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Prioritising livestock health ...what causes your animals to be sick? 

2021-12-07  Staff Reporter

Prioritising livestock health ...what causes your animals to be sick? 
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Disease can have various causes. Some of these causes are germs such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. The following is a list of situations that could result in sheep/goats becoming sick: 


Dirty surroundings 

Keeping sheep/goats in a dirty kraal could result in them eating food or drinking or water contaminated with droppings. These droppings may contain micro-organisms (germs) that could make the animals sick. Try to clean out kraals where possible. Remove manure regularly. 


Poor condition 

If your sheep/goats are in poor condition or if you are not feeding them well, they can become sick easily. Supplement sheep/goats rations with extra feed during winter and remember that pregnant ewes need more food to produce healthy lambs/kids. 



Stress plays an important role in causing disease. Animals tend to get sick if they are very stressed. Overcrowding, underfeeding, transportation and management procedures such as tail docking, castration, ear tagging and shearing cause stress. 

Try to reduce stress by treating the animals in a relaxed manner. Avoid overcrowding. Make sure they have adequate food. If you are transporting them, make sure they have enough water, that they do not become too hot/too cold and also do not load too many sheep/goats on one truck. 



Vaccinating sheep/goats against diseases that occur frequently in your area can help to prevent certain diseases. It is usually more economical to vaccinate your animals than to treat or put down sick animals. If ewes are not vaccinated before giving birth they will not be able to pass on protection to their young via their milk. 

This could result in some lambs/kids becoming very sick a few days or weeks after being born. It is also very important to vaccinate ewes against tetanus because then the lambs/kids will also be protected against this disease. Obtain veterinary help to decide what vaccines to use and when to use them.


Ear tagging, tail docking and castration 

These practices are used by most small stock farmers in the management scheme for their lambs/kids. Care must be taken during these operations to prevent lambs/kids from becoming sick. They may even get tetanus, which is a serious disease in lambs/kids and could result in death. 

Therefore, keep the wound areas clean and check them regularly. Use a wound/antiseptic powder if necessary. Vaccinate ewes against tetanus. Always boil your instruments, such as knives, for at least 15 minutes before you use them on your animals. Boil the instruments again if they become dirty while you are using them and before you continue to use them. 



When sheep have a high number of worms, they are usually not productive and tend to lose weight. This can also put them at risk of getting diseases. If you notice signs of worm infestation such as weight loss, diarrhoea or paleness of the eyes and gums then you should deworm your animals. 

Make sure you use the correct remedy. If you see no improvement after deworming, consult your local animal health technician or veterinarian. 


Ticks and mites 

Ticks and mites can cause many problems in the case of sheep/goats. Ticks can spread diseases such as Heartwater. Certain ticks can cause paralysis and they also damage the wool and skin. Mites cause Mange. 

This disease leads to high production losses for farmers through loss of wool and damage to skins. Treat your sheep/goats for ticks and mites. Try to follow a programme for strategic dipping. 


Toxic plants 

Some plants are toxic (poisonous) to sheep/goats. These plants can cause many different signs such as diarrhoea, losing the skin on the face (photosensitivity), liver problems and even heart and lung problems. Sheep/goats will usually eat these plants when there is nothing else to eat. 

Make sure that your sheep/goats have enough food. Some types of toxic plants can be removed. Ask your veterinarian or animal health technician for advice on which plants in your area are toxic. 


* Information sourced from various agriculture publications 


2021-12-07  Staff Reporter

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