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Author Topic: Salt/mineral licks  (Read 471 times)

wildandwooly

  • Joined Feb 2021
Salt/mineral licks
« on: March 20, 2021, 08:27:18 pm »
To all you sheep veterans out there  ;D
I'm sure this sounds like a stupid question but.....!

I have a new fleece flock of Shetland wethers. I haven't done soil samples of the fields yet although I intend to but should I be supplying them with a mineral lick before I get the soil sample done or just Himalayan salt or nothing? It's upland roughish pasture. They have obv been having hay up to now and we have a late Spring here so not very much new grass yet, although the temperatures have been up this last 2 weeks and the grass is growing now.  They have the odd small amount of 'ok for wethers' sheep mix occasionally to encourage them to come to the bucket but nothing else.  :thinking:

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Salt/mineral licks
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2021, 08:45:17 pm »
Wethers do no work, and they're Shetlands, so they don't need much.  We give everything Himalayan rock salt all the time, and we also put out a mineral-only (no soya, suitable for organic systems) sheep lick too.  The wethers eat less of the lick than the girls, but they do take some.

Over a period of years, the fleece quality of the Shetland and Sbetland crosses began to reduce, and I am now giving a Jonathan Guy mineral drench once a year to all our sheep.  I will tell you after shearing if it's making the difference!

Assuming these wethers are for meat, you could probably give them nothing but the Himalayan rock salt and they'd be fine. 

It would be tempting with a small number to get a Rockies lick, but my experience with those is that sheep won't touch the sheep one (yellow) and the red one has too much copper for sheep.
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Salt/mineral licks
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2021, 10:07:18 pm »
@sallyintnorth wildandwooly mentioned that these are fleece sheep, not for meat. That means that other minerals might be important for wool quality.  I am aware that where copper uptake from soil with a high molybdenum content is restricted, it may be advisable to replace the copper with a bolus (Co-secure), especially for dark coloured sheep (and cattle), but as with salt it really does depend on the soil. It could be worth getting a soil analysis done for mineral content. Given the problem sheep have with too much copper, Co-Secure should not be given willy-nilly.
For salt licks, I don't have a clue - here they just wash away in the rain, so we give occasional licky buckets with minerals. We also feed our whole flock with willow and some other tree branches, which provide a lot of minerals in a natural form.
In Shetland, where everywhere is quite close to the sea, sheep are exposed to a high sea salt intake.  The sheep do tend to have finer fleeces there, and I wonder if there is a correlation. I wonder if that means that Shetland sheep have a higher need for salt than other non-island breeds


So what do we know about the influence on fleece quality as well as general health of the mineral content of grazing land?
« Last Edit: March 20, 2021, 10:12:30 pm by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

wildandwooly

  • Joined Feb 2021
Re: Salt/mineral licks
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2021, 10:29:33 pm »
Thanks both  :thumbsup:

Sally I've heard of the Jonathan Guy mineral drench. Sounds like a good idea once a year. I know the wethers won't need much, not like the ewes especially if lambing but still want to make sure they're nice and healthy :)  And yes Fleecewife I think I do need to get a soil sample done asap. Good point about the copper/bolus. Thanks for that  :thumbsup:
I was wondering about a licky bucket with minerals. We also get rather a lot of rain here too!   The willow also sounds like a good idea.

I'm keeping them as a fleece flock as @Fleecewife says not for meat so fleece quality is important. Also to help with conservation grazing as the land is a SSSi and I'm restricted on livestock. A few Shetland sheep are allowed!  :excited: However, by next year I might decide to expand and have a couple of ewes once I have more experience... :thinking:  ;D

Interesting point about Shetland sheep and fleece/possibly higher salt intake. I hadn't thought of that at all.

Thanks both, think the plan is to get the soil sample done as soon as I can and probably get a licky mineral bucket once I know more about the soil.
:hugsheep:

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Salt/mineral licks
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2021, 03:54:19 am »
Sorry, I missed that most important word - most unusual for me to not spot the word "fleecel!  lol

Oliver Henry, of Jamieson & Smith Woolbrokers of Shetland, told me that in his experience (which, as the chief grader and sorter of Shetland fleeces for the organisation which claims to process 80% of Shetland fleeces in Shetland, is vast!), tender fleece often indicates a cobalt deficiency.

As Fleecewife mentions, lack of copper can result in brittle tips and colour fading (different to sun-bleaching) in coloured fleeces.  I have seen bands of colour change in the staple of fleeces of sheep not given any copper supplementation (over a period of years), suggesting that the need for copper is higher at some points in the year.  I had one grey gulmoget whose fleece had very marked dark and light bands the years she had lambs, and was a much more consistent colour the years she didn't have lambs, so that would suggest to me a higher need for copper (probably it would be the copper affecting fleece colour) when she was growing lambs.

The whole of the UK is deficient in copper, cobalt and selenium. 

