Disaster Preparedness Manual
Melissa J. Nixon, DVM

From the NevadaNews, accessed 5/2/06:

"All of the animals had been relocated to dry land by the time Truckee River peaked. Although the sheep had access to higher ground, many tragically did not take it," said Crowley.

Therein lies a major problem with sheep: they are not good problem solvers when left to their own devices. I am willing to bet that goats, horses, cattle, or llamas left in the identical situation would have walked up the hill.

So, if we are expecting sheep to shelter in situ, whether on their home ranch or an apparently safe adjacent parcel, we need to be the brains for them. They may need to be confined to the green space if there is an approaching wildfire, or to the high ground in the case of impending floodwaters.

Sheep may be brought into the evacuation center as individuals; in that case they are likely FFA or 4H animals, family pets, or from a small flock. These can be given stalls; many may be led by halters.

Larger flocks of sheep should be kept together with their flock of origin and may be placed in a livestock arena or other corrals. However, depending on the security of the facility, it may be wise to have caretakers sleep near the sheep in order to protect them from predators.

There are two kinds of sheep dogs: those who drive the sheep, and those who guard the sleep. Border collies and other breeds that are bred to drive sheep should NEVER be left loose with the sheep. Anatolians and similar guard breeds should ALWAYS be left embedded with their flock.

Sheep can graze if pasture is available; otherwise feed grass hay. No alfalfa, no grain. Be sure they have access to shelter from sun or rain. Make sure fresh water is always available.

Be aware that sheep, particularly dark colored ones and especially those unshorn, are susceptible to heat stress. In winter storm scenarios, they may be prone to wool rot, the merino breed perhaps more than others.

Signs of illness in sheep include: depression, weight loss, distended abdomen (EMERGENCY), discharge from eyes or nose, labored breathing, diarrhea, lameness.

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Melissa J. Nixon, DVM

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