Antiobiotic use is becoming the norm among livestock producers
Preventive Maintenance
Along with chemical wormers, antibiotics are a staple of many livestock producers' management programs. More and more sheep (and cattle and hog and poultry) producers are feeding their animals commercial feeds containing low levels of antibiotics and/or other drugs every single day, as a preventive measure. The prevailing theory seems to be that a continual supply of antibiotics in the animal's system will "beat the bad guys before they get a foothold."

Fast growth
Research has demonstrated that lambs (and the young of other species as well) show a dramatic increase in weight gain when they're fed antibiotic-laced feed from birth.

Of course, fast weight gain is an important issue when your livelihood hinges on getting lambs raised to market weight as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible, but this approach seems short-sighted to me. There's almost always a price to pay for fast and cheap.

The downside
One downside to overusing antibiotics is that, just as with using chemical wormers, the tough little critters we're trying to kill have the ability to adapt, mutate, and develop immunity very quickly. Hence, we need to continually come up with bigger, stronger antibiotic guns.

And then there's the issue of the antibiotic residue that may end up in our food supply.

Where does this cycle end?

SkyLines lambs grow up nourished by
mom's rich, pure milk, the farm's
lush green pastures, and leafy green alfalfa hay.
Antibiotics are not part of the program.

Antibiotics have their place
Don't get me wrong, antibiotics do have their place. They are truly the "miracle drugs." I always keep a supply on hand and have no qualms about using them on an animal if the natural method doesn't work for me. That's what antibiotics are for as far as I'm concerned, a last-ditch, big-gun method of curing infections that resist natural treatments.

Garlic is a natural antibiotic
In addition to being a great natural vermifuge, garlic also has antibiotic properties. Many livestock producers use it regularly and successfully. I have used the same garlic recipe described in the Parasite Control page as part of a regimen to treat mastitis (infected udder) in ewes. I have also used it for sheep with upper respiratory infections that I've been able to catch in the early stages. (I've often used fresh garlic on myself in the early stages of a cold too -- and does it ever work!)

As with many issues in life, I believe that the antibiotic vs natural method of treating illness is a matter of finding the correct balance.

Management practices work to support sheep health
One way to achieve balance is to provide a healthful environment for the animals. Good management practices help keep the sheep healthy and strong, meaning neither antibiotics nor garlic are necessary in the first place. The management practices followed on SkyLines Farm include:

  • Good nutrition
  • Frequent pasture rotation
  • Open and airy barns
  • Lots of exercise
  • Maintaining a virtually closed flock to reduce the incidence of imported disease

See the Natural Health Care page for more details.

Critical observation is crucial to any natural regimen
My experience has shown that catching the health problem in the early stages is crucial to the success of a natural health care regimen. This means that I have to spend some time every single day doing one of the things that I love the most - hanging out out with the sheep!

Looking with a critical eye
Critical observation is just that - it means really looking at each animal with a critical eye. Looking to see if anybody's limping, sniffling, has a poopy butt, has droopy ears or dull eyes, is standing off from the rest of the flock, isn't crowding to the feed bunk at dinner time, or just doesn't seem her normal self. If any sheep looks a little off, I immediately give her a thorough inspection to see if there's a problem. Early diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference in the success of a natural health care program.

It's working . . .
This kind of individual daily attention has proven itself over and over again to be the very best kind of health care management I can give to these animals. It's fun for me, it's easy, it's economical, and it works.

The sheep have responded over the years by remaining extremely healthy and vigorous, and by giving me strong healthy fleeces and strong healthy lambs that are up and running fast. What more could a shepherd ask for?



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SkyLines Farm 4551 Highway 6 Harvard, ID 83834 208.875.8747
Purebred Romney & Romney-Cross Sheep