In the far north of England, most commercial flocks are routinely drenched with cobalt and selenium two or three times a year, and on the moorland farm we gave either copper needles or a chelated copper drench half way through pregnancy to our Mule sheep, to prevent swayback in lambs.  The Swaledales never had swayback lambs, whether we coppered them or not, but we'd get the odd swayback lamb in the Mules if we didn't copper them. 

Texels naturally cope with low copper, and can be adversely affected by too much copper.  North Ronaldsays from North Ronaldsay ditto, and are even more sensitive to copper, although people with flocks which have been on the mainland for generations say that they do not need to be quite so careful. 

JG does drenches with and without copper.  Because ours haven't had copper supplementation for some years, I got the one with copper this time.  When that's used up I will get the one without, and alternate.  As I only plan on drenching them once a year (after tupping), I don't anticipate problems, but if we decide to drench more frequently then I think I would probably have both types and only use the copper one once a year at most.

If I have any further qualms about fleece quality or any other issues which could be mineral deficiency related, I would talk to the vet and probably get the sheep blood tested.  Our animal health adviser in Northumberland said not to bother getting the soil or grass tested as it would be very deficient in copper, cobalt and selenium, as is the whole of the area - which includes where you are, wildandwoolly.  But if you do decide to get some tests, do let us know what you find! 
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Salt/mineral licks
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2021, 03:57:50 am »
We have made salt lick holders out of a flat trug fitted into an old tyre, with holes drilled in the bottom of the trug and also around the edge about half an inch up.  Most of the year the holes in the bottom are sufficient to stop the lump of salt melting away when it rains, but in winter when we get a lot more rain and the ground is wet and muddy, the holes around the edge mean the trug still drains even if the holes in the bottom are underwater / mud.

We do get through quite a bit of the himalayan rock salt, but it's only 5-7 per 20kg sack, and our sheep's feet have been so much better since we started using it. 

« Last Edit: March 21, 2021, 04:01:15 am by SallyintNorth »
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

wildandwooly

  • Joined Feb 2021
Re: Salt/mineral licks
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2021, 11:28:19 am »
Yes fleeces only lol. At least for now..... ;D

Love the salt lick holder idea Sally  :thumbsup:  Will def try that especially as it can get get quite wet and muddy here too. At least it did last year, it was awful :(   Also interesting about the himalayan rock salt and your sheep's feet.

Thanks for all the info both re copper etc. We're on some boulder clay over limestone here so maybe more acidic?  :thinking: Across the way from us it's just soil over limestone so quite limey. I'm going to get a soil sample done anyway just for my own interest really and as it's been a neglected SSSi but it'll also be interesting livestock wise.
As you say Sally if I have any concerns at all I'll speak to our vet. They're very well used to livestock here :)

Thank you both. I want to make sure I'm doing the right thing  :)
 :hugsheep:

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Salt/mineral licks
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2021, 12:16:32 pm »
Yes Sally, I was surprised too that you missed the word 'fleece' in wildandwooly's opener  ;D


For either of you, if you're in a scientific frame of mind, have a look at 'Cosecure research' in google.  Alot of it is about cows, but the principle also applies to sheep, with the proviso that care is taken over possible copper toxicity (not a problem I have found in all the years we have used it here), especially in housed animals and certain breeds (including BFL, which I had not been aware of)  Cosecure supplies Copper, Selenium and Cobalt in an annual bolus, adult or lamb size - a bit horrid to get down, and gets spat out occasionally, but the difference to the sheeps' general health and fleece quality and colour is amazing.  It's all to do with getting the source of the minerals into the rumen and able to be absorbed successfully.


Maybe we should try again with salt licks.  I suppose having Hebrideans, which have black feet which are pretty good in spite of the wet, we haven't really persued it. No sheep here were interested in the yellow bricks either.


Wildandwooly, what are you intending to use your fleeces for?  Spinning, felting, knitting, weaving, dyeing, to sell?  Both Sally and I are hand spinners, Sally rather more experienced than I am although I've been doing it at my rather sloppy level for a while longer  :spin:  There are a few other spinners on TAS, although we all seem to have sunk into torpor recently  ::)
« Last Edit: March 21, 2021, 12:18:38 pm by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

wildandwooly

  • Joined Feb 2021
Re: Salt/mineral licks
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2021, 12:36:24 pm »
Lol think we've all been in a torpor as this year has gone on  :-\

I'm just going to sell (hopefully) the fleeces, although I do have 2 friends who both spin and knit and another friend who just knits. I'm not a spinner or a knitter sadly although funnily enough my mum used to be a great knitter and could follow Arran and Shetland patterns. She did try and teach me when I was young......I learned how to cast on and do the knit one pearl one thing and cast off but kept forgetting how to cast off so I could have still been on that same scarf now many years later  :roflanim:
I'll look up the Cosecure stuff Fleecewife, it does look interesting and beats looking up recipes for the correct household disinfectant mix to use that I've been doing all year  ;)


 

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