambs with normal copper levels have higher growth rates, and are more resistant to disease, such as pneumonia.