Transport and Care of Sheep and Goats

Animal Welfare October 05, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Having bought sheep or goats from the sale yard or through a private sale, you need to ensure that you are prepared to provide adequate transport to your property.  It is important that you are capable of caring for your new animals, providing sufficient protection against predators and weather, as well as supplying them with a healthy environment.

Sheep and goats may be kept in numerous environments, from extensive grazing to closed confinement and housing (or a combination of both systems).  No matter how you choose to manage your animals, it is now your obligation to care for their welfare, health, nutrition and safety.

 

Key requirements for transporting sheep and goats:

  • Sheep and goats can be flighty, so move quietly and avoid the use of dogs.
  • A livestock transport trailer or truck is the preferred method.  The size and design of the transport vehicle should be compatible with the size and number of livestock being transported.
  • Transport animals in trailers or trucks with adequate ventilation.
  • The front of all transport vehicles must provide protection from the wind.
  • Sheep and goats must be transported in such a manner in which they are not overcrowded.  If necessary, make extra trips!
  • Sheep, lambs, goats and kids should have space to lay down without being crushed or stood on.
  • Separate classes of stock during transport; separate females with suckling offspring from mature males and advanced pregnant females from all other animals.

 

DO NOT:

  • Drag sheep or goats by their horns.
  • Drag sheep or goats with ropes around their necks.
  • Pick up sheep by their wool or hair.
  • Tie sheep or goats by their legs in order to restrain them.
  • Put sheep or goats in vehicles without adequate ventilation.
  • Put animals in the trunk of a car, sealed container or any type of transport vehicle that restricts airflow and adequate ventilation.
  • Transport sheep or goats with other species.

Speak to a livestock hauler or broker if transportation is required for your new purchase.

 

Caring for sheep and goats:     

 

Handling facilities and shelter:        

It is important that the unloading facilities, sheds, pens and paddocks on your property are constructed and maintained in a manner that minimizes the risk of injury, disease, overcrowding and trampling.

Your sheep or goats should be put into a small paddock or pen the first few days to allow them to become acclimated to their new surroundings.  Also, this enables you to inspect them for any diseases, injuries or lameness.  During this time, it is important to provide treatment to your new animals for internal and external parasites and to prevent resistant parasites from being introduced to your property.  This initial step is important for the biosecurity of your property and other animals already present.

Sheep and goats are sensitive to extreme weather changes.  Therefore, accommodation and shelter should be provided to prevent heat and cold stress.

 

General feeding guidelines for sheep and goats:

  • Depending on the type of sheep or goats you may have purchased, it is essential that their diet meets their requirements to maintain growth, pregnancy, lactation and fiber production.  Consult your local veterinarian, extension personnel or nutritionist for advice.
  • A holding paddock or pen is a good place to introduce your animals to hay, in order to calm them after transport.  When you finally introduce them to a larger paddock, it is best if you continue to feed hay for at least 2 days.  This allows their ruminant digestive system to adjust to the nutritional program on your property at a gradual rate.  If pasture quality or quantity is limited, you will have to provide your sheep or goats with dietary supplements until adequate pasture is available.
  • Sheep and goats are selective feeders; they graze and browse.  When they browse, they usually consume feed of low quality, so a supplementary feed should be supplied.
  • If the animals are confined to pens, they should be provided with good quality forage daily in the form of hay, or pelleted feeds which contain a minimum of 30% forage.
  • Sheep and goats should not be deprived of feed for periods longer than 24 hours.

 

Water requirements for sheep and goats:

  • Sheep and goats must have access to clean, fresh water at all times!
  • Water intake will vary depending on the temperature and type, size and production stage of the animal (eg. gestation, lactation, dry or breeding). 

 

Assessment of health of sheep and goats:

While the sheep or goats are being held in pens, use this time as an opportunity to assess them before you put them out to your paddocks or pasture.  The most important things to look for are:

  • Any injuries that might have occurred during transport.
  • Lameness or uneven gait.
  • Making sure lambs and kids are nursing on their mothers.

