Importantthings you need to know about animal health

For any animal farmer or keeper, one of the most important things that should always be on their mind is animal health. When you have any animal be it pets or other domestic animals, you need to be constantly on the lookout for any behavioral or physiological changes in the animals that could indicate presence of diseases. A sound health management program is even more important for farmers who keep flock animals such as goats, cows, or sheep particularly for commercial purposes. If not dealt with early, a disease can wipe out the entire flock and cause massive losses.
Since prevention is always better than cure, farmers should have a robust animal health plan in place to quickly spot any disease signs. Farmers must observe all animals closely so that any sick animal can be identified early enough and separated from the others before infecting them. In addition to protecting the animal health, early detection helps protect the people that handle the animals since some diseases that affect them could be zoonotic, meaning they could also affect caretakers or anyone else who deals with diseased animals.
Sheep are one of the most popular commercial farming animals mainly because they are easier to raise, require less investment, less space and are very profitable. However, any seasoned sheep farmer can tell you how destructive a disease in just a single animal can be. Sheep are flock animals which always need to be kept together with other sheep or else they become restless and troubles. As such, sheep farmers need to be extra diligent in checking the health of all their sheep.
To recognize any clinical signs of diseases common to sheep, it is vital to be familiar with what is deemed normal. Producers must assess the flock’s general health regularly including vital signs, coat, and body condition. A normal temperature for sheep ranges between 101.5°F and 103.5°F. The heart rate for a normal sheep should be between 80 and 70 beats per minute. Depending on the environment’s temperature, the respiration rate for healthy sheep is about 12 – 15 breaths per minute.
Healthy animals should exhibit a healthy fleece or hair coat, while maintaining a body condition score that suits their current production stage. Both body and coat production for sheep is a good indicator of overall health and nutritional adequacy, which shows that the farmer is well aware of issues pertaining to animal health.
Prevention of diseases
Biosecurity begins with prevention of the spread of infectious agents from sick sheep to susceptible sheep. A well thought out biosecurity plan has to be in place and take into account all possible modes of disease transmission, including direct contact of infected animals with other animals, airborne transmission, contaminated food or water, and vehicles and visitors that come to the farm.
The most basic disease control method is avoiding introduction of the disease in the first place. If practical and possible, sheep farmers should keep a closed flock. The original flock should be maintained in one location and any new animals kept in another location. This is because most contagious diseasesthat affect sheep are introduced when any new animals are added. Disease agents can also be introduced during breeding season when breeding animals are added to the flock, when sheep contact wildlife, or when they mingle with other sheep at a fair of sheep display competition. The goal is to keep your healthy sheep isolated from any other animals so that you can be sure of their health and safety.
If a closed Herd is not an option, consider using an animal quarantine program. An effective isolation program consists of having a facility that prevents co-mingling of new and existing animals for at least 30 days, including separate food and water supplies.
Farmers should also restrict traffic in and out of their farms to minimize the risk of potential introduction of disease causing and pathogenic agents. Producers should minimize the number of vehicles and people that enter the facility. Any vehicle or person that comes into the facility should be sanitized or disinfected before being allowed anywhere near the animals. Most farms that are conscious about animal health usually have a pool of disinfecting water right at the gate for this purpose
Veterinarians also play a key role in disease control and prevention in sheep. Producers should always have a skilled veterinarian on speed dial in case of anything. While most farmers contact veterinarians when the damage is already done, it is recommended to have a veterinarian regularly check your flock even when everything is perfectly fine. They are trained to see the things you can’t. Treatment and advice from a veterinarian is vital in controlling and preventing most animal health issues in a herd.
Veterinarians can also advise on an appropriate vaccination program to protect against common diseases. However, each vaccination program should be tailored to specific operation. Farmers should be aware of what they are vaccinating for and the importance of doing so. Just because a vaccine is available doesn’t mean it is right for your sheep.
Sheep farmers and other farmers in general need to be always in the loop about the latest trends in animal health so that they can provide adequate disease control and prevention. There are many diseases that affect sheep now that did not exist a decade ago. Keeping in touch with the latest news and trends will help you know how to control and prevent diseases using current methods. It also helps you stay vigilant so that you can be in the know in case of a new disease or plague that is affecting sheep in your area.
There are also new disease management and control methods that are always being invented to make it easier to run a sheep farm. Farmers can learn how to apply them to their farm to make disease control and prevention a piece of cake.
Animal health should be the major worry for any commercial sheep farmer and everyone else who deals with animals in general. When it comes to sheep health, there is a lot farmers need to learn in order to be fully equipped and ready to take care of their sheep. This relates to simple matters such as best practices on the farm and complicated issues such as the specifics of how to handle a sick sheep. We shall publish more specialized sheep health articled to dig deeper into the issue and help you become more knowledgeable and productive sheep owners.