Parturient Paresis in Sheep and Goats (Milk Fever, Hypocalcemia, Lambing Sickness)

By George Fthenakis , DVM, MSc, PhD, DECAR, DECSRHM, University of Thessaly, Greece
(Previously published in the Merck Manual – Veterinary Manual: October, 2022)

Parturient paresis in pregnant and lactating ewes and does is a disturbance of metabolism characterized by acute-onset hypocalcemia and rapid development of hyperexcitability and ataxia, progressing to depression, recumbency, coma, and death. Unlike parturient paresis in dairy cattle, which primarily occurs within a few days of calving, the condition in ewes and does usually occurs before and less commonly after parturition. This condition may be underdiagnosed in some situations.

Etiology of parturient paresis in sheep and goats
Parturient paresis is due to a decrease in calcium intake under conditions of increased calcium requirements, usually during late gestation. This results in a low serum calcium concentration, particularly in animals pregnant with multiple fetuses. Some cases are complicated by concurrent pregnancy toxemia. Ewes that are both hypocalcemic and hyperketonemic may not be able to Continue reading

Feeding Lambs – Frequently Asked Questions

Susan Hosford, Business Development Specialist, Camrose
Dr. Susan Markus, Ag – Info Centre, Alberta Agriculture & Food
(Previously published online by: Alberta Sheep, 2007)

Alberta lambs are typically born sometime between January and May. Depending on the market they will move into, feeding them grain at some point to maximize gain likely can’t be avoided whether it is a creep ration for young lambs, or a growing or finishing ration to grow lambs to market weight.

Many of the premium lamb markets require that lambs be grain finished. Grass finishing is in demand for some specialty markets. With high quality pasture and good health management (de-worming and coccidiosis control) lambs can be finished on pasture, but it is more difficult to manage growth rate, fat finish, and marketing date when finishing lambs on pasture.

Creep feeding is most profitable when lamb prices are high and feed costs are low. However, when pasture conditions are affected by drought, grasshoppers, or overgrazing, creep feeding lambs is used to achieve growth and finish on market lambs. This is particularly needed when the ewes are trying to raise multiple lambs on poor pasture. Three to four weeks after lambing even the best milking ewes begin to produce less milk. To continue to grow lambs need good feed. If pasture is poor or in short supply the creep is used to fill the nutritional needs of the growing lambs. Creep
feeding is also used to manipulate growth when trying to meet a particular market period.

What kind of ration used in the creep and how much of it the lambs consume varies greatly, what are guidelines? Continue reading

Market Report Offers Insight for Lamb Producers

American Lamb Board

The American Lamb Board and the American Sheep Industry Association provide monthly market reports aimed at delivering timely and useful information for American lamb producers. The recently released January report summarizes USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service annual sheep inventory report and provides insight on lamb imports, market values, and retail lamb prices.

Smaller U.S. Lamb Flock
The American lamb flock is smaller going into 2023, although live lamb prices have strengthened. Wholesale values continue to adjust and are anticipated to move higher but will rely on consumer demand recovering. Production costs remain high. Moderating inflation and improving supply chains are still concerning. Cold storage inventories at the end of 2022 were above year ago levels.

Sheep Inventory Lowest on Record
The American sheep and lamb inventory totaled Continue reading

Frost Seeding Season is Here

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go out to a farm site where a family is looking to put in a fruit tree orchard and help them do some soil testing. It was a beautiful day for February. The ground was not frozen, so it was easy to collect the soil cores needed for a composite sample.

As we walked and talked, they mentioned that they had seen some soil disturbance that seemed a little odd. They weren’t sure if it was caused by an animal and if it were, which one was the culprit. We walked a little more and found an example. There was a little mound of soil that looked like it had been dug from underneath, leaving a cone of soil on the surface.

After investigating, we determined that the cause was not an animal. The cause was the weather. As temperatures fluctuate this time of year, the soil expands and contracts. This leads to soil heaving, which pushes loose soil up through the surface crust, leaving the little soil mounds we found. Soil heaving is a sign that Maple Syrup and Frost Seeding Season are upon us.

