Commercial Sheep Farming
Sheep farming is among the traditional businesses and occupations of people in some countries of the world. Sheep are being reared as a domestic animal from ancient time.
If we talk about sheep farming they are suitable for meat, milk and wool production. If you have proper facilities, then you can raise sheep in both small and large scale.
If you are looking for a proper guide for sheep farming, this post will be useful for you.
The commercial business of sheep farming is very profitable and will recover your investment in a very short period. Before starting the sheep farming business, make an appropriate business plan and work according to the plan.
Here we will describe the main advantages of the commercial sheep farming business and the steps to start this business.
Firstly we will start with the history of sheep farming.
History of Sheep Farming
The history of domestic sheep dates back to between 11,000 and 9,000 BCE, and it starts with the domestication of wild mouflon in ancient Mesopotamia.
Sheep are among the first animals to be domesticated by humans, and there is evidence of sheep farming in Iran in ancient times.
These sheep were raised primarily for meat, milk, and leather.
The development of woolly sheep began around 6000 BCE in Iran, and cultures such as the Persians depended on sheep’s wool for trade. It was then imported to Africa and Europe by trade.
The first step in starting commercial sheep farming is the selection of a suitable place. Always consider the essential facilities for raising sheep, when selecting the place.
While selecting the area, always verify a good source of clean fresh water and the availability of green pastures.
A good medication facility, an adequate source of transportation and adequate marketing are also the essential facilities to start a commercial sheep farming business.
Consider all these essential things, while selecting the land for your business.
How much Space do I Need
Sheep do not require expensive housing. They are happy, as long as you meet their basic housing needs. But for commercial production, you have to make a separate and suitable farm for them.
The farm must be suitable enough to keep them safe from adverse weather and harmful predators. While constructing the farm keeps in mind the space requirements it is different for different age groups and health conditions.
Adult sheep 20 square feet of floor space.
Lambing pens should be 16 to 25 square feet.
Ewe with her lambs needs 16 to 20 square feet.
Feeder lambs need 8 to 10 square feet.
The space requirements will be less if the sheep are raised on slatted floors or if they have access to an exercise area or pastures.
Sheds for Commercial Sheep Farming
The sheds of the following types are required for the housing of animals such as:
- General flock shed
- Ram or buck shed
- Lambing or kidding shed
- Lamb or kid shed
- Sick animal shed
- Shearing and storeroom
General Flock Shed
- The flock shed shall be used for housing ewes or for breeding purposes.
- The shed can accommodate not more than 60 ewes or does.
- The shed should be three-meter high.
- Rams or bucks for breeding purpose is housed individually in these sheds.
- This shed can accommodate about 3 rams.
- The shed shall be partitioned lengthwise to form three equal compartments and these compartments are one meter high from floor.
- These sheds shall be used as maternity rooms. Pregnant ewe or doe are housed individually in these sheds.
- The shed contains a manger for holding feed and hay and a bucket for keeping water shall be provided in the shed.
- In cold climates, some heating devices, such as a room heater, should be fixed in maternity pens, so that newborns are protected from the cold during winter.
- Lambs from weaning to maturity are housed in these sheds at the rate of about 25 animals per shed.
- In this shed, more partitions are made for lambs, not weaned, weaned, immature and with near maturity.
Sick Animal Shed
- If your animal got sick then there should be a shed for sick and disabled animals.
- It should be away from the other sheds, one or more sheds of sick animals can be built.
Shearing and Storeroom
- The shearing and storeroom consist of two compartments.
- One room can be used exclusively to store wool and shearing equipment and to store feed and medicine.
- The other room used for shearing.
- The room should be made damp and dustproof.
Types of Equipment needed for Sheep Farming
Sometimes this is required to pin down bothersome ewes. If you don’t have a halter on hand, then another pair of hands can be useful for dealing with problematic sheep.
There are several different designs available commercially, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. When using lamb ropes, be sure to clean and sterilize them before and after use.
Buckets are used to carry water and cleaning fluids, a bucket with a wider base is better as it’s harder to knock over.
If you are watering lambs in buckets, be sure to use buckets with small bases. It is easy for the lambs to fall into buckets of water once the lambs are old enough to move and jump their pen.
If a lamb falls into the bucket, you want it to fall and spill its contents easily, thus preventing the lamb from drowning. A bucket shelf should keep a bucket of water out of reach of the lambs but should be at a height that allows the sheep to drink easily.
Many types of feeding equipment are available to feed sheep. Pails and buckets are often used for a small number of sheep.
