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A brief guide for shepherds covering:

Selecting stock
Methods to prepare a flock

Criteria used in selecting stock for breeding.


Determining what breed has the qualities you need is necessary for
success, depending on what your flock produces will greatly effect this. If
you run a pedigree herd obviously you dont want to be diluting your gene
pool with different breeds. If you are producing lambs for slaughter it
would be recommended to use crossbred ewes (e.g. north country mule)
As they tend to have good characteristics for producing slaughter lambs
e.g. good mothering, decent conformation and milkiness.
The same would apply to rams when selecting for a pedigree flock,
however with slaughter lamb production a ram with a higher conformation
to be a terminal sire is usually desired as the good conformation of the
ram will lead to a crop of lambs with suitable conformation for market
Why is this important?
Though breed doesnt necessarily mean everything, as the animals within
a breed can vary as much as the breeds themselves, breeds do tend to
conform to general characteristics. Using a breed thats not suitable to
what you need is just wasting money as youll have produce not wanted
by the market which will lead to penalisation and your breeds may not be
suitable for your system or make the most of it (e.g. putting a hill breed
that can cope with poor grazing would be wasted putting it on more
valuable lowland grazing.)
This is the ability of the animal to put on muscle tissue, large lean
carcasses are generally whats wanted by the UK market so animals with
better conformation are usually more desirable. However larger muscled
animals tend to have problems associated with this such as difficulty
birthing, lack of milk etc (Breeds like Texals are notoriously difficult to
lamb). What a slaughter lamb producer would be looking for in a good
crossbred ewe will tend to be good conformation, but not to the extent
that there are excessive lambing difficulties like breeds on the extreme
side of the conformation scale. Rams on the other hand tend to be bred
to be as muscular as possible such as the Suffolk to be used as terminal
sires on crossbreds (e.g. north country mule).
Why is this important?

If your producing slaughter lambs this is really important because at the

end of the day conformation equals how much muscle the animal puts on
and muscle is what people are purchasing. If you have poor conformation

Performance records
EBVs or estimated breeding values have become a common and effective way to grade your
livestock based on performance and helps show the breeding potential of an animal. This system
was started by signet. This sort of grading only measures the ram and the lambs performance.

(Above). This is the sort of information that the EBV measures. When you see a sheeps EBV
it can be shown in a chart form that will show you how that animal compares to the national
average. The measured traits are important for productivity such as maternal ability which is
measured by the lambs weight gain by 8 weeks.
The index at the bottom shows the overall effectiveness of the animal this can be used to
determine its value but it is best to look at each trait individually to see if it suits your needs.

Why is this important?

This is important because traditionally sheeps traits were selected visually such as looking
at conformation, fleece quality etc but the EBV allows the shepherd purchasing to see
essentially the majority of its production history easily, thing that cant be visually
determined before purchase such as maternity levels and prolificacy can now be viewed
saving unexpected surprises.
It does however
need to be taken
into account that
the lamb will inherit
50% of the genes
and therefore the
combined values of
traits the progeny
receive will consist
of the ewes and
rams score halved
and added together
as shown in this

Scrapie genotyping
Scrapie is essentially the sheep equivalent of BSE (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy)
or more commonly known as mad cow disease. The disease if fatal and can be transmitted
from flock to flock Early signs include subtle changes in behavior or temperament. These
changes may be followed by scratching and rubbing against fixed objects, apparently to
relieve itching. Other signs are loss of coordination, weight loss despite retention of appetite,
biting of feet and limbs, lip smacking, and gait abnormalities, including high-stepping of the
forelegs, hopping like a rabbit, and swaying of the back end. Though it hasnt been shown to
spread to humans all animals with the disease need to be culled to avoid spreading it, this
can incur huge losses.
Some sheep are significantly more genetically susceptible to the disease than others this
affected by the amino acid sequence of the sheeps prion protein.

What is genotyping?
Its a DNA test for genetic resilience and can be tested for by taking a blood sample and
sending it to be genotyped, this will tell you which sheep have more susceptible genes. This
service is provided by many businesses but it can cost quite a lot with the test costing from
around 14 per animal. This does however mean by introducing scrapie resistant rams into
the flock over time the flock will be significantly more resistant.

Why is this important?

