This page is based on articles that I write for the KHSI Hairald publication.  Articles are provided here as printed, with more photos and commentary.  "Here's How I Do It" is intended to provide basic ideas and  instruction, though hopefully there will be tips for the more experienced as well.
KHSI Hairald Vol.32, No.1

Here’s How I Do It…

              This is a new column to provide techniques and ideas intended to help sheep producers who are just getting started or are looking for alternative practices to a variety of farm tasks.  I will not say the information provided through this forum is “The Way”, just that it may be “A Way”, and possibly more efficient or effective than some current techniques.   We will come up with some topics and hope to hear ideas from many other KHSI members.  We are interested to learn about “How You Do It”, and we will work with some of the ideas presented and help get them into article form.

              The first topic is about using vaccination and drench guns.  Before using guns, I did a lot of single-dose injections with a syringe & needle and a lot of drenching with a single-dose drench syringe.   Many of us may not have been exposed to the techniques for administering any medications to animals  and some videos.  This was the case for me, and at about 100 animals, I had to find a better way. 

              I saw a variety of guns online and in catalogs. Spending almost $40 including freight was a bit risky, but I got lucky and purchased an adjustable 6 ml Prima Tech Bottle Mount Syringe.  While I was at it, I splurged another $8 for the Sterimatic Injection Pack.  The gun came with different size bottle mounts… exactly what I needed.  The Sterimatic component is a needle guard that threads onto the gun and covers the needle. This is a 2-piece guard that collapses when pressed against an animal.  What a winner. I saved a ton of time, I haven’t injected myself since (I used to do this twice a day) , I get the right dose every time and the needle guard only allows the needle to protrude out about ½”, so I do not shoot vaccine through 2 layers of skin and onto the ground anymore.  A device of this type is highly recommended.  The guard is called  “Sterimatic”, as it come with a replaceable cap that says it sterilizes needles for up to 100 injections.  This also saves on time and money to continuously replace needles. 

              Using the right length needle is critical to the success of using the guard.  The guards are for 1” or 1-1/2”.  I figured this out after a bit of frustration.  To prevent using the wrong needles from now on,  I wrote the needle length on my guards with a Sharpie.  I still get a bent needle once in a while, and I change needles more often than every 100 sheep, but this is 20x better than single doses and sticking myself. 

              After such success with the vac gun, I ventured into drench guns.  Previous to this, I used a 30ml drench syringe for each de-wormer (we do the dual de-wormer method) and did a little math with each does and set the dose nut (stop nut) to provide the right dosage.  I would have to constantly stick the syringe back into the original container to refill, though I knew I was creating some contamination of the fluid.  I was juggling syringes and trying not to spill containers or having to put the caps back on after every refill.  I went shopping and came up with the same brand of an adjustable 12.5 ml drench gun.  However, since the bottle did not connect directly to the gun, I would need to figure this out.  I took a shot and bought 2 bottles with rubber stoppers. 

              At first, I thought they sent the wrong rubber stoppers.  I just couldn’t figure it out.  It took me quite a while until I realized that I had to kind of turn the rubber stoppers inside out over the neck of the bottle.  Once I got the stopper right, the rest is simple with the adapters in the gun kit.  The bottles come with a plastic hook molded into the profile of the back/bottom, they just need popped lose.  I now fill the bottle, install my rubber stopper (smiling at myself every time), slide on the proper collar, screw on the bottle spike and hang the plastic hook over a bungee hook.      I use 2 guns - one for each anthelmintic.   I also found that most of the plastic bottles with dextrose and other fluids can be reused with the same rubber stoppers.  I label the bottles with a Sharpie and use that bottle only for that product.  

              If we have more than 10 sheep that need the same oral treatment, we use the drench guns.  I never vaccinate without the syringe gun anymore.  The biggest problem I had was that the syringe gun was knocked from my hand once and the weight of a new bottle of vac snapped the neck of the bottle connection.  I now stock the replacement spike and tool.  While I was at it, I bought a spare drench gun, as we just can’t be without them. 

              Below left is my vac gun showing the CD/ T and Covexin 8 vaccines both fit with the same blue adapter (the adapter for the larger CD/T bottle came with the gun). The Sterimatic needle guards thread onto the needle end and the clear is for 1” needles and the green for 1-1/2”. The Stericap is the white disk that snaps into the end of the guard.  You can see the spring inside the guards that allow them to retract as the needle penetrates.  The gray knob between the handles adjusts the dosage amount.  For vaccinating, I set it at 2ml or 5ml and just make sure it fills the whole way before administering.  Be sure that the gun is oriented with the bottle upwards when releasing the handle, so a full dose gets into the gun. 



            Above right are the drench guns.  The tubing allows for the bottles to be remotely mounted from the guns.  The bottle spike and adapters are very similar to the vac setup.  The bottles however get filled from the original container.  The gray knob between the handles adjusts the dosage amount.  I often set the dosage to what I believe to be a common denominator.  If I am working sheep between 50 – 100 pounds, I might set the dosage for 50 pound animals, and squeeze 1, 2 or 1 and a partial shot.  If we are weighing 120 to 160 pounders, I might set it for 60 pounds and give up to 3 shots, not letting the 3rd shot fill completely up.  These units are easy to use in partial portions.

              This has been our 1st column at “Here’s How I Do It”.  Thanks for reading.  We do not intend to promote specific brands of equipment in this column and use brand names merely for guidance and to help readers with their own research on these topics.  The mentioning of any brands is without the manufacturer’s approval.  KHSI is not endorsing any specific products, procedures or practices presented through these articles.  This column is how I do it… not necessarily how you should do it.   However, if you have questions ideas about how to do something, please let us know, and we will try to find someone that can share how they do it.

