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Do you "vet" your sheep?


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#1 geonni banner

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 12:26 AM

I'm still trying to figure out the logistics of keeping a few head of sheep, should I get the situation I'm angling for.

I wondered, do you have the vet out for your sheep much? Can you give an estimate - ball park - of what to expect to pay for veterinary care per year, per head? I realize that things can go smoothly some of the time, and then all sorts of things can go wrong.

I'm assuming that worming and vaccinations (do sheep need vaccinations?) could be done by me. But are there routine veterinary chores like feet trimming that I might not be able to do? Do people euthanize very ill sheep, or do you shoot them?

Sorry about so many questions, but as much as I want to have sheep, I want to make sure I can handle it - physically and financially. They may not be dogs, but I want to do right by them, or not have them if I can't.


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#2 NorthfieldNick

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 01:07 AM

I will call a vet if I need help, but I've never had the vet out to see a sheep. Well, I did once, to surgically castrate a nearly year-old ram that I wanted to keep as a wether. Other than that, it's just me, books, and a lot of intuition. I raise crossbred, production sheep, and I live on an island, so if a sheep is that far gone, they get a bullet. If I had expensive purebreds, I might think more about the vet.

I do hoof trimming myself, as do most sheep folk I know. Running down the road usually does a pretty good job of it :)

I choose to shoot old or infirm livestock. If it's just old age, death by bullet at least means I can use the meat. You can't with euthanasia drugs. I generally don't keep old livestock around for sentimental value (old ewes have a lot of value as sausage), but we did have one old goat, our foundation doe, who lived out her days here. We did have to use a bullet on her this fall as she'd lost most of her teeth. We did not butcher her out, either, just left her for the birds.

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#3 bcnewe2

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 08:43 AM

I do all my own vetting if I can. I might call my vet to get an opinion but that's about it. A farm call round here is about 50 bucks then add whatever they do and you get to the price of the sheep you're trying to save. But if I had a favorite and thought the vet could do more I might be tempted.
I've never had a vet save a sheep. usually by the time I've call one out it's be to late.

I've shot my sick sheep (if I can, I have DH or DS do the deed) old sheep have never been old enough here for me to make that sort of decision.

Have you look at the Pipestone facebook page? Or got the catalog? They have a wonderful program and you can call them to get advise, they have usually been spot on when I've called them. They would be my second line of fire. First being all my sheep books and talking to friends with sheep.

Vaccinations are easy, trimming hooves, easy if you have a good helper. The rest you learn to wing. It's amazing what you end up doing for the sake of health on your ewes. Stuff I never thought I could do comes easy now.

When I got my first sheep, I never thought of these things. Had I, it might of been different. I just jumped in. Learning on the fly.

Nothing feels better than saving a sick or downed sheep. You walk on a cloud for a day or till the next one needs help and you fail. Which happens too. I hope I never take death lightly but you do have to get over losing sheep. It happens. Biggest issues I had with losing sheep (after getting over the sadness of the loss) was what to do with the bodies. After a while you even get that part figured out.

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#4 juliepoudrier

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 10:18 AM

Geonni,
FWIW I think most people vet their own sheep for several reasons. First, there aren't a lot of vets around who specialize in (or necessarily want to) small ruminants. Most of the large-animal vets around here concentrate on horses; some also work on cows. So you may find that there's just not a lot of veterinary expertise in your area to begin with.

As Kristen noted, having the vet out can be costly. Around here, a farm call ranges from $60 to $100 and some vet charge mileage on top of that, in addition to whatever charges you'll incur for the actual treatment of the animal. I had a vet remind me once that the wether I was concerned about was worth less than the cost of him just coming to see it. And that's largely the case unless you raise very expensive show stock or pets, in which case you might feel differently about what you spend on an individual sheep. Sometimes a vet will be willing to care for a sheep if you can transport it to the vet's office.

Most of the routine care is straightforward. It helps to have a mentor you can call on with questions. I am fortunate to know someone who has raised sheep for more than 60 years--he and his wife are a greater source of helpful information than most vets I know.

Most of us keep basic medications on hand: penicillin, oxytetracycline (LA-200), sutures, antibiotic ointments/sprays, pain control meds (harder to come by), probiotics and electrolytes, and so on. This past spring when I had to pull a dead triplet lamb from the ewe 24 hours after she had given birth to the other two lambs--I have to say that's the hardest thing I've ever had to do, my forearms were sore for days--I had the vet on the phone and they essentially told me that I was doing everything they would do if they were here, so you see that it just ends up being easier and more cost-effective to do the care yourself.