Though the disease has died down with only 23 cases in the UK in 2013 there is still a large
potential for another outbreak to happen due to more and more farms getting complacent
with genotyping Scrapie caused considerable loss of stock and led to some businesses being

Methods of preparing a flock for breeding

Condition scoring.
This is a method of visually and physically checking the body condition of a sheep. This is
done by feeling the spine, the rear ribs and the dock for the bones, if its very boney its too
skinny if the bones cant be felt at all its too fat the scale ranges from 1-5 (1 being very
skinny 5 being far to fat).
it is usually done at specific points in the breeding schedule to make sure they are suitably
well fed and healthy.

Recommended points and eblex recommended scores:

If ewes arent at the ideal condition score at the current point early condition scoring allows
you to make changes,
Segregate ewes post weaning into three groupsfat (>3.5)*, fit (33.5)* and thin (2.5 or

Identify pasture that will enable ewes to reach optimum score (33.5)* by tupping.
Realise that to gain 1 BCS, a ewe needs access to unrestricted grazing for 6-8 weeks

Rams body condition score should be between 3.5 and 4.0 (1 = very thin
and 5 = very fat) as tupping starts. Good condition is vital as 15% of
bodyweight can be lost in six weeks of tupping.
Why is this necessary?
Regular condition scoring is needed so you can spot any problems in terms of condition score and
rectifiy it before it becomes an issue e.g. if the ram is not a suitable condition level before tupping it
can have decreases in sperm count/fertility and is also likely to not have enough energy to get around
the flock. Or in a ewes case it might not have the nutrients to have a litter and might abort.

Checking feet
Lameness in sheep can lead to great discomfort in the animal and also drops in productivity,
this is due to the fact that when in pain animals are generally less likely to carry out normal
behaviors such as feeding etc meaning they can lose condition and potentially litters
therefore Annual foot inspection is to be recommended but trimming should only be
undertaken in a minority of cases. The purpose of trimming is to remove overgrown horn,
leaving sufficient wall to take the weight of the sheep. The corium should not be exposed
nor should bleeding be an outcome. While foot trimming is still essential to correctly locate
and drain a foot abscess, recent research work has shown that foot trimming is counterproductive in cases of footrot.

Checking udders is necessary as the udders will provide the best food source for your crop of
lambs early on it is recommended that you check them and deal with any issues e.g.
mastitis as that can lead to the death of the lamb and potentially the ewe if left untreated.
It is a good idea if possible to check the ewes udders pre breeding and after weaning. If this
isnt done your last time to check is as soon as they have been penned up before the lamb
has drunk, checking the udder has the correct amount teats and no lumps. you might be
able to get away with small lumps which are far away from the teat but this still carries a
large risk and it is recommended that these ewes are either treated with an intramammery
injection of a combination of penicillin, dihydrostreptomycin, dexamethasone and an
antihistamine or culled. In most cases the sheep will lose the teat even with treatment.
Also it is advisable to observe for summer mastitis from turning out till after weaning.
Preventative measures such as fly repellent and teat protection can also help.

Checking teeth
Checking teeth or mouthing is needed to find out two things. Firstly the age and secondly
the condition of its teeth. This can be done at any time the ewes need to go through the
race but a good example might be before turning out when drenching or when giving the
colostridial booster.
Related husbandry tasks
Checking teeth is necessary so you can know which will be able to cope with difficult feed
such as stubble turnips and so that ewes and rams with badly worn teeth or gummers can
be culled as they wont be able to eat well and their condition score will decrease.

Checking rams
rams need to be healthy and in suitable fitness level to be successful during
tupping, treating rams as anything less than vital all year round is a mistake that
can have significant weight to it as fertility and the amount of ewes they can get to
can fall drastically if not given the right care.

When checking rams pre-tupping its good to remember The four Ts: Teeth, Toes,
Tone and Testicles
Teeth- if the teeth of the ram get to worn or to many are lost he wont be able to get
the nutrition he needs to be successful and will need to be culled. You should also
look to see if they over cut or undercut, as this will also affect his performance and
may be inherited.
Toes- a lame ram will find tupping extremely difficult and wearing if not checked.
Feet may need trimming and foot bathing to prevent or treat problems. Check older
rams for arthritis. You should also look at how the ram moves around to check for
Tone- the rams condition score needs to be between 3.5-4 at the start of tupping, as
the ram will exert a huge amount of energy and will lose around 15% body weight in
6 weeks of tupping due to him running on his reserves as they tend not to have
enough time to feed.
Testicles should be large and as firm as a flexed bicep looking for equally sized
ones aswell. Large, firm testicles produce 80% more semen each day than mediumsized, soft ones. If more semen is produced, he is more fertile and fewer rams will
be needed to serve the flock.

