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Straight Talk: March 2017

I just read a report where according to the USDA only one half of sheep producers consult a veterinarian once a year and only a third of goat producers do. In this day and age, this a concerning fact. Animal welfare and profitability are at risk. I am puzzled as to how one can be successful without availability of prescription drugs and off label use via VFD to prevent, control and treat major problems such as abortion. I certainly could not in my own sheep flock. They see the veterinarian every day.

Often I hear the comment, our vets doesn’t know anything about sheep and goats and doesn’t particularly care. This may often be true because there may not be enough sheep and goat work in vet’s practice area to justify expertise. But let me assure you, all vets have an advantage when it comes to interpreting post mortem and lab results. If you establish a working relationship with them, at least you will be able to obtain certain key drugs such as Nuflor and Dexamethasone which quite frankly, in my flock, I couldn’t succeed without.

We field hundreds of calls and emails a week from producers and also from a number of veterinarians particularly since the VFD rule became effective. We have to find a way to fund these services. Reliance on sales to fund these services is a struggle but we are working hard to find a solution. Never in my practice years, that now number 57, have I ever received as many thanks for service than our group does for sheep and goats. Joining the Shepherd’s Club, which I perceive as a huge value to producers, will help the cause. We do not expect or can we provide you with all your sheep product needs but when we can we are happy to do so. Generally, the correct use and directions are more important than price. Correct use results in less use and less cost.

I made an effort recently to encourage some insights into sheep and goat veterinary practice that perhaps would be an aid to veterinarians wanting to become more knowledgble in common practices of sheep and goat medicine. This could be done with webinars  or as part of the ASI meeting. If Continued ed credits were made available, I think there is a number of veterinarians that could be interested. We did this, once perhaps, thirty years ago when the  Lamb and Wool Program was developing with success. My efforts were directed to people in the animal health committee with little success. Perhaps if I had been interested in OPP or the Scrapie program I would have  been more successful. I guess I don’t understand the Club mentality.

To switch subjects I want to revisit milk replacer. Abomasal bloat is certainly the major problem. Using milk replacers that are skim milk based vs whey helps. Feeding via machine or cold free choice in a bucket creates less problems than bottle feeding on a schedule. Don’t mix milk more concentrated than recommended, error on the side of less concentration. Be sure lambs have available choice hay, palatable creep and water. They may not eat a lot prior to wean but must be given the opportunity. Wean at thirty days. They may not like it but it is better than dying and they adapt quickly. Acidified products work better than non-acidified. There was some work done in 1975 that showed adding formaldehyde to milk was successful in preventing abomasal bloat. You would add 3cc per gal, no more, no less.

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