News Letter: Spring & Summer 2003
Frothy Bloat and More Fencing "Issues"

Time has gotten away from us, and its nearly the end of summer already! June was quite lovely, with cool temperatures and above average rainfall ... a first in some four years.

The cheat grass has flourished, as well some plants (weeds) that we hadn't seen before. Sometimes the seeds lie dormant in the ground for years, waiting for the right conditions (whatever that might be) and then, like magic, there are things growing that you haven't seen before.

The beneficial grasses and forbes are very slow to recover from the drought years, but if its toxic or inedible, it has made a tremendous comeback.

The irises were lovely this spring. June was wet enough that no additional watering was necessary.

The hay fields produced a heavy first cutting for those who waited until the end of June for the rains to stop. Those who cut in the middle of June lost the hay to mold. It remains to be seen what sort of second cutting grass there will be, as the rains quit and we have had less than 1 inch of rain in the past seven weeks. It seems to have been very hot as well, although THEY claim we didn't break any records for heat in July ... it just felt that way!


As a result of consuming (we think) of some toxic weed, we lost Cyril to frothy bloat in mid-March. He would have been one year old the day he died. He was one of the pure Bonds, out of Cora and Nimbus, and was a fine young ram. Frothy bloat is a very difficult problem to remedy.

From the reference book, "Animal Sanitation and Disease Prevention" by H.H. Berrier ... There are a number of plants that grow as weeds and are toxic to sheep. These plants can cause immediate death to the sheep if they are consumed in toxic quantities, can cause skin reactions when the animal is exposed to sunlight, nervous system disorders, fetal deformity and abortion, or digestive problems.

To avoid having your sheep poisoned by plants - Know the plants that are in the pastures where sheep will be grazing, find out which ones are toxic to sheep and at what stages they are most toxic. Hungry sheep are more likely to consume toxic quantities of these plants, particularly if there is a shortage of more palatable plants growing in the pasture.
(I insert here that it is difficult to identify and remove all toxic plants, and that it could well have been that some new plants were growing in the fields that the sheep had not seen nor eaten before.)

Bloat occurs when rumen gas production exceeds the rate of gas elimination. Gas then accumulates causing distention of the rumen. The skin on the left side of the animal behind the last rib appears distended.

Although bloat is often classified as being either pasture or feedlot bloat, it is probably more accurate to identify it as being either free-gas bloat or frothy bloat. Frothy bloat is more common in sheep eating legumes or lush grass than in feedlot (grain fed) sheep. Free-gas bloat is more common in feedlot sheep.

Frothy Bloat: In situations of foamy or frothy bloat, gas production is not greatly increased but the gases are trapped in the foam. Poloxalene is an effective "defoamer" for frothy bloat.

Free-Gas Bloat: Many of the same factors causing acidosis (over feeding of grains) are associated with free-gas bloat. Therefore proper feeding management and other preventative measures should be practiced for prevention of bloat.

Treatment: Free-gas bloat can usually be relieved by inserting a 3/4" rubber hose into the rumen via the esophagus. If "hosing" does not give immediate relief, a defoaming agent (poloxalene) should be administered through the hose to break the surface tension of the ingesta. A pint of mineral oil is also a defoamer. A trocar should be used as a last resort.
Cyril being sheared

This is a photo of Cyril being sheared in February.

In the end, Cyril died of pneumonia, because he aspirated some of the frothy rumen fluids. While we cured the bloat, we could not cure the pneumonia.

It's hard to loose such a fine young ram. His expected genetic contribution to the flock is a many-year loss that it may not be possible to replace.

In all, we now have eleven of the pure Bonds, five that are three-quarter Bond, and many that are half Bond.

A good start for the Bond flock, but not enough of the four original bloodlines to carry on as yet. Cyril was unique in his genetics, and we can only hope that Cora may produce another ram lamb of equal quality.

So moving on, as the summer has progressively grown hotter and drier, the river has dried up. In past years, the sheep have crossed the dry riverbed to the western end of the property, but this year they decided it was time to go even farther. All of a sudden we started having shredded sheep coats ... many shredded coats! Anyone who has had sheep KNOWS that sheep and barbed wire are a disaster waiting to happen, and it's not that we didn't know nor care. There has been an old "drift line" fence on the far west end of the farm ... a seventy year old barb wire fence that was there in the days when this land was part of a larger range cattle operation. A drift line is a section of fence put in so that the cattle will walk down to the river for water.

You can barely make out the old fence line in this photo, and you can't see that it goes down to the river bottom. When you look at this, it's hard to imagine that the sheep WANT to go here, but they have their reasons I suppose.

When you have sheep going through an old three-wire barbed wire fence, below is what you get. We were just very lucky not to have had any of the sheep tangled up and hurt in that old mess of a fence.

Then we had some real fun on the farm!

looking down the old fenceline

bad old fence eating sheep coats

truck full of barbed wire

This what the old wire looked like after two days of cutting. Then there was the part about jacking the old posts out of the ground.

There is actually a device known as a "post puller", and it looks and works much like this truck bumper jack. Either way you need chains and a strong back and a proper motivation to get out there and do this in 96 degree heat.

So far we have pulled 28 of the old posts and have probably another 15 or so to go. At least all of the wire is gone ... something we should have done years ago. (shame on us!)

Then there is the new perimeter fencing that hasn't been completed yet on the western boundary.

As always, a little more rain would be a good thing.
It's become a tired, sad mantra: "please, a little more rain".

fun jacking out posts
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