Sheep Vegetation Management Guidelines

3.0 On-site management and standards

3.1 Training and experience requirements

  • The proponent, contractor and project staff should have appropriate experience and skills, and should have a general understanding of sheep production, vegetation management and the potential effects of sheep grazing on wildlife and their habitat. Experience in these areas is crucial for successful projects.

  • The majority of shepherds on sites should have at least one working season of experience in the field of sheep vegetation management.

  • It is imperative that at least one shepherd per project have extensive experience in sheep health and husbandry, as well as the ability to evaluate sheep body condition and symptoms of stress.

  • Inspecting veterinarians must be authorized by MAF. Proponents should contact MAF for a list of authorized veterinarians.

3.2 On-site documents

  • One legible copy of the valid health certificates, individual sheep identification record, livestock manifest and other documents required by contract agreement must accompany all sheep upon arrival at the project areas and be kept on the site.

  • All pertinent activities and observations must be recorded on the operation forms. The operation forms must be up to date and present on the camp site at all times and made available to monitoring staff, authorized veterinarians and other designated officials upon request.

3.3 Operation forms

  • Operation forms (Appendix 5) include the:

    • Sheep Health and Welfare Form, and

    • Carnivore Interaction Form

  • At the end of the contract, the proponent must supply a copy of the operation forms to the designated MELP official and the MAF Health Management Veterinarian. Proponents should also retain a copy of the operation forms for their own records.

3.4 Carnivore interactions

  • All contractor staff must be familiar with the large carnivores (possible sheep predators) in the grazing area, predator avoidance techniques and predator deterrent methods (such as noise makers and pepper spray). Proponents and contractors should be familiar with current MELP publications concerning these topics (Appendix 6).
  • All carnivore sightings and interactions must be recorded on the Carnivore Interaction Form.
  • All project staff must use diligence in shepherding, frequent sheep counts, and especially evening checks to ensure no sheep are left on site. These techniques are all vital to avoiding carnivore interactions.
  • To effectively monitor for carnivores it is recommended that a block survey for carnivore sightings, scats and tracks be conducted on the site approximately 48 hours prior to sheep arrival, every 5 to 10 days for the duration of the project, and following departure of the flock. The final carnivore inspection should determine if any sheep, dogs or belongings have been left behind. Daily inspections for carnivores should also be completed while inspecting the flock. If contractors have insufficient experience in monitoring for signs of carnivores then it is recommended that appropriate training be taken or personnel with this experience be hired.
  • If carnivore presence or behaviour suggests an increased risk of predation then it is recommended that the number of on-site personnel, sheep counts, guardian dogs and efforts to prevent sheep wandering should also increase.
  • Every reasonable effort must be made to avoid conflicts with carnivores. However, if contractor staff consider a wild carnivore to be a serious threat, they must report incidents as soon as possible to the Conservation Officer and the designated MELP official.
  • If a wild carnivore kills or injures a domestic animal (suspected or confirmed):
    • the incident should be promptly reported to the Conservation Officer Service and/or the designated MELP official, and recorded on the Carnivore Interaction Form. It is recommended, for human safety, that the carcass be left undisturbed until the Conservation Officer has been contacted. The Conservation Officer may give specific instructions for handling of the carcass and the surrounding area. Otherwise, disposal of carcasses should be consistent with Section 3.8 of the guidelines (carcass removal).
    • carnivores must not be destroyed unless human life is in direct danger. The Wildlife Act requires that any wildlife killed on site must be promptly reported to a Conservation Officer;
    • carnivore carcasses are the property of the Crown and disposal must, therefore, be at the direction of MELP as per the Wildlife Act; and
    • MELP, in consultation with the proponent, may require that the sheep flock be moved, as soon as possible to a pre-selected alternative site that is deemed suitable by ministry staff (such sites should be at least one watershed distance away, and should be identified before the project starts).
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3.5 Moving sheep unexpectedly

  • Should the contractor have an unplanned need to move sheep within the contract period, the flock should be moved to a pre-approved site. The proponent, the designated MELP official and Conservation Officer Service must be notified by the contractor as soon as possible

 

3.6 Camp standards

Proponents should include the Silviculture Contract Camp Standards in their contract package. Proponents and contractors must conform to the Health Act and W.C.B. Regulations.

In addition, the following guidelines apply in sheep grazing operations:

  • Camps should be near the sheep for adequate monitoring of disturbances.

  • Foodstuffs and garbage should be stored properly in bear and vermin-proof containers.

  • All burnable garbage must be burned or removed from the site. Appropriate approval must be obtained from MELP and MOF prior to burning.

3.7 Telecommunications

  • It is recommended that all camps have reliable telecommunications equipment, such as a cellular phone, VHF or radio. Proponents should also provide all camps with correct radio frequencies and channels for all logging roads that exist within the project area.

  • The names and telephone numbers for the following people or organizations should be available on the project site:

    • Contract Officer (acting on behalf of the proponent),

    • Conservation Officer,

    • Designated MELP official (Wildlife/Habitat Biologist or Technician),

    • MAF Health Management Veterinarian,

    • contract veterinarian,

    • local hospital or first aid station, and

    • off-site contacts (for messages).