Checking rams sexual organs

For a more detailed check-up you could also examine these areas.
The pizzle or the penis sheath needs to be checked pre tupping for sores or
infections such as pizzle rot as that can cause infertility. You also need to check that
it can extrude its penis without issue.
The Epididymis is the bottom portion of the testicle that delivers the sperm to the
urethra it needs to be checked for lumps or shrinkage as this could mean there is an
issue such as epididymitis the infection causes an inflammation of the epididymitis
with permanent damage to sperm and delivery of viable semen reducing the
breeding capacity of a ram.
Husbandry throughout the year

Preparatory tupping husbandry tasks

Round tailing
Round tailing is the cleaning up of the ewes tail before tupping, this is done because
overtime wool growth and muck can build up to make access to the ewes vulva
difficult for the ram. So it must be cleaned up to allow the least amount of
complication for the ram. This can also help decrease the amount of issues the ram
gets from genital infection and bacteria.
Foot trimming
Foot trimming tends to be done annually before flushing or when a problem is
spotted (e.g. limping ewes). Issues should not be put off as this can lead to more
severe cases by checking your flock every day you should be able to tell if any have
foot rot. Using footbaths in high traffic areas is an effective preventative measure
against foot ailments.
If you have to treat a ewe more than once for foot rot it is advisable to cull it, this is
because that ewe will harbor the infection and potentially spread it to the rest of the
flock however this is quite an extreme approach.

The most common thing for sheep to be vaccinated against is Clostridial and
Pasteurella diseases as these are the most common, the two diseases are usually
vaccinated against at the same time.
Farmers are advised to vaccinate their ewes against the clostridial diseases four
weeks before lambing. It is advisable to vaccinate the flock as two separate groups
with the later lambing ewes vaccinated one week to 10 days later than those ewes
lambing in the first week. The ewes must be dry when they are vaccinated and care
must be taken to ensure correct subcutaneous injection of every ewe. Subcutaneous
injection of ewes when they are wet may result in contamination of the needle and
abscess formation. Careful and gentle handling of the pregnant ewes is essential
during the operation; speed is not important. Farm dogs should be kept out of the
way whenever possible to reduce stress.
Although ewes are relatively worm resistant they need to be treated once or twice a
year. If any ewes are in particularly poor condition score pre-tupping it could be
beneficial to give them to give them a worming treatment to get them as healthy as
possible pre-tupping.
It can also be beneficial to give the ewes a post-lambing treatment to cut down on
the rise or worm levels in the spring and therefore reduce the worm intake to lambs
who are far more susceptible.
Pre-tupping during your ram MOT you need to make sure to shear your rams coat
this is so he doesnt overheat when exerting himself during the tupping period.
Otherwise you should shear your flock before the hotter seasons.

This is when you put the ewes on a very high plane of nutrition 2-3 weeks before
tupping, good nutrition will increase egg counts in the ewe and therefore increase
fertility this also increases the likelihood of twins.
Husbandry tasks during tupping
Attaching a raddle or some other sort of marking system
to the rams (tactor grease mixed with marking spray also
works). This is done so you can group ewes by expected
conception date after tupping (colours are changed every
few days), and if you are using novice ram this is also
used to see how hes doing.






It is caused by
a bacteria that
enters the
intestines and
multiplies while
creating toxins
leading to

Loose bloody
stool, lethargic,
loss of appetite,
kicking at
poor posture
and loss of
ability to stand

Vaccination four weeks

before lambing is
recommended as well as
vaccinating in two
separate groups 10 days
after each other.

administration and
suitable products

The disease is fatal in

almost all cases except
for a small percentage
of cases of malignant
oedema (bighead) and
blackleg which receive
veterinary treatment
during the very early
stages of disease.

Covexin 10 is a
suitable vaccine to use
Its administered

This infection is
caused by a

Many cases
develop quickly
and result in
death within 8
24 hrs. These
animals often
have fever,
discharge, and

A vaccination is
recommended to be
done at the same time
as the clostridial

Its caused by
two bacteria
infection in the

Limping, foul
odour of foot,
separation of
the horny
Redness around
the area and in
very poor cases
horn coming

Never bring in sheep

from infected flocks,
quarantine infectected
sheep in separate areas.
Have clean disease
pasture. And disinfect
areas that have had
contact. Foot baths are
also recommended.

