Dairy Goat Journal. Presenting information, ideas, and insights for everyone who raises, manages, or just loves dairy goats.
Tell a Friend about sheep! Magazine
Back Issue
Current Issue
Past Issues
About Us
Contact Us
Breeders Directory

  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.

Poisoning by Oak Leaves

Just wondered if you could answer a question for us. We have read numerous places that oak leaves are toxic to sheep.

We have large white oak trees in our pasture and no amount of searching the internet and books specifies if it is all oak trees that are toxic or only certain types.

Do you happen to know?

Also, how much would a sheep have to ingest in order for it to become toxic? A very small amount, a large percentage of their diet, etc.? Any insight you can give would be most helpful.

David Richardson
North Carolina

Oak leaves can be toxic to sheep but they have to consume over 50% of their diet with oak leaves.

The dry leaves and acorns that fall at the end of the growing season are low in toxicity. Then there are the evergreen oak trees.

The toxin in oak leaves and green acorns is tannic acid.

I consulted with Dr. Woody Lane (nutritionist) and he agrees that oak poisoning in sheep is not common.

He also said that deer and goats have a special enzyme that stops the tannic acid effect.

Lyme Disease From Deer

We are overrun with deer in our area and an increasing number of townspeople have become infected with Lyme Disease.

Midsummer some of my lambs became stiff with what looked like swollen knee joint. Antibiotic made an immediate improvement but as more lambs passed through this stage I discontinued the antibiotic. Most of the affected lambs improved on their own. A few adults seemed stiff. Lyme Disease?

Now, here we are in late October and I have two adults (out of 20 animals) that have not recovered. Their feet are trimmed, they eat and graze but there is a chronic stiff, slow moving, painful appearance about them. Sometimes a front leg, sometimes in the back, sometimes the whole body. Lyme Disease?

On the internet I see that the sheep tick can also carry Lyme Disease. (I don’t have any sheep keds here.) But I didn’t see any discussion of symptoms in sheep.

Anything I can do about this situation?

Ellen Raja

Concerning Lyme Disease, I have not seen it in sheep that I know of.

The fact that you had response after treatment would indicate an infective agent.

My experience has been with “stiff lamb disease” caused by a chlamydial agent and is referred to as Polyarthritis.

There is a lot of damage inside the leg joints. These are almost impossible to treat in the chronic stage.

The other disease in sheep that sometimes shows up in lameness is Ovine Progressive Pneumonia (Maedi-visna). There is a blood test for this disease.


I am the sheep superintendent for the Central Florida Fair in Orlando. We have a rule for our market lamb show that it is a wether show. However, the Florida breeders do not castrate their ram lambs because of the Florida cultural market. Therefore, our youth exhibitors are only able to obtain intact ram lambs between three and six months of age. Can you provide me with your opinion on how to castrate these lambs? My concern is that the youth may lose a lamb due to infection if we remove the testicles at this age. A bull band was suggested as a tool to use for these larger lambs.

What is your opinion? Should we have a vet perform this procedure? How important is it to have a wether market class only? Should we allow intact rams in our market lamb classes?

Doug Myers

There are several ways to castrate older rams.

The bull bands or elastrator work well. You must vaccinate for tetanus as this can occur after the use of elastrators.

The other method is the closed type operation. The scrotum is either partially removed or cut on either side to allow removal of the testicles. The cords are ligated to prevent bleeding. The scrotum is sutured with ordinary skin sutures. There is very little bleeding.

Some veterinarians prefer to leave the scrotum open to allow for drainage.

You need to operate at least a month before fair time to allow for healing. We have a large sheep operation here in Oregon that uses ram lambs for breeding and then in the fall use the cattle elastrators with good results.

I think using your local veterinarian would be the best way. The use of local anesthetics makes for better results.

I don’t think ram lambs in a wether class would go over very well.

Mastitis Ewes Good To Eat?

I have a ewe with a form of mastitis and I was wondering if her meat would still be any good. I know that I need to get rid of her but I was wondering if I could possibly still get meat out of her. I need to know if I need to just go out and shoot her or if I can take her to a locker.

Emily Robinson

Without knowing what kind of mastitis and if it is active or not (is the ewe running a temperature?) my advice would be to take her to the auction.

Those kinds of ewes are shipped to Mexico where they are inspected at the slaughter houses. I would not recommend butchering her for yourself.

Home | Subscribe | Current Issue | Library | Past Issues | Bookstore
Links | About Us | Contact Us | Address Change | Advertise in sheep! | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use |