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Sheep Farming

Sheep Farming

Sheep Farming

Sheep with its multi-facet utility for wool, meat, milk, skins and manure, form an important component of rural economy particularly in the arid, semi-arid and mountainous areas of the country. It provides a dependable source of income to the shepherds through sale of wool and animals. 

India can be divided on the basis of the agro-ecological conditions and type of sheep into 4 regions viz.  I. North-Western, Central arid and semi-arid region II.   Southern region, III.  Eastern region and IV. Northern temperate region. There are about 44 descript breeds of sheep available in India.

I. North-western, central arid and semi-arid region

Hissardale

Hissar and hilly regions of Kulu in Haryana. It was evolved by crossing Bikaneri with Merino rams. Average body weight of rams and ewes are 54 and 34 kg respectively most animals are polled. Colour is predominantly white, although some brown patches may be observed. Wool is of superior quality yield 2-3 kg per annum.

II. Southern region

      Important breeds in this region are

Nellore:  Nellore, Prakasam and Ongole districts of Andhra Pradesh tall animals with little hair except at brisket, withers and breech. Rams are horned ewes are polled. Long and drooping ears; 86% of animals have wattles male: 36 kg female: 28 kg

Mandya: Mandya district of Karnataka. Relatively small animals colour white - sometimes face is light brown, which may extend up to neck. Compact body with typical “U" shaped conformation from the rear. Ears long, leafy and drooping. Both sexes polled. Coat extremely coarse and hairy adult male: 35 kg, female: 23 kg.

III. Eastern region

This region consist Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland and Sikkim. Most of the wool produced in this region is suitable only for coarse carpets, blankets and kumblies.  The important breeds are Shahabadi, Chhottanagpuri, Ganjam, Balangir, Bonpala and Tibetan.

IV. Northern temperate region

It comprises of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and hilly regions of Uttar Pradesh. This region has 8% of the total sheep population. The largest population of crossbred sheep primarily developed for apparel wool is in this region. The important breeds are Rampur Bushair, Gaddi, Gurez, Karnah, Poonchi and Changthangi.

HOUSING AND SHELTER MANAGEMENT

Normally sheep do not require elaborate housing facilities but minimum provisions will definitely increase productivity, especially protection against inclement weather conditions (sun, rain and winds) and predation.  Shed could be built along the wall of the house.  Further protection could be provided with gunny bags or temporary of removable protections made of thatching material and bamboos.  The roof of the shed should be made of the asbestos sheet supported by tubular or angular steel, but wooden rafters and thatching material could also be used. Exotics should be provided 0.9-1.1 m2 and native and crossbred sheep 0.8-0.9m2 space per head.  Shed measuring 18 m x 6 m can accommodate about 120 sheep.  A chain link fencing or thorny bush enclosure of 12 m x 6 m can be provided for night paddocking of sheep on each side of the shed.

Classing and Culling
Classing and culling of sheep are very important for the development of a good flock.  It helps to remove undesirable animals and breeding from those which are most approximating the ideal sheep.  About 10-20 per cent culling should be practiced annually to develop a good flock.  The flock size should be maintained by replacing culled ewes by ewe lambs born in the flock.

Maintenance of Records
It is very essential to maintain the necessary records at an organized (experimental or commercial) sheep farm to know about the inputs and outputs.This helps in working out the economy of sheep production per unit of area and per animal. The following records should be maintained: livestock strength, breeding, lambing, shearing and wool production, mortality, purchase of animal feeds, medicines and equipments, and sale of animals and wool.

Identification
The shepherds commonly practice notching or punching holes in the ears for identification of lambs.  Tattooing is also satisfactory but is more expensive.  Metal or plastic ear-tags with stamped letters and numbers are most suitable although they are relatively expensive and heavy for the ears of the smaller native sheep.  These ears tags are applied with the help of a clincher.

Castration      
Surplus males are castrated to check indiscriminate mating but market demand most often favours the intact male.  Castration is usually done by using knife, burdizzo castrator or elastrator.  The elastrator method is the best as it is painless and bloodless.  It involves placing of a tight rubber band around the root of the scrotum with the testicles below.  The scrotum with enclosed testicles atrophy and slough off.

Dipping
To control the ectoparasites the sheep should be dipped a few weeks after shearing when they have grown  sufficient new wool to hold the chemical substance.  There are standard designs for sheep dips and there are many products effective against ectoparasites.  A foot bath may also be provided at the entrance of the farm to prevent the spread of contagious diseases like foot-and-mouth disease and foot rot.

Shearing
Shearing is done mechanically either with clippers, a pair of scissors or by power-operated machines depending upon the size of operations. Most flocks are usually shorn twice a year, i.e. March-April after the winter and September-October after the rains. In some states like Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan sheep are shorn thrice a year.

Pregnant, Parturient and Lactating Ewes 
Careful management of the pregnant, parturient and lactating ewes will have a marked influence on the percentage of lambs dropped and reared successfully. So, the following steps may be taken to afford proper attention to these animals.

  • Do not handle the pregnant ewes too frequently.
  • Separate the advanced pregnant ewes from the main flock and take effective care in their feeding and management.
  • Extra feed during the later part of pregnancy (3-4 weeks before parturition) will be beneficial for the condition of the pre-parturient ewes which will help in improving milk production of ewes, birth weight and growth of lambs.
  • Inadequate and poor nutrition may result in pregnancy, toxaemia, abortions and premature births of weak lambs.
  • Bring lambing ewes into lambing corals 4-6 days before parturition and provide maximum comfort. If possible, provide soft, clean bedding and individual lambing pens.
  • Watch gestation length, which ranges from 142 to over 150 days. Early maturing breeds have slightly shorter gestation period.
  • Save parturient ewes from cold and chilly weather.

