Primary goal for proper Care and Management of sheep is take make profit. Every breeder has to follow below measure while raising sheep. By following these, the breeder can manage stress free Sheep farm, also can make profits year after year.
Housing and Shelter Management
Normally sheep do not require elaborate housing facilities but minimum provisions will definitely increase productivity, especially protection against inclement weather conditions (sun, rain, and winds) and predation.
A shed could be built along the wall of the house. Further protection could be provided with gunny bags or temporary or removable protections made of thatching material and bamboos. The roof of the shed should be made of the asbestos sheet supported by tubular or angular steel, but wooden rafters and thatching material could also be used.
Exotics should be provided 1-meter sq and native and crossbred sheep 0.8-meter sq space per head. Sheds measuring 18 m x 6 m can accommodate about 120 sheep. A chain link fencing or thorny bush enclosure of 12 m x 6 m can be provided for night paddocking of sheep on each side of the shed.
Pregnant, Parturient and Lactating Ewes
Careful management of the pregnant, parturient and lactating ewes will have a marked influence on the percentage of lambs dropped and reared successfully. So the following steps may be taken to afford proper attention to these animals.
- Do not handle the pregnant ewes too frequently.
- Separate the advanced pregnant ewes from the main flock and takes effective care in their feeding and management.
- Extra feed during the latter part of pregnancy(3 to 4 weeks before parturition) will be beneficial for the condition of the pre-parturient ewes which will help in improving milk production of ewes, and birth* weight and growth of lambs.
- Inadequate and poor nutrition may result in pregnancy toxemia, abortions, and premature births of weak lambs.
- Bring lambing ewes into lambing corals 4-6 days before parturition and provide maximum comfort. If possible, provide soft, clean bedding and individual lambing pens.
- Watch gestation length which ranges from 142 to over 150 days. Early maturing breeds have a slightly shorter gestation period.
- Save parturient ewes from cold and chilly weather.
Care at Lambing Parturition
A ewe about to lamb prefers to leave the flock. She is restless, the udder is often distended and external genitals are in a flushed and flaccid condition. Generally in healthy ewe parturition is normal. Still, the following precautions may be taken during and after parturition.
- Keep a vigilant eye for dystocia or difficult birth.
- Maiden ewes in poor condition or small-framed ewes mated to bigrams will generally have difficulty in parturition and will have to be assisted.
- Seek prompt veterinary aid and advice from an experienced shepherd or stockman in case of dystocia.
- Newborn lambs, after being licked by the mother generally stand on their legs and start seeking for teats and suckle milk. If they are not able to do so after sufficient time, provide help to them in suckling colostrum the first milk which is very essential for health and survival)ility of lambs.
- Save newborn lambs from cold, rain, and winds.
- Resort to artificial milk feeding or arrange foster mothers to disowned or orphan lambs. Goats can serve as an excellent foster mother, but ewes that have lost their iamb early after birth may also be utilized.
- Ligate, sever and antiseptically dress the navel cord of the lamb.
- Give at teaspoon full of castor-oil or liquid paraffin to the lamb to facilitate defecation and passing out of meconium easily.
- Donothandlelambstoofrequentlyimmediatelyafterbirthand let the dams lick and recognize them properly.
- Allow newborn lambs to be with their mothers all the 24 hours for the first week or so.
- Feed a sufficient quantity of good-quality hay and concentrates (if possible) to the lactating ewes for meeting nutritional requirements for early lactation.
- Provide plenty of clean fresh drinking water as the Lactating ewes drink a surprisingly higher amount of water during lactation.
Care of Lambs
The lamb should be taken care of to the maximum extent during the early period of life. This will also ensure better survival. The following steps may be taken for ensuring better growth and survival.
- Ensure proper suckling of lambs. Examine udders for the blindness of teats or mastitis.
- Take care of indifferent mothers and arrange suckling of lambs by restraining such type of ewes.
- Provide creep feed(good quality hay with or without concentrate mixture) to suckling lambs in addition to the suckling of milk from the tenth day to weaning age.
- If possible, make available green leguminous fodders or fresh tree leaves to lambs to nibble during the suckling period.
- Lambs may be ear-tagged or tattooed on the ear for identification (tattooing forceps and ear-tagging forceps should also be clean and sterilized at the time of use). Tail docking and castration may also be done in the first week or so by placing elastic (strong rubber band) at the intervertebral space and not on the vertebra.
- Alternatively, use a sterilized and clean knife for castration and docking, and resort to proper ligation and antiseptic dressing at the roof of the scrotum with testicles before it.
- During castration keep the lambs on a perfectly dry, clean, and hygienic site so as to minimize the risks of losses from tetanus.
Weaning and Care of Weaners
The management of weaners plays an important part in good sheep husbandry. The following steps are important in the proper care and management of weaners.
- Weaning should preferably be done at 90 days, although in breeds with low milk production or where re-breeding is desired it can be done around 60 days.
- Supplementary feeding and\good clean pastures for growing weaners should be provided.
- Weaned lambs should be drenched against gastro-intestinal parasites by the first month, and vaccinated against enterotoxaemia and sheep-pox.
- Weaners should not be grazed on poor Burry and thorny types of pasture since it could cause skin irritation, injury to the eyes, and damage to wool.
- They should be protected against the vagaries of climates and predation.
Classing and Culling
Classing and culling of sheep are very important for the development of a good flock. It helps to remove undesirable animals and breeding bran those which are most approximating the ideal sheep.
About 10-20 percent of culling should be practiced annually to develop a good flock. The flock size should be maintained by replacing culled ewes by ewe lambs born in the flock.
Maintenance of Records
It is very essential to maintain the necessary records at an organized(experimental or commercial) sheep farm to know about the inputs and outputs. This helps in working out the economy of sheep production per unit of area and per animal.
The following records should be maintained: livestock strength, breeding, lambing, shearing and wool production, mortality, purchase of animal feeds, medicines and equipment, and sale of animals and wool.
The shepherds commonly practice notching or punching holes in the ears for the identification of lambs. Tattooing is also satisfactory but is more expensive.
Metal or plastic ear-tags with stamped letters and numbers are most suitable although they are relatively expensive and heavy for the ears of the smaller native sheep. These ears tags are applied with the help of a clincher.
Surplus males are castrated to check indiscriminate mating but market demand most often favors the intact male. Castration is usually done by using a knife, burdizzo castrator, or elastrator.
The elastrator method is the best as it is painless and bloodless. It involves placing a tight rubber band around the root of the scrotum with the testicles below. The scrotum with enclosed testicles atrophy and slough off.
Docking or removing of the tail is not common in India. Tails in long thin-tailed sheep are cut as a sanitary measure to reduce the incidence of blowfly strike and facilitate efficient shearing.
Docking can be done with a sharp knife or an elastrator. The elastrator method is the best method if practiced within 2-3 days after birth.
A rubber ring is placed about 2-3 cm away from the root of the tail which checks the blood supply and results in drying off and fall of the tail within a fortnight
To control the ectoparasites the sheep should be dipped a few weeks after shearing when they have grown sufficient new wool to hold the chemical substance.
There are standard designs for sheep dips and there are many products effective against ectoparasites. A foot-bath may also be provided at the entrance of the farm to prevent the spread of contagious diseases like foot-and-mouth disease and footrot.