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Homestead Ingenuity

Rachel lives with her husband and son on 8 1/2 acres in Central Kentucky. They have a multi species homestead which includes chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, honeybees, pigs, dairy sheep, and a milk cow. In her dwindling spare time she spins and knits. She recently published her first book ‘The Guide to Homestead Dairy Sheep’ with Sawdust Publishing earlier this year.

I began my homesteading journey from the perspective of a Nutritional Therapist, closet herbalist, and beekeeper. This mentally gave me a few barriers to diving into the conventionally accepted tools for animal health such as antibiotics, injectable vitamins, generic minerals and mass produced bagged feeds. Since I am trained on how to look for nutrient deficiencies in humans based off symptoms and ailments, I saw no reason to do the same thing with my animals. 
For example, I had a ewe who would not develop an udder in her final weeks of pregnancy. When she delivered lambs her udder grew to the appropriate size so fast it looked like someone was blowing up a balloon. This typically led to clogged ducts and mild cases of mastitis every spring. It was very stressful. A friend of mine had gone through something similar during her breastfeeding journey and her midwife recomended Sunflower Lecithin. My friend took capsules of this and didn’t have an issue anymore. 
Now one can certainly give a sheep a capsule – but it isn’t fun for either the shepherd or the sheep. It involves straddling the sheep, holding her head up, forcing her mouth open, forcing the capsule down her throat and syringing water down her mouth to force her to swallow. Hopefully she will do this and not defiantly find a way to hold the capsule in her mouth and spit it out. We go through this process every spring when we give our ewes copper boluses to fight off the inevitable parasite attack. 
I started thinking back to when I introduced herbs into our diet and my husband was… shall we say… passive aggressively compliant. He didn’t overtly stand against my herbal efforts. He just didn’t gleefully cooperate. The way I worked around this was to take his kryptonite – peanut butter- and add a good deal of honey to it and then lace this combination with powdered herbs. If the herbs were bitter I added cocoa powder. He found these herbal balls to be a delightful snack and our power struggle over health ended. I wondered if the same would work for sheep.
I haven’t heard of anyone feeding their sheep peanut butter but I have heard of farmers in the South feeding their livestock peanut hay. I didn’t have access to peanut hay but I did have plenty of access to cheap peanut butter. I bought a large container of loose sunflower lecithin from the health food store (designed for human smoothies and not animal husbandry I’m sure) and some very un-organic peanut butter from the dollar store.  
I had no idea what I was doing and no clue what precedent I was setting, and had no recipe to follow. I wasn’t even sure of what dosages I ought to give my flock. I decided to trust my instinct and there’s and just ‘mix up a batch’ and see what happened. 
So I added a scoop of peanut butter, a squirt of blackstrap molasses, a handful of dried comfrey and several spoons full of sunflower lecithin. I added some oat flour to make the concoction workable and made balls out of it. I then took it to the paddock to see if my congested ewe would be interested. 
To say she was delighted with this treatment is an understatement. In fact she liked it so much that the other sheep became curious and all started arguing over who really needed treatments as well. This ewe now doesn’t have an issue with clogged ducts. I also noticed that her parasite resistance increased that summer. 
Homesteading requires ingenuity, thinking on our feet and also thinking very much outside of the box. Sometimes the results are disastrous but other times the results are so positive we discover additional benefits we had no idea we would stumble upon. 


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