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How to start a sheep farm

By Paul Kang'ethe

Without a flicker of doubt, we all love mutton.

Sheep are ruminants with a four-chambered stomach, they spend about a third of their life ruminating and need peace and a quiet environment. They are used for mutton, skins, milk and wool.

A female sheep is an ewe while the male is a ram. The young one is a lamb. Pregnancy lasts for 147 days or roughly 5 months.

An ewe usually give birth once a year and have 1-3 lambs. Sheep normally live to be about 8 years old but can sometimes live to be as old as 20. Lambs form strong bonds with their mothers, and mothers are very protective. The lambs can identify their mother by her bleat.

When you decide to start a sheep farm, it’s good to know the following;

  1. Breeds

A breed is a group of domestic animals with a uniform appearance, behavior, and other characteristics that distinguish it from other animals of the same species.

Sheep fall under four categories: mutton, wool, dairy and dual (multi) purpose: e.g. mutton and wool, or mutton and milk.

Hair Sheep breeds include: Dorper, Nyanza Fat-tail, Persian Black Head, Red Maasai and crosses of these four with local stock. They are mainly reared in the arid and semi-arid areas.

Wool and Dual purpose breeds include: Merino, Corriedale, Hampshire Down, Romney Marsh and crosses of these breeds with local stock. They are reared mainly in the cool high rainfall areas.

When buying ensure that your stock is sexually mature, healthy, free of pests and diseases, easy to identify using an ear tag or otherwise, good posture and gait and ready to mate or be mated.

  1. Feeding

Nutrition plays a major role in the overall productivity, health and well-being of the sheep flock. Feed costs account for approximately two-thirds of the total cost of production, thus consider nutrition management a top priority.

Nutrient requirements vary with differences in age, sex, body weight and stage of production.

 

Proper feeding entails feeding your sheep with feeds well constituted with carbohydrates, proteins, mineral salts and vitamins as well as clean water. The quantities should be sufficient and be of good quality.

 

  1. Housing

Sheep require relatively small space. It should be constructed near the main house for security from thieves and predators. Use locally available materials to construct their boma. Ewes, rams and lambs should be housed separately.

Provide water and feed troughs.

In areas of high rainfall, it is desirable to keep the sheep off the ground. Stilted houses with a slatted floor which is raised 1 to 1.5m above the ground facilitate cleaning and the collection of dung and urine.

Milking can be done by providing a platform along the feeding fence where the sheep can stand while being milked from behind.

  1. Pests and diseases

Some of the nagging pests are ticks, mites, worms and coccidia. Deworming at the right time with the right dewormers as well as spraying with the right acaricides keeps pests at bay.

 Some of the common diseases include: Peste de Pestis Ruminantes (PPR), Orf, Bluetongue, Sheep and Goat pox, Enterotoxaemia, Tetanus and Brucellosis.

Routine vaccination against endemic diseases is critical in disease control.

Always isolate a new sheep from the herd for monitoring of any pests and diseases and subsequent treatment by a Vet.

The Dorper are not susceptible to fly strike and fleece rot. They have a high degree of disease resistance, and the Red Maasai sheep have a high tolerance/resistance to intestinal worms.

  1. Records

Keep individual sheep records on birth dates, birth weights, sire and dam, milk records, treatment records, feeding records and mating dates. With proper records you will be able to plan for activities ahead of time.

We wish you well as you venture in sheep farming.

Author; Dr. Paul R. N. Kangethe (BVM, UoN)

Email; [email protected]

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