Monday, January 23, 2012

Mutton Mondays - Self-Medicating Sheep!

Juan Villalba is working on changing how sheep and sheep ranchers deal with sickness on their ranches in a very interesting way.

Drug- resistant parasites are a growing concern for the livestock industry. You can only imagine the detriment an untreatable illness can do to a flock.

Studies have shown that there are a number of livestock parasites that are becoming resistant to medication. These parasites are responsible for ailing and killing animals including sheep and goats. It doesn't take a genius to know that this can have a huge effect on our food supply, let alone many ranchers' livelivhoods. 

Villalba is experimenting with using pastures as a natural pharmacy. Yes, ou heard correctly! Farm animals will treat themselves by eating certain plants that contain medicinal compounds such as tannins, saponins and other natural compounds that can kill internal parasites. Crazy, right?

Villalba has sheep penned in a covered area that he calls "the cafeteria" and is teaching these sheep to associate eating these bitter tasting medicinal plants with feeling better. When the animals are placed in a pasture that contains medicinal plants, the sheep have been observed seeking out those plants when they don't feel well.

"By offering animals choices, we allow them to build their diet as a function of their own needs," he said. As the animals recover, they stop eating the medicinal plants.

Researchers see this as providing livestock with their own personal medicine cabinet. Villalba has about nine acres of test pasture where he grows a mix of medicinal plants and alfalfa. He is currently researching what combination of plants is best for sheep.

Shared from Sheep Industry News


The Coolidges said...

Very interesting. I would love to hear more about the results, whenever you find out.


City Life to Ranching Wife said...

It's definitely something I am following! Will be sure to update as soon as results are posted! :)