As we head into lambing and kidding season, it’s a perfect time to discuss all the wonderful issues we can face when feeding sheep and goats. I am not a veterinarian and won’t prescribe medical cures for the problems in this article. Yet, since most of the issues are feed-related concerns, perhaps they can be prevented in the first place by following proper feeding practices.
Also known as water belly, this is a common issue in male sheep and goats (and feedlot steers). In the goat world, this has commonly been blamed on feeding alfalfa. In reality, it’s a Calcium to Phosphorus imbalance; generally, too much phosphorus and not enough calcium. High grain and low roughage diets produce less saliva, thus forcing phosphorus to be excreted in the urine, which creates stones. Stones are formed and cannot pass through the urinary tract, eventually preventing them from peeing.
Loose salt can be fed to help encourage water consumption that can flush stones through the urethra. There has been some discussion that early banding doesn’t allow the urethra time to develop properly and may increase the chance of developing calculi issues. A properly balanced ration with a Calcium to Phosphorus ratio above a 2:1 should ensure urinary calculi is not an issue. Ammonium chloride is another common additive in feed to help prevent calculi issues.
Overeating Disease (Enterotoxemia)
This disease commonly presents as sudden death in the group’s biggest, fastest-growing lambs and kids. Caused by a bacteria known as Clostridium perfringens, overeating still pops up in vaccinated herds. Clostridium is found in the soil and naturally in the intestines of animals. Like most bacteria, it is waiting for its chance to pop up and wreak havoc. Make feed changes slowly, and beware of animals eating a lot of grain quickly without being properly adjusted to it.
The Listeria bacterium causes listeriosis. Unfortunately, this bacteria is pretty hardy and found commonly in the soil. Most people consider this a silage disease, widely known as “circling disease,” yet it can also be found in animals fed hay. The more dirt picked up during the baling process, or during silage chopping, the more likely listeriosis will pop up in the herd or flock.
Polis is commonly caused by thiamine deficiency. Under normal circumstances, thiamine is produced in the rumen, and if there are changes in the ruminal environment, thiamine production might be inhibited. One interesting fact is that Corid usage in goats can cause polio issues, as Corid mimics thiamine so that coccidia will ingest it and then die from a thiamine deficiency and malnutrition. The problem is that goats are sensitive creatures, and when the Corid competes with the real thiamine, this can send them into a deficiency.
Polio can also be caused by excessive sulfur intake. In this area, high sulfur levels are not unusual in water sources. Distillers products also tend to be high in sulfur. Supplemental thiamine in the feed may be necessary if feeding high distillers diets.
Pinkeye vs. Inverted Eyelids
Caused by Mycoplasma and Chlamydia, pinkeye commonly occurs in dry, dusty conditions and where fly control is an issue. Pinkeye can also be caused by noninfectious issues like bright sunlight, dust, hay, injuries, or trauma to the eye. The blindness we associate with pinkeye can also be linked to other neurological issues such as polio, listeriosis, or vitamin A deficiency, among other things. The final eye-related issue that gets confused with pinkeye sometimes is inverted eyelids, a congenital disorder characterized by the turning in one or both of the eyelids.
While there are both rectal and vaginal prolapses, we will focus on rectal prolapses as they are common in feeder lambs. There remains quite a bit of debate about the causes behind rectal prolapses. Yet, they tend to be linked to Genetics, short docking tails (this is a contentious topic), animals being too fat, or respiratory issues such as coughing (dust-related or disease-related).
Feel free to give Sioux Nation Ag Center a call if you are unsure what you are dealing with, and we can help you walk through control options.