Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Getting Sick

When you have livestock it's a guaranteed that eventually one of them will get sick.
Animals are never easy when they do get sick since you can't ask them what's going on such as: did you eat anything strange? Where does it hurt exactly? Does it also bother you to (fill in the blank)? When did you notice the symptoms starting?
So when it happens you have to take the visible symptoms and do huge searches to find exactly what you think may be the cause of the problem. This however is not always an easy thing because:
1) Most vets have no clue (or don't really care?) about sheep and/or goats. So asking the vet is like wasting your precious time (and money) sometimes. Now that is not to say they don't sometimes come up with something good but....a stopped clock is correct twice a day.
2) Many, many, many (seems like thousands) of sheep and goat diseases all have the same symptoms. Very annoying and confusing to say the least to try and find out what is exactly the problem. That's where the talking sheep could really help you out.
3) Most sheep and goat books out there are very very basic and really don't address the various treatments of sheep nor the more "in depth" causes of the disease. I don't mean cause as in bacteria or virus but is it related to mineral problems or well....lots of other small things that can help avoid the problem to start with. Also by treatment I don't mean "call your vet" as many of them say I mean things like this: give (blank) intramuscularly, not subcute at the dosage of blah blah ml's per 100 pounds of body weight for blank number of times per day for 4 days. Or something like that. THAT is extremely helpful. Many times I tell my vet what I need to treat my animals. I have a hard vet though and have to make my case. Sometimes I don't get the drugs I want which can be annoying but I consider myself somewhat lucky that they will generally give me what I want. I do know some people whose vets will give them anything and others whose vets won't give them even something so simple as a prescription bottle of minerals so.....
And lastly
4) Sheep die fast. You don't have much time by the time you see major symptoms to figure out your sheep is sick. Some people say sheep die at a drop of a hat and they are too hard to raise. I don't find that to be true but I also believe that it goes along with your style of management of your sheep. Sheep are prey animals so their main goal is to hide their problems to see if they get better. If they don't hide their sickness then the big bad (wolf, bear, coyote, fox, wolverine, badger, large prey bird etc) will swoop in and eat them. So paying very very close attention to your sheep will make a huge difference in how much time you have to treat your animal and how far along the problem gets to progress before treatment starts. If you only visit your sheep once a week or barely glance over them for 15 minutes a day---one could be very sick before anyone knew about it. "Eye of the shepherd" some of the people I know call this: eye your sheep every day, your "eye" knows what is normal---so go with your gut. Also,sometimes the problem is as simple as we just didn't know a symptom was a symptom----until we look back later and go "ah hah" THAT was a symptom.
There have been points especially with lambs and new animals, that they are very sick before we figure it out. Animals that have been on our farm a long time are much easier to figure out and diagnose since you "know" their "normal" reactions to things.

So my point of this article?
One of my best sheep is very sick. We did think we would loose her for sure. Now? maybe she will live.
What's wrong? Absolutely no clue. We are treating for a number of things so every few hours she gets 4 shots, one of antibiotic (in case its a bacterial disease), one of vitamin C (in case it's a poisoning), one of Thiamine (since it seems as if its a b1 deficiency) and one of Vitamin B complex (to keep her rumen working correctly since she is not eating or drinking yet and to help with micro nutrient problems) She also gets some probios paste for her stomach and 120 cc of water every hour. She is alert but not moving around much yet. We will see.
Did we see symptoms---yes but it was one of those "ah hah" didn't know THAT was a symptom. Also---she was very good about hiding it.

So my point of this? Just remember when you raise livestock that yes, there will be times when they are sick. Hopefully they don't die---and that is what we are working towards in our case----but sometimes even the healthiest best cared for animal does some how get sick. It's the nature of the beast.

A few good books I would like to mention:
The Veterinary book for Sheep Farmers----British publication but has actual Vet treatments and helps with diagnosis.
Also both of Laura Lawson's books Lamb problems
and Managing your ewe

"Cultivating" friends who have raised sheep longer than you also helps :-) since they can become indispensable in helping to decide what to do.

Have a great day all

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