Veterinary services in these systems include clinical and preventive medicine and management recommendations. Clinical medicine becomes more cost-effective as the value of the individual sheep increases. Wool production is usually a minor concern, and lambs marketed per ewe joined is the major determinant of economic return. The greatest potential loss is caused by neonatal lamb mortality resulting from mismothering, starvation, cold stress, and hypothermia. Intensive management at lambing reduces this loss but is accompanied by increased risk of mortality from infectious neonatal disease. Labor-intensive lambing systems; intensive care of young lambs; and diagnosis, treatment, and surgery of individual sheep may be justified by the value of the animals. Preventive medicine programs should be developed to prevent the numerous husbandry-related diseases associated with pastoral practices in summer and close stocking during confinement in winter.
Feed and labor are the largest production costs for housed or intensively fed sheep. Therefore, nutritional management can have a major impact on farm profitability. Management issues involve minimizing flock energy requirements during the winter months, using body fat reserves without incurring undue decreases in production, and using least-cost rations (including fodder produced on farm). Feed imbalances and close confinement with sheep in feedlots are major determinants of diseases such as pneumonia (see Respiratory Diseases of Sheep and Goats: Lower Respiratory Tract), urolithiasis (see Noninfectious Diseases of the Urinary System in Large Animals: Urolithiasis in Ruminants), type D enterotoxemia (pulpy kidney disease, see Clostridial Diseases: Type D Enterotoxemia), and polioencephalomalacia (see Polioencephalomalacia).
Last full review/revision July 2011 by Clive C. Gay, DVM, MVSc, DVSc (Hons), FACVSc, DACIM (Hons)