Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, Series 4


T M. Ellis


Sheep, Cold stress, Shearing, Protective clothing

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In January 2982 in the Narrogin-Darkan area of Western Australia, about 14,500 sheep up to 40 days off-shears died after a 48-hour period of heavy soaking rain that followed a thunderstorm three days previously. An estimated 100,000 sheep died throughout the South-West at the time.

P. G. Buckman - at the time Department of Agriculture District Veterinary Officer, Narrogin - surveyed 17 properties in the area. He found that losses in unshedded sheep 0 to 40 days off-shears ranged from 0 to 84 per cent of sheep on the property with an overall average of 27.9 per cent. Rainfall in the area of the survey ranged from 87 mm to 288 mm in the 48 hours. Losses did not appear to be related to age or condition of the sheep or to nutrition or paddock shelter at the time of the rain, They were directly proportional to rainfall.

Such heavy losses over a whole area are exeptional. The more usual situation involves significant losses on individual farms on which recently shorn sheep have been caught in sudden summer thunderstorms or by severe cold snaps associated with winter storms.

T. Ellis, Veterinary Pathologist with the Animal Health Laboratories, discusses one way to protect these sheep - using plastic coats made from industrial bin bags.