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  • Coopworth Breeding Stock
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  • Milk Fever

    By Martha McGrath

    Last spring I went out to check the pregnant ewes on pasture. A 6 year old cross-bred ewe was down, and reluctant to get up. My first thought was that she had Ketosis, or Pregnancy Toxemia, caused by low energy levels in late pregnancy. I gave her 150 cc of Cal-Dextro, 1.5 cc of Vit. A&D, 8 cc of Vit. B, and 900 IU of Vit. E, all injected under the skin ( sub Q) as recommended in the book "Managing Your Ewe" by Laura Lawson.

    The ewe was only slightly improved several hours later, so I called the vet. When he came out, he diagnosed Hypocalcemia or Milk Fever, caused by low blood calcium levels. He said that the Cal-Dextro had helped, but that I hadn't given her enough Calcium. He gave her a sub-Q injection of 250 cc of Cal-Phos which contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and dextrose.

    The ewe was up within several hours, and lambed with a 17.3 lb. single ram 5 days later.

    The question is, why did she have low calcium levels? The ewes had been on a high grain diet, with grass hay through most of their pregnancy, and alfalfa the last month, so perhaps she wasn't getting enough calcium in her ration. I should have had the hay tested, and done some ration balancing. Sheep can be fed ground limestone or dicalcium-phosphate to balance the ration. Luckily, I didn't loose the ewe or her lamb, and I learned an important lesson about feeding.

    For more information on metabolic diseases, see Milk Fever Strikes, an article on Milk Fever and Ketosis by Susan Schoenian, Sheep and Goat Specialist at the University of Maryland.

    Jim and Martha McGrath
    HC 72 Box 14D
    Franklin, WV, 26807
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