Farm biosecurity checklist for sheep producers

Page last updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2018 - 12:43pm

Western Australia has a relatively disease-free status compared with the rest of the world. Good biosecurity practices minimise the potential for introducing disease into your sheep flock and reduce the chance of disease spreading within your flock or to other flocks. Following the sheep biosecurity checklist greatly reduces the risk of an emergency disease such as foot-and-mouth disease or scrapie being able to enter your flock, as well as diseases which do occur in WA such as ovine Johne's disease and footrot.

Healthy sheep:

  • are bright and alert
  • spend much of the day grazing
  • remain within the vicinity of other sheep while grazing
  • normal temperature is 39.0o C
  • normal respiratory rate is 10-20 breaths per minute
  • normal heart rate is 70-90 beats per minute.

Sick sheep may show the following signs:

  • isolate themselves from the rest of the mob
  • diarrhoea
  • swollen ears, muzzle or face
  • itchiness - pulled wool
  • fall behind the mob when driven
  • weight loss
  • lameness
  • uncoordinated gait or convulsions
  • scabs on skin of face, legs or body.

If you see signs of unusual illness or behaviour, or unexpected deaths in your sheep, call your veterinarian immediately or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.

What is a sheep biosecurity checklist?

The sheep biosecurity checklist summarises the actions needed to protect your sheep and the WA sheep flock from the devastating effects of an emergency animal disease and to minimise the spread of disease within WA.

Assess your management practices against each section. The more biosecurity practices you have in place, the less the risk of your sheep flock becoming unhealthy.

Biosecurity on your property

  • Place a sign at the entry gate to demonstrate your commitment to farm biosecurity
  • Maintain secure boundary fences
  • Check regularly for strays in your flock: remove, inspect and isolate any strays promptly
  • Restrict visitor and vehicle movements onto your property to designated driveways and access roads
  • Ensure all machinery brought onto your property is properly cleaned
  • Ensure all fodder and seed are purchased from properties free of plant pests or diseases
  • Inspect the flock regularly and report any unusual signs of illness to your veterinarian, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia (DPIRD) veterinarian or stock inspector
  • Seek advice from a veterinary or farm consultant when developing your biosecurity plan.

Before you bring sheep onto your property

  • Limit introductions of live sheep
  • Only purchase from flocks with a known health status the same or better than your flock (consider lice, ovine Johne's disease, footrot, resistant worms and Brucella ovis)
  • Ask for a National Sheep Health Statement for the sheep before purchasing or agisting on your property
  • Inspect sheep for pests and diseases before buying
  • Only transport sheep in clean trucks/vehicles. Discuss with your transporter their protocols for biosecurity
  • Consider using semen or embryos for introducing new genetics in preference to introducing live sheep
  • Preferably buy rams or lines of sheep on-property rather than through a saleyard.

Moving sheep onto/off your property:

  • Keep introduced sheep separate from your flock for up to three months
  • Monitor and inspect introduced sheep regularly during isolation and have your veterinarian investigate any signs of disease
  • Isolate sheep returning from shows, breeding centres and agistment as if they were newly purchased sheep
  • Vaccinate and drench sheep on arrival to minimise the risk of introducing new diseases and parasites
  • Ensure sheep are identified correctly before moving them off your property
  • Enter all movements of sheep on the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database
  • Maintain good records of all sheep movements on and off the property to ensure whole-of-life traceability.

More information

For more information on livestock biosecurity, contact your local Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development veterinary officer. Your nearest DPIRD veterinary officer can be found on the Livestock Biosecurity program contacts page.