For large quantities, some type of automation can greatly reduce the required manual labor. Feed mixing wagons and food delivery wagons make the fence line feed bunk an attractive option.
Types of equipment used for shearing of sheep are Blade shears and Machine shears. Sheep are shorn in all seasons, depending on the climate, management requirements and the availability of a wool classer and shearers.
Typically each adult sheep is shorn once each year. Ewes are normally shorn prior to lambing in the warmer months.
Different systems of Sheep Rearing
Grazing sheep and goats in the pasture and leaving them there throughout the season is the extensive rearing system. In this method, the cost of food is greatly reduced.
In this method, rotational grazing is used to make the most of the pasture grass. Animals graze from one section to another. By the time all the grass is grazed, the first section will have enough grass cover to provide the second grazing.
The semi-intensive sheep production system is an intermediate compromise between the extensive and intensive systems followed in some flocks with limited grazing.
It involves extensive management, but generally with controlled grazing of fenced grasslands. It consists of providing food in stables, shelter at night under the shed and grazing daily for 3 to 5 hours and navigation in pastures and grasslands.
In this method, the feed cost is somewhat increased.
Intensive System (zero-grazing system)
It is a system in which sheep goats are kept continuously under the house in confinement with limited access in which they feed in stables. Less space is enough for a larger number of animals.
This management system requires more labor and a high cash contribution.
We can also divide the rearing systems depending upon the type of shed such as:
• Rearing in the mud floor
• Deep litter shed
• Elevated floor shed
A good diet is essential for proper growth and maximum production. High-quality food also helps keep the animal healthy, productive and disease-free. So always try to feed your sheep with nutritious and high-quality foods.
Permanent pasture should be the predominant source of nutrition for the sheep flock. When a sufficient quantity of forage is available, sheep are able to meet their nutrient requirements from forage alone along with a supplemental source of salt and minerals.
In general, all types of grasses, hay, silage, and corn are the favorite food of sheep. When additional energy and protein are required, corn and soybean meal commonly form the basis of the grain portion of the diet.
Salt and mineral supplementation are required on a free choice, year-round basis. Failure to supplement salt and minerals results in low fertility, weak lambs at birth, lowered milk production, impaired immunity, and numerous metabolic disorders.
In accordance with the supply of nutritious and high-quality food, always provide your sheep with an adequate amount of clean, freshwater according to your demand.
Breeds of Sheep
Always try to buy quality breeds from famous farms or breeders. There are numerous sheep breeds available worldwide.
All sheep are not suitable for farming, some breeds are suitable for commercial meat production and some are suitable for wool production.
Choose suitable breeds according to your desired production purpose. You can also consider your local breeds. Some popular sheep breeds are listed below.
• South Down
Breeding of Sheep
Some points to keep in mind while purchasing animals for breeding purpose
- It is better to purchase a sheep with 2 dental ages.
- Females should have a long, preferably short body, roomy hind quarter, well-formed flexible udder, active feeding habit, and good maternal instinct.
- The udder should be thoroughly checked for any kind of defects before purchase.
- Male animals should be in good body condition, masculine, legs should be stronger and free from defects.
- The breeding male should show good libido.
- The breeding male should be having both testicles intact in the scrotum.
Reproductive Parameters of Sheep
- Sheep should start breeding at the age of 6-8 months
- Sheep comes to heat after 21 days of lambing
- Their length of pregnancy ranges between 144 and 152 days
- One male is enough for 20 females
A common practice known as flushing is done in the female before mating. In this practice, the extra concentrate is feed to ewes prior to the onset of the breeding season, normally 3 or 4 weeks before breeding.
This increases the ovulation rate of sheep, so the number of twins and triplets increases.
The flushing can be done by supplementing 250 g of concentrate per day or 500 g of good quality leguminous hay per head per day. The flushing will increases the birth rate by 10 to 20 percent.
Artificial Insemination in Sheep
Artificial insemination is also done in sheep. Fresh and frozen semen is used. The speculum insemination method is used for sheep.
In general, artificial insemination leads to a lower reproduction rate than natural service and frozen semen gives even a very low pregnancy rate, which is around 40%.
Cervical insemination is generally followed for a better conception rate.
If you are raising woolly breeds of sheep, the following preparations are required.
To avoid wool blindness in some breeds, excess wool around the eyes should be trimmed regularly. This process is known as eyeing.
Before the breeding season begins, wool must be completely removed from the entire body of the ram.
