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VACTF Manual: Chapter 6: Animal Care Practices


Female - Ewe
Male - Ram
Castrated male - Wether
Young sheep of either sex - Lamb

Basic Animal Care Practices

NOTE: Feed and water requirements will vary considerably depending on the age of the animal, its size, amount of exercise or work that it performs, and physiologic status (e.g. whether pregnant or lactating, climate, etc.)

Remember that The Department of Agriculture must be consulted before any enforcement action is taken involving livestock or poultry (Title 13, Section 354 (3) (a))

  • It is recommended that fresh, clean water be available at all times.

  • Should have good quality forage or mixed ration available or be able to graze adequate pasture. Supplemental grain should be provided if needed to meet the additional nutritional demands of lactation, gestation, growth, cold weather or to compensate for poor forage or pasture quality. NOTE: grain can be oats, corn, or various mixtures, but the mixture must say SHEEP feed because cow feed mixes have too much copper, which is poisonous to sheep.

  • White salt or "sheep salt" block should be available at all times. Avoid red salt block because it contains excess copper.

  • Should be provided with shelter that affords them protection from heavy rain, snow, high wind, and sun, and a dry place to rest. (NOTE: According to Title 13, Section 365 (Shelter of Animals) "... all livestock... must be provided with... adequate natural shelter or a three-sided, roofed building with exposure out of the prevailing wind and of sufficient size to adequately accommodate all livestock maintained out-of-doors...")

Additional recommendations

  • Should be wormed about 2-4 times a year to prevent disease. Lambs may need routine worming over the summer about every six weeks, based on veterinary advice.

  • Veterinary care should include being vaccinated for rabies, enterotoxemia (over eating disease), and tetanus once a year.

  • Should have hooves trimmed once a year.

  • Should be sheared each spring to prevent matting and infestation with maggots known as flystrike.

Signs of neglect/cruelty - what to look for

Appearance of animal: thin - note that, with an unshorn (unclipped) sheep, you must feel the body of the animal to determine if it is underweight; maggots in genital area of unshorn female sheep; excessive hoof length - look to see if sides of hoof have overgrown and curled under the bottom of hoof; limping; animal "walking" on knees.

Housing Conditions: lack of food, water, and shelter; overcrowding (insufficient manger space for the number of sheep, a condition which causes the weakest sheep to be excluded from the food source).

Behavior: dull, minimally responsive; drooping head; animals rubbing up against objects in an effort to relieve itching from lice (wool on objects that sheep rub against). Note that sheep are naturally fearful of strangers.

If any of the elements above are present, arrange to have a veterinarian examine animals.

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