India can be divided on the basis of the agro-ecological conditions and type of sheep into 4 regions viz.

  1. North-Western, Central arid and semi-arid region
  2. Southern region,

III. Eastern region and

  1. Northern temperate region.

There are about 44 descript breeds of sheep available in India.


Hissar and hilly regions of Kulu in Haryana. It was evolved by crossing Bikaneri with Merino rams. Average body weight of rams and ewes are 54 and 34 kg respectively most animals are polled. Colour is predominantly white, although some brown patches may be observed. Wool is of superior quality yield 2-3 kg per annum.


Important breeds in this region are

NELLORE: Nellore, Prakasam and Ongole districts of Andhra Pradesh tall animals with little hair except at brisket, withers and breech. Rams are horned ewes are polled. Long and drooping ears; 86% of animals have wattles male: 36 kg female: 28 kg

MANDYA: Mandya district of Karnataka. Relatively small animals colour white – sometimes face is light brown, which may extend up to neck. Compact body with typical “U” shaped conformation from the rear. Ears long, leafy and drooping. Both sexes polled. Coat extremely coarse and hairy adult male: 35 kg, female: 23 kg.


  • It is necessary to select suitable improved breed of sheep available in particular area.
  • Crossbred sheep are available for purchase from state Government / Government of India sheep breeding farms.
  • Ewes can be purchased in regular sheep markets or from breeders in villages, while male sheep (rams) of exotic / crossbred from Government farms.
  • It is desirable to purchase healthy animals of 12-18 months of age.
  • A certificate regarding age and health of sheep should be obtained from the veterinary assistant surgeon.
  • The animals purchased have to be identified by fixing ear tags.
  • Sheep should be vaccinated for important diseases like sheep-fox and enterotoxaemia.
  • An entrepreneur should have a unit of 20-30 ewes and one ram.


  1. Mecheri: Salem, Namakkal and Coimbatore districts of Tamil Nadu. Medium sized light brown in colour. Both sexes are polled. Body covered by very short hairs. Adult male: 35 kg, female: 22 kg
  2. Kilakarsal or Kilakarisal: Ramnad, Madurai and Tanjore districts of Tamil Nadu Brown/ dark tan in colour with black spots on head belly and legs. Medium sized ears. Males have thick twisted horns. Most animals have wattle.
  3. Vembur: Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Tall animals, coat colour is dark tan with black spots on head, belly and legs. Medium sized drooping ears. Males horned. Ewes polled. Body covered with short hairs. Adult male: 34 kg, female: 27 kg.
  4. Coimbatore: Coimbatore and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu. Medium sized animals white with black or brown spots. 30% of males polled. Fleece white hairy and open. Adult male: 24 kg, female: 20 kg
  5. Ramnad White: Ramnad and Sivagangai districts of Tamil Nadu. Medium sized predominantly white. Ears medium sized and directed outward and downward. Males have twisted horns. Ewes polled short and thin tail. Adult male: 31 kg, female: 22 kg
  6. Madras Red: Chennai and Kancheepuram districts of Tamil Nadu. Body colour predominantly brown, the intensity varying from light tan to dark brown. Some animals may have white markings on forehead, inside the thigh and lower abdomen. Medium sized drooping ears. Tail short and thin. Rams have strong, corrugated and twisted horns. Ewes polled. Body covered with short hairs. Adult male: 35 kg, female: 23 kg
  7. Trichy black: Trichy, Thiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri districts of Tamil Nadu. Small animals. Body is completely black. Males horned, ewes polled fleece extremely coarse, hairy and open. Ears and tail small. Adult male: 25 kg, female: 18 kg III.



This region consist Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland and Sikkim. Most of the wool produced in this region is suitable only for coarse carpets, blankets and kumblies. The important breeds are Shahabadi, Chhottanagpuri, Ganjam, Balangir, Bonpala and Tibetan.

