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Sheep, Goat & Alpaca Vet Tips

Sheep, Goat & Alpaca Vet Tips

You understand that the health and well-being of your sheep, goats, and alpacas are important parts of running a farm. Today, our Brighton veterinarians share a few quick tips and facts about these small ruminants. 

Small Ruminant Health

Ruminant animals are herbivores (plant-eaters) with a specialized four-chamber stomach that allows them to digest the tough fibers of grass and other vegetation. Because they are herd animals, an illness or condition with one animal can swiftly infect or stress the rest. If the herd increases in size, there may be a growing need for the services of a veterinary specialist for their ongoing health.

Some steps that responsible livestock owners can take include:

Some Facts About Sheep

Don’t let the term ‘sheepish’ fool you. Sheep are intelligent animals and are capable of more than just following the flock. Here are some facts you may not know about these farm animals that you’ll have to read to believe!

  • Sheep have an excellent sense of smell. To communicate with one another, sheep use scent glands located in front of their eyes and the space between the toes of their hooves.
  • Ewes recognize their lamb’s bleat. Sheep communicate through vocalizations known as bleating. A ewe is a female sheep who has given birth to a lamb. Ewes can tell which lamb is theirs simply by the sound of their calls.
  • Sheep can self-medicate. Sheep use plants and other items that would not otherwise be nutrient-rich to prevent or treat illness, and they also teach their young to do the same.
  • Sheep are emotionally complex with distinct personalities. Sheep, like humans, can experience a range of emotions. Many studies have shown that sheep can feel fear, anger, boredom, sadness, and happiness and that sheep can be pessimists or optimists too!
  • Sheep have an upper lip that is divided by a distinct groove. A philtrum is the name of this groove. Sheep are picky eaters and favor eating vegetation that is close to the soil's surface. They can get close to the ground and only choose the grasses and other vegetation they prefer thanks to the philtrum.

Some Facts About Goats

Humans and goats have a long and fruitful history of coexistence. These extraordinary animals—who are also capable of some incredible feats of their own—have been put to use for thousands of years in a variety of intriguing ways.

  • Goats were one of—if not the—first animals to be domesticated. In the Near East, the great domestication of goats occurred around 11,000 years ago. The incident marked a turning point in human history that marked the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to societies based on agriculture.
  • Goat's popularity surged following the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. The fair hosted the first dairy goat show in America, as well as a display of 300 Angora goats, the most ever displayed at one time. The Angoras drew swarms of fans to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition with their heavy coats of curly mohair, increasing national recognition for the breed.
  • Goats have rectangular pupils. They have a wider field of vision than people and other animals with round pupils. In their peripheral vision, goats can see 320 to 340 degrees—everything but what is directly behind them. This helps avoid predators. The flattened pupil's disadvantage is that goats can't look up or down without moving their heads.
  • A goat's milf is extremely popular. Even though we almost exclusively drink cow's milk in the United States, goat meat and milk are consumed by more people worldwide than any other animal.
  • 'Fainting' goats don't faint. The myotonic goat, also referred to as the fainting goat, is one of the more interesting goat species. Myotonic goats have a genetic anomaly that causes their muscles to freeze up in response to excitement or startle, which causes them to topple over. While their notable behavior has made them popular on the Internet, they aren't fainting—they are completely conscious and their muscles return to normal within minutes or seconds.

Some Facts About Alpacas 

Although they are gaining in internet meme popularity, many people in North America know little about alpacas. And it's no wonder since they've only been in the United States since 1984! Below are a few interesting facts about these fluffy, personable ruminants.

  • Alpacas are a part of the camel family (Camelidae) and it's thought that they may have distant relatives stretching back as far as 35 million years.
  • There are high numbers of alpacas in several countries including Peru, Chile, Bolivia, the United States, Australia, and Canada.
  • Alpacas' wool comes in a variety of 16 recognized fiber colors ranging from white through shades of grey/silver, black, and brown.
  • A reliable method of ascertaining whether a female alpaca is pregnant is whether or not she spits at a male. If she does, it's almost certain there is a cria (baby alpaca) on the way!
  • Alpacas are clever and can be trained to understand hand signals, simple commands, and tricks.
  • Alpacas are herd animals and will feel unsafe and stressed if there are fewer than 3 of them in a group.
  • Alpacas are fastidious animals and will create a 'litter box' to eliminate waste, if not provided with one.

For more information about caring for your small ruminant animals, contact your knowledgeable Brighton vet specialists.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you'd like to know more about how to care for your small ruminant animals, don't hesitate! Contact our Brighton veterinary specialists for expert knowledge on caring for sheep, goats, and alpacas. 

New Patients Welcome

Horizon Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Brighton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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