  • Because some grazing sites have poor, or no, radio reception, provision should be made for personnel at these sites to have frequent off-site contact.

  • Walkie-talkie radios are recommended to assist shepherds with on-site communication.

3.8 Sheep health and welfare

  • Proponents and sheep contractors are expected to ensure that sheep used on vegetation management sites meet the current Sheep Health Protocol (Appendix 3)

  • Any sheep that do not continue to meet the Sheep Health Protocol must be removed from the site.

  • Contractors should meet sheep care standards as outlined in the Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Sheep, provided by the MAF upon request.

Lambing

  • Pregnant ewes will not be certified or permitted to enter the site. If lambing should inadvertently occur on site, ewes and their lambs should be isolated, and removed from project sites within two days of lambing, or as soon as physically possible, in keeping with the Sheep Health Protocol. Lambing sites must be limed, and the placentas immediately contained, removed and disposed of.
  • Lambing must be noted and the ewes identified by ear-tag on the Sheep Health and Welfare Form (Appendix 5).

Carcass removal

  • Unless required for further examination, carcasses must be completely disposed of immediately following an animal’s death.
  • Carcasses must be disposed of by incineration or by complete removal from the site. Off-site disposal must be in accordance with all applicable federal and provincial acts and regulations.
  • Sheep carcasses must not be buried on site under any circumstances. Even faint odours of blood or decomposing carcasses will attract carnivores that will dig up any buried remains. This is a hazard to both humans and animals involved with the project.
  • The preferred disposal method is one that leaves no evidence of odour or carcass remains on or near the site. Examples of acceptable disposal are:
  • Off-site portable burners, subject to MELP approval, may also be used to dispose of carcasses. The burner's ability to burn carcasses must be proven to any inspectors. Complete burning should result in only a small amount of ash and charcoal and no residual odours. Immediately after burning, any remains must be buried deeply. To prevent carnivores from associating the odour with the site, the burner should not be located on the project site.

Nutrition

  • Sheep should not be on sites with insufficient vegetation or feed.
  • Trace mineralized salt suitable for sheep should be provided at or near the corral sites.
  • Sheep should be permitted to graze daily, for an adequate period of time, so that their feed intake is sufficient. Sheep grazing patterns may vary with the site topography and other factors, but a minimum of 8 hours of grazing daily may be required.
  • In most cases, sheep weight loss is due to insufficient feed intake and/or poor quality vegetation. Deficient intake may be caused by insufficient volume (perhaps as a result of brief grazing periods), high moisture content in the feed, or increased energy requirements that often accompany severe weather and terrain conditions.
  • Contractors and staff should observe body condition as per the Sheep Health Protocol.

Sheep health

  • Proponents and contractors are responsible for ensuring that all sheep meet health requirements, certifications and inspections as specified in the Sheep Health Protocol.
  • At least one sheep health and welfare inspection is recommended per site on a project. The inspection must be conducted by inspectors authorized by the MAF, between 2 and 5 weeks after the arrival of sheep at a new site. The authorized inspector will inspect and certify sheep under this program, but is not responsible for the routine care of the sheep present on the site.
  • Inspectors should be provided with a list of agency contacts and telephone numbers before his or her inspection, so that visits can be coordinated and contact made with agencies as needed.
  • Reports on the health and welfare of the sheep must be written by the veterinary inspector and copies forwarded to the Contract Officer and the MAF veterinarian. Any concerns about the immediate health and welfare of the sheep must be promptly reported to the MAF veterinarian.
  • Proponents and the contractor should arrange for an authorized veterinarian to provide for the routine care of the sheep present on the site. Monthly veterinary visits are strongly recommended. After completing a routine or emergency visit, the authorized veterinarian should send written reports to the Contract Officer and the MAF veterinarian.
  • Sheep with severe injuries or illnesses requiring long-term care or euthanasia, must be identified by ear-tag, isolated and removed from the site within 24 hours of discovery. These animals should be examined by the contract veterinarian on the site or after removal from the site. This information must be recorded on the Sheep Health and Welfare Form.
  • Sheep with the following conditions must either be removed from the site or slaughtered:
    • sheep under a body condition score of 2 that do not respond to feed within 2 weeks, or;
    • sheep requiring on-site isolation and treatments for greater than 10 days, or;
    • sheep critically injured (e.g. fractures, blindness, severe lacerations or bite wounds), or;
    • sheep unable to keep up with the flock.

    All sheep removed from the vegetation management site must meet the Sheep Health Certification requirement before being returned to the site.

  • Necropsies should be performed on dead sheep when the cause of death is not apparent. The necropsies will help determine if the death was due to disease or predation.
  • All ear-tag numbers of dead sheep and causes of death must be recorded on the Sheep Health and Welfare Form.

3.9 Sheep management techniques

  • Following their arrival on-site, sheep should be off-loaded in a previously designated area for:

    • rest,

    • inspection for transport-related health problems, and

    • a 24-hour stabilization period.