  1. NORTHERN TEMPERATE REGION It comprises of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and hilly regions of Uttar Pradesh. This region has 8% of the total sheep population. The largest population of crossbred sheep primarily developed for apparel wool is in this region. The important breeds are Rampur Bushair, Gaddi, Gurez, Karnah, Poonchi and Changthangi.


  2. Merino: Native of Spain – origin for most of the wool breeds in the world. Colour-white. Fleece yield male: 4-5 kg and ewes 3-4 kg/annum. Merinos have large number of skin folds
  3. Rambouillet: Developed from Merinos in France. They are large, rugged, fast growing sheep and are good wool producers. Skin is pink. Ewes are good mothers, and prolific. Average wool yield is 4 5 to 5.5 kg.
  5. Native of U.K. large animals with black face, ears and legs. Head and ears are entirely free from wool. Average wool yield 2-3 kg. Mature rams weigh 100-135 kg and ewes from 70-100 kg.
  6. Dorset: Native of U.K two types polled and horned Dorsets. Face, ears and legs white in colour and free from wool. Wool yield is 2.75 to 3.25

Corriedale: Native of New Zealand. The parent breeds involved in developing Corriedale are Lincoln, Leicester and Merino. Adult rams: 80 to 100 kg Ewes: 55 to 85 kg. Annual wool production: 4.5 to 5.5 kg. Both sexes are polled. Colour: White may have black spots.



Normally sheep do not require elaborate housing facilities but minimum provisions will definitely increase productivity, especially protection against inclement weather conditions (sun, rain and winds) and predation. Shed could be built along the wall of the house. Further protection could be provided with gunny bags or temporary of removable protections made of thatching material and bamboos. The roof of the shed should be made of the asbestos sheet supported by tubular or angular steel, but wooden rafters and thatching material could also be used. Exotics should be provided 0.9-1.1 m2 and native and crossbred sheep 0.8-0.9m2 space per head. Shed measuring 18 m x 6 m can accommodate about 120 sheep. A chain link fencing or thorny bush enclosure of 12 m x 6 m can be provided for night paddocking of sheep on each side of the shed.


Classing and culling of sheep are very important for the development of a good flock. It helps to remove undesirable animals and breeding from those which are most approximating the ideal sheep. About 10-20 per cent culling should be practiced annually to develop a good flock. The flock size should be maintained by replacing culled ewes by ewe lambs born in the flock.


It is very essential to maintain the necessary records at an organized (experimental or commercial) sheep farm to know about the inputs and outputs.This helps in working out the economy of sheep production per unit of area and per animal. The following records should be maintained: livestock strength, breeding, lambing, shearing and wool production, mortality, purchase of animal feeds, medicines and equipments, and sale of animals and wool.


The shepherds commonly practice notching or punching holes in the ears for identification of lambs. Tattooing is also satisfactory but is more expensive. Metal or plastic ear-tags with stamped letters and numbers are most suitable although they are relatively expensive and heavy for the ears of the smaller native sheep. These ears tags are applied with the help of a clincher.


Surplus males are castrated to check indiscriminate mating but market demand most often favours the intact male. Castration is usually done by using knife, burdizzo castrator or elastrator. The elastrator method is the best as it is painless and bloodless. It involves placing of a tight rubber band around the root of the scrotum with the testicles below. The scrotum with enclosed testicles atrophy and slough off.


To control the ectoparasites the sheep should be dipped a few weeks after shearing when they have grown sufficient new wool to hold the chemical substance. There are standard designs for sheep dips and there are many products effective against ectoparasites. A foot bath may also be provided at the entrance of the farm to prevent the spread of contagious diseases like foot-and-mouth disease and foot rot.


Shearing is done mechanically either with clippers, a pair of scissors or by power-operated machines depending upon the size of operations. Most flocks are usually shorn twice a year, i.e. March-April after the winter and September-October after the rains. In some states like Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan sheep are shorn thrice a year.


