December 6, 2010

Goat and water bucket
Photo by Sue Weaver
Dad brings us warm water in buckets twice a day during the winter.

It’s only December, but it’s really cold in the Ozarks this winter. Our water buckets keep freezing and that worries Mom a lot. That’s because us bucks and rams and wethers need to drink plenty of water year-round. Not drinking enough can lead to a deadly condition called urinary calculi. That happens when mineral stones made up of phosphate salts get lodged in our urinary tracts and we can’t pee. Does and ewes sometimes form calculi, too, but their urinary tracts are designed differently and they can pass stones—we usually can’t.  

Urinary calculi are mostly caused by poor diets. We guys need diets with a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of at least 2:1. Grain contains a lot of phosphorus, so male sheep and goats (and llamas and alpacas, too) shouldn’t eat much grain. Nice grass hay and a balanced mineral supplement are perfect.

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But we need to drink enough water, too, otherwise our urine becomes concentrated and that makes stone formation more likely. That means using a heated bucket in the winter. Or, do like our Mom and Dad who carry buckets of warm water to us at least twice a day. When it’s super-cold, Mom keeps two sets of buckets for each group of guys: When she brings out warm water, she takes the frozen buckets back to the house to thaw out. It works! We’ve never had a stone among us—and we don’t want to!

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