General Sheep Care and Practices
Your primary goal is to reduce stress through good management, quality nutrition and proper healthcare. Observe animals daily by looking at their behavior and their movement — watch for any limpers (catch, examine and treat if necessary) and for animals hanging back or that don’t get up to feed. Provide daily outside access to a well-drained area for sheep not on pasture (no mud). Gently handle all sheep, refrain from yelling, yanking legs and horns, and pulling wool.
Contact your certifier before using any product that is not included on your Organic System Plan (OSP). Here are some basic healthcare practices:
- Have visitors use booties or foot baths to clean and disinfect footwear before entering barns or pastures.
- Provide a quarantine pen for at least three weeks for animals that are new to the farm.
- Be sure to check all hooves of new sheep for foot rot and trim hooves regularly.
- Consider a vaccination program
Provide free-choice minerals formulated for sheep. Check that ingredients are permitted in organic management. Provide fresh water, free choice, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Flush ewes by providing a higher level of nutrition before and during breeding. Select rams based on soundness and traits sought. Evaluate rams for soundness 30 days before breeding.
Provide adequate nutrition (pasture, high-quality forage or grains) to brood ewes during the last third of gestation and until their lambs are weaned. Allow ewes adequate space to move about freely during pregnancy. Check ewes regularly before, during and after lambing.
Some livestock managers choose to identify lambs with ear tags or tattoos at birth or soon after.
Shear sheep at least once per year. Some breeds are shorn twice annually. Have shearer disinfect equipment, electrical cords, cutter and combs before shearing. Have shearer wear clean clothing before handling and shearing your sheep. Keep sheep off feed for 12 hours before shearing.
Keep production records for each ewe, such as: percent of lambs marketed per ewe, conception rate, lambing rate, lambing percentage (lambs born per ewe lambing), lamb survival rate. Keep records of ewes’ performance before, during and after lambing. Mark and record I.D. numbers of ewes (if using). Specify those that are poor mothers — those lacking milk, having damaged udders, or “poor doers” (generally doing poorly). Consider culling these ewes and possibly their lambs.
Keep production records for each ewe, such as: percent of lambs marketed per ewe; conception rate; lambing rate; lambing percentage (lambs born per ewe lambing); lamb survival rate. Keep records of ewes’ performance before, during and after lambing. Mark and record I.D. numbers of ewes (if using). Specify those that are poor mothers — those lacking milk, having damaged udders, or “poor doers” (generally doing poorly). Consider culling these ewes and possibly their lambs.
We have a full list of sheep best management practices for all your sheep care needs.
More Sheep Resources
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