  • It is imperative that sheep be fed and watered as soon as possible after arrival on-site. If site vegetation is suitable and the sheep are familiar with the conditions being presented, the animals should be given immediate access to good quality forage. If good quality forage is not available, then supplemental feed must be provided during the stabilization period.

  • Arrangements must be made for supplemental feed to be provided to the sheep on site as required. Ideally, such supplements should not be necessary.

Corrals

  • Access to an efficient corral system is mandatory for flock inspections, sorts and routine flock management, in addition to the need to control the flock when the risk of predation is high.
  • In the majority of situations, confinement of sheep at night is the most effective method of minimizing conflicts between sheep and wildlife. However, night confinement in corrals may be site specific and will depend on the contractor and shepherds demonstrated ability to control the flock and prevent predation.
  • Corrals should:
    • be highly portable and easy to set up or take down quickly,
    • require few posts to be driven and be manageable by two persons,
    • be able to withstand hard use and require minimal repairs.

    Note that electric fencing has been used successfully on some sites, but is not suitable for all situations.

  • To reduce soil compaction and damage to plantations, corrals should be placed on roadways, landing areas or non-productive ground.
  • Corrals should be moved frequently, and more often in wet weather, to prevent manure build-ups and muddy conditions that can lead to poor animal welfare situations.
  • Corral sites should have good drainage but must not drain directly into watercourses.
  • Corrals must be located outside riparian management areas (RMA).
  • If necessary, the proponent and contractor should seek the advice of the Ministry of Forests and the Designated MELP official on the choice of designated corral, supplemental feeding areas and watering areas.

Grazing management

  • To ensure that the site is free of carnivores, a shepherd should inspect the area to be grazed before the sheep are released, or walk ahead of the flock. After the daily grazing period, a final check should be made to ensure that all sheep have returned. This check, and consequently the removal of any stray sheep, will help prevent attracting carnivores.
  • Sheep should be counted frequently. Weekly or even daily counts may be appropriate, in some situations.
  • Sheep must be permitted to graze daily for an adequate period of time in order to allow sufficient feed intake. Sheep grazing patterns may vary with site topography and other factors, but a minimum of 8 hours daily may be required. Sheep body condition should be monitored on a regular basis by weighing or scoring the condition of a representative sample.
  • High intensity grazing of small areas for short periods of time, has proven to be an effective vegetation management practice.
  • Once the competing vegetation has been adequately removed by the sheep, they should removed from the site.
  • The flock should be moved between project sites in close proximity along routes with traffic control. In general, a maximum of about 15 km can be traveled per day on average terrain, with adequate rest stops and water provided.

Staff and dogs

  • Until the sheep establish grazing patterns, it is recommended that three shepherds per flock should be on site from morning release until the end of each day. A minimum of two shepherds should remain on site at all times.
  • It is unacceptable to leave the sheep unattended.
  • It is unacceptable to leave personnel alone for long periods of time.
  • Each shepherd requires at least two experienced herding dogs with proven working ability on site. Additional dogs may be required as back-up in case primary herding dogs are injured or become ill.
  • Each flock of up to 1500 sheep requires at least two experienced livestock guardian dogs of recognized breeds and demonstrated effective working ability. Dogs in training are not considered to be working guardian dogs.
  • Dogs used on sheep vegetation management sites must be controlled by the contractor and should not be left unattended (refer to the Wildlife Act, Sections 80 and 81).
  • The presence of dogs does not relieve shepherds from the responsibility of monitoring for the presence of on-site carnivores and ensuring good husbandry through close flock supervision.

3.10 Dog health and welfare

The Sheep Health Protocol recommends that all dogs on site receive:

  • vaccination against canine Rabies, Distemper, Adenovirus type II and Parvovirus, before site entry or as advised by the shepherd’s regular veterinarian;

  • anthelmintic treatment, 2 weeks before entering the site and on leaving the site, for roundworms and tapeworms, or as advised by the shepherd’s regular veterinarian;

  • heartworm tests and prophylactic heartworm medications that are considered appropriate by the shepherd's regular veterinarian; and

  • good quality food, clean drinking water and suitable facilities and care for injuries and illness.

3.11 Water

  • Sheep must be supplied with supplementary water sources and facilities on or near the project site, particularly in dry weather conditions. An individual sheep can drink up to one gallon per day, depending on feed type and weather conditions.

  • Contractors should provide troughs and hauled water for sheep at or near the corral sites to encourage sheep to drink from these supplemental sites rather than from natural water sources.

  • Contractors may be permitted to haul or pipe water to tanks and troughs from natural sources, however diversion of water for stock watering purposes in some watercourses may require a permit from the Water Management Branch of Ministry of Environment

  • Direct access to lakes, streams and wetlands should be avoided. Every reasonable effort should be made to protect riparian areas as per the Riparian Management Area Guidebook.

  • Night corrals should be located outside riparian management areas (RMA).

  • Drainage from the night corral site must not flow into watercourses.

  • Excessive animal and vehicle traffic through watercourses must be avoided to prevent contamination of the watercourse.


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