A number of sheep management systems have been described in Nigeria. These management systems range from free range to tethering in subsistence production to confinement in semi-intensive and intensive systems.
Extensive or traditional system
In Nigeria the system of husbandry is mainly traditional with individuals keeping 2 to 4 animals on which investment is minimal but potential returns are still high. These systems of husbandry are characterized by trekking and exposure to high ambient temperatures. Animals lose body weight while moving. The traditional system of management is characterized by high incidence of diseases and parasitism, together with the adverse effects of tropical climate. Other characteristics include losses to stealing motor accidents poisoning by crop farmers and conflicts between livestock owners and crop farmers losses to predators and indiscriminate mating.
The semi-intensive management system is intermediate between the intensive and the traditional management system. The system involves grazing of the animals on any available herbage during the day and housing them during the night. On the other hand the sheep is still fed in the morning and in the evening. Animals were observed for disease problem and veterinary care was provided.
The intensive system would involve complete confinement of the animals either in pastures or in pens where feed and water are provided. Here crop residues such as rice straw and bran cassava peels brewers dry grain are provided. Improved nutrition could be achieved through the use of cut and carry grasses legumes or browse supplemented with salt slicks. Under this situation adequate nutrition is ensured and the welfare of the animals is constantly monitored with full veterinary care being provided. The greatest advantages of this system are effective conversion of crop residues or supplement to products of high biological value such as milk and meat. There is control of reproduction improved performance and hygienic conditions collection and use of faecal materials as farm yard manures reduction in cases of parasitic diseases control of sheep against auto-knock downs and little or no damage to the environment.
Sheep must be adequately fed for optimum performance poor nutrition is one of the major factors limiting the productivity of indigenous ruminants in Nigeria. In order to develop a viable ruminants industry animals should be fed properly. Though sheep feed mainly on roughage (grasses legumes brose etc). it is necessary to give them supplements in order to improve their production. Proper management of the breeding flock improves productivity and reduces lamb mortality. Essentially feeds contain energy protein fibre minerals vitamins and water feeding of sheep depends the age of the animal physiological state of the animal (lactation pregnancy) and the quantity of the roughage being fed.
Feeding of Adult Animals
Hay or crop residue should be provided always in addition 1-2kg. animal/ day of legume hay e.g. groundnut haulms beans pod cowpea residue. Animals at this stage need feed for maintenance. It is therefore not necessary to over feed them.
Feeding of pregnant sheep
In addition to supply of hay a farmer should feed good quality legume hay at the rate of 1.5-2.5kg/ Animal/day or concentrate can be fed at a daily rate of 200 -300kg/ animal/day. But higher levels of feeding can be maintained especially during the last month of pregnancy when the foctus grows very rapidly and causes an increased demand on the mother’s food supply Good feeding results in the following.
- Provides nourishment for the developing foctus and usually results in a strong kid lamb at birth.
i. Good feeding enhances the development of the udder and ensure adequate milk production
ii. It builds up body reserves of flesh on ewe.
iii. It prepares the dam for the difficult task of parturition
This practices of enhanced feeding just before parturition is referred to a steaming up.
Feeding of Nursing or Lactating females.
This group of animals can be fed like pregnant females but the level of feeding should be slightly increased. This is to ensure that the dam produces enough milk for feeding the offspring. In addition hay and concentrate supplement should be provided at the rate of 300-500gm/Animals/day. Adequate feeding of lactating ewes increases the survival rate of the lambs increases the resistance of diseases of the young-ones and ensure a fast growth rate.
Feeding of Growers
A supplement of 0.5-1kg legume hay/Animal/day in addition to free choice feeding of roughage is sufficient for this class of animals.
Feeding of Breeding Males
When males are not in service they should be maintained on good grazing or crop residue ad lib plus 1-2kg legume hay/animal/day. About a month to being used for service they should be place on good grazing or crop residue plus 300gm of concentrate mixture. This practice of enhanced feeding prior to breeding is referred to as flushing.
This has the following advantages.
i. In males it increases the quantity and quality of semen produced.
ii. In females it increases the number of ova shade.
iii. Ensures a greater chance of turning/triplets in the dam.
iv. Increases the conception rate.
Care should be taken to prevent the overfeeding of the male as this will lead fattening which is not desired in breeding males.