Ben makes a good point about euthanasia, and I will note that many meds we use for sheep are off-label uses, so you need to be aware of withdrawal times, etc., if there's a possibility you'd want to use the meat should a sheep become ill or injured and be treated before finally dying.

Anyway, I am grateful that the vet practice I use has large animal vets, one of whom's wife used to raise sheep. So there is a good knowledge base there. He is willing to consult over the phone, which has been a godsend since I moved an hour and half away.

But generally, yes, get yourself some good books (I prefer Ron Parker's The Sheep Book, which is available in PDF version online for free (I have the actual book, because I find it handy--like for the time I needed to follow the directions in there to rig up a homemade prolapse harness on a ewe lamb that had been accidentally bred) and I have a couple of sheep veterinary books that I have found useful for more in-depth information.

J.

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#5 Pippin's person

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 11:09 AM

Where do you get your sheep meds generally?
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Renzo: First dog, resident non-BC
Pippin, Rafe, Kyzer, Lad, Zac, and Scout: the BC crew
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#6 juliepoudrier

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 11:22 AM

Robin,
I usually order from Jeffers Livestock, but it depends. I had a horse friend get me some banamine, for example, and of course if I'm out and desperate, I'l go to the local feed store. Other mail order places I've used are Midwest Woolgrowers (most often after Jeffers), Sheepman supply (rarely, because they are much more expensive than some of the others), and sometimes KV Vet or Pipestone. OH, and I;ve always order tags from Premier. I usually try to consolidate everything I need into a single order, so if I've got items that I can get only at one of the other places, I may order everything from them, but usually Jeffers is my first choice. I especially like the customer service I've gotten at Jeffers and Premier.

J.

I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream.

~Vincent van Gogh



mydogs_small2.jpg

Julie Poudrier
New Kent, VA
Willow (6/1997-5/2014, run free, my heart), Boy (3/1995-10/2010, RIP), Jill (8/1996-5/2012, RIP), Farleigh (12/1998-7/2014, RIP), Kat, Twist, Lark, Phoebe, Pipit, and Birdie!
Willow's Rest, Tunis and mule sheep



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#7 NorthfieldNick

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 11:25 AM

I order Mede from Premier, American Livestock Supply, etc. Anything that needs a 'script, I ask our horse vet, or the guy who specializes in goats (weird, eh? But so nice!). I have banamine, sulfa, bute (phenylbutazone, horse aspirin basically) on hand from having horses, and I have oxytocin from when a ewe failed to expel her placenta. If you have a good relationship with your vet, most are willing to give you 'scripts for things.

Another thought for Geonni: if you're not going to be breeding sheep, you'll avoid most of the vet stuff. I'd say almost 100% of the vetting I do is on bred ewes or new lambs. Adult sheep, well cared for, are pretty hardy, despite tier reputation.

Northfield Farm:
-Ben: the shepherd on hiatus-
-Nick: the mud-brown collie-
-Hoot: the weird one-

-Lu: the mutt-dog who was-


barn's burnt down... now i can see the moon
-masahide


#8 juliepoudrier

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 11:30 AM

Another point: the vet practice I use sees large and small animals. They actually price things differently for livestock than they do for small animals. For example, when I need dexamethasone for a ewe that had damaged her neck crashing into a fence (unaided by a dog, crazy ewe) I got a whole bottle for something like $10. When I needed it for a dog, the cost was significantly higher. Go figure.

J.

I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream.

~Vincent van Gogh



mydogs_small2.jpg

Julie Poudrier
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Willow (6/1997-5/2014, run free, my heart), Boy (3/1995-10/2010, RIP), Jill (8/1996-5/2012, RIP), Farleigh (12/1998-7/2014, RIP), Kat, Twist, Lark, Phoebe, Pipit, and Birdie!
Willow's Rest, Tunis and mule sheep



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#9 ejano

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 01:31 PM

I'm still trying to figure out the logistics of keeping a few head of sheep, should I get the situation I'm angling for.

I wondered, do you have the vet out for your sheep much? Can you give an estimate - ball park - of what to expect to pay for veterinary care per year, per head? I realize that things can go smoothly some of the time, and then all sorts of things can go wrong.