At least it should be cut from the neck and belly, particularly in the penile region. This process is known as ringing. This process makes it easier for the ram to have proper mating.
Wool removal around the perennial region and the base of a sheep’s tail is known as crutching. This facilitates better mating
Diseases in Sheep
Sheep can be affected by different diseases in commercial farming such as:
Clostridial diseases are caused by Enterotoxemia Type C and Enterotoxemia Type D. The first form, known as struck, is seen in adults that do not normally exhibit clinical signs but in lambs, it causes hemorrhagic enteritis.
Enterotoxemia Type D, also known as pulpy kidney or overeating disease, is seen more frequently in sheep. It can occur in lambs less than two weeks old and fastest-growing lambs or kids. Type D causes a toxic reaction in sheep.
Clostridium tetnai causes tetanus and lockjaw in sheep. The bacteria gain entry into the body through a contaminated break in the skin.
Treatment is usually unsuccessful, it is important to vaccinate the sheep farm.
Sore mouth disease is a viral skin disease caused by the pox virus. This condition is known as contagious ecthyma. The clinical signs of the sore mouth include scabs or blisters on the lips, nose, hoof, udder, and teats.
The sore mouth will also cause the loss of condition, depressed growth rates, increased susceptibility to other diseases and starvation.
Lactating females are more susceptible, especially sheep that have never been infected or vaccinated, as they can get the lesions on the teats. This makes it painful for them to allow their offspring to nurse, which can lead to premature weaning and even mastitis.
Several types of internal parasites affect sheep. However, excessively high levels of parasites are often detrimental to the animal’s health. The most common internal parasite is the roundworm that lives in the abomasum and the small intestine of sheep.
There are several types of roundworms that infect sheep, including Telodorsagia (Ostertagia) circumcincta, Haemonchus contortus, and Trichostrongylus colubriformis.
The most dangerous parasite affecting sheep and goats is the gastrointestinal roundworm Haemonchus contortus, also known as the barber pole worm.
Clinical signs include anemia (pale mucous membranes), edema, protein loss, and death. Animals suffering from Haemonchus contortus become weak and lethargic.
Treatment is usually done by the regular use of dewormer.
External Parasites common to sheep or goats include lice, ticks, and mites. External parasites are especially common in the winter when sheep or goats are in closer confinement.
Pour-on treatments are a common form of management for many external parasites and are more effective on shorn sheep or.
Lice that parasitize sheep are divided in to chewing and sucking lice. Chewing lice feed on dead skin cells while sucking lice feed by sucking blood.
Chewing lice are eradicated with pour-on topical insecticides while sucking lice can be treated with specific anthelmintics that control them. Administering injectable Ivermectin can also help affected animals.
Respiratory infections, or pneumonia, are a common and serious disease in sheep. Many times, a combination of viral and bacterial agents infects the lungs as a result of stress, such as weaning, transport, climate change, poor air quality, high ammonia content in confinement and dust conditions in the pens.
Clinical signs of pneumonia include fever with a temperature above 104 ° F, along with moist painful cough and dyspnea (shortness of breath). Anorexia and depression can also be observed in an animal suffering from pneumonia.
Treatment of pneumonia upon diagnosis involves the administration of antibiotics because there are different types of pneumonia.
Caseous lymphadenitis is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. Caseous lymphadenitis (CL) is a condition that affects the lymphatic system, resulting in abscesses in the lymph nodes and internal organs.
The infection can spread from the lymphatic system through the blood. The most commonly affected organs are the lungs, liver, kidneys and their associated lymph nodes.
When it affects the internal organs, CL becomes a chronic wasting disease, with economic losses due to the reduction in the value of the skin and carcass trimming.
CL can also result in a decrease in weight gain, wool growth, milk production, and reproductive capacities. Affected animals are often culled early.
The disease is transmitted by direct contact with an infected animal or by contaminated equipment or a contaminated environment.
Caseous lymphadenitis is also a significant risk to human health, as it has zoonotic potential. Humans can get the disease through the consumption of raw milk from infected sheep and through contact with the infected carcass.
Vaccination is done for the prevention of this disease.
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The natural reservoirs for bacteria are the soil and gastrointestinal tracts of mammals.
Sheep generally ingest L. monocytogenes by grazing pastures contaminated with feces that contain the bacteria. The bacteria can also enter the tissue through a wound or inhalation.
Listeriosis is also a concern when animals consume silage forages such as hay or corn silage.
