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Managing a sheep flock in drought
It is important to monitor sheep health and pasture condition during a drought. Close management of your flock is key to their survival. Reducing grazing pressure on the pasture as early as possible, either by selling sheep or finding somewhere else for them to graze, and working out your feeding options are 2 good ways to manage your flock in drought.
Any signs of health problems or disease should be addressed immediately and monitored closely.
Reducing the number of sheep
Research suggests that it is wise to reduce flock numbers early so that sheep can be sold or agisted while they are still in good condition and fit to travel. This will prevent costly supplementary feeding and protect the long-term carrying capacity of the land by not over-stocking.
Over-stocking can cause feed to die off, contribute to loss of ground cover (meaning less rain water is absorbed into the soil), and encourage invasion by weeds.
Selling your sheep
When you are deciding what stock to sell and when, consider the:
- present value of stock (including the wool value)
- quality of stock
- capacity to carry stock through
- taxation effects
- likely demand for the stock at the end of the drought
- likely length of the drought
- possibility of improving the quality of the sheep.
Prioritise your flock. You may want to keep as many breeders as possible to build up the flock quickly once the drought breaks. It's also a good idea to keep the most productive sheep.
Agistment of sheep in dry season
Agisting during drought may mean that you do not need to sell or cull as many sheep. Read more about agisting sheep in a dry season.
If you have some sheep that are not suitable for sale, and no other options are feasible, consider euthanasing them.
Feeding strategies for sheep during drought
It's important to have strategies in place to make sure your sheep get enough feed during a drought.
Find out about supplementary feeding for sheep in drought.
Other strategies for drought management of sheep
- Control worms, lice and blowfly strike as poor sheep are more susceptible to parasites. Worms build up at concentrated feeding points, especially when hand feeding.
- Vaccinate for clostridial diseases (e.g. pulpy kidney, which has killed lambs in previous droughts). Learn more about sheep health and disease prevention.
- Provide adequate clean and bog-proof watering points. Many sheep are lost through bogging.
- In areas outside the feeding paddock, turn off or fence all waters so that you can reduce access by other animals and save your pasture.
- Eliminate any competitors, such as wild pigs, that eat the sheep supplements.
- Read Drought Feeding and Management of Sheep (PDF, 2.7MB), a booklet produced by the Victorian Government's Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.
- Learn more about protecting the welfare of drought-affected animals.