I'm assuming that worming and vaccinations (do sheep need vaccinations?) could be done by me. But are there routine veterinary chores like feet trimming that I might not be able to do? Do people euthanize very ill sheep, or do you shoot them?

Sorry about so many questions, but as much as I want to have sheep, I want to make sure I can handle it - physically and financially. They may not be dogs, but I want to do right by them, or not have them if I can't.


They can be just as friendly as dogs and I've found that each of mine has a quirky personality all their own. Lamb Chops thinks he's a dog, a risk with a bottle fed lamb nurse-maided by a Border Collie. Daffodil is so sweet and patient when training the dogs. Silver Belle is a little princess and Rose my shy girl. Snowdrop is the acknowledged leader and Tulip is a bit giddy. If, like me, you are interested in fiber, they'll be around for awhile. Excellent care pays off in terms of quality of the wool and longevity.

I've had my little flock since May and have had the vet in three times for what I call "wellness visits." He administered the CDT vaccinations. Each visit was $42.oo, including the vaccination. It's helpful to have a vet in if, like me, you're just starting out with a new breed of animal. He helped me assess the condition of the animals - something you can't really learn from a book, gave a passing assessment of the quality of my hay and suggested the amount of grain my sheep really need (we tend to overfeed.) I also had the local NRCS rep come and do a pasture walk with me to assess the quality of my pasture and discuss a management plan. NRCS services are provided at no cost to the landowner. Feed is my biggest cost and one that needs to be budgeted. Two bags of grain a month (11.00 a bag) and now, a bale of hay per day for six sheep. (Edit) My hay comes off the farm - paid my cousin $2.00 a bale to harvest it. Oh, mineral blocks -- they love their mineral block! 2 a month @ 9.00 per ( think).

In studying Storey's guide to sheep, I've speculated that the highest costs involve 1) worming and 2) lambing. I therefore am paying strict attention to the former and probably won't breed. If I want another sheep, I'd likely get different wool breed from what I all ready have, though the Shetlands really are nice.

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#10 bcnewe2

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 01:32 PM

I used to have a vet that would sell me odds and ends of meds. Like the end of a bottle of nuflor a rather expensive antibiotic. Way cheap and it solved my issue of lg. Bottles getting way out dated.
I use jeffers and some local places for la2oo and pen-g. Bute I get from the vet as needed. Dex the same.
I also share mess with sheep friends that live close.
Amazon has a few things too.
For dog meds, like antibiotics, if I know what I need I use fishbiotics that don't need a script. Terrimen's site is a wealth of information and links to what you can get without scripts.

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#11 Pippin's person

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 06:37 PM

Thanks for the info. Those are the places I've been looking. We got the initial stuff from the feed store.

Geonni, the book "Living with Sheep" by Chuck Wooster does a nice job of laying things out for a small sheep tender. I like it a lot and found it reassuring.
Robin: One of the two people
Renzo: First dog, resident non-BC
Pippin, Rafe, Kyzer, Lad, Zac, and Scout: the BC crew
Fox, Lars, Milo, Xeno, Callie, and Barn Kitty: Kitties
Rest in Peace:  Theka, Macchi, Ness, Fritz, Inji and Tansy

#12 Pippin's person

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 06:45 PM

I've had my little flock since May and have had the vet in three times for what I call "wellness visits." He administered the CDT vaccinations. Each visit was $42.oo, including the vaccination. It's helpful to have a vet in if, like me, you're just starting out with a new breed of animal. He helped me assess the condition of the animals - something you can't really learn from a book, gave a passing assessment of the quality of my hay and suggested the amount of grain my sheep really need (we tend to overfeed.) I also had the local NRCS rep come and do a pasture walk with me to assess the quality of my pasture and discuss a management plan. NRCS services are provided at no cost to the landowner. Feed is my biggest cost and one that needs to be budgeted. Two bags of grain a month (11.00 a bag) and now, a bale of hay per day per sheep. My hay comes off the farm - paid my cousin $2.00 a bale to harvest it. Oh, mineral blocks -- they love their mineral block! 2 a month @ 9.00 per ( think).


