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Grazing a Flerd- Feeding minerals without allowing sheep to ingest copper?  RSS feed

 
Andre Lasle
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Location: Mille Lacs, MN
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Hello,

I am going to be purchasing some heifers soon and integrating them with my sheep.
Currently I am feeding my sheep a "sheep mineral" which does not contain copper.
Copper is poisonous to sheep, but necessary for cattle.

How do folks run these two species together and satisfy both animals requirements regarding copper / no-copper successfully?


Thanks,

Andre
 
wayne fajkus
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Is it a licking block or a bagged feed?
 
R Ranson
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Copper is actually an essential mineral to sheep.  Sheep need copper to survive and lack of copper can cause parasite and other health concerns.  What's more, different breeds of sheep need different amounts of copper.  For example, Black Welsh Mountain take almost as much copper as goats (this is a huge amount for those of you who don't know and would kill almost any other breed of sheep, except maybe Icelandic, Merino and some of the finer wool producing or old Northern European breeds). 

The problem with sheep is that their range of tolerance is very narrow (unless they are Icelandic, BWM, and some of the older breeds).  It's easy to overdose on copper, so people usually underfeed copper to sheep and use chemical wormers and medicine.  Lack of copper causes slow decline, whereas an excess of copper is relatively quick to harm the sheep.  Pat Coleby's book, Natural Sheep Care, goes into this at great length.  She also talks about different mineral feeding options and how to customise your minerals to your flock.

How it's relevant to your situation, is that you could feed the animals free choice minerals - each mineral being in its own tub, so that the sheep and cows can choose which minerals they eat when they need it - and yes, sheep are smart enough to know what they need to eat and when. 

Another option would be to put the cowlick up high, out of sheep reach. 
 
Kris schulenburg
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Location: Henry County Ky Zone 6
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I have been feeding my Freisian Icelandic crosses free choice copper for two years with no problems. Have not had to chemical worm. They are rotational grazed and if someone looks anemic they get Coppasure capsule or black walnut tincture and poke berries. I would agree they can figure it out for themselves.
 
Travis Johnson
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You also don't have to free choice the mineral mix.

Sheep will gorge themselves on mineral mix if they have not had access to it for awhile, but when given free-choice they only occasionally nibble at it. If you wanted to save money and provide mineral mix to your sheep, you could just mix it in with their feed once and awhile. That was what I did when I ran sheep/cows on the same pasture, but honestly I will never run sheep and cows together again.

Typically I note sheep need mineral mix when they start grazing on bark. 

A sheep's ideal copper level is 4 parts per million, and is lethal at 8 parts per million so when R Ransan says the margin is small, that is truly correct. But even then, my fence posts are pressure treated, yet I have never lost a sheep to copper toxicity from that. I am VERY careful around foot baths however as the copper sulfate concentration is obviously higher.

 
Travis Johnson
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wayne fajkus wrote:Is it a licking block or a bagged feed?


You cannot give a mineral block to sheep, their teeth are too small and brittle and will break.

Like most ruminants this is true, but even more so with a sheep. Degradation of their teeth is what causes their demise. They need flat molars to crush the grass against the flat pallet of their upper mouths. When their teeth wear irregularly, they are unable to churn their mouthfuls of grass into ideal fodder and basically become less efficient eaters until they reach the point of age when they cannot provide enough nutrition for the lambs they are carrying.

You can take a guard for their mouths and a 5 inch grinder and grind down their teeth and get a few extra years out of a sheep, but I have never done it and am not to keen on taking up sheep dentistry as their breath is about as bad as my ex-wife's. I would cure that with Listerine in the stock tank I suppose, but knowing my sheep they would just get drunk. So I stay away from grinding sheep's teeth, but tonight I would almost consider it. I lost a sheep on Friday due to age and teeth condition (and about to give birth), and I have one in the medical barn whom I expect will be dead in the morning. It is interesting to note that once I was able to do a Cesarean-Section (spelling?) and managed to obtain 2 live lambs out of the ewe. That was really cool, but this one is not far along enough.

Some days you win, some days you lose; tonight is the latter, but such is life.
RIP #0245, you were a good sheep.