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  • Epidemiology Sheep-pox is a highly contagious disease.It causes a mortality of 20 to 50 per cent in animals below the age of 6 months, and causes damage to the wool and skin in adults.Of the pock diseases, sheep-pox ranks only second to human small-pox in virulence.The disease is transmissible to in contact goats but not to other species of animals. It, however, spreads slowly.
  • Symptoms The disease in characterized by high fever, and symptoms of pneumonia and acute enteritis.Skin lesions appear particularly in parts free from wool, notably around the eyes, inner side of the thigh, udder and under surface of the tail. The internal organs such as trachea, lungs, kidneys and intestines are also affected.The disease results in emaciation and, as already mentioned, frequent deaths of affected animals.
  • Treatment, Prevention and Control The diseased animal should be treated with palliatives.In the young ones nursing is more important than medication.The infected litter should be burnt and the bedding changed every day.Affected animals should be kept on soft diet.The ulcers on the skin should be washed with potassium permanganate lotion and dusted with boric acid; strict hygienic measures should be adopted.The method of control by the use of vesicular fluid was in vogue for dealing with sheep-pox.A couple of sheep were first inoculated with the vesicular fluid on the under surface of the tail or the inner side of the ear by scarification.In about 4 to 6 days vesicles appear at the spot, and the fluid collected from these vesicles, mixed with equal parts of glycerol, served as a vaccine.Vaccination was done by scarification inside the ear or under the tail.In about 15 to 20 days, the animals becomes resistant to the disease.


  • Transmission A large number of organisms are eliminated ruing abortion.The mode of entry is by ingestion or via conjunctiva.The aborted foetus,vaginal discharge and milk from infected goats contain a large number or organisms.
  • Symptoms In infected goats and sheep state of abortion may occur followed by a quiescent period during which a few abortions occur.The aborted animals do not breed.After 2 years or more another abortion storm is likely to occur.
  • Diagnosis, Treatment and Control It is not possible to diagnose brucellosis on the basis of symptoms alone.The suspicion is aroused when humans in contact suffer from undulant fever and there is poor breeding record in goat herd and evidence of mastitis.The diagnosis can be done by the isolation of organisms and by serological tests.
  • There is no adequate treatment This is based on hygiene, vaccination,testing and disposal.Good management practice is essential. Separate quarters should be provided for kidding.Immunization can be done with attenuated as well as killed vaccines.The test and disposal procedure is highly desirable.


This is an infectious, non-febrile disease of animals and man, and is characterized by spasmodic tetany and hyperaesthesia. This disease is prevalent all over the world.

  • Transmission Infection takes place by contamination of wounds.Deep punctured wounds provide favourable conditions for the spores to germinate, multiply and produce toxin which is subsequently absorbed in the animal body.The micro-organism is present in soil and in animal faeces, and is carried into the wound by a penetrating object.The organism is present in the intestine of normal animals, and under some undetermined conditions multiplies rapidly and produces toxin in sufficient quantities to be absorbed and cause the disease.
  • Symptoms The incubation period is generally 1-2 weeks but it may be as short as 3 days. Tetanus affects many species of domesticated animals but occurs particularly in horses and lambs; less frequently in adult sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, dog and cats; and rarely in poultry.The initial symptoms are mild stiffness and an unwillingness to move all the animals. More severe symptoms develop after 12-24 hours which are stiffness of limbs, neck, head, tail and twitching of muscles.The spasms develop in response to noise.In terminal stages ears are erect, nostrils dilated,nictitating membrane protruded. Mastication becomes very difficult because mouth can not be opened, hence the name lockjaw.
  • Treatment In cattle changes the recovery with treatment are better than horses or sheep. The treatment is carried out by first injecting antitoxin then treating the wound.Penicillin parenterally is beneficial. Muscular relaxation is achieved by injection of relaxants.The animal should be kept in a dark room and fed with the help of stomach tube.
  • Control Proper hygiene and cleanliness at castration and other surgical procedures should be observed. Sheep should be given 2 injections based 3 weeks apart to develop a solid immunity.