Antiseptic spray is
usually used on the are
and an antibiotic is
used. Foot trimming ca
also be used but only i
deemed vital.

most commonly
caused by Lucilia
(Greenbottle) flys
being attracted
to the sheeps
dirty rear and
laying eggs in
the wool which
will then start
feeding off

Agitation of the
animal e.g.
stomping etc
a foul odur will
appear that will
attract more
flies, the wool
will become
dicoloured and
fall off.
cases can lead
to death.

Prevention is the best

form of control. Strike can
be prevented using pourons with insect growth
regulators. However these
products will not treat
existing strike (maggots).
There is some evidence
that it is hereditary so
culling of regularly struck
sheep may help, also
sheep with regulary dirty
rears. Shearing will help
temporarily but the risk is
still there with shaved
sheep routine crutching
started in april and
repeated every 4-6 weeks.
Tail docking is also

It can be prevented wit

a pour-on solution.
CLiK which is sprayed
on eqal sides of the


Foot rot

Fly strike

the ewe causing


Common diseases


Its caused
by a spore
which is
the eggs.

An antibiotic treatment
is suitable if it is caugh
early. Ox tetracycline i
preferred as some
strains are resistant.

Alamycin A 300 Solutio

for Injection, is a
suitable product. This i

The common
presenting signs of
coccidiosis are a
rapid loss of weight
and diarrhoea
containing mucus
and flecks of blood,
causing staining of
the perineum and
tail. Affected lambs
are very dull and

Keep lambs off

pasture which infected
older sheep have
used. If possible move
feeders occasionally
to stop the build-up of
parisites near the feed

Pen & Strep Suspension

For Injection is a suitab
antibiotic which is
administered via an
intramuscular injection

And it can be treated

with Deltanil 10 mg/m
Pour-on Solution for
cattle and sheep this w
kill the maggots and
help the infection but i
cant stop further
attacks. It is topically

Treatments with
diclazuril in are
suitable In killing the
parasite and reduce
egg numbers.

Vecoxan 2.5 mg/ml

Oral Suspension is a
suitable medicine, its
administered orally
with a drenching gun




multiply in
the gut and
damage the
gut lining.

lifeless. Fresh blood

and diarrhoea are
signs of this disease.

Its caused
by a

This disease causes

the ewe to abort its
lamb, the aborted
material and
placenta are highly
infectious and it
needs to be
disposed of and

There are 2 vaccines

available to protect
ewes against abortion
caused by
Enzovax, (Intervet
Schering Plough
Animal Health), and
CEVAC Chlamydia
(CEVA Animal Health

Oxytetracycline can
be used to treat inlamb ewes during an
outbreak to reduce
the number of

Its caused
by a
gondii that
is spread by
cats via

It will cause
abortions in mid-late
pregnancy and
foetal loss in early
pregnancy. It can
also lead to
mummified lambs.

Store feed in vermin

proof facilities.
Vaccines are available
and should be
administered 3-4
weeks before the
breeding season.

Same treatment as

Is caused
by a variety
of bacteria
the udder.

Lumps in udder,
milk consistency
changes drastically,
blood in milk, udders
are hot, swollen and

Clean bedding should

always be a priority,
disinfecting areas
routinely and avoiding
dampness will all help
prevent it.

Treat with penicillin

after disinfecting the

Keep off farm sheep

away, check new
sheep have been
dipped and get vets to
check any signs of
wool loss.

treatment would be
either plunge dipping
in diazinon or injectio
with doramectin or

Can lead to death in

the lamb and the
ewe if not treated.
Caused by
a mite
Sheep scab

It causes irritation to
the sheep and can
lead to yellowy
lesions on the skin.
Sheep with it tend to
have areas of tatty
loose wool or bare
areas due to

Alamycin A 300
Solution for Injection
contains Oxytetracycline
therefore it is a
suitable product. This
is administered

available as a vaccine
intramuscularly via
injection. Follow up
vaccine should be
given 2 years after th
first dose.

Pen & Strep

Suspension For
Injection is a suitable
antibiotic which is
administered via an


which causes
damage to
layer of the
skin between
the claws

It causes a white
layer to form
inbetween the
toes and soreness
of the feet. This
can develop to be
more severe and
break down the
foot as footrot.

