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Damara Sheep

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The basics:
Damara Sheep are an ancient breed which originated in Egypt as early as 3,000 BCE, and eventually moved down to Angola and Namibia. According to the Damara Sheep Breeders Society of South Africa, "Fat tailed sheep arrived in South Africa between 200 and 400 AD. The Damara Herero, Namaqua and the Kam Karrin Hottentot tribes farmed and traded with what has become the Damara sheep of today. The name is derived from the Damara area of Namibia where the largest number of animals is found."

Damara Sheep are exceptionally hardy, and can survive in hot, harsh environments and with poor nutrition. They are a hair sheep breed and grow their coat in winter and shed it in summer.

According to the Oklahoma State University, "It has a fairly high resistance to most sheep diseases and also good tolerance against internal parasites. The Damara sheep has a diverse diet. It feeds on grass, bush and shrubs and can almost be classified as a browser. Research has indicated that up to 64% of the diet of the Damara sheep can consist of browsing material. This places the Damara in the same feeding category as goats."

Appearance / health:
Damara Sheep are smooth haired and mostly brown, though a number of color varieties can be found. Rams are usually horned, heavy and masculine. Ewes are polled, light and feminine.

One of the most common ailments among sheep is a viral skin disease called soremouth or “orf.” Ringworm or “club lamb fungus” is a rash also common among sheep. And much like “mad cow disease,” sheep can have a similar neurological ailment called “scrapie.” Sheep health issues should be addressed by a qualified veterinarian. Good health is promoted by sanitary habitat conditions and proper nutrition.

Housing / diet:
Sheep are grazing animals and do well living their entire lives outdoors. They get sufficient exercise and fresh air out in the field. They do need shelter from bad storms and unusually hot days. Many sheep keepers install field structures to provide shade, for example, hutches, domes, carports, and makeshift sheds. A common shade structure is a hoop house, like an open hangar or a greenhouse, which has a metal arched frame covered with tarp or other heavy-duty fabric.

Some sheep owners keep their flock in a barn or similar enclosure to protect them from predators. These enclosures must have very good ventilation because moisture and poor air conditions lead to the sheep’s poor health.

For warmth and comfort, bedding material should be provided. The best bedding is absorbent, clean, and dry. Some options are straw, wood shaving, sawdust, corncobs, dried corn stalks, peat, hemp, paper, and alfalfa hay. Preference is determined by cost, availability, convenience, and type of sheep. Wool sheep will not appreciate sawdust because it gets in their fleece. Paper is highly absorbent but difficult to manage in the field.

Lambs start with their mother’s milk and a light diet of pasture grass at two weeks old. After weaning the lambs from ewe’s milk at six weeks old, they can start eating dry feed of grains (wheat, oats, barley, cottonseed, corn), soybean and peanut hulls, and hay. The main diet of sheep is fresh grass and other forage and pasture vegetation. The pasture must be fertile and large enough to support the grazing of sheep for about seven hours a day (morning and afternoon). Fresh water must be constantly available, especially during the warm months and if the diet is mostly dry hay. Supplements are recommended, and must be given in the middle of the day to balance the sheep’s food intake.

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