Transmission The organisms are excreted in the faeces, urine, aborted foetuses, uterine discharge and milk of infected animals.The organisms are sufficiently resistant to remain viable in animal and human faeces,sewage,soil,silage and dust foe several weeks and months.The blood sucking arthropods may spread infection since organisms have been isolated from cattle ticks and tabanid flies.Under natural conditions certain predisposing factors are related to clinical infection.

  • Symptoms In farm animals the disease occurs towards the end of winter or early spring. The first signs of meningo- encephalitis are stiffness of neck, inco-ordinated movement of limbs and tendency to move in circles or to lean against a fence or wall. There may be paralysis of muscles of jaw and pharynx. Inco-ordination becomes progressively more severe until the animal can no longer stand. The cattle which are not severely affected may survive. Abortions in cattle usually occur after 4-8 months of pregnancy and at a comparatively later stage in sheep. In pigs and horses, clinical signs are not common but may develop as encephalitis and septicaemia. In poultry, the disease usually causes sudden death, occasionally there are signs of torticollis, weakness and inco-ordination of the legs.
  • Treatment Tetracyclines are very effective in meningo-encephalities of cattle less so in sheep. The recovery rate depends on the speed with which the treatment is commenced.
  • Control When outbreaks occur all affected animals should be slaughtered and buried along with litter and bedding. The vaccines, living or killed, have little effect on the pathogenesis of infection under natural conditions, Tetracycline’s are very effective for treatment of listeriosis.


Transmission Transmission occurs by coitus.The affected bulls carry the organisms in proputial cavity indefinitely.Mature cows and heifers also carry the infection for long periods. Infected semen from an infected bull is the important means of the disease. The organism survives low temperature used in semen storage.

  • Symptoms Infertility may cause become apparent only when the percentage of pregnancies in a dairy herd is low.The infertility rate in heifers is more than in cows. Abortions usually occur between fifth and sixth month of pregnancy. Infected bulls show no symptoms and their semen is normal. Healthy bulls become infected during coitus with diseased cow. Among sheep the disease is characterized by abortion occurring towards the end of gestation. Usually abortion is preceded by vaginal discharge for several days.The aborted foetus is edematous with petechial hemorrhages on serous surfaces and necrotic foci in the liver.
  • Control Abortion rate can be reduced by antibiotic therapy, and particularly by using chlortetracycline and concurrently with the development of specific immunity. The use of killed vaccines may reduce the incidence of disease in a herd but does not eradicate the infection. The bulls can be treated by injecting antibiotic cream in the prepuce. There is no direct treatment of females.


Johne`s disease is a specific chronic contagious enteritis of cattle, sheep, goat, buffaloes and occasionally of pigs. The disease is characterized by progressive emaciation and in cattle and buffaloes by chronic diarrhea and thickening of the intestine.

  • Transmission Under natural conditions the disease spread by ingestion of feed and water contaminated by the faeces of infected animals.The infection occurs mostly in the early month of life. The incubation period extends from 12 months to several years. The animal aged 3 to 6 years mostly suffer from the disease. Affected animals may not show clinical symptoms continue to discharge organisms in faeces. The organisms persist in pastures for about 1 year.The organisms are susceptible to sunlight, drying and high PH of soil; continuous contact of urine with faeces reduces the life of bacteria. In cattle clinical signs appear mainly during 2-6 years of age. The infected animals which are apparently healthy, often show clinical signs after parturition.
  • Treatment The organisms is more resistant to chemotherapeutic agents invitro than Mycotuberculosis. Because of this the practical utility of treatment in clinical cases is poor.
  • Control The affected animal should be segregated and their faeces Properly disposed off. Alive vaccine have been developed. It reduces the incidence of clinical disease. It consists of a non-pathogenic strain of Jhone`s bacillus with an adjuvant. The calves soon after birth are inoculated with vaccine subcontaneously. The vaccinated animals become reactors of Jhonin. Vaccination is generally done in heavily infected herds.



