Optimum sheep health is paramount to a successful sheep operation
because unless you're a veterinarian it isn't profitable, sustainable or
enjoyable to be treating sick sheep all the time.
Sheep health is really about denying sheep diseases from ever gaining a foothold in your flock. Besides sheep truly can be hardy, efficient and healthy animals.
Start with the right type of sheep - select a breed or commercial animal suited to your land, your type of operation and your goals.
Provide good feed - this should go without saying however many ranchers will push the envelope in trying to save a dollar. Feed quality is rarely the place to skimp.
Establish a mineral program suited to cover the shortfalls of your land and feed
Cull for the sake of the flock - individual animals who don't fit your program should not stay in it, repeatedly weak and ill thrift animals will only lower the health status of the whole flock.
Be selective with replacement animals (similar to culling)- keep only those candidates who will improve your flock and bring you closer to your goal.
Work out a health program including vaccinations if needed/desired and how you will control internal parasites.
found that it took our first couple of years with sheep to work the
above points out and I think that's the case everywhere. You have to
become familiar with the animals and your farm to know what is needed.
When speaking of livestock health it is important to note that supplement and treatment are two different things. Supplements are given as free choice minerals or feed additives with the intention of maintaining health.
Treatment is not a mineral program. If you are treating an animal it means it is already sick. Treatment of animals often takes a best guess approach thus treatment of animals is often riskier than providing properly researched supplements to begin with.
Sick animals still need to receive treatment but then the focus can shift to righting the imbalance at the source so that there is not a reoccurrence. This diminishes treatments in the future.
Tend to the land and trust the animals.
When ill health plagues a flock it is a clue that something is out of balance.
The land is important to providing what the animals need to maintain health. That's why they eat off of it. A vast variety of plant species provides a vast variety of minerals and vitamins.
The health of the soil and the grass, the quality of our forage and water supply all contribute to the well being of the flock. Everything has to balance and the flock will tell if we're on track or not. We always utilize what the experts tell us about sheep nutrients to further our knowledge, but let the flock be our gauge on how we're doing.
Trusting the animals means trusting they will know what plants and minerals they need and when they need them. To do that they must have access to what they may need.
Trusting the animals also means taking any sickness as an indication that something in your operation is amiss rather than blaming the animals for being sickly. And on the flip side, their good health means you are on the right track.
Tending to the land and striving for optimum sheep health does not render one immune from problems but it sure can lessen time and dollars spent. A healthy flock is seldom in need of treatment, and even some of the routine cares that have become so common-place in raising sheep, can be eliminated.
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