Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Q & A

I had a number of questions regarding the post I wrote yesterday and want to try to answer them.

Rebecca wanted to know if the sheep ever have trouble:

Sometimes.  They live over on FB's farm, which is about 5 miles from here on the other side of the hill.  The soil on her farm is considerably better than here.  It has more gravel in it so it drains better, it has had a lot of organic matter added to it over the years and it has a higher pH - 5.2, which is not great, but MUCH better than mine.  The sheep and cows occasionally have foot troubles, but generally do fine.  There is a dairy farm farther down the road who also has very wet soil and their cows are plagued with severe hoof problems.

Fiona asked if we ever have trouble with scratches, which is a fungal infection that effects the skin of the lower legs:

RB has quite a bit of trouble with this and I do occasionally on Tessa.  I keep the hair on Tessa's pasterns trimmed short and seldom have an issue.  I have never seen it on the donkeys. I am not sure why except that they hate being out in the wet.

The Crazysheeplady wanted to know if lime or a custom mineral mix would help the soil:

Lime will help as it will raise the pH.  Low pH  = acid.  High pH = alkaline.  It is measured on a logarithmic scale of 1-10.  Good soil is typically around 6-6.5pH.

I have had lime spread on my fields several times and it does help.  However, the soil can only absorb so much lime at any one time so raising the pH must be done over years.  If I continue to spread lime every year, I will likely see positive changes in another five years - give or take.

Soil pH has a huge effect on what minerals are available in the soil.  The acid conditions "trap" minerals such as copper and zinc and prevents them from being used by the plants.  My soil tests very low in copper and zinc because of this.  However, if I were to add these minerals to the soil without fixing the pH first, the acid would prevent them from being used.  Because of this, a custom mineral mix would be a complete waste.

If I ever get the pH to a good place, than adding custom minerals might be a good idea.  However, if I ever get the soil pH to a good place, I may not need to add these as the minerals "trapped" would be "released" by the improved conditions.  Adding minerals to the soil before I get the pH right would be like having a bonfire with a large pile of money, which is, unfortunately, a mistake many people make.

I don't want to get bogged down in a discussion of soil science because people tend to get glassy eyed and leave when I talk about it, but there is one fundamental truth I wish more people understood:

Healthy, well balanced soil is what grows healthy plants. Healthy plants grow healthy animals with healthy hooves.  

Truly healthy plants provide every nutrient that a grazing animal needs and in the correct ratio that they need.  This is true for all crops.  Our heavy use of chemical fertilizers in modern agriculture forces plants to grow, even in poor soil, but they are not healthy, well balanced plants.  This is as true for corn and soy as it is for cucumbers.  That lack of nutrient balance is passed on to whomever eats those plant - including YOU.

Having acidic soil does more than harm hooves, it stresses any plant that grows in it.  When a plant is stressed, it produces sugar.  Grass grown in good soil generally has a sugar content of less than 10%.  That same grass, grown in acidic soil may have a sugar content of 30-40% and it will have severe mineral imbalances and deficits as well.

But that is a post for another day.

Cynthia asked what I thought of using apple cider vinegar for disinfecting feet during her wet season:

I know ACV is a great disinfectant and has all sorts of good benefits, but I think this is one of those things that works better in some places than others.  If you live in a dry area with good or alkaline soil, ACV is a great choice.  If you live in a wet, acidic area, than I don't see how spraying the hooves with yet more acid can help.  I am trying to get rid of acid, not add more and another name for vinegar is acetic acid.

I think ACV works great to ward off a cold. I find it of no use at all sprayed on hooves.  If you are battling bacteria, I find a diluted bleach or iodine solution works better on hooves.

I hope this is helpful.  If anyone has other questions, let me know.  I am struggling with my winter writing slump and could use the help.


  1. We get something called dew poisoning here - might be the same as scratches/might not - anyway, tends to/only happens on white legs. Same there?

    1. Actually yes. Lakota had 4 white feet and Hawkeye has one white foot, these were the only feet affected by scratches. Izolde never has this problem, 4 dark feet. I think you are right dew poisoning is the same as scratches.

  2. Your posts are always so interesting and so informative. My eyes do not glass over. I actually poor "Alka-Liche" around my trees. It is an acid made to counteract the Alkaline "soils."

  3. There is always so much to learn about feet and soil and plants and and and......its so good for us to keep learning.

  4. I'm not sure this is a sensible question, but what about little paths with the right kind of soil, that they could stick to? Until the soil is corrected by the lime you put down?

    1. An excellent question and something I have been working on. If I had the money, I would bulldoze a path around the field and line it with gravel. An expensive proposition though.:)

  5. We have dew poisoning also, but mainly it occurs on the faces of my equine with very light muzzles. From what I read the lump it into scratches too. So I don't know ... our dew poisoning mainly happens on the light muzzle. But none of our critters have white stockings.

  6. You could have fooled me that you are in the writing doldrums!

  7. I love how you can break down a complex subject so it is simple and understandable! I have learned so much reading your blog.

    I think you should teach in the sciences. You are a natural.

  8. Soil is such a complex area, Too Acidic Soil is the pits although you could grow blueberries! You just have to learn what works and what doesn't for you and your animals:)