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Author Topic: Shetland Sheep - why do my wethers have brittle hooves?  (Read 2798 times)

ChilliSheep

  • Joined Jan 2013
Shetland Sheep - why do my wethers have brittle hooves?
« on: January 06, 2013, 11:06:22 am »
Hi there, I'm Julie and my partner and I own and run the Wiltshire Chilli Farm.  We have 5 Shetland sheep (all wethers, all brothers) who keep the grass under control and keep me in wool.  I'm fairly new to sheep keeping, having got 3 lambs in summer 2011 and adding another 2 lambs in 2012.  I think i'm doing pretty well and they all seem happy and healthy apart from one thing - 2 of them seem to have quite brittle hooves and all of them have some gaping of at least one hoof so that the dirt packs in.  There's never been any infection or lameness but not having kept sheep before i wonder if it's quite normal or not.  If not - is there perhaps a nutrition deficiency causing it that i can supplement against?  Any advice much appreciated.
Voss Electric Fence

jaykay

  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Cumbria/N Yorks border
Re: Shetland Sheep - why do my wethers have brittle hooves?
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2013, 11:10:50 am »
It seems to be an individual thing, one or two of my Shetlands have feet like this, the majority have rock solid little feet, even in the bog they currently live in  ::)
Quite a lot of my previous Rough Fells had feet like you describe. The occasional RF breeder really focussed on feet, and their flock's were much better - which makes me think it's genetic rather than mainly nutritional. 

ChilliSheep

  • Joined Jan 2013
Re: Shetland Sheep - why do my wethers have brittle hooves?
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2013, 12:09:23 pm »
Thanks jaykay.  Did your Rfs live happily with their feet as they were or were infections and lameness a problem?

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Shetland Sheep - why do my wethers have brittle hooves?
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2013, 12:11:39 pm »
Minerals are essential for hoof health.  Try giving them a good chelated mineral drench.  And/or making rock salt available for them to lick.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

jaykay

  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Cumbria/N Yorks border
Re: Shetland Sheep - why do my wethers have brittle hooves?
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2013, 12:45:27 pm »
I'm sure that's true Sally and the same applies to most animals.

However it doesn't explain why some sheep have shelly hooves and others don't on exactly the same regime. Therefore the difference must be genetic, and if it's genetic it can probably be selected for.

ChilliSheep, the Roughs seemed to need their feet trimming and spraying quite often, but given that they were fine.

I did the same for one little Shetland yesterday who was holding up her front foot at me as though she were saying 'this paw is poorly'. Mind you, it didn't slow her down much in the rush for cake and when I turned her over there was precious little wrong  ::)

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Shetland Sheep - why do my wethers have brittle hooves?
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2013, 12:50:47 pm »
Oh yes, I absolutely agree - propensity to good strong hooves is genetic and we'd all be wise to select for good hooves.  Here, all ewes are allowed to need help with their feet once, but any coming up for repeated assistance are culled.  I expect we'd have even better feet if we culled all offenders, not just repeat offenders, but other factors are as or more important for us, so this is the compromise that suits us.

We have been amazed at how few problems we've had with feet through this long, wet winter so far - and can only put it down to the fact that, because of the horrible long cold wet so-called summer, we've been caking our ewes before Christmas, which normally we don't do.  There'll be minerals in the cake.  ;)

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Shetland Sheep - why do my wethers have brittle hooves?
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2013, 12:57:32 pm »
Thr addition of seaweed -in granule or powder form - to some of their concentrate may just be helpful. I have done this to mine, in addition to culling some repeat offenders, and have had not problems with lameness (at least not as much as I would have expected in this weather).
 
If they are not fed anything other than hay  a mineral drench may just be the better option.

ChilliSheep

  • Joined Jan 2013
Re: Shetland Sheep - why do my wethers have brittle hooves?
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2013, 08:14:24 pm »
Thank you all so much, that's hugely helpful.  They get a mix of grass, such as it is in January, plus hay and a tiny bit of coarse mix.  I did have a salt & mineral lick in the field last year which was pretty quickly demolished (and looking back i should have taken the hint) but haven't renewed it so i'll do that tomorrow.  I guess it wont solve the problem but it might help mitigate against the propensity and i'll keep trimming and spraying little and often to keep things in check - and me in practice!

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Shetland Sheep - why do my wethers have brittle hooves?
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2013, 10:38:47 pm »
Thank you all so much, that's hugely helpful.  They get a mix of grass, such as it is in January, plus hay and a tiny bit of coarse mix.  I did have a salt & mineral lick in the field last year which was pretty quickly demolished (and looking back i should have taken the hint) but haven't renewed it so i'll do that tomorrow.  I guess it wont solve the problem but it might help mitigate against the propensity and i'll keep trimming and spraying little and often to keep things in check - and me in practice!

Actually I have a lot less problems since I don't trim regularly - I only trim their feet if and when they are definitely lame, and also not even on the first day I see them lame...
 
For scald (damp and raw skin in between their toes) I only spray, no trimming at all. If it is actually established foot rot I have found an antibiotic injection works much better (and in case of pregnant sheep also much less hassle).

SteveHants

  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: Shetland Sheep - why do my wethers have brittle hooves?
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2013, 12:32:09 am »
Same here - my whole system is on a '1 strike and out' basis if I have to handle a sheep for any reason other than worms/vaccs etc, it goes when its better. I dont trim feet, wont tolerate mismothering/assisted lambings (in that: I will pull the lamb/mother it up, but will cull its mother as soon as it is weaned and I wont keep her offspring). I had 2 ewes with scald this summer, which aint bad going given the weather - they got sprayed, got better and went off as culls.


Re: the brittle hooves, I would select for function over form anyday - if the feet look poor to us, because our opinion is subjective, and yet work fine for the sheep concerned, why do anything about it?

 

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