Try not to feed the animals with the moldy portion of the silage and limit soil contamination when placing the silage, since listeriosis is more frequent in the soil and in the molded areas of the silage.
Listeriosis can cause abortion, septicemia or meningoencephalitis. Clinical signs of listeriosis include anorexia, depression, disorientation, facial paralysis, excessive salivation and, in severe cases, affected animals can fall sideways and exhibit involuntary running movements.
Abortions due to listeriosis usually occur during the third trimester of gestation and may occur at a rate of up to 20 percent in affected sheep flocks.
White Muscle Disease
White muscle disease is a degenerative muscle disease found in sheep. It is caused by a deficiency of selenium and vitamin E. Selenium deficiency is associated with areas where the soil is deficient in selenium, while a vitamin E deficiency reflects poor forage quality.
White muscle disease is most often seen in newborns and fast-growing animals. White muscle disease may affect skeletal muscles, heart muscle, or both.
When skeletal muscles are affected, the animal shows a hunched appearance. When the heart muscle is affected, the animal may have difficulty breathing; fever; and bloodstained foamy nasal discharge.
Other clinical signs associated with selenium and vitamin E deficiency are reproductive losses such as lower conception rates, fetal re-absorption, dystocia, retained placenta, reduced milk production, reduced semen quality, and reduced immune response.
White muscle disease can be treated with an injection of vitamin E and selenium since the condition can be caused by a deficiency in one or both. Affected animals will generally respond to a single treatment within 24 hours, and the second dose of vitamin E may be given if individuals do not respond.
Prevention from Diseases
Vaccinating the flock can provide certain insurance against specific common diseases. However, each vaccination program must be adapted to an individual operation.
The clostridial vaccines are the only ones that can be recommended on a blanket basis for almost all sheep breeds.
Sheep and goats should be vaccinated against Clostridium perfringens Types C and D and tetanus (CD&T) at the appropriate times. Combined vaccines (7 and 8-way) are also available against other clostridial diseases.
These vaccines are economical and when used properly are very effective in preventing losses. Clostridial diseases are endemic in all sheep and goat operations.
When handling vaccines, it is important to follow the instructions on the label, since vaccines must be stored, handled and administered properly. Only healthy animals should be vaccinated.
Meat market of Sheep
The three largest destinations for sheepmeat worldwide are China, the EU, and the US. They represent around 60 percent of world exports. With such a concentrated global trade, Australia and New Zealand have a great influence on the market.
Chinese sheepmeat imports are around 309,000 tons, with 25 percent from Australia and 35 percent from New Zealand.
Sheep Milk Market
Sheep’s milk is commonly used to make cultured dairy products. Sheep’s milk is a delicious alternative to cow’s milk, and also provides a number of health benefits.
That includes the ability to reduce cholesterol levels, strengthen bones, boost the immune system, stimulate growth and development, prevent birth defects, reduce inflammation, fight cancer and lower blood pressure.
Here is the list of high sheep milk-producing countries
- United States (Canada, Mexico)
- Europe (Germany, France, UK, Italy, Russia, Spain)
- APAC (China, Japan, Korea, Australia)
- Africa (Egypt, Israel, Turkey)
Some of the byproducts of sheep milk that are commonly found in the market are
- Liquid Milk
- Milk Powder
- Ice Cream
Sheep Wool Market
Australia, China, the US, and New Zealand are the world’s top wool-producing countries. Australia produces 25% of the world’s wool supply.
The quality of wool varies according to two main factors; the diameter of the fiber and its fineness.
Other quality factors are strength, length, contaminants, uniformity, and color. High-quality wool is normally used to process clothes. Low grades can produce upholstery, blankets, and carpets, among other items.
Sheepskin is used to produce leather products and clothing or coverings, including gloves, hats, slippers, footrests, car seat covers, carpets, and skins.
Sheepskin numnahs, saddle pads, saddle seat covers, sheepskin horse boots, tack linings, and girth tubes are also made and used in equestrianism.
Sheepskin fleece has excellent insulating properties and is also resistant to flame and static electricity. Wool is considered by the medical profession as hypoallergenic.
Sheepskin is a natural insulator and extracts the user’s perspiration towards the fibers. There, it catches between 30 and 36 percent of its own weight in moisture.
Sheep are cost-effective grass converters to meat, milk, and wool. Sheep will consume a variety of plant types in comparison with other animals but hardly harm any tree, unlike goats.
So, you can start commercial sheep farming for three different sources of revenue such as wool, meat, and skin production.