Preventing sheep health issues when a drought breaks
Often more sheep die when a drought breaks than during a drought, as they have been weakened by the drought and have difficulty withstanding the change in weather conditions. Sheep kept in good condition during a drought are far more able to handle end-of-drought problems.
Rain and flooding after a drought
Sheep won't feed during rain and, given the opportunity, they will leave their rations to chase the subsequent green pick, wasting valuable energy. Floods or cold stress kill weakened sheep that stop feeding, or that cannot be fed when the rain starts.
If sheep are locked up and being fed a full ration, continue feeding this way until sufficient grass is available. For sheep that have been kept in a feeding paddock, they should remain there for at least 4 weeks after substantial rain to allow time for pastures to respond and set seed. You should stockpile fodder at feeding points so that boggy roads do not prevent feeding.
Keep in mind that grass growth is usually slow after a long drought. Allowing sheep to graze too early after drought-breaking rain will damage the pasture recovery process.
Limit grazing time
Once the pasture is available for grazing you should limit the amount of grazing time, increasing it slowly over a number of days. Sheep need time to adjust to a lush pasture diet. Allowing full grazing straight away is likely to lead to digestive problems.
After livestock are removed from the feeding paddock, rest this paddock for as long as it takes to recover.
- Read drought feeding and management of sheep (PDF, 2.7MB), a guide developed by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries.
- Find out what primary producers should do after a natural disaster, including support services available to help you recover as soon as possible.
- Learn how to protect the welfare of drought-affected animals.