Thursday, January 21, 2010

Getting Ready

In order for us to feel comfortable about bringing new stock onto the farm, we want to make sure we are prepared (or as prepared as we can be...) so this Fall we put new fencing and storage on the top of the project list. As well as a medical preparation. (Supplies, health check, etc.) Luckily for us, the large animal practice we use was offering free fecal checks (we love free!) and so even though the sponsor of the clinic was one of those large animal pharmaceutical operations (hoping to push their wormers, of course).

So all I had to do was get samples from everyone, label them, and get to the vet's office on the appointed Friday. I started a week in advance; good thing since most of what I got when I went to visit was this:

What's in the baggies? Snacks? Yummies? Food? Baggies mean goodies, I know it. Therefore I'm not taking my eyes off you...I want to be first when the cookies appear...

This is Angel - just multiply the photo by four more - they all solidly refused to follow their normal routine or show their butts so I could positively identify which chocolate drops came from which sheep. (Sigh)

It took the entire week to gather what I needed, but finally got the five sheep and one goat to produce what I was looking for. Luckily for me, I arrived late enough in the day that the company rep was backed up (no pun intended) and so full of poop samples that he could not do the fecal test right then and there. (That saved me having to explain to the eager salesman about raising animals organically and my lack of faith in their miracle concoctions...)

We worm with Spring and Fall applications of garlic ( three or four cloves each over three days) and in the Fall they get all the pumpkins they can eat.
As you can see, nobody (especially Hattie) has a problem with this regimen.

We also rotate pasture every few days with our Electronet and they don't double back on the same area for around two weeks, if possible. The only drawback to Electronet is that a few of them have figured out how to use their fleece to absorb the shock just enough to tolerate slipping under the fence if the flower garden looks especially tasty. So faces/polls/ears are kept well clipped.

So - this years results? (Drum roll, please...)


No, not a typo. The sheep showed zero. Zip. Nada. And Cicero, the lone goat, showed 1.

Realistically, they usually carry a small, bearable few as that is normal for ruminants. So I'm sure they are in there somewhere. But we felt a lot better about our Fall arrival, knowing he was coming into a healthy flock and pasture.

Our only planned changes for 2010 are the addition of a few more poultry to free-range the pasture (We had a flock of turkeys this year) and the usual enhancement of pasture areas with a liberal sprinkling of orchard grass seed in the Spring. And if I get REALLY motivated, perhaps a little clearing of scrub to create a wee bit more grass area. Maybe...


Tammy said...

How do you feed the garlic cloves? Do they eat them or do you mash them up or?? Wonderful results on the fecals. You are definately doing something right! My pasture set up is not so good, so I'm not able to rotate as much as I'd like, but learning how other shepherds handle things always helps.

Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

good post. I don't have sheep but have Nigerian Dwarf goats.

Great results.

Do your farm animals stay on a medicated feed? I'm assuming not, however, so many keep theirs on it all the time.

I've started doing the baggie thing too. If the animals are going to be treated with chemicals at least I want to attack the certain worms they have.

My goats stay in the barn at night on bad weather days but I'm assuming your sheep stay out for the most part.

We also have a lot of poultry and I'll keep adding guinea fowl because I have a theory that they keep the worm population down.

melanie said...

Most of the sheep take the cloves whole and just munch away. Especially if they come in a baggie - they are so busy gobbling that they have them down before they taste that they are not raisins or cookies!

I also take my daughter's breakfast plate and drag them through the leftover syrup before I wash it - just enough maple flavor/aroma to ensure fast gobbling.

We have (currently) six Shetland sheep and 1 Pygora goat. None of them are on medicated feed - we are a chem free/organic farm.

The goat does not graze with the sheep (they don't play nice, and besides, Cicero has been known to eat Electronet) so does not get rotation on his grass anywhere near as often. He does seek shelter during any yucky weather, but has the ability to go in and out as he chooses.

The sheep have a calf hutch to use if they want, but I rarely see them using it. Mostly as a wind break if they do...

I am pretty confident that a variety of poultry keep all kinds of pests in check - we have a goose, several turkeys, and a handful of chickens that graze down with the sheep. I've heard ducks go after slugs like nobody's business, but I'm too afraid of getting just one and losing it to a predator. More than one would just muck up the pond - and I use that to water the livestock, so we can't do that...

Michelle said...

What great results, but they obviously do not come by accident. :-) I am going to have to try the garlic, although since I don't feed treats I have my doubts they would eat cloves. But I buy the fresh minced garlic in a big jar for household use; I wonder if I could just dose them with a clove's worth of that three days in a row with a dozing syringe? I assume there are no ill effects on pregnant or nursing ewes? Would it be best to do it the first three days after lambing to take care of the worm explosion I have heard can occur then?

melanie said...

I'm sure the minced would be fine. (Don't tell mine about minced - they might start expecting that kind of service...) The first year I actually made a garlic "juice" (super concentrated) but stopped that because even using the drench syringe, too much of it got on me instead of into the sheep. I couldn't take smelling like garlic for a week - I got too many "looks".
The part I like about this regimen is that it balances with their regular diet and can be given whenever they need it. I have dosed pregnant and just delivered ewes with no noticeable affect. (If we had tried something like that, our breast milk probably would have tasted pretty funny for a few days!!)
Generally, I give it after the first big rainy period in the Spring thinking that I am hitting any parasites that may have been hanging out successfully in wetter weather, and then move them immediately to a clean pasture.

Michelle said...

Considering the fact that our fall, winter and spring all all one big rainy period, I'm not sure how to apply that! ;-)

melanie said...

Uh, yeah...I see your point!

Around here, the grass greens almost over night - after a flush of rain and warmer temps for about 3 days. During that time, the sheep only go on pasture for an hour or so to acclimate them to the green stuff and avoid bloat. That's usually when I do the garlic, so they go out onto clean pasture after the three days of paddock/pasture.

Typically, for a week or more prior to that, they are nosing around the winter paddock, so I am suspect of what they might be picking up...

In the Fall, the garlic & pumpkins typically come in the beginning of November and before they are put into winter paddock for the season.