Care at Lambing / Parturition 
An ewe about to lamb prefers to leave the flock. Ewe is often restless, the udder is often distended and external genital are in a flushed and flaccid condition. Generally in a healthy ewe parturition is normal. Still the following precautions may be taken during and after parturition

Care of Lambs 
The lamb should be taken care of the maximum extent during early period of life. This will also ensure better survival. The following steps may be taken for ensuring better growth and survival.

  • Ensure proper suckling of lambs. Examine udders for blindness of teats or mastitis.
  • Take care of indifferent mothers and arrange suckling of lambs by restraining such type of ewes.
  • Provide creep feed (good quality hay with or without concentrate mixture) to suckling lambs in addition to suckling of milk from tenth day to weaning age.
  • If possible, make available green leguminous fodder or fresh tree leaves to lambs to nibble during suckling period.
  • Lambs may be ear-tagged or tattooed on the ear for identification (tattooing forceps and ear-tagging forceps should also be cleaned and sterilized at the time of use). Tail docking and castration may also be done in first week or so by placing elastrator (strong rubber band) at the intervertebral space and not on the vertebra.
  • Alternatively use sterilized and clean knife for castration and docking and resort to proper ligation and antiseptic dressing at the roof of scrotum with testicles before it.
  • During castration keep the lambs on perfectly dry, clean and hygienic site so as to minimize the risks of losses from tetanus.

Weaning and Care of Weaners 
The management of weaners plays an important part in good sheep husbandry. The following steps are important in proper care and management of weaners.

  • Weaning should preferably be done at 90 days, although in breeds with low milk production or where re-breeding is desired it can be done around 60 days.
  • Supplementary feeding and good clean pastures for growing weaners should be provided.
  • Weaned lambs should be drenched against gastro-intestinal parasites by first month; and vaccinated against enterotoxaemia and sheep-pox.
  • Weaners should not be grazed on poor burry and thorny types of pasture since it could cause skin irritation, injury to the eyes and damage to wool.
  • They should be protected against vagaries of climates and predation.

Sheep Disease Management

SHEEP-POX

Epidemiology 
Sheep-pox is a highly contagious disease.It causes a mortality of 20 to 50 per cent in animals below the age of 6 months, and causes damage to the wool and skin in adults.Of the pock diseases, sheep-pox ranks only second to human small-pox in virulence.The disease is transmissible to in contact goats but not to other species of animals. It, however, spreads slowly.

Symptoms
The disease in characterized by high fever, and symptoms of pneumonia and acute enteritis.Skin lesions appear particularly in parts free from wool, notably around the eyes, inner side of the  thigh, udder and under surface of the tail. The internal organs such as trachea, lungs, kidneys and intestines are also affected.The disease results in emaciation and, as already mentioned, frequent  deaths of affected animals.

Treatment, Prevention and Control 
The diseased animal should be treated with palliatives.In the young ones nursing is more important than medication.The infected litter should be burnt and the bedding changed every day.Affected animals should be kept on soft diet.The ulcers on the skin should be washed with potassium permanganate lotion and dusted with boric acid; strict hygienic measures should be adopted.The method of control by the use of vesicular fluid was in vogue for dealing with sheep-pox.A couple of sheep were first inoculated with the  vesicular fluid on the under surface of the tail or the inner side of the ear by scarification.In about 4 to 6 days vesicles appear at the spot, and the fluid collected from these vesicles, mixed with equal parts of glycerol, served as a vaccine.Vaccination was done by scarification inside the ear or under the tail.In about 15 to 20 days, the animals becomes resistant to the disease.
(Source: Dr.Acharya, Handbook of Animal Husbandry)

BRUCELLOSIS OF SHEEP 
Transmission
A large number of organisms are eliminated ruing abortion.The mode of entry is by ingestion or via conjunctiva.The aborted foetus,vaginal discharge and milk from infected goats contain a large number or organisms.

Symptoms
In infected goats and sheep state of abortion may occur followed by a quiescent period during which a few abortions occur.The aborted animals do not breed.After 2 years or more another abortion storm is likely to occur.

Diagnosis, Treatment and Control
It is not possible to diagnose brucellosis on the basis of symptoms alone.The suspicion is aroused when humans in contact suffer from undulant fever and there is poor breeding record in goat herd and evidence of mastitis.The diagnosis can be done by the isolation of organisms and by serological tests.

There is no adequate treatment
This is based on hygiene, vaccination,testing and disposal.Good management practice is essential. Separate quarters should be provided for kidding.Immunization can be done with attenuated as well as killed vaccines.The test and disposal procedure is highly desirable.

TETANUS
This is an infectious, non-febrile disease of animals and man, and is characterized by spasmodic tetany and hyperaesthesia. This disease is prevalent all over the world.

Transmission
Infection takes place by contamination of wounds.Deep punctured wounds provide favourable conditions for the spores to germinate, multiply and produce toxin which is subsequently absorbed in the animal body.The micro-organism is present in soil and in animal faeces, and is carried into the wound by a penetrating object.The organism is present in the intestine of normal animals, and under some undetermined conditions multiplies rapidly and produces toxin in sufficient quantities to be absorbed and cause the disease.