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Vet Check

Paul Bailey, D.V.M.
Roseburg, Oregon

paul-colorDr. Paul Bailey is a mixed animal practitioner with a special interest in sheep and goats. He completed his schooling in veterinary medicine at Oregon State University in 2008. In addition to management of his own sheep flock, he serves flocks and ranches in the Roseburg, Oregon area.

For 30+ years, Don Bailey, DVM answered questions for sheep producers worldwide in this vet column. Saying it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation, he recommended Paul Bailey, who shares the same name but is related to Don solely in friendship and in his desire to help growers manage and treat animals better.

Please don’t expect Dr. Bailey to practice medicine over the telephone. For immediate problems, it’s best to consult a veterinarian near your sheep operation.

Dr. Bailey’s mailing address is: Paul Bailey, DVM, 348 NW Garden Valley Rd., Roseburg, OR 97470. Or e-mail questions to sheepmagazine@citynet.net.

Supernumerary Teat Removal

I have a yearling goat…I know, not the same as sheep exactly, but I read that you talked to someone before about extra teats on adult animals.

I just discovered an extra teat on this little goat that I had failed to notice before.

Would it be a bad idea to band an extra teat like we castrate young male goats or sheep?

This goat has never had a kid yet, and I was hoping it was not too late to deal with this.

Would it be better to cut it off, or could it be banded?

The teat is completely separate; we are thinking of just leaving it, as our local veteri­nary services are less than desirable where we live here, and we typically do not seek veterinary help at all because of that.

Also surgery probably costs more than the animal is worth, these are utilitarian animals more than they are pets. I Just wanted to see if there was something I could do for her.

But if not, I will probably just leave it: It just isn’t going to make her an impres­sive milk goat is all.

Latresha Starling
Long Beach , Washington

Extra teats (also called supernumerary teats) are easily removed when the kid or lamb is young. You simply cut them off with a pair of scissors or clamp them with a pair of he­mostats.

The procedure is the same with sheep and goats. I would feel the most comfortable clipping the teats by two months of age. There are very few side effects when performed by that time.

Once an animal is mature, the procedure is a little more tricky.

Most extra teats are associated with their own separate mammary gland. It is recom­mended that the teat be dissected out, and the glandular tissue sutured closed. The udder may be fine if the extra teat is crushed with hemostats at the base and cauterized.

Proper pain control with a local anesthesia such as lidocaine or bupivicaine should also be considered.

A lot of “do it yourself” treatment depends on what risks you are willing to take. If done improperly, it could predispose to mastitis, abscess formation, excessive bleeding, and even fistula formation (an unhealed hole that travels into the gland).

More About Alfalfa & Fertility

I just read your response to a question about alfalfa’s effect on ewe fertility in the January/February 2014 sheep!

I have a small flock of White Dorper ewes, four are first time pregnancies, six routinely have twins, and one has triplets every other year alternating with twins. Two of the ewes are fullbloods and the oth­ers are purebreds, all bred to a fullblood ram. They range in age from eight years (one) to one and one-and-a-half years old (those were the first timers).

I seldom give any worm medication—based on fecal analysis. I give selenium injections every three months.

They’re all in good weight, nice pink mucous membranes, hale and hearty and happy! They range freely on 10 acres of hillsides of oak trees and grassy areas at about 2,000 feet elevation. The only time I give any grain is if I have to give some sort of oral medication. They have free access to loose mineral salt with selenium, and of course, free access to water.

This year there was only one set of twins and the other 10 ewes had singles. I fully expected the first time ewes to have singles, but was amazed at the others. Except for

one ewe, all the singles were larger than normal lambs (one weighing 13 pounds!)—again not unexpected with single births.

My question is, could the lack of twinning be related to feeding alfalfa hay? With the lack of rain here in the foothills outside of Sacramento, we have been feed­ing alfalfa hay continuously since early last summer. It is good quality, lots of leaves and flowers, small stems. This is the first year we’ve been without good grass in the eight years we’ve lived here. Usually we have grass until July or August, with the rains starting in October or November.

I put the ram with the ewes in mid-July—to have lambs in December—so when they’re weaned in March there’s a lot of grass to eat. Considering the lack of rain so far this season, we may not get much grass this year either and I’m wondering if it was the alfalfa or was this just bad luck?

This year we didn’t get the high summer temperatures we usually do. A few days in the 90’s. In past years we’ve had higher temps, and for longer periods of time, and still had lots of twins. I can’t think of any stressors (like being chased by dogs) that oc­curred. They have a pretty happy life here.

If you think it might be the alfalfa, do you have any suggestions how to ame­liorate the effects this July when I breed again? Or any other ideas which might help sort out the problem?

Thanks so much for your time and consideration.

Lee Howes
Weimar, California

It sounds as though you are doing a lot of things right with your sheep. There are many factors that may influence lambing percentages. Nutritional stress secondary to drought during early pregnancy is a big one, but it sounds as though you are supplementing enough to minimize that.

There is potential for the alfalfa to cause sub­clinical infertility. In other words, it can result in fewer lambs born to each ewe, however it is very unlikely to make ewes completely infertile. High levels of alfalfa consumed by the sheep during breeding, slowed growth and heat stress on the alfalfa fed, and fungal infections of the alfalfa fed may all increase the chance of decreased fertility of your ewes. The latter two tend to increase the concentration of phytoestrogens in the alfalfa.

I would recommend a good quality second cutting grass hay (not clover) in place of—or mixed with—your alfalfa in the months sur­rounding your breeding time. You may also consider supplementing with a quarter pound of corn per ewe per day during that time, particu­larly if the grass hay is average in quality.

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