Please remember that sheep and goats require ongoing supervision and maintenance to remain healthy!

 

Table 1. Diseases of sheep and goats.

Disease:

Description:

Clostridial (bacterial) diseases

Clostridial organisms cause a variety of diseases, including Entrotoxemia (overeating disease), lockjaw and tetanus.  These organisms are found in the soil, where they can live for a very long time.  Clostridial diseases are usually fatal.  Prevention is easily achieved by vaccinating the sheep or goats.

Footrot

Footrot is an infectious and contagious disease caused by the bacteria, Dichelobacter nodosus (D. nodosus for short).  It can result in sheep or goats becoming severely lame and unable to graze.  It is important to have an experienced, well-trained individual examine the animals before you buy them.  Also, make sure that your animals come with a signed declaration of freedom from footrot.

Johne’s Disease

Johne’s Disease is a chronic wasting disease caused by one or more strains of bacteria.  The main symptoms of the disease are diarrhea, wasting and eventual death because the infection will remain with the animal throughout its life.

Sheep lice

Sheep body lice are external, biting insects that cause affected animals to become itchy and irritated.  Signs of lice infestation include excessive rubbing, biting and scratching.  Lice can become a problem in large flocks of sheep but are controllable, eradicable and preventable.  For further advice, speak to your local veterinarian.

Internal parasites and liver flukes

Internal parasites and liver flukes found in sheep and goats can cause severe production loss and death in stock.  Control of these parasites may be achieved by conducting fecal egg counts and through proper anthelmintic (de-wormer) treatments.

Due to the way parasites in sheep and goats have been controlled in the past, the parasites have become resistant to many of the common anthelmintics (de-wormers).  This has been caused by overuse and incorrect dosage rates.  History of the product and knowledge of how to administer the treatment is important in order to properly control the parasites.  Sheep and goats should be treated before they are moved onto pasture.  Minimum treatments and strict pasture management should be used to control internal parasites.

Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE or Big Knee)

CAE is caused by a virus, and a majority of the domestic goat population may have been exposed to it.  Young goats tend to get the form of the disease that affects the nervous system, while the arthritic signs appear in older animals.  There is no treatment for either form of the disease.  When purchasing goats, it is important to know the history of the herds in which they are coming from.

Ovine Progressive Pneumonia (OPP)

Ovine progressive pneumonia or OPP is a viral disease of sheep. The OPP virus can cause disease with any of the following signs: severe and progressive weight loss, labored breathing or pneumonia, paralysis, swollen joints associated with lameness, and hard, unproductive udders. However, most infected sheep never show clinical signs of the disease. Once a sheep is infected with the virus, that animal stays infected for its lifetime and serves as a carrier even in the presence of high levels of circulating antibodies.

Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is a contagious disease which may cause diarrhea, dysentery and in some cases, anemia.  Preventative measures against coccidiosis should be carried out as soon as the sheep and goats enter your property.  Contact your local veterinarian for advice.

Scrapie

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease that affects the nervous system of sheep and goats.  Scrapie is caused by a prion organism.  Symptoms include scraping against rocks, trees, and fences, lip-smacking, strange gaits, and compulsive behaviors.  There is a national scrapie eradication program set up to eradicate scrapie from the United States. There is no treatment for scrapie; suspected cases should be reported to your local veterinarian.

 

For more information, please contact:

This fact sheet was prepared by: Jessica Pempek, Roger High, Maurice Eastridge, and Naomi Botheras.  Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University.  June 2013.

This information was adapted from:

  • Transport and Care of Sheep, Deb Morrison, Department of Primary Industries, The State of Victoria, Australia.  July, 2007.
  • Transport and Care of Goats, Alan R. Ross, Department of Primary Industries, The State of Victoria, Australia.  July, 2007. (http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/DPI)

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.