By Joy Karuna of Lasa Sanctuary.
– The average lifespan of a sheep is 10-12 years. Their size can vary greatly depending on breed.
– Sheep are ruminants and rely on hay and grasses for sustenance. Grain is to be used very sparingly, and ideally not at all.
– Supplemental minerals will likely be needed. Beware of copper, which is toxic to sheep but found in many blocks.
– Due to being prey animals by nature, sheep are easily spooked and prefer the comfort of their flock. Use slow, predictable, and gentle movements and restraints. Isolate only in case of medical necessity.
– Hoof trimming and care is essential. Sheep, particularly those housed in damp pastures, are highly susceptible to hoof rot and hoof scald. Monthly inspections, cleanings, and trimmings will do wonders to prevent such painful and contagious conditions.
– Sheep required annual shearing. In hotter climates, bi-annual may be indicated. * Some breeds, however are self-shedding.
– Do regular inspections of sheep for any lumps, bumps, or masses/abscesses, as these may be an indication of CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis), a contagious and chronic disease.
– Blood tests can assess for CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis), another contagious and chronic disease common in sheep and goats. Symptoms of CAE can range from arthritis and weight loss to central nervous system involvement. Most cases are asymptomatic or progress slowly.
– Perform regular deworming procedures to keep your flock clear of parasites such as lungworm and Barber Pole, which can cause a seemingly sudden death if not detected and treated.
– Remember wool can mask injuries and weight loss, a common indication of illness or undernourishment. Be sure to do hands-on checks of all sheep monthly to assess for changes.
– As sheep age, their teeth become worn, loose, or even overgrown, which can affect their ability to eat and maintain proper nourishment. Perform regular checks, particularly if weight loss is noticed, and supplement accordingly.
– Attend to all respiratory symptoms and lameness immediately.
** Note that sheep are primarily grazers, so if kept in smaller spaces they will need plenty of supplemental hay. **