The effect of overnight kraaling on sheep production in the sourveld areas of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

Author: C.B. Nowers, L.M. Nobumba & J. Welgemoed
Year: 2017
Issue: 1
Volume: 10
Page: 9 - 16

It is a common practise in communal areas to kraal sheep at night. This study was conducted to determine the effect of overnight confinement on sheep growth and wool production under favourable grazing conditions. The project on Dohne Sourveld commenced during September 2007 and was replicated over three years. A total of 100 Dohne Merino wethers between 12 and 14 months old were randomly allocated into two treatment groups: an unrestricted group (Control) and a group kraaled from 16:00 until 08:00 the following morning (Kraal). The treatments commenced during September of each year and continued until sheep were shorn the following August. The sheep in both treatments were stocked at similar stocking rates and rotational grazing was applied. The body weights of wethers were recorded fortnightly. Fleece weights of the animals of both groups were recorded at shearing. Midrib samples were taken for determination of certain fibre traits. Faecal samples from 20% of each treatment group were taken at two weekly intervals to determine nematode parasite levels. Phosphorous (summer licks) and protein (winter licks) were supplemented ad lib. to both treatments. The same vaccination and animal health program were applied to both treatments. Sheep were only dosed in a treatment group when average faecal internal parasite counts exceeded levels above 1000 eggs/gram. Although animal performance varied during the three years, no significant differences were found in weight gains between animals in the treatment groups. Lower than expected infestation levels of H. contortus were found in the Kraal group. Wethers in this treatment received only one additional drenching for two of the three years. Greasy fleece weight, fibre diameter and clean yield percentage were similar. Clean wool yield percentage of kraaled sheep was consistently lower than those of sheep in the control group. Results suggest that if sheep are kraaled at night in properly constructed confinement structures (correct slope, sufficient drainage, etc.) from 16:00 until 08:00, with sufficient quantity and quality grazing throughout the unrestricted period, wool production and body weight should not be negatively affected.

Keywords: sheep production
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