 

Dan Turner

Ewe Lamb Right Farm

KHSI Hairald Vol. 32, No.2

Here’s How I Do It…
This column is designed to provide techniques and ideas intended to help sheep producers who are just getting started or are looking for alternative practices to a variety of farm tasks. For this edition, I would like to address the topic of scales. Again, I will not say the information provided through this forum is “The Way to Weigh”, just that it may be “A Way to Weigh”. Hopefully some ideas here may
provide some readers more efficient or effective ideas than they currently use.
When we were getting started raising sheep, the only time they were weighed was at the livestock market on sale day. It always surprised me that we were getting paid for 80 pound animals when I was sure they were at least a 100. How could that be? Unless I weighed them myself, I would continue to be surprised… and disappointed. We tried it all. We started with a bathroom scale, right from our bathroom. We thought we were clever wrapping the scale in clear plastic bags so we could see
through to the readout. I would weigh in then I would carry every animal as I stepped on and did the math. It was brutal in several ways. If that’s all you got, well then good luck keeping the bag clean enough to read through it and the scale clean enough for your bathroom. We did it once. 
            Though I bought a fairly inexpensive spring scale, which is in the one photo, I never got it to weigh anything more than lambs in a sling, which is a whole other complication. It was difficult to get a weight without the lamb slipping out the front or the back of the sling, or kicking enough that the scale never settled. I think that we used it for one weighing. For weighing newborn lambs, we purchased an
electronic scale from Premier 1, which is similar to electronic fishing scales. These work well and seem durable enough. They work in cold weather. They have several different units of measure, so make sure you are on “LB” each time, which is a little hard to read. One year I weighed a bunch of lambs in jin… whatever that is.
            The main thing we were trying to do was get lamb weights, so we could see how they were growing and we could use this data to keep breeding stock. I got enough confidence that purchasing some type of a real scale was a necessary step for our operation to be successful, but I wasn’t ready to spend any big money. I shopped around online and purchased a 1000# scale kit from A & A. Using this kit I could make the scale the way I wanted, and the kit was much less expensive than a complete scale. As a quick test, I bolted the load cells to a 2’ x 4’ piece of ¾” subflooring plywood. This is semi-weatherproof and very durable, offers more grip than a sheet of steel or aluminum, and is relatively cheap and easy to obtain. 

            The photo shows how the load cells connected under the plywood. We set a dog crate on the plywood and zeroed the scale. One by one we put a lamb into the dog crate and recorded the weight. This worked pretty well, though was slow. I then built a set of custom panels with gates that fit over the scale decking. We could then walk the lambs right onto the scale and we could weigh the adults. This was a great solution. The plywood deck has survived many years and the scale head itself is plenty durable. I have mistakenly dragged the scale head behind the golf cart,  cracked the plastic housing, weed wacked the communication cord in half, and basically abused it; and it keeps on working. It has an onboard battery, so we charged it in the barn and took it out into the field for hours of service. When I use it on the ground, I like to put a sheet of plywood under it so the load cell feet have even footing and don’t sink into the ground. Also, wet grass touching the underside of the

platform where the wires are connected seems to throw errors. It takes very little skill to build your own scale, so do not be afraid to try a unit like this.
            A few years ago we went to EID and now use a Tru-Test scale that transmits the weight viavBluetooth. This is basically another scale kit, so I made an actual weigh crate to sit on top of the load bars. The crate was about 2’ wide and 4’ long and this worked until our sheep started getting bigger.  We recently added 12” so it is about 5’ long now. The longer weigh crate has made it much easier for animals to want to go in. This saves a lot of time. Do not try to save money and make your crate too
short. My scale crate is made of mostly plywood, 1’ x 1” angle iron, 1” x 1” box tubing and ½” steel rod for the guillotine end gates. We can move several sheep per minute though this setup. If you do not use an EID reader, then I recommend that the head-end of the weigh crate is made of bars, not solid plywood. This helps to read the ear tags in the crate, when the animal puts her head down into the corner. We used to spend up to a minute just trying to read a dirty ear tag on a nervous sheep.
           Admittedly, the Tru-Test scale is now the most used scale on the farm, though I still use most of the others. The plywood platform scale is used to weigh seed, feed and hay bales up to 1000 lbs. It is highly portable and sets up most anywhere in a minute. Another scale that we use is a “postal” scale. It weighs in grams and ounces. We use this for weighing small items, such as Copper Oxide Wire Particle (COWP) capsules that we make up and colostrum. I freeze colostrum in zip-lock bags laid flat. When I get it out to use, I can weigh it while frozen so I know how many bags to thaw out.
            So we now own more scales than I would have imagined, as there is a scale for every occasion. If you want to keep growth data, you have to know your weights. Do you need scales? No, like you don’t need to own a ball to have fun bowling. But if you bowl competitively, you will own a ball for every lane type out there. If you want to up your game raising sheep, then you may need a few scales.

Weighing seed on the homemade scale

The underside of the homemade scale. Load cells in the corners.

Variety of scales for different tasks

Homemade weigh crate with the
Tru-Test scale system

This has been our 2nd t column at “Here’s How I Do It”. Thanks for reading. We do not intend to promote specific brands of equipment in this column and use brand names merely for guidance and to help readers with their own research on these topics. The mentioning of any brands is without the manufacturer’s approval. KHSI is not endorsing any specific products, procedures or practices presented
through these articles. This column is how I do it… not necessarily how you should do it. If you have questions or ideas about how to do something, please let us know, and we will try to find someone that will share with you, how they do it.

 

Dan Turner

Ewe Lamb Right Farm