 
R Ranson
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Condolences for ewe  #0245

Funny you should mention teeth.  I read that in the 1960s through 80s, it was common for people to get sheep dentures for prized ewes so that the girls can live an extra five years.  I wouldn't believe it, except it was part of the very first sheep manual I read... so maybe there's something to it.  Not sure how that could work.  So maybe they were just pulling our leg.

I don't like mineral blocks for sheep because they don't seem to get enough minerals from them.  I hadn't considered teeth, but that makes sense too.

Back when I was getting started, I had to buy a Se lick this time of year.  I didn't like how long it took them to get enough Se.  They would stand there all day licking and chewing at it.  We're very low on Selenium (Se) and the commercial mineral mixes don't include enough of it.  Most people here have to give Se shots to their lambs or their losses are too high.  They don't even realise that sheep aren't supposed to have a stiff gate, mastitis, or prolapse when pregnant (all of which can be a symptom of low Se.).  Anyway, I started feeding my flock kelp year 'round, and they have been much better.  No need for the Se lick or shots in my flock.
 
Travis Johnson
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Oh yes, the Se monster rears its ugly head again.

I get all kinds of advice on that; the sheep nutritionists says his mineral mix will get them where they should be, and the grain dealer says there is enough Se for them if I just feed a little more, and the vet says a sheep's placenta is too thick and cannot pass Se properly from ewe to lambs...so I don't know. I do know this much, if I bought special mineral mix, or bought grain enough to have enough Se in it, I would be broke. So every lamb here gets a shot of Se along with their other vaccinations at birth, and my losses have been considerably less.

We are also going to 100% bottle feeding to combat ewes that just don't provide enough milk. We keep track of everything here, and over the year just keep chipping away at the causes of our mortality rate and now we are down to starvation being our biggest loss. That kind of tells you how far we have come, but artificial rearing should chip away at that. It will take us a few years to get the hang of it, but that will drastically help. It will help with our trampling issues too. We had a few of them last year which is sad.

Bu the State Vet just left and took a brain sample for Scrapie (as all suspicious sheep deaths do here), and he was nice enough to cut her open and do an autopsy. Just as we suspected, keytosis. Her liver and lungs looked "gorgeous", she just slid into failure to thrive mode and went into keytosis. I am good with that, at least its not something we are doing wrong on the farm.
 
Edmund Brown
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I haven't had sheep for a long time, about a year, but I've been running mine with my cattle. I use a free choice mineral mix and have had no problems. When I first put out the free choice feeder (used to use a mineral mix) the copper and selenium both got "hammered" for almost two months. After that the consumption declined and seems to deplete at about the same rate as the other micro minerals. Both Cu and Se are low in my soils, so it didn't come as a shock...
 
Gail Gardner
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Location: SE Oklahoma
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Andre Lasle wrote:Hello,

I am going to be purchasing some heifers soon and integrating them with my sheep.
Currently I am feeding my sheep a "sheep mineral" which does not contain copper.
Copper is poisonous to sheep, but necessary for cattle.

Andre


I am no expert on sheep; however, I personally have decided that chunks of Himalayan crystal salt are a far better source of minerals for my horses than what you can buy in a feed store. I've been feeding them a couple of years now. The llamas probably ignore them. The horses consume it in different amounts according to what they've been fed in the past and their current needs. I noticed that the new stallion's prior diet must have satisfied his mineral needs because I never see him consume any while the horses that were already here (not mine) and never fed minerals consume the most. The miniature burros consume a little, but not as much as a horse.

I would think that this source would be healthy for any animal; however, I cannot prove that so each person would have to make the decision for themselves.

This is what I buy http://www.yoursaltlamps.com/proddetail.php?prod=Himalayan_Salt_Blocks_55Lbs

 
Ray South
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Location: Northern Tablelands, NSW, Australia
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We have a small flock of sheep. They are moved every day or two onto fresh pasture and have free access to seaweed meal. They seem healthy and robust. We've only had them for about 6 months so it's early days I guess.
 
kadence blevins
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you can buy copper bolus for dosing the goats and just feed everyone the same thing otherwise.
 
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