Proceedings of the Benelux ISAE conference 2016 pages:26-26
Benelux ISAE location:Berlicum, The Netherlands date:13 October 2016
Extensive landscaping of nature reserves can be done by mowing at low frequency. However, for the biodiversity of plants, nature conservation organizations increasingly choose for grazing by domestic animals like horses, ponies, cattle, goats and sheep. The welfare and welfare monitoring of extensively managed animals has not been extensively studied. We studied condition effects on sheep (all ewes of the Vlaams Kuddeschaap) during the entire grazing period from May 2015 till September 2015 in the nature reserve of Kalmthout. Two groups of 50 ewes were followed: group 1 was guarded by a shepherd each working day (Monday – Friday) during 8 hours, group 2 could graze freely in an extensive raster (>30 hectare). The grazing vegetation for group 1 and 2 were similar. Every month (5 times) the sheep were weighed, their condition was evaluated by the same person by palpation (score 1 – 9), and the gait was scored (score 1 – 5) after weighing. Data were analyzed using “proc mixed” in SAS 9.4. It is seen that the weight of sheep from group 1 (herded) and group 2 (raster) increased during the grazing period (group 1: +6.6 kg; group 2: +9.6 kg). Per weighing moment or month, no difference in weight (p>0.05) between both groups was seen. Also, the condition increased from the start till the end (group 1: 3.8 → 7.0; group 2: 5.0 → 7.1). During all scoring moments, the gait of all sheep was scored with score 1, showing that there were no indications of lameness. The results show that the condition of the sheep was good and that there were no effects of the type of management (herding versus raster) per measure moment. In spite of these positive results, monitoring sheep in extensive grazing areas is necessary to follow the welfare and management of the sheep.