Buying sheep – important considerations.

Here are some points to consider when restocking with sheep:

  • Always ask for a copy of the National Sheep Health Statement with the sheep. The Sheep Health Statement  is the most important disease risk management tool livestock buyers have available to them. It enables them to assess the risk for Ovine Johne’s Disease (OJD) and a range of other biosecurity risks, including footrot, lice and ovine brucellosis. The Statement recognises vaccination history and flock testing results, and features a series of ‘yes/no’ questions to allow buyers to quickly make informed biosecurity decisions.Here is a handy Guide to the Sheep Health statement or download a copy of the National Sheep Health statement for yourself.
  • Ovine Johnes Disease (OJD) Queensland is currently OJD free and restrictions apply when introducing sheep from New South Wales and other states. You have to be aware of these sheep 1restrictions before purchasing sheep as you do not want to introduce the disease nor be caught with sheep that you cannot get home. It is critical to keep Queensland OJD free as there is no treatment for Johnes Disease, and animals showing clinical signs inevitably die. A vaccine is available to aid protection against OJD in sheep. Click here for more information.
  • Worm Drench Resistance. The sheep you buy will be carrying worms. You do not want to buy in drench resistance, particularly if you have never had this problem before. Good quarantine is critical including effective drenching. If sheep are being  put onto an area that has been destocked for a long period  (worm free area) – then they should be held in the yards or a small quarantine paddock for 48 to 72 hours to make sure that all worm eggs have passed through the gastrointestinal tract. For more information visit the WormBoss.
  • Sheep Lice Up to 30% of purchased sheep will be carrying lice and sheep lice are most difficult to find when the sheep are up to 2 months off shears. Good quarantine is essential to limit the spread of any problem. Your decision on how to manage the introduced sheep will be a personal risk management choice. Take a look at LiceBoss for more information on quarantining animals.
  • Purchasing pregnant ewes. It’s best not to truck heavily pregnant ewes as they are more susceptible to pregnancy toxaemia. If unavoidable, load them lightly and offer food and water on arrival. Remember the maximum time off water (24 – 48 hrs) and spelling periods (12 – 36 hrs) vary between classes of animals. REMEMBER: If in doubt leave it out!
  • Footrot. Another of the problems you can buy in with purchased sheep. Footrot can cause significant economic loss from reduced wool growth and quality, poor ewe fertility, poor growth rates, losses from blowfly strike, and reduced value of sale sheep. Control of the disease can also be very expensive. The National Sheep Health Statement contains important information to allow you to make an informed decision on footrot.
  • Keep an eye out for possible contamination of wool and skin with noxious weeds or grasses. This is often property specific rather than a district wide problem.
  • When engaging a trucking company to transport sheep into Queensland, keep in the loop about possible routes to ensure the shortest and cheapest is chosen. If the sheep are woolly it is important to ensure the truck is cleaned beforehand especially if they were carting cattle with scours the day before. Remember the potential, even if small, of lice being spread by contaminated wool in the truck.
  • NLIS. Remember, keep a record of the property of origin of livestock and notify the NLIS database of relevant movements.sheep_transport
  • Do your research. Seek out local knowledge as to the sheep and the property from which they are being purchased. If the sheep delivered differ from the description given let your agent know ASAP. Question the vendor as to the origin of the sheep – do not assume they are vendor bred or of the same blood line.
  • Poisonous weeds. If stock have travelled long distances and have been off feed for an extended period, don’t put them into a yard or holding paddocks with large amounts of potentially poisonous weeds eg pigweed or button grass. In order for the sheep to fill their empty stomach, it’s best to provide hay in the yard or a paddock with suitable dry grass.
  • Can you afford it? Be careful if you are buying stock on a high market. If you can’t afford to restock through buying stock, then there are always other options to consider (agistment, lease, trading or breeding). Take the time to do your calculations, as these will be individually specific, and if unsure seek help from your trusted advisor.

The above list may not be comprehensive and cover every aspect so please ensure you do your own research as each individual circumstance may be different.

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