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Sheep Health

All Sheep Health Content

small group of sheep standing in a pasture

Sheep & Goats

South Dakota ranks sixth nationally in sheep and wool production. And the industry is growing.

From left: Meadow deathcamas in a South Dakota prairie rangeland. Silvery Lupine in a rangeland in South Dakota.

Poisonous Plants on Rangelands: Deathcamas and Lupine

With prolonged drought conditions throughout many areas of South Dakota, there is an increase of invasive weeds and poisonous plants on rangelands. Identification of poisonous plants is crucial to ensure livestock production is not compromised.

Two poisonous rangeland plants. Left: Woolly Locoweed.  Right: Lambert Crazyweed (Purple Locoweed).

Poisonous Plants on Rangelands: Locoweed and Crazyweed

Locoweed and crazyweed are found throughout South Dakota rangelands, and both can cause livestock poisoning.The names locoweed and crazyweed are often used interchangeably. However, there are notable differences between the species.

Low larkspur and twogrooved poisonvetch plants growing in rangeland.

Poisonous Plants on Rangelands: Larkspur and Poisonvetch

Larkspurs are the second leading cause for all livestock deaths from toxic plant poisoning. Poisonvetches are considered accumulator plants that uptake excessive levels of selenium and cause toxicity problems in cattle.

Three poisonous rangeland plants. From left: Hemlock, Halogeton and Buffalo Bur.

Poisonous Plants on Rangelands: Hemlock, Halogeton and Buffalo Bur

Several species of poisonous plants are invasive and can easily establish dense stands when there is a disturbance on rangelands. Hemlocks, halogeton and buffalo bur can all be found throughout South Dakota and are toxic to livestock.

Three woody plants. From left: Ponderosa pine tree, chokecherry bush and greasewood.

Poisonous Plants on Rangelands: Woody Species

Several woody plant species that are poisonous to livestock are found throughout South Dakota rangelands, including ponderosa pine, chokecherry, greasewood and broom snakeweed.

A closeup shot of a sheep's eye.

Small Ruminant Abortions: Cleanup and facility considerations

Sheep and goat producers in the upper Midwest rely on annual lamb or kid crops to maintain economic viability. Reduction in the lamb or kid crop due to abortion (premature birth) and stillbirths are a common occurrence on many farms. Some of these problems have implications for human health as well as animal health.

A rancher inspecting the water quality of a small stock pond.

How Do Sulfates in Water Affect Livestock Health?

Poor-quality water will cause an animal to drink less. As a result, they also consume less forage and feed, which leads to weight loss, decreased milk production and lower fertility.

blades of brome grass with a brown to black, thumbnail-shaped growth on one of the blades.

Ergot: A Potential Livestock Poisoning Problem

Cool, damp weather followed by warmer temperatures favors grasses becoming infected with ergot bodies, which can cause a certain kind of poisoning that can affect cattle on pasture.

A mother sheep cleaning its newborn lamb in a pen.

Newborn Lamb Care Management

Proper newborn lamb care is a critical component of flock profitability. In the U.S. lamb mortality from all causes is approximately 20% with more than 80% of those losses occurring in the first two-weeks following lambing.