Liz, how big are your bales? We're feeding one sq. bale (ca 50lbs) a day for 15 sheep and no grain at this point. We calculated the amount based on 2% of body weight a day (more or less since we don't have a sheep scale-they are probably getting a bit more than 2% but the sq. bale weight is also approximate).
Robin: One of the two people
Renzo: First dog, resident non-BC
Pippin, Rafe, Kyzer, Lad, Zac, and Scout: the BC crew
Fox, Lars, Milo, Xeno, Callie, and Barn Kitty: Kitties
Rest in Peace:  Theka, Macchi, Ness, Fritz, Inji and Tansy

#13 juliepoudrier

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 07:46 PM

I think she must mean something more like a flake of hay per day per sheep. I have some piggy sheep, but noe of them would consume an entire bale individually by themselves.

J.

I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream.

~Vincent van Gogh



mydogs_small2.jpg

Julie Poudrier
New Kent, VA
Willow (6/1997-5/2014, run free, my heart), Boy (3/1995-10/2010, RIP), Jill (8/1996-5/2012, RIP), Farleigh (12/1998-7/2014, RIP), Kat, Twist, Lark, Phoebe, Pipit, and Birdie!
Willow's Rest, Tunis and mule sheep



Visit me on Facebook at Poudrier and Crowder, Set Out Specialists (P&C, SOS)


#14 ejano

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 12:52 PM

Liz, how big are your bales? We're feeding one sq. bale (ca 50lbs) a day for 15 sheep and no grain at this point. We calculated the amount based on 2% of body weight a day (more or less since we don't have a sheep scale-they are probably getting a bit more than 2% but the sq. bale weight is also approximate).


My bales are probably equal in size to yours. I can lift them comfortably and I carry a 50 lb sack of grain. My calculations are based on something I read in Storey's guide. One bale per sheep per week. So, I figure if I have six sheep, that's a bale a day because there are six flakes in the bale.

At the moment they are sorting through a harvest that had to sit out in the field for a day (my cousin had a slight accident with the kicker on the baler that resulted in a number of stitches). He gave me these 100 bales as he couldn't sell them for horse hay. It has quite a bit of green in it so they sort through for the good stuff. When the weather closes in, they'll get the better quality hay -- what they've gotten of that, they cleaned up every scrap.

The Cluns are really big sheep (not fat) and Lamb Chops, the Tunis whether is not far behind. Tulip is smaller. The Shetlands weigh about 35 pounds now.

I read (somewhere?) that protein was necessary for a good wool crop and their fleeces are certainly beautiful - plus it has minerals in it that we're lacking, especially selenium. I think that's why they attack the mineral block like they do.

We were feeding less grain until the pasture ran it's course - the grass isn't growing here now. As the hay I'm feeding at present is of poorer quality, I divide a big coffee can (not full to the brim - about five cups, I think) between the four big sheep and the Shetlands are getting about a cup each. The Shetland lambs (6 months) were on the skinny side until we started feeding them separately. They've plumped out now and I think we could scale back a bit.

But again, I'm very new at this -- I suspect I am overfeeding but I do keep checking their general condition (hips and backbone), trying to not let them get too fat. I don't plan to breed any of them at present, but I know that excess weight is a consideration.

Any advice appreciated!

No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich."
---Louis Sabin - All about Dogs as Pets.

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#15 ejano

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 12:53 PM

I think she must mean something more like a flake of hay per day per sheep. I have some piggy sheep, but noe of them would consume an entire bale individually by themselves.

J.


Yes, it should have read bale of hay per day for six sheep. Will edit :).

No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich."
---Louis Sabin - All about Dogs as Pets.

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#16 Alchemist

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 11:48 PM

Geonni, I'm certainly not an expert on sheep. But, I think how much general "maintenance" they require may vary, in part with breed, and in part with any selection criteria.

Duncan's trainer culls her flock mercilessly (her phrase, not mine). She claims she never worms them once they're past the lamb stage, and she says she literally doesn't know where her hoof trimmers are. (Her sheep are wool sheep, a Border Cheviot/Perrendale cross). So, if you're looking for a few sheep, once you've settled on a breed (or cross), it may be worth asking prospective sellers what sort of maintenance regimen they use.

You may pay more per head for such "low maintenance" sheep, but it could save you money in the long run.

#17 Smalahundur

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 05:59 AM

We vet our sheep. But hey, my wife is a vet, and one could say she is a sheep specialist. We once performed a ceserian on one of our ewes,that brought three live lambs, and the ewe produced without complications years after this event.

