How copper cuts down sheep

By Connie Orcutt • Published: October 1st, 2016
Category: Animal Airwaves

Every species of animal has its weaknesses. And one of those for sheep is copper toxicity.

Because of how sheep process copper, they’re the species most at risk of chronic copper toxicity. The offending mineral is most often found in other livestock feeds that are accidentally fed to sheep.

Excess copper destroys red blood cells, and that happens most often during stressful times like shearing, transport or severe weather. Sheep with copper toxicity may be very thirsty, have poor appetites and pass red or purple urine. And most sheep die within two days after signs first appear.

If any of these problems surface or sheep are found dead, the flock’s feed should be switched. Then the suspect product should be tested for copper and other ingredients. Sheep producers should also listen for feeds recalled due to high copper levels.