Preventing Urinary Stones
While the following advice could be applicable to numerous species, it is tailored to castrated goats and small ruminants who are most at risk.
Any producer with bucks, especially a whether needs to pay close attention to the risk of urinary stones and obstructions.
Ways to prevent stones:
1. Castrate bucks after 6 months of age to allow them further development of penile size, these animals at this age WILL be able to successfully breed, so they must be kept separate from females until 60 days after they’re castrated.
2. Use a salt block. When providing a plain salt lick, the animals will lick the salt and naturally drink a lot more water, which dilutes the urine and prevents stones. More water intake also helps does by maintaining a healthy rumen environment.
3. Minimize grain intake, this is true for does and bucks. Excessive grain will result in excessive weight gain and increased bloat and stone risk. A breeding/nursing doe will need to consume approximately 1-2% of her body weight in high quality 16%-24% protein grain. Fresh, high quality grass hay should be available at all times.
4. Ammonium Chloride can be used in feed to prevent stones (feed 1tsp per pound of grain).
When does are not breeding and are simply pets, they may not need anything more than high quality grass hay and a handful of grain daily to keep up with mineral intake requirements. Keep an eye on their weight and hair/wool quality to see if they appear “deficient”.
Baking soda can help buffer the rumen, but it is generally not required when the
grain is not being over fed.
Chaff hay is really not a requirement for most small ruminants. A good quality grass
hay will be easier and less expensive to feed and will appropriately maintain rumen
health. Chaff hay will spoil quickly when opened, especially in warmer months.
Without exception, every animal needs to eat primarily hay as their ration. A minimum of 80% of what the animal eats must be hay.
**USE EXTREME CAUTION feeding ALFALFA,** This is a very high risk factor for
stones, especially in male sheep/goats. It is true that Alfalfa can be fed and sometimes is a great option for lactating goats. It's also true that a 2:1 Calcium: Phosphorus ratio is what is really important to preventing stones. It's really hard to prevent calcium stones when feeding alfalfa to a backyard goat, and it is really hard to prevent struvite stones when feeding excessive grain. Stick with our recommendations for the best chances for success.
****the modern day disclaimer that shouldn't be necessary but unfortunately is****
At Bayside Bovine Veterinary Services, we acknowledge the presence of a growing number of online and social media sources quick to provide advice to goat owners. We also recognize their advice will at times be counter to ours. Dr. Weeman who developed this article for you spent years of his life raising livestock, has a Baccalaureate degree in animal sciences with an extensive education in animal nutrition, earned the distinction of being admitted to the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists in the field of NUTRITION (what we use to prevent stones), has a doctorate of veterinary medicine and a master’s degree in Comparative and Veterinary Medicine (the study and prevention of diseases pertinent to livestock and animals). If that's not enough, it is doctor Weeman who will be responding to the emergency calls regarding bloat/urethral obstructions etc, and therefore we strongly caution our clients from taking the advice of the internet warrior who is under absolutely no obligation to give accurate advice. We're not saying we know everything (we don't), we take our oath to the continual pursuit of learning seriously. We're not even beyond reproach...as a client of ours, we encourage you to ask us questions, especially when you've received countering advice. Teaching our clients WHY what we are saying is appropriate is key to ensuring our producers know HOW to adequately care for their livestock.