Home News Local News 4-H'ers invited to sheep workshop
4-H'ers invited to sheep workshop
By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
A workshop set this Saturday will help assure that both the Baker County Fairs set for August are healthy experiences for everybody including the critters on display.
Donna Lowry and Jay Carr will team up to teach 4-H members how to recognize and prevent diseases in their sheep. The free workshop is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Baker County OSU Extension Building, 2610 Grove St. Carr expects to wrap things up by noon.
All 4-H members who plan to show sheep at either the Baker County Fair in Baker City or at the Baker County Fair in Halfway are invited to attend Saturday's workshop. An estimated 75 4-H youth raise sheep in Baker County, Carr said.
Carr said he and Lowry wanted to hold the workshop because animal health is still on people's minds in the wake of the detection of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) in Washington State. There's a related prion-based disease in sheep called Scrapie; a herd in Baker County had to be liquidated this year because of that disease, Carr said.
There are other less serious but highly contagious diseases in sheep that 4-H members should also be aware of, Carr said.
(Carr is the Baker County OSU Extension Agent; Lowry works for the Union-Baker Education Service District and also has a herd of sheep.)
Like humans, sheep can get sick in a number of ways. Some diseases can be treated with vaccinations, others with topical medicine, while others can be treated with homeopathic approaches.
Sometimes sheep get sick because of what they eat. If they don't get enough of the mineral selenium, they get a disease similar to the human diseases of rickets or scurvy. Ewes can eat toxic plants or noxious weeds that can lead to birth defects in their lambs. Sheep are susceptible to parasites, both internal and external.
"These kids are somewhat familiar with the information we'll be presenting, but some of it will be new to them," Carr said. "We'll discuss a lot of infectious diseases, but with good management practices, most of them can be avoided. That's the goal."
Lowry wants to get the 4-Hers thinking when it's time to purchase sheep to increase their herd.
"What time of year do we vaccinate for breeding purposes? Where do we give the shots? What kind of syringe do we use? How do we tell about the general health of the animal?" she said. "When people go out to buy an animal, they often pick the cutest ones. But that one might be infected, and they might bring it to your herd or to the Fair."
Soremouth is a common example of what 4-H youth should look for in their sheep. Technically known as "contagious eczema," it's a virus that typically runs through a flock and once it does, each sheep is immune for life.
Lowery said there are 13 strains of soremouth, but vaccinations prevent only two of the 13.
"Kids at larger (livestock) shows are usually aware of these diseases, but here not so much," she said. "You don't even know what to look for until it's run through your animals."
Most times for a disease like soremouth a veterinarian is called, but sometimes home remedies can alleviate the pain, Lowry said. Iodine can treat it, as well as topical antiseptics.
There are also homeopathic remedies for diseases like show fungus.
Lowry has at least four ideas for 4-Hers who want to purchase animals to build the herd and to maintain a healthy herd:
o If animals are sick, leave them home during Fair season, where there's an increased chance they can infect other animals
o Wash the animals and disinfect the horse trailer that transports them to and from the Fair
o Quarantine new breeding stock for 30 days until you're certain the animal is disease-free
o Buy only from reputable breeders
Both Baker County fairs do a good job of disinfecting show grounds and panels after the show is complete, Lowry said.
"If there's bacteria there, it's killed," she said. "As a producer, that's good to know."
She also plans a unit Saturday on docking a lamb's tail not too short, or when she grows up, she'll be more prone to prolapse when giving birth. She also plans a talk on trimming the hoof.
"Most of these kids have come so far in showing their animals," Lowry said. "Some of them can already shear like a pro. But they may not know a lot about diseases, and we want them to pay attention to the tail and the feet, too."
Despite all of 4-H leaders' efforts at teaching prevention, Lowry said some youth seem to learn about disease only when it strikes their herd.
"Most of us had to learn this the hard way," she said. "Anything you can learn at an early stage, so much the better.
"And some of these kids will actually stay with agriculture when they grow up. At least, that's the goal."