Tips for Small Ruminants


Something that has gained involvement since I have been in practice is small ruminants. This includes sheep, goats and others. Over the years, I have enjoyed treating small ruminants, and I find them very interesting.

Several years ago, I went to a continuing education class on small ruminants with the main doctor treating them from Texas A&M. His main thing to get across to us was that you need to look for only two problems. Once they have been eliminated, you can move on to others.

1. They are loaded with worms until otherwise proven. This is where we use FAMANCHA (FAffa MAlan CHArt), which is where we check the eyelids for the color of them. Bright pink is OK, and pale pink to white is time to deworm. 

This tells you when to deworm and never before a late grade 3 or early grade 4 on the scale. If you deworm other times, you WILL be creating resistant worms. And I have seen flocks of goats with worms resistant to every dewormer we have on the market if this is not followed.

2. If they are not loaded with worms and are male, then they are plugged up and cannot urinate. 

Goats normally have a pH of around 8 or 9 and will form crystals. The male has a very narrow urethra and can get plugged very easily. The main place is in the preputial urethra, found at the end of the penis. We have a surgery for removing this at an angle to open the urethra so they can urinate. This does not always work, but it is the main surgery. We also need to make sure that every male is getting 10 grams of ammonium chloride daily in their diet. This helps to prevent the formation of crystals. It doesn’t matter how you get this down them; it just must happen daily.

Another common problem is disbudding. 

If not done early in life, they will attach to the skull and make it harder to get them off, with more trauma to the patient. Horn tissue comes from the skin, not the skull embryologically. Therefore, you must get a quarter inch of skin all the way around the horn bud to properly disbud. This is the main rule of thumb that must happen each time you disbud. Also, if you stay on too long you can cause brain damage. I have seen this just a few times with others doing the disbudding.

Other problems in this area are pneumonia, coccidia, tapeworms and lungworms. I have also seen hard bag which is where the udder is hard as a rock and will not produce any milk for the baby. This is mainly sheep and predominantly caused by OPP, (ovine progressive pneumonia). This is viral and very hard to fight; generally we cull them.

Dr. Tim E. O’Neill, DVM, owns Country Veterinary Service in Farmington, Ark. To contact Tim go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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