Careful management of the pregnant, parturient and lactating ewes will have a marked influence on the percentage of lambs dropped and reared successfully. So, the following steps may be taken to afford proper attention to these animals.

  • Do not handle the pregnant ewes too frequently.
  • Separate the advanced pregnant ewes from the main flock and take effective care in their feeding and management.
  • Extra feed during the later part of pregnancy (3-4 weeks before parturition) will be beneficial for the condition of the pre-parturient ewes which will help in improving milk production of ewes, birth weight and growth of lambs.
  • Inadequate and poor nutrition may result in pregnancy, toxaemia, abortions and premature births of weak lambs.
  • Bring lambing ewes into lambing corals 4-6 days before parturition and provide maximum comfort. If possible, provide soft, clean bedding and individual lambing pens.
  • Watch gestation length, which ranges from 142 to over 150 days. Early maturing breeds have slightly shorter gestation period.
  • Save parturient ewes from cold and chilly weather.


An ewe about to lamb prefers to leave the flock. Ewe is often restless, the udder is often distended and external genital are in a flushed and flaccid condition. Generally in a healthy ewe parturition is normal. Still the following precautions may be taken during and after parturition


The lamb should be taken care of the maximum extent during early period of life. This will also ensure better survival. The following steps may be taken for ensuring better growth and survival.

  • Ensure proper suckling of lambs. Examine udders for blindness of teats or mastitis.
  • Take care of indifferent mothers and arrange suckling of lambs by restraining such type of ewes.
  • Provide creep feed (good quality hay with or without concentrate mixture) to suckling lambs in addition to suckling of milk from tenth day to weaning age. • If possible, make available green leguminous fodder or fresh tree leaves to lambs to nibble during suckling period.
  • Lambs may be ear-tagged or tattooed on the ear for identification (tattooing forceps and ear-tagging forceps should also be cleaned and sterilized at the time of use). Tail docking and castration may also be done in first week or so by placing elastrator (strong rubber band) at the intervertebral space and not on the vertebra.
  • Alternatively use sterilized and clean knife for castration and docking and resort to proper ligation and antiseptic dressing at the roof of scrotum with testicles before it.
  • During castration keep the lambs on perfectly dry, clean and hygienic site so as to minimize the risks of losses from tetanus.


The management of weaners plays an important part in good sheep husbandry. The following steps are important in proper care and management of weaners.

  • Weaning should preferably be done at 90 days, although in breeds with low milk production or where re-breeding is desired it can be done around 60 days.
  • Supplementary feeding and good clean pastures for growing weaners should be provided.
  • Weaned lambs should be drenched against gastro-intestinal parasites by first month; and vaccinated against enterotoxaemia and sheep-pox.
  • Weaners should not be grazed on poor burry and thorny types of pasture since it could cause skin irritation, injury to the eyes and damage to wool.
  • They should be protected against vagaries of climates and predation.


A monthly schedule for various sheep farm operations with twice a year lambing or shearing pattern under semi-arid conditions on an organized farm is given below.

