Who Couldn't Use A Booster?

Written on 02/01/2021

As each year of "husbandry" passes, I discover more and more little quirky remedies for the various maladies that crop up from time to time among the sheep. One of them is the use of an invaluable product called Rumen Booster. (And no, I don't get a nickel for the mention here and happily pay full price at our local farm co-op).

The product, a powder packaged in a pouch, is full of various vitamins as well as some little white pellets that I think are yeast – at least that's what it smells like to me. The purpose of the product is to get the rumen working properly again – possibly due to a sheep that has gone off food, eaten too much grain or simply needs to restore the balance of the bacteria in their rumen. It was given to me during our first season lambing by my vet when I had a little fella that was not eating anything after suffering from some pretty severe scours (what sheep farmers call diarrhea).

Over the years, Rumen Booster became a go-to in my cupboard when I found a sheep suffering from general ill thrift. The most compelling reason to use Rumen Booster is the Thiamine – or B1 that it contains. The level of B1 in Rumen Booster is quite high and what I find is that it is an amazing treatment for sheep that might otherwise be mistakenly diagnosed with meningitis, listeriosis, pregnancy toxaemia, or other ailments that present similar symptoms. The most noticeable behavior is the sheep appears to be temporarily blind, severely sensitive to light, and they tend to wander aimlessly, appear very uncoordinated and circle about as if they are "drunk".  

All of the ailments listed above effect the brain, and therefore cause a sheep to show these similar symptoms. When I discover a ewe displaying any of these behaviors, I capture them (easy to do when they're acting this way) and transport them into the barn with my little ATV sheep trailer. In the close quarters of a pen, I can not only keep a close watch on the ewe's condition, but they are less likely to get injured. Outside, wandering around off-balance and blind into brush or barbed wire fencing can cause the sheep to get hurt and tangled. I once found one of my ladies all tangled up in a pricker bush, lying on her side, head down resigned to the fact that she was unable to see her way out. It's heartbreaking. (She recovered with Rumen Booster!)

Once in the pen, I first take their temperature and then almost always mix up a dose of Rumen Booster – 30ml of the powder with 100ml of milk, warmed slightly. What I have discovered is that as a first treatment attempt, it can really do no harm if I'm wrong, and nearly EVERY time one dose of this stuff cured the sheep within only a few hours. 

So why does this work? 

Thiamine / B1 deficiency is an interesting situation. Thiamine is produced by the bacteria in the rumen. When the rumen is not functioning properly, and thiamine levels are reduced, the sheep can quickly seem to be very sick. When I looked up Thiamine deficiency, I read that it "reduces the energy available to the brain, which leads to a type of brain degeneration". This explains the various weird behaviors a ewe will display when thiamine dips below normal. It also explains why a sheep that has gone off its food, causing a change in the rumen function, would experience this, and, more importantly, why Rumen Booster is so effective in reversing the effects caused by low levels of B1.

Of course, the same symptoms can mean a more severe health issue, so it’s not always the perfect remedy. I have had a case of meningitis, and a few other more severe illnesses, BUT, I can honestly say that I have had more situations when the quickness of the recovery has proven that my poor ewe was simply lacking enough thiamine to combat the imbalance in her rumen. It is quite something to see them rebound in a matter of hours, once treated.

As Harry would say, "What could it hurt?"

Throw some in your cupboard. You won't regret it!

*PLEASE NOTE: I am not a vet and do not intend to give you veterinary advice. Please consult your own vet for any and all advice for your own animals.