Baking Soda for Ruminant Bloat, or How My Ram Cheats Death


NIgel the goatMy first experience with bloat happened the very first morning that I had sheep. Actually it was the very first morning that I had a sheep, as in the first one we ever had here at the farm.

Nigel, our East Friesian dairy ram, was two months old when we brought him home. I wanted to start my own dairy sheep herd, and I was lucky enough to find this ram only a couple of hours away. He was our first sheep, and I suppose he is fortunate to have survived this long with that dubious distinction.

After we brought him home, we put him in the barn, which was wide open and had no stalls. We installed some temporary chicken wire as Nigel's stall, and felt okay about it as we left for the evening. He was just a little baby sheep, surely he would be fine until morning.

When I went out to check on the little guy the next morning, I found him lying down and severely bloated. He had smashed through the chicken wire (a bit of foreshadowing here regarding his behavior), and had gotten into the bag of sheep feed, that we of course had not locked up because we thought he was secure. The lesson we learned at this point; NEVER leave any food out, no matter how secure you think your animals are.

Frantic that I had killed my very first farm animal, I called around trying to find a vet in my area that knew anything about sheep. Not an easy thing to find where we live. Most people where we live keep goats; VERY few keep sheep. I finally found a veterinarian (who would not come out), who told me to give him nothing but prairie hay for the next week, and hope for the best. That's it???!!!! Surely there was something else I could do!

My husband ran to the farm supply store and brought back drenching equipment, tubing equipment, bloat treatments, anything and everything he could find that might help us. I, on the other hand, was furiously searching the internet for anything I could do that might help my little ram.

Billy Joe Foodfarm
2/16/2013 5:04:14 PM

Rick, we have two of the Premier 1 net fences, and have used them for our more docile sheep, but our ram runs straight through it (usually getting tangles in it!). We were lucky enough to score a solar charger at a local farm sale for $50.00, but haven't used it yet. Our ram is the only problem as far as fencing. I have heard from several shepherds that their sheep's wool insulated them from the shock, so electric fencing didn't work for them. Do you have hair sheep?

Rick Hazard
2/16/2013 3:52:03 PM

Years ago when I got my first livestock, some sheep, I tried keeping them in with some flimsy fencing and life became so frustrating, Then I discovered electric fencing, and life became good again. Since then I have raised many kinds of livestock, all trained to electric fencing from the start and have had very few problems with them getting out. I like the Premier net fencing for rotational grazing in pastures for goats and chickens. And yes, baking soda has saved some of my goats when they got into rhododendron in the past.

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