Friday, September 2, 2016

Almost lost a good RAM - bloat

Perhaps the most dangerous thing about raising sheep is.. bloat.  Any sudden change in diet can cause the overproduction of gas almost immediately and the poor animal's stomach swells up to the point where, left untreated, they suffocate from the lack of ability to breathe. It is a very common problem with ruminants, but sheep in particular.

We just had a near miss today. Yesterday the entire herd managed to escape the pasture and run free in our yard... which means full access to the barn where some nice fresh "hot" alfalfa was sitting. By the time we got everyone back under control, a few had gorged themselves on alfalfa. That is deadly to a sheep that has lived on grass hay for a while.

Sure enough, one of our best rams was found today on his side, unable to stand. Not only that, but the whole herd broke out AGAIN and AGAIN found the alfalfa. So now the entire herd is a risk and one sheep already down.

Given the severity of the situation, we decided to run to town and pick up a commercial sheep bloat remedy. Last time this happened we successfully used dill weed tea, but we are too low on dill right now to make enough tea, so this time we chose to go commercial. Its a mix of antacid and vegetable oil. The antacid stops the formation of gas and the oil breaks up the bubbles to let the gas already made be expelled.

Giving the remedy to the ram with a drench tool. This is like a syringe that holds a accurate amount of liquid  for slow delivery right at the back of the throat, enabling swallowing even when the animal cant drink. I held his head up while Brenda administered the remedy.

The boys added plenty of baking soda to the herd's drinking water. this is a precautionary measure for the rest of the herd. The baking soda water provides enough ant acid to prevent bloat in minor cases of overeating. 

After a good dose, Hunter and I stand the ram up. At first we have to hold hi up as his legs are too weak and he is too dizzy to stand on his own.

After about 10 or 15 minutes, he has burped enough to expel quite a bit of gas. I massaged and thumped his belly to help break up more bubbles and release gas.

After 2 doses, some therapy as above, finally he is able to stand on his own! He doesn't want to move yet, but can stand. Huge improvement. 

Maybe an hour later and he is able to walk slowly around, even ate a little dry grass. Looks like he is going to be ok!
So today will be hourly checks to see how everyone is doing, and taking whatever measures are necessary. So far it looks like tragedy has been averted!

1 comment:

  1. Well, sad news. After all that he still didn't make it. The bloating continued faster than the remedy could counteract. He must have really gorged himself on the alfalfa. Very sad.