Frost seeding is Continue reading

Clostridial Disease Management and Vaccines for Sheep and Goats

Kelly Froehlich, Assistant Professor and South Dakota State University Extension Sheep Specialist
(Previously published with South Dakota State University Extension: May 16, 2022)

Figure 1. Effect of vaccine schedule on blood concentration of the toxin epsilon (ε-toxin) caused by Clostridium perfringens type D in ewes and lambs. Courtesy: De la Rosa et al., Journal of Animal Science (1997)

Figure 1. Effect of vaccine schedule on blood concentration of the toxin epsilon (ε-toxin) caused by Clostridium perfringens type D in ewes and lambs. Courtesy: De la Rosa et al., Journal of Animal Science (1997)

Vaccination against clostridium perfringens is universally recommended for small ruminants. Clostridium perfringens is a group of bacteria commonly infecting the intestine of small ruminants, causing a variety of illnesses often resulting in death. Although there are several bacterial types, clostridium perfringens C and D are of especial concern to small ruminants in North America. Type C most commonly affects lambs a few weeks old and rarely kids, while type D (a.k.a. overeating disease or pulpy kidney disease) occurs in sheep or goats of any age.

Clostridium is a natural resident in a small ruminant’s digestive tract and is also found in soil, feces, water, and as a feed contaminate. Despite its common appearance, it remains relatively unharmful unless presented with opportunities to rapidly proliferate, causing a release of toxins. This generally occurs in animals that are Continue reading

It All Starts in the Rumen

Eastern Alliance for Production Katahdins (EAPK) Communications Committee
(Previously published online with EAPK: February 3, 2023)

(Image Source: Eastern Alliance for Production Katahdins)

As prey animals, sheep evolved with the ability to harvest their food quickly with very little chewing, then retire to a safe place to further process their meal. Sheep are unable to directly digest the cellulose in forages and must rely on billions of microorganisms in the rumen (bacteria, protozoa, and fungi) for fermentation and digestion. The byproducts of these microbes provide the sheep with needed nutrients (protein, energy, B vitamins, and vitamin K). The health of the entire animal is reliant on the health of the rumen microbes.

The rumen is often referred to as a large fermentation vat and is the first and largest of the four compartments of a sheep’s stomach. It is located on the animal’s left side and takes up a large portion of the abdominal cavity with a capacity of up to three gallons in a mature sheep.

Lambs are born with a non-functioning rumen. Bacteria begin to populate the rumen shortly after birth, but the microbial population isn’t adequately developed for efficient digestion for several weeks. Creep feeding a highly digestible grain mix with soft, high-quality hay encourages Continue reading

Lambing and Kidding Basics Discussion – February 18, 2023

Tim Barnes, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Marion County

Lambing and Kidding Basics

Dr. Michelle “Mitch” Michalak, Dr. Brady Campbell, and Jacci Smith are the headline speakers for a Lambing and Kidding program presented by the Marion County Sheep Improvement Association, and OSU Extension Marion County. The event will be held at the farm of Tim Swisher (Swisher Club Lambs) 9163 Irvin-Shoots, LaRue, Ohio starting at 10:00 am on Saturday, February 18. A lamb sandwich lunch will be provided by the Marion County Sheep Improvement Association. Dr. Mitch Michalak, Maria Stein Animal Clinic, will explain the “Obstetrics & Care of Newborns” plus discuss general flock/herd health. Dr. Brady Campbell, OSU State Small Ruminant Extension Specialist, will present “Nutrition: Gestation, Nursing, Early Growth, & Maintenance”. Jacci Smith, Delaware County Extension Educator, will highlight “Birthing Problem Simulator & New Technology for Your Farm” and Tim Barnes, Marion County Extension Educator, will explain a successful system to “ Artificial Rearing for Young Offspring”. This will be a great opportunity to ask questions and learn about caring for the newborns in your flock/herd. Pre-registration is requested by calling OSU Extension, Marion County at 740-914-3020 by February 15.

For more details on this event, be sure to click here to view the program flyer.

Over-the-Counter Antibiotics Will Require Veterinary Oversight (Rx) Beginning in June of 2023

Dr. Gustavo M. Schuenemann, DVM, Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, The Oho State University

By June of 2023, all medically important antibiotics currently available at most feed or farm supply stores will now require veterinary oversight (written Rx) to be used in animals, even if the animals are not intended for food production. Examples of affected antibiotics include injectable penicillin and oxytetracycline. In addition, some retail suppliers who were able to sell these drugs/products in the past may no longer sell them after June of 2023. This means that small and large animal veterinarians should be prepared for an increase in calls and visits from animal owners who previously may have purchased these drugs over the counter at their local farm supply store. To continue using medically important antimicrobials, you may need to establish a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR). Consult with your local or regularly used veterinarian for more information.

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