Sheep Health

As the owner, it is ultimately your responsibility to provide a healthy environment so that your lamb may flourish and grow. A keen understanding of good husbandry practices, basic infectious disease prevention, diseases and conditions specific to your lamb and your farm are critical to the success of your project. This document is only meant to be a starting point for your farm health plan. You should also establish a relationship with a veterinarian to assist with a protocol specific to your farm.

FDA Restrictions

Off-Label use of antibiotics, dewormers and other treatments is strictly prohibited in food animals. These rules are set in place to protect the consumer and our food supply. Be sure to check all medication labels and comply with labeled use, dose and withdrawal times. Very few treatments are FDA-approved for sheep. You are directly liable for inappropriate or illegal use of non-approved medications in these animals. Off-label use of some medications may be permitted under direct supervision of a veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help you with proper use of medications in your sheep.

Vaccinations

Limited vaccines are available for sheep. Ideally animals should be vaccinated by the breeder and prior to purchase or moving. It is critical that you discuss specific risks and needs with your veterinarian to customize a vaccination protocol for your farm.

At a minimum, all goats should be vaccinated with:

CD&T Vaccine: This vaccine includes protection for overeating disease (Clostridium perfringens Type C & D) and tetanus (Clostridium tetani). Lambs should receive an initial dose at 1-2 months of age. Booster one month later. Booster adults annually.

Rabies Vaccine – Vaccination against rabies virus is recommended in project animals due to the potential zoonotic risk of becoming exposed or infected. Rabies vaccine must be administered by a licensed veterinarian.

Grazing & Pasture Management for Parasite Control

Identify the culprits

• Keep simple records that include identification, body condition score and FAMACHA score.
• Approximately 10% of the animals carry 90% of the parasites in any given herd.
• These animals become a “typhoid Mary” that will continue to incubate and spread large numbers of worms to the remainder of the herd.
• Animals that are repeatedly sick from parasites should be removed from the herd.

Grazing With Other Species
Sheep do not share parasites with horses or cows. Cross grazing or rotating pastures with cows and horses is beneficial and will help dilute the parasite load on the pasture.

Sheep will share parasites with sheep, llamas and alpacas. Therefore, cross-grazing or rotating pastures with these species should be avoided.

Grazing Time
Delay grazing until the afternoon. Haemonchus contortus (barber’s pole worm) larvae hatch during warm summer nights and follow the dew drops to the tips of the grass. Sheep that graze early in the morning on the damp grass will ingest more parasite larvae. By midday, when the grass dries, the parasite larvae will recede to the ground. Therefore, delay grazing until later in the day when the grass has dried.

Stocking Rate
Pastures that are overgrazed will harbor more parasites. Avoid overgrazing. Reducing the overall herd size or increasing the available pasture may be necessary.

Rotate Pasture
Pastures should be rested for at least 6 months. Shorter intervals will result in worsening parasites.

Deworming

Determine if Sheep Should Be Dewormed
-Use the FAMACHA score card to determine whether sheep should be dewormed.
-Deworm all that score 4 or 5.
-Scores should be checked every 2 weeks during hot, humid summer weather.

Fecal Exams
Fecal exams are recommended to identify whether treatment for coccidia is needed.

Fecal Egg Reduction Counts
-Help determine whether parasite resistance is a problem on your farm.
-Requires a fecal exam prior to deworming and a repeat fecal exam at a specified day after deworming.

Deworming
Weigh animals if possible to ensure correct dosing. Use the updated dosages provided. Animals should be held off of feed for at least 12 hours prior to dosing with an oral deworming product.

Other Common Problems in Sheep

Our veterinarians frequently diagnose the following diseases in sheep:

Contagious Ecthyma (Sore Mouth, Orf)
This disease is caused by a virus. It is spread by contact with infected sheep or other infected surfaces. Humans may also become infected with this disease. Sheep with this disease will have large crusting scabs and sores on their lips and nose. Some ewes may also have them on their teats. Sheep showing signs of this disease should not be brought on to your farm or taken to a show or sale.

Coccidiosis
This disease is caused by an intestinal parasite that is not treated with typical dewormers. Affected animals will have poor growth and diarrhea. Severe cases result in death. Young animals from 2-6 months of age are most susceptible to this disease. We recommend feeding a medicated ration containing a coccidiostat to susceptible animals. In some cases, a stronger prescription treatment may be required to treat coccidia.

Urinary Calculi
Urinary calculi are extremely common in pet lambs and project lambs due to feeding concentrate diets. Concentrate diets will cause changes in urine pH which promotes formation of urinary stones. Many lambs will pass tones through the urethra without further trouble. However, males are extremely prone to urinary blockage due to urinary calculi or stones. This can result in kidney failure and death. We discourage feeding any concentrate feeds for this reason. However, if you are feeding a concentrate, ensure that it contains ammonium chloride. Monitor your males lambs for normal urine passage. If you note straining to urinate you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Our veterinarians have treated sheep with several techniques including amputation of the urethral process, perineal urethrostomy and tube cystotomy. The best treatment for urinary stones is prevention!