Housing equipments and other facilities
Housing is important requirement for intensive sheep production. Housing is essential for overnight shelter and provides security against predators for the sheep. Also it provides protection against rain and cold. Some of the importance of sheep houses are.
Protection from adverse weather condition
The major function of a sheep house is to protect the animal from adverse climatic condition such as sunshine rain wind or cold. For the most part adult sheep are equipped to withstand cold due to heat produce during the fermentation process but young lambs have not yet develop this mechanism and should therefore be protected sheep do not like being drench be heavy rain nor excessive such particularly when the sun is at its height. These can clearly be seen by the attempts the animals make to seek shelter from excessive sun or rain.
When sheep are kept together in a house the owner can better observe them. He is therefore in a better position to notice sick animals and treat appropriately before the disease is spread.
Protection from predators
By the provision of a house sheep are protected from predators such as dogs snakes thieves accidents and other harmful vices.
Handling is easier animals can be caught and flock management is improved because it allows for certain management practices such as isolation of rams outside breeding season and weaning to be carried out. Other management practices such as identification docking and castration can be done easily.
Feeding of supplements is easier
This is because animal of the same age physiological state such as yearlings gestation fattening weaning can be kept in the same group. This improves performance since each animal receives supplement meant to meet its particular production requirement.
Provision of housing leads to overall improvement in the performance of the animals. Sheep housing can vary from a low mud-wall building with thatched roof to a prick or concrete wall with corrugated iron sheets roofing. Also corruaged iron walled building could be used. Such housing should be located on a well-drained soil. It should be well ventilated to avoid dampness. The floor can be of cement or rammed earth it should be easy to clean and should be covered with good bedding material such as straw or wood shavings which can be changed from time to time.
The building may be divided into pens. Floor space requirements for lambs and adult sheep are about 0.4 and 1.7m2 respectively in addition floor space should be provided for feed and water troughs. There should be more pens per building or more than one building with separate for males females and weaner.
A store and a hay could form part of the building. Alternatively the hay barn could be a separate structure. A run (enclosure) made of chain link wire waist-high may be construed in front of the pens. Divided into at least two sections for males and females if housed in different pens in a single building. Water supply can be from a well tap and bore hole or river. It should be clean and in sufficient quantity.
Feed and water troughs should be provided in every pen, either built-in or moveable type. A rectangular feed trough measuring 4 x 0.3 x 0.15m is adequate for 10 adult sheep. Simple feed troughs could be made by cutting a drum lengthwise into two halves. If cut drums used the edges should be made blunt to avoid injuries to the animals. Large plastic basins are better as water troughs a age unlike metal drums they do not corrode.
A foot-bath is required for the prevention and treatment of foot-rot, a very common problem with sheep on wet grounds. The most common types is the walk-through type which is a shallow long receptacle. Where a small number of sheep is involved a bucket of basin may be used.
A dip is an essential structure in a sheep farm. The walk-in short-swim type is the most common. In this type the animal enters the vats are best made with concrete.
A vat measuring 6 x 1.2 x 0.75m has a capacity of about 2000 litres. It is necessary to put a roof over the vat to prevent rain from diluting the chemical. In small-sized flocks a 200-liter drum opened at one end can be used. The animals are immersed, one at a time in the dipping solution contained in the drum for about 30 seconds. A knapsack sprayer can also used.
Handling in sheep management could simply be defined as a way in which the husbandman drag, push or carry the animal to where they will be fed, administered drug for research purpose for observation and study of their behavior. Good handling of small ruminant will prevent the animal from being injured and guarantee the safety of the handler. If sheep are to be caught and handled for any reason they should be confined to a small corral or shed appropriate way to handle sheep are:
1. Husbandman or attend and must know how to relate with the animals since animal communicate in one way or the other e.g. if a ram use its leg to scratch the ground continuously it simply means it is ready to attack anybody.
2. Sheep may best be caught around the neck by the hind leg or by the rear flank. They should be carried by allowing the hind leg to fold towards the front while using the other hand to hold the remaining leg. Never should they be caught by the wool.
3. The young animal should be carried close to the chest depending on the age weight and body conformation.
Generally what matter most is the good relationship with the animals as this will facilitate good handing.