B – Bills; owning animals can be expensive. It doesn’t end with the purchase price when you get some sheep to mow your acre. They might need additional food when grass growth is limited, they might need vaccines or treatment if they get sick) or just general maintenance such as shearing. You may need to expand your phone book with shearers, hoof trimmers, a home kill business, vets and the list goes on.
C – Coccidiosis; this is an infectious disease caused by Coccidia which is a parasite that generally causes diarrhoea in a range of species including cattle, sheep, alpacas, poultry, goats and pigs. It can spread quickly and can also infect humans, so care needs to be taken when handling affected animals. If you have diarrhoea in your stock, always ring your vet for advice.
D – Drenching; worms are everywhere and they can cause lethargy, weight loss, severe discomfort and even death in high numbers. All species are susceptible, so make sure you have a drenching program in place for your animals.
E – Eggs; egg production often increases when winter has departed. There’s nothing like a fresh, golden poached egg on your morning toast! Look after your hens (especially if moulting) by keeping housing clean, providing fresh water and giving energy-rich food (laying hen pellets). This will help increase egg production as well as egg quality. Get some Araucana hens if you like green eggs that are slightly sweeter in taste.
F – Foot care; lameness is painful for anyone, be it animal or man. Wear and tear is inevitable and sometimes infection gets in on top of that. Fast intervention is vital and trimming to prevent issues is advisable (especially in sheep and goats). If you’re not sure how to look after feet or what to do in case of lameness, contact your vet.
G – Grass; or Vitamin G as some like to call it is so good for ruminants, nothing is better in maintaining condition, promoting growth and increasing production. Hopefully spring brings along a nice boost in grass growth, but make sure to supplement if it’s not enough.
H – Housing; shelter or housing is especially important for young animals and in areas where the temperature can get quite high. Most animals actually do better in cooler weather (<20⁰C) and struggle to cool themselves down. Trees are great (as long as they are not toxic), but unfortunately they take a long time to grow to a nice height. There are a lot of options for shelter at low to high prices, so it pays to do your research.
I – Internet; Dr Google! As a vet, I often get told what Dr Google thinks whether this is in line with my educated opinion after a six year vet degree or not. As a mother, I must confess I have done my ‘research’ online as well. Just bear in mind, anyone can post something on the Web, so be critical of the sites you visit.
J – Joy; must be mentioned! I don’t want to sound too formal and serious with this article, please ENJOY your paddock pets! I always have, even on days when it’s raining and cold and you have to go out to feed them. It’s called passion (in my case, I’m mad about cattle).
K – Kids; having two young children myself, I have always aimed to promote interaction between them and animals. Experience with any kind of animal (apart from the predator kind) is invaluable to learning minds, so whether you have your own kids or give others the opportunity to mix with your flock, keep it up!
L – Lungworm; still the number one cause of coughing in animals. Luckily, it’s quite easy to treat through drenching. Make sure the drench you’re using also kills lungworm.
M – Mating, at different times for different species and it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Options range from leasing/buying males to artificial insemination and even embryo transfer. A word of warning, young females (even as young as four months old) can get pregnant and if that happens, it causes a whole range of problems. Don’t go there, so please separate young boys and girls until they are old enough to deal with the consequences.
N – Nutrition; once again, this can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, provided you always meet the maintenance needs for any animal you own. Young animals, pregnant animals and lactating ones all need additional nutrition, so know your options for supplementation. On top of that, you might need to supplement minerals if your soil is deficient (especially Zinc in Facial Eczema season of January through to May).
O – Offspring; this time I mean baby animals. Regardless of species, they all have special needs starting with milk through to shelter, vaccinations and procedures like dehorning. Know what you want from your stock and make sure you have the equipment to look after them.
P – Photos; take plenty!! I often find it’s easy to take you’re animals for granted and it’s great to enjoy them on a day-to-day basis. However, reminiscing can be fun too and livestock can be just plain beautiful, so take some pictures for future perusal.
Q – Quotes; if you’re planning any work, for example fencing or building yards and sheds, do your homework and get some quotes. There are a lot of different options and it’s important to get it right. Especially with yards and sheds you’ll have to use them so you want them to function the way they should. If you have the time, it is actually quite fun building your own yards!
R – Ruminants; are herbivores who have four compartments to their stomach. The functioning of the gastrointestinal tract is an amazing wonder of nature, very different from us humans and can be delicate. Grass is the main ingredient of their diet, but if this is scarce, supplementation is important. When using carb-rich food as a supplement, make sure your animals get used to it first and don’t use too much. Roughage is imperative for proper rumen function (e.g. silage, hay, straw).
S – Sunshine! Hopefully we’ll get plenty now that spring has started. Enjoy it while you can, remember shelter is important especially when the temperature rises above 20⁰C. And believe it or not, there is sunscreen available for animals that need it.
T – Tail docking; this is shortening the tails in lambs. There are several ways to do it as long as you can make sure it’s quick and hygienic with minimal suffering to the animal.
U – Under dosing; this means either not completing a full antibiotic course or underestimating weight and therefore not using enough treatment. Don’t risk it as these practices lead to resistance build-up in bacteria and could also make treatment less effective resulting in repeat treatment. If you’re not sure how much to use, please ask your vet.
V – Vaccinations; here are a number of diseases that livestock should routinely be vaccinated for. I’m thinking mainly of Clostridial diseases (5 in 1 vaccine) and Leptospirosis. On top of that there are several vaccines available that get used either because a disease has been diagnosed on the property or to improve output (not to protect the animal that gets vaccinated, but her, as yet unborn offspring).
W – Water; is essential to life and it’s compulsory to provide any animal with enough fresh drinking water. Did you know a cow will drink around 80 litres of water on a warm day? Make sure there is always enough (have a trough that automatically refills with a ballcock) and if frosty check it’s not frozen!
X – Xtra; if you go the extra mile, you’ll gain more from your stock. It’s true, if you look after them, they’ll look after you.
Y – Yards; as a vet I can’t tell you enough how important it is to have facilities for restraining your animals. And it’s not just for vet visits, the same goes for shearing, tail docking, drenching and vaccinations – basically any animal handling. Remember, as with any professional you pay for their time and having animals ready and waiting makes everything so much easier and cheaper.
Z – Zoonosis; a fancy word for a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The diseases that are most commonly transmitted are Salmonella, Leptospirosis, Ringworm, Campylobacter and E.Coli. Less common are Toxoplasma, Coccidiosis and Influenza. Awareness and hygiene (washing your hands and not eating/smoking/drinking) when working with animals will help prevent transmission. If you do get unwell, make sure to tell your doctor about the animals you care for.