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The Country Enterprise Handbook
Analysing your assets|Land use|Vegetables|Soft fruit|Flower & herb growing|Orchard & vineyard|Woodlands Sheep|Beef|Pigs|Rabbits|Hens|Ducks|Geese|Dairying|Kitchen|Bees|Wool|Water|Home|Contact us

Keeping sheep
...Slaughter practicality
...Jacobs crosses
...Ram management
...- Feeding
...- Castration & strike
...Summer & autumn

An all-important aspect of sheep management is to know your animals and to be able to recognise when problems occur.

Normally a sheep will breathe at the rate of 15-20 respirations per minute. Lambs will breathe more rapidly as will ruminating animals. However, any marked increase in the rate or ragged breathing is usually an indication of trouble. The normal pulse rate is four times the respiratory rate. The easiest place to find a pulse on a sheep is half way down the inside of a rear leg. The normal temperature for a sheep is 103-105 F. Young animals have slightly higher temperatures as do animals which have been exercising. A raised temperature is often accompanied by a fever. A low temperature can occur when an animal is haemorrhaging.

Faeces and urine are good indicators of a sheep's state of health. Any change of colour or smell that is not caused by a change in feeding should be suspected as the sign of a problem. Young grass often causes sheep to scour, usually this can be cured by feeding hay.

The initial requirement of a lamb is colostrum, this gives the lamb natural immunity to many diseases. If a ewe is vaccinated against dysentry she will pass immunity to the lamb via her milk for several weeks. From this early age the lamb is subject to attack from worms it eats from the grass. Worm eggs will last for a long time on grazed fields, to be quite safe fields should be rested for six-month periods, this of course is not always possible but at least some rotation should be practised to break the pattern of sheep eating worm eggs, worms forming inside the sheep or more eggs passing out in droppings. Sheep should be wormed regularly, how often depends on the system you choose. The simplest is to add granules of wormer to a feed of grain, the problem here is that the weaker sheep eat less of the grain and may not receive the necessary dose.

An injector gun is very effective. A pouch filled with liquid wormer is attached to the shepherd and holding the gun, western style, you can effectively dose a lot of sheep in a short time. It has been known for the shepherd to worm himself in this operation the needle is unpleasantly large but there do not seem to be any after effects! There are some diseases that occur regularly in specific areas, so it is worth asking your vet if there are any specific precautions you should take in your area.