Formalin footbaths,
good pasture
disinfecting areas
routinely and good
management will help
prevent it.

A spray containing
Oxytetracycline is
suitable for individua
treatment. For larger
groups a 5% formalin
foot bath is

Caused by
parisites that
feed off the

Sheep affected
tend to show
signs of
depression and a
loss of appitite
and condition. It
usually isnt
spotted until the
sheep suddenly

There isnt much in

the way of prevention
other than drenching
with triclabendazole.
Full proof of infection
is mostly only possible

Fasinex 100
(triclabendazole) is a
suitable oral drench
that will kill the

Caused by a

Signs are profuse

diarrhoea reduced
weight loss
emaciation in
some cases
anaemia in some

Regular anthelmintic
oral drenching for
worms is

ZOLVIX is a suitable
oral drench for killing
the parasites.

Caused by
bacteria in
the gut.

It causes lethargy
diarrhoea and
profuse salivation

Hard to prevent but

regular disinfecting
and clean
areas/bedding should

Oral anti-biotics,
soapy water enemas,
oral eltrolyte therapy
and amoxicillin
injections are

Liver fluke




Betamox LA
150mg/ml Suspension
for Injection is a
suitable intramuscula
injection to treat it.

Preg Tox

Caused by
an energy
shortage in
the ewe that
is carrying
many lambs

muscle tremors
and abortion.
Head pressing
may happen at
later stages, It
may eventually
end in death.

Give high quality

nutrition to ewes
expected to have
large amounts of
lambs triplets/quads.

Give the ewe an

energy solution such
as an Intravenous
glucose injection as
soon as signs are

Glucose 5g/100 ml B.
Braun is a suitable
solution for treatmen

Disposal of medicine.
Current uk controlled drugs laws require all unused/out of
date drugs be disposed of when no longer usable e.g. not
enough of that drug for another dose. Methods of disposal
include pouring liquids in sawdust and breaking and
dissolving pills in soapy water.


This is an example veterinary

medicine record. You are required by
law to keep these records up to date.


Example sheep flock health plan

Heritability of traits in sheep

Birth weight
Weaning weight (60 days of
Weaning weight (120 days
of age)
Mature body weight


Rate of gain (post-weaning)


Face cover

Multiple birth


Milk production


Ewe productivity


Loin-eye area


Fat thickness over loin eye


Carcass weight


Retail cut weight


Dressing percentage


Skin folds
Grease fleece weight
Clean fleece weight
Clean yield
Staple length
Fleece grade




Selection programs

Sheep selection programs should be used in all sheep enterprises as they promote
economically beneficial traits through selection, however it isnt possible to improve
all traits at once. Generally the more traits improved on the smaller the
improvement individually. The first step in any selection program is to identify the
traits of greatest economic importance. They may be growth rate, carcass merit,
fleece traits, or reproductive efficiency.
The improvement that can be made depends on:
-Accurate measurement of the trait.
-Complete records on the flock.
-The amount of selection pressure applied.
-The amount of variation of the trait or different traits among individuals within the
flock. If the sheep do not vary genetically, then no improvement can be made. If
they vary greatly, then improvement will be rapid when producers select only the
individuals that excel in the expression of important traits.
-The heritability of the trait. Variation in any economic trait is caused by genetic
differences and environmental differences. Variation that results from differences in
heredity is broadly defined as heritability.
Mixing breeds has an effect of hybrid vigour which has tended to show improvement
in terms of trait. Generally, crossbred ewes exhibit a higher reproduction rate,
produce more milk, and their lambs are stronger at birth. This makes them
significantly more profitable than purebred flocks.
Other than these traits, there are other negative that you would want to breed out.
Conditions like Entropion (in-turned eyelid) which is known to be hereditary or other
issues such as ewes which constantly suffer a certain ailment e.g. prone to foot rot,
fly strike etc

References, (2015). Sheep Production and Management: selection and breeding.

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guidance - GOV.UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Jan. 2015]., (2015). Scrapie genotyping | Sheep | Breeding Services | Innovis:
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Septicemia: Merck Veterinary Manual. [online] Available at:
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Flock Health Plan. [online] Available at:
option=com_content&view=article&id=170:sample-flock-healthplan&catid=29&Itemid=141 [Accessed 23 Jan. 2015].
understanding sheep EBV's. (n.d.). 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2015]., (2015). Store Lamb Finishing. [online] Available at:
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