  • January : Stock verification, ear-tagging or tattooing, protection against cold and chilly weather, care, management and supplementary feeding of advance pregnant ewes, preparation of lambing pens and their disinfection, care at lambing, care and management of lambs weighing of lambs and dams at lambing, docking and identification of newborn lambs and supplementary feeding of breeding rams for spring mating. Clostridial multi-component vaccination against struck and other clostridial infections to the pregnant ewes.
  • February : Lambing continues and so care and management of ewes and lambs at lambing also continues; care, management and supplementary feeding of lactating ewes; creep feeding, ear-tagging, tail docking and growth rcording of lambs; flushing of breeding ewes for spring mating; breeding operation starts in later part of February, heat detection, natural breeding or artificial insemination; vaccination against sheep-pox.
  • March : Lambing continues, and care and management of ewes and lambs at lambing also continues; care, management and supplementary feeding of lactating ewes continues; creep feeding, ear-tagging and tail docking and growth recording of lambs continues; washing of sheep, wool sampling, shearing, recording of wool weights and dipping, vaccination against sheep-pox continues.
  • April: Wool sampling, shearing and dipping continues, creep feeding, growth recording and weaning of lambs, culling of old, infertile and weak animals, deworming with Nilworm and Sulmet, vaccination against Johne’s disease and foot-and-mouth disease.
  • May: Weaning and supplementary feeding of lambs with hay and concentration; drenching of weaners; change in grazing schedule to allow grazing during cooler hours and resting the flock under tree shade during mid-day; tree lopping; vaccination against john’s disease and foot-and mouth-disease continues; proper shelter and sufficient drinking water.
  • June : Care, management and supplementary feeding of advance pregnant ewes, supplementary feeding of all sheep on tree loppings, proper shelter and plenty of drinking water, culling of undesired ram lambs, preparation of lambing pens and their disinfection, vaccination against tetanus, enterortoxaemia and heamorrahagic septicaemia.
  • July : Washing of sheep, shearing, recording of wool weights, wool sampling, dipping and drenching against gastrointestinal parasites, vaccination against heamorrahagic septicaemia; continued care and management of advance pregnant ewes; autumn lambing starts, care at lambing and of the newborn lambs; antiseptic foot baths; grazing schedule changed to8.00 AM to 5.00 PM; lamb identification and tails docking, flushing of ewes for autumn mating, care and management of lactating ewes, drenching against gastrointestinal parasites.
  • August : Lambing continues; care and management of advance pregnant and lactating ewes, and newborn lambs also continues; flushing of ewes for autumn mating continues; supplementary feeding of breeding rams; select drenching.
  • September : Selection of breeding rams ; autumn breeding starts; creep feeding and management of lambs; growth recording; drenching against gastrointestinal parasites.
  • October : Autumn breeding continues; creep feeding of lambs and supplementary feeding; care of weaners; growth recording; culling of low-weight, deformed and off-colour lambs; vaccination against enterotoxaemia and Johne’s disease, and drenching against gastro intestinal parasites continues.
  • November : Winter grazing; deworming continues depending upon worm load, vaccination against Johne’s disease of not done during October; penning during night.
  • December : Protection against cold and chilly weather, cheking of records, disposal of suplus lambs, supplementary feeding of advance pregnant ewes.


Grazing – better thrive -on stubble after harvest

  1. Highly resistant- water deprivation.
  2. Bifid upper lip.
  3. Consideration for fleece.


Improving the nutritional status of ewes during 3-4 weeks prior to mating is known as ‘flushing’. Nutrition and body condition of the ewes prior to putting them to ram are important. Flushing will have effect only if the ewes were in declining phase of nutritional availability. Ewes in better body condition will produce more lambs and thus the flushing of leaner ewes will increase the fertility by way of increased incidence of oestrus and increased ovulation rate. To obtain increased lambing rate, the breeding ewes, 4-6 weeks prior to their being bred, should be supplemented with 250g of concentrate mixture or 500 g of good quality legume hay per head per day.


The foetus makes two-thirds of its total growth during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. The consequences of under-nutrition in late pregnancy are reduction in lamb’s birth weight, poor milk production and poor lamb survival. Under-nutrition may also result in occurrence of pregnancy toxaemia which results in collapse and possible death of the ewes. There is production of ketone and acetone bodies in the blood from the rapid breakdown of body fat to meet the energy requirements of advanced pregnancy. Thus, the amount of nutrients, especially energy, must be increased during the later part of pregnancy to ensure proper growth of foetus and high milk production.


The requirements of energy and protein are higher during lactation. During early lactation sufficient quantity of good quality grazing and supplementary concentrate or legume hay or dry tree leaves should be provided as the demand for energy in lactation is very high. The lactation ewes require concentrate supplementation on even higher rate than the advanced pregnancy. Lactation also causes to mobilize body reserves of fat which is replaced with water. They should also be fed a high level of energy in early lactation. A high protein diet improves the yield of milk but at the cost of the body reserves and hence both energy and protein should be balanced in the diet of lactation sheep.


