For the past several months now, we’ve had one adult Dorper ewe who continues to show symptoms of Haemonchus contortus (barber pole worm, stomach worm) infestation. The obvious symptom is a swollen lower jaw (called “bottle jaw”) and if you look at the sheep’s eyelids, they are white which is evidence of anemia. Wally and I have just wormed this one sheep (rather than worm the whole flock) whenever she’s show symptoms and she does get better, but apparently it hasn’t been a complete cure because the symptoms keep recurring. I talked to Wally about her last night and we agreed that if she shows symptoms one more time, she’ll be culled. Two of the lambs at my house have shown recently shown symptoms of infestation. We wormed both of them the weekend before last and on Sunday, I noticed they were swollen again. I caught both this past Monday morning and wormed them again with a different type of wormer.
I started to do a little bit of Internet research on barber pole worms. From my research, it seems barber pole worms have developed a resistance to chemical wormers here in the south. This is likely due to overuse of chemical wormers and of course the climate. I did a search for barber pole worms on the Sheep Production Forum I found a post about using a product made by Shaklee called Basic H. More research on Basic H indicated that Joel Salatin uses Basic H to worm his cattle and that it could be used to worm other species of animals. I found a local Shaklee distributor and bought a bottle of Basic H. The dosage is 6 cc of Basic H in eight ounces of water. You administer it with a turkey baster. It was tricky getting eight ounces of water into a squirming lamb, but I managed. Prior to giving it to the lamb, I tasted the mixture and it didn’t taste bad (soapy). Apparently, you can brush your teeth with Basic H and given the Joel Salatin has been using it for years, I wasn’t too concerned about giving it to the lambs. Chemical wormers were not working so I didn’t have a lot to loose.
This morning when I checked the lambs, the swelling was way down and the skin was hanging loosely under their jaws. If they are not completely better tonight, I’ll dose them again. From what I’ve been told, one dose is usually enough to take care of the problem. I’ll post tomorrow with the results. I wish I had taken the time to take photos of the lambs so I could have before and after images, but I didn’t. If the Basic H works on the lambs, I’ll worm the adult Dorper ewe in the same manner.
I plan to try the method of worming detailed in the ATTRA article: use of copper boluses (Copasure). You buy boluses (giant capsules) containing copper wire particles; reload them into smaller capsules and give them to the sheep using a pill gun. It’s all detailed in the article and I found a lot of research on using copper wire particles for sheep when chemical wormers are no longer working on barber pole worm infestations. I will probably dose my sheep at the beginning of every season and see if that doesn’t cut down on parasite problems and improve their overall health. Copper oxide is not as easily absorbed as copper sulfate so it doesn’t reach toxic levels in sheep.
I’m still on the fence about the mineral mixture recommended in Pat Coleby’s book, Natural Sheep Care. Basically, the mixture is as follows, offered free choice to the stock:
25 parts Dolomitic Lime
4 parts yellow garden Sulphur
4 parts Copper Sulfate
4 parts dried Seaweed (kelp)
According to Coleby, feeding the copper sulfate with domomitic lime prevents the copper from becoming toxic to the sheep. At some point I do want to start making up my own mineral mix. I do not like that commercial mineral mixes add molasses to the mix. The molasses is added to increase palatability, but I would like to rely in the natural needs of my stock to eat mineral when they need it, not because it tastes sweet.
Sheep are more sensitive to excess copper than other livestock and can die from copper toxicity if they have too much in their diet. Because of this, copper is left out of commercial sheep mineral. Almost all sheep publications explicitly say not to feed copper to sheep. According to Coleby copper is needed for optimum health, resistance to disease, coccidia, enzootic ataxia, and internal parasites of all kinds. Tapeworms especially are susceptible to copper. It is needed against all diseases of fungal origin and especially for a healthy immune system. Sheep whose copper levels are right will cycle regularly at the correct time. Andre Voisin states categorically that cancer is a result of too little copper in the diet.
I’ve never bought into the assertion that sheep do not need copper because of course they do, all living beings need copper in their diets. I will eventually have my soil tested, but I’d be willing to bet the copper levels are low.
So, lots to think about here.
The goats are doing much better. Every other day or so, I separate them from the sheep and grain them.