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  Don Bailey, D.V.M. Vet Check  

    If you’re puzzled about a sheep health problem, write immediately to Dr. Bailey at the above address. He thoughtfully responds by mail to your sheep questions, and some of his answers get published in sheep! to help readers with similar problems.

    Please do not ask Dr. Bailey to practice medicine over the telephone. If you have an immediate problem, call your local veterinarian.

    Always remember to check with Dr. Bailey for a second opinion. Questions sent via E-mail to sheepmagazine@citynet.net will be forwarded to Dr. Bailey.

Undefined Lameness

We have a problem with our sheep going lame and wondered what we could do to help. Even the two- and three-month-old lambs go lame.

We feed the sheep the same feed we do our dairy cows and heifers. Also give them alfalfa and fescue and clover mixed hay. We also give them a little corn silage. We do not know if they should still have another mineral.

They have plenty of pasture and we fertilized it this spring.

They had a small wet spot they went through, but we changed their fence so they don’t have to.

L. R. K. Mayfield, Kentucky

The information you have sent to me is not sufficient to diagnose what the problem is.
Could the lameness be from foot rot or scald?

Is there swelling in the joints?
Please describe the condition of your animals in more detail, and I will be very glad to respond.
Hoping to hear from you soon.

Does Testicle Size Matter?

Does the size of a ram’s testicles really matter? I have owned sheep all of my life and I get good lambs from both kinds of rams, one with large and one with small size testicles. Do you think it matters?

Yes, I do. It does matter. The size of a ram’s testicles is in direct proportion to that ram’s mother’s fertility (fecundity). This passes on to the lambs.

In Dr. Cleon Kimberling’s book, it quotes the following measurements: “The minimum scrotal circumference for a yearling ram (12 to 18 months of age) should be 33 to 34 centimeters [13 to 13.4 inches], and for ram lambs (6 to 9 months old) should be 30 to 31 centimeters [11.8 to 12.2 inches].”

This is a general average because white face rams have smaller average size than black face. Testicle size is very important.

Epididymitis: To Vaccinate, Or Not?

I was advised to vaccinate my rams for Epididymitis. To the best of my knowledge I have never had this disease in my rams. What is your advice?

My advice-since you haven’t had Epididymitis-is to not vaccinate. There are several reasons.

The effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing the disease is questionable. Once rams are vaccinated, the blood test is not reliable.

Some of the best ways to keep this disease out of your rams are:

First learn to palpate the testicles of each ram whenever you have them confined. Palpate from the back of the ram with one testicle in each hand and compare: Size, abnormalities, lumps and bumps. Usually one testicle or the epididymis that surrounds the testicle from the top to the bottom will be hard or swollen. If you find anything suspicious, an ELISA blood test will confirm the disease.

Only buy rams that have had two negative ELISA tests two months apart.

Try to keep ram lambs separate from adult rams. Once the disease has been diagnosed in a flock, in my opinion, all rams should be sold to slaughter and replaced by rams with a negative test.

Borrowing or trading rams with neighbors should be discouraged.

Dietary Copper

I need some information on copper in a sheep’s diet.

I have been feeding a sweet feed to my sheep, which contains copper 16 to 19 parts per million. The manufacturer states the feed is for cows, horses, goats and sheep.

If I switch to three-way (which contains only corn, oats and barley) I do not have the extra selenium supplement in their diet and there is absolutely no selenium in the soil in our area.

I do provide salt licks with added selenium, but that was not enough for my cattle so I was being cautious with the sheep also.

Please give your opinion as to which feeding schedule would be the best.

Janice Corwin – Bonners Ferry, Idaho

Any concentrate feed containing added copper above fifteen parts per million (15 ppm) is dangerous to sheep.

As you know, sheep have a remarkable ability to store large amounts of copper in their livers. Then any stress can cause all of the copper that is stored in the liver to be released into the blood stream. The results are usually fatal.

To be more certain as to your copper levels in the feed, you could have your forage tested.

Therefore, I would suggest feeding the “three way mix” and rely on salt-mineral mix to get the selenium level they need.

Pizzle Rot

Every year some of my rams develop scabs at the opening of their prepuce. They often develop fly strike there, too. How do I prevent this from happening?

Your description sounds like what is commonly called “pizzle rot.” This is not a contagious disease, but it does cause a lot of pain to the ram.

Around sales, rams are condemned for having it.

The cause of this condition in rams is due to a high protein diet that increases the amount of urea in the urine. This allows bacteria to concentrate at the scalded area, which results in ulcers and scabs.

If the ulcers extend into the inside of the prepuce, this can be life threatening.

The best prevention is to reduce the protein in their diet and keep the wool clipped around the prepuce.

The treatment consists of antibiotic ointment on the affected area, along with antibiotic injections.

Fly repellant spray should be used around the ulcer.

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