A lamb should get sufficient amount of colostrums (first milk) from the mother during the first few days after birth. It imparts passive immunity, through gamma-globulins in which colostrums is very rich, against a number of infectious diseases against which the mother has been vaccinated or to which it has more recently been exposed to. There is no other way of protecting young lambs against these infectious diseases as they do not have their own immune system yet developed. Colostrum is also a rich source of energy and nourishes the newborn lamb, and acts as a laxative to clear the gut of the muconium. Colostrum is richer than milk in protein, vitamins A and D, cobalt, iron and lactose. If some lambs are orphaned and no ewes are available for fostering, it is necessary to rear them artificially. It will require some personal attention and training the lambs to suckle goats. Artificial feeding of milk using glass bottles with rubber nipples can be adopted, but hygienic measures must be adhered to. Lambs should be started on creep feed as soon as possible after birth. The consumption is negligible during first 2-3 weeks but will increase with age and weight. The creep ration (feed for young ones) should be highly palatable and rich in protein. Feeding of weaned lambs involves a balance between the use of cereals and the forages rich in energy and protein to achieve economic growth. The fattening lambs should fed special rations high in energy and protein and low in fibre. Lambs achieve satisfactory growth rate at a dry-matter intake level of 4 to 5 per cent of body weight


The sheep meat available in the Indian markets comes either from old and culled sheep or from male lambs slaughtered any time between 6 months and 1 year of age. The quality and quantity of the meat produced from the male lambs is very poor due to poor market weight, low dressing percentage and narrow bone: meat ratio, since these lambs are maintained on scrub grazing like their dams. They hardly attain a body weight of 15-16 kg at the age of 8-9 months when they are usually marketed. The dressing percentage varies from 35 to 40 and bone: meat ratio from 1:4 to 1:4:25. Through crossbreeding of native sheep with exotic mutton breeds and extensive feeding of lambs marked improvement can be achieved both in live-weight gains and carcass quality.


The basic nutrients required by sheep are energy, protein, minerals and water.


Water, though not considered a nutrient, is essential for proper functioning of the body as it is more vital for the maintenance of the animal life than any other feed component. It is the main constituent of all body tissues and helps in the excretion of waste products through faeces and urine. The body water plays and important role in the animal’s thermoregulatory mechanism. Most of the water requirement is usually satisfied by the water in the feed when green feed is available. Water intake in highly correlated with both air temperature and absolute humidity. Water requirement increases during growth, gestation, lactation and heat stress when salt content of the diet is more, or when animals are made to travel long distances. On dry feed, an adult sheep requires about 2 liters of water per day during winter and 3.5-4 litres during summer. Normally a sheep will drink approximately 2-3 litres of water for every 1 kg of dry, feed consumed. Sheep in desert areas can stand water deprivation up to 3 days. Watering free choice on alternative days has no deleterious effect. Sheep can tolerate salt content up to 1 per cent in the drinking water.


The soluble carbohydrates, fibre, fats and oils are the sources of energy. Such energy is used to produce heat to keep the body warm and to keep it cool through evapo-transpiration, and provide energy for physical activities and other life processes. The carbohydrates are also required for the growth and development of rumen micro-organisms. In their body weight both under stall feeding and grazing conditions. Lambs achieve satisfactory growth rate at a dry-matter intake level of 4 to 5 per cent of body weight. Different systems are in vogue all over the world to express the energy requirements. In India the digestible nutrients (TDN) system is in practice. In recent times metabolizable energy (ME) system is also being followed. The TDN requirement of lambs is higher than that of adult sheep. Similarly the pregnant, lactating and breeding ewes require more energy than the non-pregnant, non-lactating ones. As a thumb rule a non-pregnant, non-lactating ewe requires 10 g of TDN per kg live weight for maintenance and wool production. This requirement would be about 50 per cent more during last 6 weeks of pregnancy and 100 per cent more during the first 10 weeks of lactation. The energy deficiency may result in reproductive failure, poor growth and loss in body weight and may ultimately lead to death. The dry matter should contain about 50-55 per cent TDN for adults and 60-65 per cent TDN for growing lambs.


