Transport and care of sheep
Before purchasing sheep you need to ensure that you are prepared for their ongoing care and husbandry. It is important that you can care for the sheep and provide a healthy environment for them to graze.
As an owner or person in charge of sheep, it is important for you to remember that you have an overall responsibility for the care and management of the animals. The following documents should be referred to for further advice regarding your legal responsibilities for the welfare of sheep under your care and supervision:
- The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986
- The Code of Accepted Farming Practice for the Welfare of Sheep (Victoria)
- The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines- Land Transport of Livestock
For small numbers of sheep/lambs (1- 10 head):
- A trailer or a ute stock crate is the preferred method.
- The front of the trailer or crate should be protected from the wind.
- Lambs should have space to sit down without being crushed or stood on.
For larger numbers of sheep (>10 head):
- A livestock transport trailer/truck is the preferred method
- If possible, separate ewes and lambs
- Drag sheep by the horn
- Pick up sheep by their wool.
- Transport sheep in a car boot, sealed container or anything that restricts airflow.
- Tie the legs of the sheep in order to restrain it.
- Overload the transport vehicle — you may need to make two trips or find a bigger transport vehicle.
Speak to your stock agent if transport is required for your new purchase.
Caring for your sheep
It is important to make sure you have adequate facilities to unload the sheep when you get them back to your property. A set of yards or a small paddock to confine the sheep for the first couple of days is essential.
Holding the sheep in a small paddock or set of yards for the first couple of days will help to settle and calm the sheep, it will also help prevent the spread of weeds and disease to your property. This initial step is important for the biosecurity of your property.
Feed and water requirements on arrival
The holding paddock or yard must have a supply of water that is accessible to all animals. It would also be a good place to introduce your sheep to some hay, in order to settle them after the transport.
When you finally introduce your sheep to the larger paddock, ensure that there is plenty of drinking water available. It is also best to continue giving hay for at least the first 2 days, so that their rumen (stomach) has time to adjust gradually to the pasture feed. If pasture quality or quantity is limited, you may have to supplementary feed your sheep, until adequate pasture is available. It is a legal requirement to ensure that sheep are provided with proper and sufficient food, drink and shelter.
While the sheep are being held in the yards or small paddock use the opportunity to assess them — before you put them out on your paddocks. The most important things to look for are:
- any injuries that might have occurred during transport
- any signs of ill health
- lameness or uneven gait
- making sure any suckling lambs are feeding on their mothers before you let them out into a paddock to graze.
It is a legal requirement to provide any sick or injured sheep with prompt veterinary or other appropriate attention or treatment.
For more information about the welfare of cattle please consult your private veterinarian or local Animal Health staff via our Customer Service Centre on 136 186.