Some first-time sheep owners have recently purchased some of my Quebon Coloured Sheep lambs. One of my life goals is to support other small-scale producers and hand-crafters that want to grow their livestock enterprise and make the best use of their wool and lamb products. So I am very excited about supporting first-time sheep owners through sharing my own experiences and helping others to establish a small flock like I did 10 years ago.
I was asked to put together a list of annual sheep husbandry activities that need to occur through-out the year. I really had to think about it as in many ways it is highly flexible due to seasonal conditions and flock structure. No two years are the same. Here is bit of a guide based on my own flock management. What do you do differently? What would you add to the list? (please leave your comments below).
- Crutch sheep
- Joining (late April) – gestation 5 months
- Shearing early Sept.
- Vaccinate ewes with Glanvac6.
- Lambing late September (increase ewe’s feed)
- Glanvac6 and Gudair vaccinate lambs.
- Lamb marking (tails docked and castration)
- Glanvac6 booster vaccination lambs 4-6 weeks after initial vaccination
- Ear tag lambs.
- Summer drench (barbers pole, liver fluke and tape worms) all sheep.
- Wean lambs
Once off activities:
- OJD Gudair vaccination – whole flock initially and then new sheep (if not already vaccinated).
- Lice treatment – for the introduction of new sheep and when lice infestation occurs. Best if treatment and shearing co-inside.
- Hoof trimming as required (important in wetter climates)
- Ear Tag: All sheep must have an NLIS PIC tag in their ear before being transported off the property (being sold, being grazed on a different property, going to a sheep show). Replace tags if lost.
Key issues to watch for:
Internal parasites (worms):
Initial physical indicators:
- Scours and/or worms seen in manure eg tape worm
- Barbers Pole worms causes bottle-jaw (swelling of the jaw) and anaemia – if on the white of the eye you can’t see the blood vessels this is an indicator of anaemia.
- Any deaths in the flock not otherwise explained.
Resources: http://www.wormboss.com.au (information about worms, testing and drenches). If you suspect your sheep to have worms, worm test and/or drench them immediately.
- What is fly-strike? Flys lay their eggs in moist and protected areas of the sheep (usually on the hind-quarters/ breech where urine and faeces have stained the wool). When the Maggots hatch they feed off the sheep’s flesh resulting in death of the sheep if not treated quickly (a few days up to a week).
- Sheep at high risk: sheep in long wool particularly over a humid summer, untreated scours, lambs not tail-docked correctly.
- Prevention: Fly strike is easily avoided by following good animal husbandry practices in a timely manner, such as lamb marking, crutching and/or shearing for summer.
- Resources: http://www.flyboss.com.au (information on susceptibility, how to reduce the risk through management and how to treat fly strike outbreaks)
- Products: Extinosad wound spray (comes in an aerosol can) – useful to treat the one off sheep with fly strike. Click is another good product used by larger scale farmers as a preventative and treatment of fly strike.
Dog attacks: be it the neighbour’s dogs or wild dogs, dog attacks have a devastating effect on your sheep. Call your local vet, Local Land Services biosecurity officer or Council ranger for assistance in dealing with injured sheep and the dogs responsible.
Going away for a couple of weeks?: ensure all your animal husbandry is up to date and you have arranged for someone to check on them weekly.
A good text on sheep ownership is “Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep” by Paula Simmons and Carol Ekarius. CSIRO and many bookshops stock it.
Any questions let me know. Melissa.