Farmers across the country often trade in sheep on a regular basis whether it be through the marts, private deals or the ever increasing trend of online buying and selling of livestock. However what are the implications of buying sheep and introducing them into the flock.
The main reason for buying sheep into your flock would be buying replacement ewe lambs or hoggets for the breeding flock to introduce younger sheep and fresh genes into your flock. Other situations where one might purchase sheep would be buying in store lambs for grazing in the winter time or possibly buying in a foster ewe to rear pet lambs. Although buying in sheep can seem like a good idea at the time it can have long term implications for your flock if not done carefully.
There is a significant risk when the seller is unknown of buying in sheep that are carriers of infectious disease, resistant worms, scab mites and liver fluke. All of the above can have serious financial consequences when trying to rectify the problem and can infect the entire flock when mixed.
How can this be combatted?
The ideal situation is to try and source sheep for your flock from as few as possible farms and try to find out as much as possible about the farms you purchase from. Ideally find out the health status of the flock and find out their dosing/vaccination protocols as all to often when buying in sheep you’re buying in disease. On my farm when the situation arises that I need to purchase sheep I have a few trusted farmers that I know the sheep are in the same flock health routines as my own and to the best of the farmer’s ability are free of disease. This gives peace of mind that you’re not purchasing sheep full of scab or other problems and saves a lot of hassle.
However this is not always possible if you are buying larger quantities of sheep etc so sometimes sheep have to be purchased through the markets. This presents a problem as you have no idea as to what you are buying in. I myself have got bitten in the past with buying in sheep that have caused more than enough bother with numerous problems. It is for this reasons that I now have a quarantine strategy in place for all sheep coming in that seems to prove effective. I am now seeing the rewards of this as I killing store lambs that I had bought earlier in the year and have had very few losses or problems.
The idea behind the quarantine is to prevent the transfer of diseases between the existing flock and any new stock. The plan in place is that all bought sheep come straight to the yard. I then treat sheep for all relevant diseases and dose for fluke and worm. I also run sheep through a footbath to try and eradicate any foot root. The sheep should then be allowed to stand on clean concrete for at least 48 hours to empty out of all worms then before going out to grass.
The alternative to this to avoid all risk of buying in disease is to operate a closed flock. This an effective way of preventing disease in your flock by having your own health plan in place and breeding all replacements and introducing no new sheep into the flock except maybe tested rams from trusted flocks. However this situation will not always suit all systems so the key things I think are important to remember when buying in sheep for me are quarantine sheep on arrival: a key technique in controlling I have found in my own situation, treat to prevent introduction of resistant worms and fluke. It is also important to take care not to introduce the likes of foot rot and scab which is quite a few flocks. In any case a flock whether it open or closed should have a flock specific health plan in place to in order to ensure a profitable flock.