Protein is the basic structural material of all the body tissues and is constantly required for the regeneration of all the living tissues which are undergoing constant wear and tear. The breeding animals need protein for prenatal growth, development of the foetus and to produce milk for post-natal growth of young ones. Clean soured wool or keratin is almost a pure protein. If the ration does not contain enough energy, the protein will be used as energy source. But protein cannot be replaced by any other nutrient in the ration. Protein deficiency causes reduced feed intake and poor feed efficiency. This would result in poor growth and development of muscle, reduced reproductive efficiency and wool production. The protein-deficient animals have lower disease resistance due to smaller amount of immune protein.


Minerals are required for the building and maintenance of the skeleton and teeth. They play an important role in digestion, in the maintenance of osmotic pressure in different body fluids and wool growth. Deficiency of any mineral will exhibit clinical symptoms. The role of the minerals in sheep nutrition is complicated. Excess of some of them may result in poor feed intake, digestion and utilization of other minerals, and can even cause toxicity. The common mineral deficiency symptoms are anorexia (reduced appetite), reduced gain or loss in body weight, unthriftiness, abnormal hair or wool coat and skin dullness, bone deformation, staggered gait and organ damage. Calcium and phosphorus are necessary for bone formation and its maintenance. Deficiencies or imbalance of these minerals are indicted by rickets in young ones and osteoporosis in adults. Deficiency of copper and cobalt may result in tetany and doggy wool. Selenium deficiency may lead to ‘white muscle’ disease in lambs. Sulphur is present in wool and hair and its deficiency will lead to poor wool production and quality. Inadequate supply of iron, copper and cobalt results in anaemia, and lack of iodine in goiter.


Vitamins are metabolically essential. In sheep some vitamins are synthesized in their tissues and some by micro-organisms in their gastro-intestinal tract. The symptoms of vitamin deficiencies are anorexia, reduced growth, dermatitis, weakness and staggering gait. In sheep vitamin A is more important and its deficiency can cause various kinds of blindness. Vitamin deficiency also leads to abnormal bone development, weak and still-born lambs and respiratory problems.


Sheep can be reared as free range (where there is no shortage of land) or under housing inside a shed. It is a very important component in dry land farming system. With very low investments can be made in to a profitable venture for small, marginal farmers and landless labors.


Sheep with its multi-facet utility for wool, meat, milk, skins and manure, form an important component of rural economy particularly in the arid, semi-arid and mountainous areas of the country. It provides a dependable source of income to the shepherds through sale of wool and animals.


  • Sheep do not need expensive buildings to house them and on the other hand require less labour than other kinds of livestock. The foundation stock is relatively cheap and the flock can be multiplied rapidly.
  • Sheep are economical converter of grass into meat and wool.
  • Sheep will eat varied kinds of plants compared to other kind of livestock. This makes them excellent weed destroyer.
  • Unlike goats, sheep hardly damage any tree.
  • The production of wool, meat and manure provides three different sources of income to the shepherd.
  • The structure of their lips helps them to clean grains lost at harvest time and thus convert waste feed into profitable products.
  • Mutton is one kind of meat towards, which there is no prejudice by any community in India and further development of superior breeds for mutton production will have a great scope in the developing economy of India.


  • Well adopted to environment and poor management practices.
  • The meat rate is increasing day by day.
  • Sheep are suitable for wool and meat.
  • Average of 1-2 kids per sheep per delivery.
  • Average meat recovery of 22-30 kg/goat.
  • Penning leads to manurial value to land.