Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomeLivestockBehaviorObserving Animal Health

Observing Animal Health

One of the nice things about Management-intensive Grazing is that it gives you lots of opportunities to look at your animals and make sure they’re healthy. Here Dave Scott, retired livestock specialist at the National Center for Appropriate Technology shows you what to look for in your animals to make sure they’re healthy. It’s part of the series of videos he put together on intensive grazing. You can see the whole series here.

Dave raises sheep, so he shares some health issues specific to sheep, but based on my own experience with goats and cattle, some of the same signs that a sheep is sick can also apply to goats and cattle. This is three minutes that will give you some good tips for knowing what’s up with your herd before it’s too late.


We changed the sheep into a new pasture on a daily basis and as they’re going through from one pasture through the pasture gate it gives us an opportunity to look at the sheep.

Some of the things we’re looking at is “Are there any slows?” We call them slows. Any laggards or any lamb that’s hanging back that means something’s not right with the. So we look for slows.

We look for the luster of the wool. As you can see on that lamb right over there, she’s got a nice luster even though she’s been rained on today. She’s starting to finish. You can see that she’s getting a layer of fat over her. That’s what we want to see. She’s got a nice hefty lamb. That’s the kind of lamb we’re trying to produce. The other thing we’re looking at is eyes. We want nice bright eyes and that they’re paying attention to you.

And then the other thing that we’re especially conscious of, particularly this time of the year, it’s the end of the pasture season, they’ve been weaned, there’s a tendency for coccidia to be a problem. The reason that is so is the lambs are put under a stress from no Mom anymore and the rumen and stomach kind of get in an unbalanced state so coccidia will take over more so than it’s natural population. And the outright appearance of coccidia is a manurey butt. ‘Poo Butt.’ So what we want to see is a lot of clean butts out here. If we don’t have clean butts, if we’ve got pooey butts, then we’re checking them close. Because one of the things it can directly lead into is fly strike and that’s where your flies lay their eggs in the manure on the end of the butt and the maggots grow and just in three or four days in hot weather they can make an area about this large (Dave holds up his hand to the size of two loaves of bread) on the butt and going forward on the animal. It’s a huge stress and the animal can become very sick and even die.

When you have warm nights, warm days, and a pooey butt, those are ideal conditions for fly strike.



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Kathy Voth
Kathy Vothhttps://onpasture.com
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

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