Should I be Concerned about Contagious Abscesses in my Small Ruminant Operation?

Dr. Beth Johnson, DVM, Director of Animal Health, Kentucky Department of Agriculture
(Previously published online with Hoof Print – The Small Ruminant Blog, Kentucky Sheep and Goat Development Office: November 17, 2023)

Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis infection, also known as caseous lymphadenitis (CL) is a bacterial disease which infects sheep and goats. The bacteria prefers to set up shop in the lymph nodes of sheep and goats, resulting in a walled off abscess of caseous material within the lymph node. As we all know, lymph nodes are present throughout the body; therefore, this bacteria can infect both external and internal lymph nodes resulting in unthriftiness, loss of milk and meat production, premature culling and is responsible for many sudden deaths. When the abscesses are present within internal lymph nodes, the kidney, liver, gastrointestinal tract, lungs and even brain tissue may be affected. Animals become infected by exposure to infectious exudate from a draining abscess or contact with a contaminated inanimate object, i.e. feed troughs, in the environment which have been contaminated by the exudate from a draining abscess. Continue reading

Give Your Sheep a Dental Check

South Dakota State University Extension
(Previously published online with Farm Progress: August 15, 2023)

(Image Source: Farmers Weekly)

Examining a sheep’s teeth can help establish age and health of the animal.

Looking at a sheep’s teeth can help determine its age by examining the eight lower incisors. Learning to properly “mouth sheep” is a valuable tool to verify age when purchasing or culling ewes.

From 1 to 4 years of age, sheep will replace baby teeth with permanent ones. Beyond 4 years old, age can be estimated by incisor gaping and damage. Erosion of both incisors and molars is inevitable with aging, but proactively monitoring a flock’s dental condition can promote overall productivity.

How to mouth sheep
From birth to about 1 year of age, lambs have impermanent incisors called “milk teeth.” From 12 to 18 months of age, the first set of permanent incisors erupt. This occurs each year until the sheep is 4 years old, starting from the center teeth and going backward. Continue reading

Don’t Bet on Wet Hay

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: August 8, 2023)

It seems drought has dominated the agricultural news feed for several years. Extended dry weather can dramatically reduce hay yields, but wet weather or simply baling hay that is too high in moisture can destroy a hay crop.

In a recent University of Nebraska BeefWatch newsletter, Extension Educators Hannah Smith, Ben Beckman, and Connor Biehler outlined some of the concerns and remedies for hay that is too high in moisture.

Top on the list of concerns is hay combustion. When hay is baled above 20% moisture, microbes begin to break down plant tissue, and mold starts to form. This same biological activity creates heat and the possibility of combustion.

“Bale combustion can begin at Continue reading

Biosecurity for Your Flock

Dr. Kenneth M. Andries, Former Livestock Specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
(Previously published online with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Livestock)

(Image source: Iowa State University)

Biosecurity is a three step procedure designed to help you protect your flock from disease. Producers that implement and maintain this three step program will reduce the risk of introduction and/or spread of an infectious agent on their farm. Unfortunately, no program can totally prevent disease, so a good biosecurity program also includes treatment programs along with the prevention to maintain a healthy flock.

Start by getting your veterinarian involved with this program and putting together a total flock health plan. The health plan needs to include both vaccinations and treatment options for your flock.

The three steps of the biosecurity program are isolation, resistance, and sanitation. Continue reading

Be Wary of Surface Water Quality

Amber Friedrichsen, Associate Editor, Hay and Forage Grower
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: June 13, 2023)

Water quantity may be top of mind as drought conditions persist across a large part of the country, but water quality issues deserve attention as well. Grazing livestock that drink from surface water sources may be at risk of toxicity this summer as temperatures rise and water levels fall.

In a news release from North Dakota State University Extension, Miranda Meehan writes that water quality is one of the limiting factors for many grazing operations. The livestock environmental stewardship specialist notes yearlings and calves can have improved gains of up to 0.24 and 0.33 pounds per day, respectively, when they have access to good-quality water.

With that said, surface water sources like creeks and ponds naturally contain salts comprised of dissolved solids and minerals. These components become much more concentrated when it is hot and dry because they do not evaporate with water.

Elevated concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS) and sulfates can be toxic to livestock. Symptoms of toxicity include Continue reading

Get Familiar with Toxic Pasture Weeds

Dwight Lingenfelter, Extension Associate, Weed Science, PennState Extension
(Previously published online with Farm Progress, American Agriculturist: May 26, 2023)

(Image Source: Ohio Ag Net | Ohio’s Country Journal)

Over the holiday weekend, I took the opportunity to make the trip back to my parents to help make hay. While working the fields, I noticed a few plants along the field edges that made me cringe. Upon closer inspection, what I unfortunately found where four stalks of poison hemlock. With a pair of gloves and my trusty trimmers, I took care of these stately weeds. I also made a note in my phone on where these weeds where on the farm in addition to a marker flag so I could return this fall to take care of any additional regrowth that may occur. With this being, I found this piece from Penn State University to be quite timely and useful as we come into what I see as a stretch of dry weather. As pastures and hay fields continue to be knocked down, this year it will be most important to take a closer look at the issues that toxic pasture and hayfield weeds may play in our livestock operations.

During drought and the usual summer slump that reduces forage growth, there are concerns for poisonous weeds in pastures and hay.

Livestock may be forced to graze on weeds they normally would not, or they may eat weeds out of curiosity. It is important to scout your pastures and remove these weeds — or broken limbs and leaves — before they cause health problems in your animals. Continue reading

Expect to See More Ticks Statewide this Season

Farm and Dairy
(Previously Published online with Farm and Dairy: May 1, 2023)

Backyard lovers, campers, outdoors enthusiasts, and pet owners beware. If you thought last year’s tick season was bad, just wait. This year has the potential to be even worse.

Ticks — and the diseases they carry — are on the rise in Ohio and will likely continue to increase. There has been a steady increase in tick-vectored disease numbers in Ohio each year, and officials don’t expect to see a reverse of the trend, said Tim McDermott, an educator with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

“While you can encounter a tick during any season, spring marks the beginning of heavy tick season, and this year, the tick population statewide is expected to continue to rise,” he said.

McDermott said there are multiple factors contributing to Continue reading

White Muscle Disease in Sheep and Goats

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: January 19, 2019)

If you are raising sheep and goats in Michigan or other selenium deficient areas, you need to take measures to prevent white muscle disease.

White muscle disease (WMD) is caused by a deficiency of selenium and/or vitamin E. It is a degenerative muscle disease found in all large animals including sheep and goats. Generally, it is not known which. Selenium (Se) deficiency is associated with selenium deficient soils and the inadequate uptake of selenium by forages grown on these soils. Certain areas of the U.S., including Michigan, are considered low in selenium levels. Vitamin E deficiency is independent of soil type and more closely reflects forage quality. Fresh legumes and pasture are good sources of Continue reading