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#18 Cynthia P

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 09:24 AM

We use a vet about once or twice a year, mainly for overall flock health monitering. All of our dogs go to our large animal vet so she gets money from us for that! Drugs are purchased through the wool growers or the vet.

We euthanize old or sick animals on the farm using a 22; We will dress out most of the animals for dog food as long as there are no medicines in their systems.

We are lucky to have several very large sheep producers in the neighbourhood, flocks from 600-2000 ewes. One of their cull flocks (from the 2000 ewe property) is larger than our whole flock of 200 :)

Also we go to sheep producers meetings and other events put on by OMAFRA (the canadian equivalent of an extension agent); We use the sheep veterinarians guide as well as Ron Parker's book.

And Ejano, you are likely overfreeding, adult ewes that are not going to lamb are very unlikely to need any supplemental grain. Look at the charts for body condition and you can feel what body condition they are in. There are other reasons to feed grain, for instance if you hay tests low or you want to get your sheep to come to you without a dog. A mid size adult ewe will need between 5-8 lbs of hay/day.

And pick your initial sheep from someone that has culled extensively! And cull ruthlessly...i wish I could convince my husband that every womb isn't a friend

Cynthia

#19 Smokjbc

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 09:59 AM

I have never had a vet out for my sheep but I have the advantage of working for vets that can give me advice. Also, with my Kathadin/Dorper crosses, they generally are very healthy. I have euth'd a lamb myself(too small to eat, lost it and it's twin to a strange neuro issue I never figured out what it was). I've only had one stillborn lamb and aside from a oxy inj. now and then to expel placenta or stimulate milk production in a younger ewe, which I do much less than I did at the beginning, I have very few breeding issues. Most of my "vetting" has come after letting idiots in with my sheep. I've stiched up a couple using dental floss, gave them a whompin' antibiotic injection and everything went just fine. I have an old ewe that will probably be needing more vetting as she gets more ancient (13 now and dog attacked when younger which has left her with a lot of throat scarring so she coughs and occasionally gets abscesses in that area). I try to sell on older ewes so I don't have to deal with disposal of them but this one and probably another great ewe I have will probably live out their lives with me.

My pharmacy consists of Banamine, penicillin, and oxytocin. I can order in anything else through our vet distributor and get it in a day. I don't worm as often as I should but my ewes are dry-lotted and in a very arid region so I don't have many issues with that. I did start vaccinating for overeating disease after unexpectedly losing three (very nice :( ) yearlings suddenly - I think it was more likely toxic but maybe someone threw something over the fence and they happened to get to it first.

I understand not making every womb a friend. The last two generations of ewe lambs have brought unusually friendly ones. I had one practically a pet and she went and rejected her lamb. Now, I've got another, Blackie, that lets me scratch her head and is just a lovely, pretty thing. She's fat with her first lamb, so crossing my fingers she had no issues because one thing I do cull mercilessly for is anything that requires assistance with lambing or raising a lamb.

#20 ejano

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 11:48 AM

And Ejano, you are likely overfreeding, adult ewes that are not going to lamb are very unlikely to need any supplemental grain. Look at the charts for body condition and you can feel what body condition they are in. There are other reasons to feed grain, for instance if you hay tests low or you want to get your sheep to come to you without a dog. A mid size adult ewe will need between 5-8 lbs of hay/day.

Cynthia


The Clun/Tunis are 9 months old; the Shetlands 5 months. Would they still need the grain as they are still growing? The vet was very satisfied with how the Clun/Tunis sheep looked but thought the Shetlands were on the skinny side, so we've been feeding them separately to ensure they get their ration (and yes, grain did serve to tame them). I check their condition according to Storey's guide about once a week - feel a bit like the witch in Hansel and Gretel -- though these won't of course end up in the oven!

Lets try my math -- a 50 lb bale divided by 5 sheep (let's count the 2 Shetlands as one sheep) = 10 pounds per sheep. So if I'm putting out the lesser quality hay, they're sorting through for the choicest bits, so let's say they are about 2/3rds of it, because most of it is good stuff so they're in the range you suggest? If I'm putting out the "good stuff" -- they'll eat the whole thing in one gulp, so I need only put out 2/3 a bale per day? Of course, if they eat the upper limit (8 lbs per day), than would a whole bale be appropriate?

I did also read that whethers shouldn't have a great deal of grain - is that right? We should likely cut Lamb Chops' ration in half.

No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich."
---Louis Sabin - All about Dogs as Pets.

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