How to Keep Your Sheep and Goats Healthy

Group of Sheep and Goats

Good feeding and breeding is simply not enough to raise a healthy flock of sheep and goats; for maximum production you need to go above and beyond in providing the right lifestyle for these animals, and an effective health management program is essential for successful rearing of these herd animals.

Since each herd of sheep and goats is unique and will pose its own challenges, it is important to work closely with an expert – i.e. your veterinarian – to create and provide the right health plan for your herd. There are also welfare codes for both sheep and goats which you can use to help guide you along and care properly for your animals.

As a farmer of sheep or goats, it is important to take steps to protect your livestock’s health. Although maintaining good health is important for animal welfare, taking these measures will maximise the productivity of your herds and result in maximum yield, netting you more money. Here are ​our top tips on how to keep your herds happy and healthy:

1. Keep Records

You should keep a record for each individual sheep and goat in your herd(s) and track it regularly. By tagging your sheep and goats with identifiers, this job is made infinitely easier. Keeping track of stuff such as medications, vaccinations, injuries, breeding, culling and production gives you a useful bank of information which can be used to provide the best care plan for your livestock.

2. Deal with Worms

Internal parasitic worms – more prevalent in goats – generally produce symptoms such as pale membranes inside the eyelids and gums, swelling of the jaw, weight loss, decreased appetite, sneezing, diarrhoea and mucus in the nose. As a farmer, you will almost certainly have to deal with worms at one time or another, however, you can reduce the chances of worms becoming a problem by deworming your herd(s) with a drench gun at least twice per year – once in autumn and once in spring. Over-the-counter roundworm products are effective enough.

3. Check the Feet

Foot rot is another problem prevalent in goats and sheep which is caused by bacteria and can easily be spread from animal-to-animal. Goats and sheep which are reared on pasture or housed under intense conditions are more likely to be affected, however, if not dealt with, it can be fatal and cause a whole lot of problems for your entire herd. You can minimise the chance of foot rot occurring by keeping housing clean and stand your herd in a foot rot bath at least once per week for five minutes.

4. Provide the Right Environment

Sheep and goats should be provided with shelter year-round which will protect well from the elements and provide a warm place to bed down. If you cannot put up a barn, a three-sided structure will also work well. Ensure that this area has lots of straw bedding which your goats and sheep can use to sleep on comfortably and provide warmth during cold winter nights. It is important that their shelter also has plenty of airflow moving throughout it on a constant basis. Keep the doors to the shelter open and install a fan. This is especially important if you are keeping sheep or goats in a hot and humid environment.

5. Fence Off Your Farm

Sheep and goats will roam freely and if you don’t have a fence erected, they will wander off your farm, over the hills and far away. Rogue sheep and goats are a common sight out in the countryside and a sturdy bit of fencing can prevent this from happening. A fence does not just keep sheep and goats in, it keeps predators out. Aim for a fence of around four to five feet for maximum effectiveness, and electrify it if you can.

Now Take Action

The prevention of disease is a major concern for minimising health risks to your herd. Although they are wild animals, you need to keep a strict sanitation schedule and ensure that any housing is kept as clean as possible. This will prevent the outbreak of many problems which, when untreated, can become deadly.

Although keeping your herds’ housing sanitised costs you both money and time, the prevention of disease is much cheaper than the economic fallout caused by having to treat diseases when they have taken hold, or have animals put to sleep where a disease has gotten so bad that there is no chance of recovery.

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