Lance Ellis

Lance Ellis

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and when it comes to a small acreage, this old adage rings as true as ever.

Too often people who own an animal or small herd figure they don’t need to worry about their animals getting sick so they do nothing, or possibly they think they really can’t afford to buy the needed vaccines since they only have two or three animals. Or, due to a lack of experience or information, they don’t realize that there are diseases or physical problems that can be prevented they need to address and its worth a few minutes and a little money to save the loss of an animal or a costly veterinarian bill.

Even if you only have one animal, you still need to consult with your veterinarian to find out what annual vaccines, such as for West Nile virus in horses, need to be given. Horses also need worming treatments as internal parasites can become resistant to the a particular treatment if overused.

An annual health plan does not need to be cumbersome, but it’s something that gives you the peace of mind of know you are doing everything you can to help your animals stay healthy. You also do not want your herd to be a source of infection for other people’s animals. The list of contagious diseases, internal or external parasites or health damaging conditions can seem like a daunting list, and rather than relying on an internet search or someone’s blog to find out what you should do, always consult with your veterinarian to create a health plan. It’s important to recognize that veterinarians will have recommendations more specific to their local area than the internet does, due to their experience and the problems they have faced.

For example, they may know that the grass in a particular area has a mineral deficiency that would lead cattle or sheep to become unhealthy or die, and that livestock owners may need to supplement with a mineral mix designed to meet this deficiency and resolve this issue. It’s important to prepare for issues you know will be a problem or could be an issue, or that could come up depending on the location or weather.

Problems such as biting flies, pink eye, liver flukes, coccidiosis and most issues require the owner to prepare, prevent and in the case that it happens are ready to treat the affected animal and try to restore it to good health.

Another aspect of a good livestock health plan is the shelter and bedding that are needed and should be provided for your animals throughout the year depending on the season and their changing needs.

Another applicable adage regarding bedding and the comfort of your animals says, “the best medicine is straw.” This statement means by providing a dry bedding of straw for your animals whenever needed, especially during bad weather, will keep them stronger, healthier and have less stress on their bodies which helps to reduce medication usage. Ultimately, a well fed and cared-for animal will have fewer disease issues and come through the cold months healthier and stronger.

The last aspect of a health plan is if your animals will be reproduction and that you are prepared to meet the specific needs the little ones will have, which many times are different from the adults. As a general rule it’s good to keep a first-aid kit for your animals on hand to resolve minor issues just as you would for your human household. Each kit would be different depending upon the type of animals you have or the problems you envision you will encounter.

Lance Ellis is the University of Idaho Extension educator for Fremont County. He can be reached at 208-624-3102.

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