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Last Update: 21 Jan 2019
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Department of Agriculture Sarawak, 7 & 12-17th Floor, Menara Pelita,
Jln. Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub, Petra Jaya, 93050 Kuching, Sarawak
Tel. No.: 082-441000   Fax No.: 082-447821
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For more enquiries, please contact us:

Address :

Department of Agriculture Sarawak, 7th, 12-14, 16-17th Floor, Menara Pelita, Jln. Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub, Petra Jaya, 93050 Kuching, Sarawak

Tel. No.:  082-441000  
Fax No.:  082-447639 (Director Office), 
                 082-446039 (Human Resource)

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Sheep RearingSheep Rearing



Malin (Malaysia Indigeneous Sheep)

This breed is found in Peninsular Malaysia. The animal is small and short with variious colours, whote, black, chocolate, road, etc. The wool os coarse and of poor quality. The ear is of medium size and sometimes can be 'vestigial'. The animal has horns. The breed can withsand extreme conditions and is more resistant to disease when compared to the exotic breeds.

The weight of adult animals are : Male – 25-30 kg and Female – 15-25 kg

Malin Cross

This is a cross between the Malin and exotic breeds such as pool dorset, dorset horn and others. It looks more to exotic line with thicker layer of coat than Malin.

Birth Weight – 1.4-1.5 kg
Mature Weight Male – 20-40 kg and Female – 20-30 kg
Twinning rate – 10%

Dorset Horns

This breed originated from the Dorset district of England. This breed is big and stout with short white coat. They have horns specially the male which curved towards the head. The breed can adapt to hot condition and in temperate is usually reported to give twin or triplet lambs. In Malaysia, it is commonly bred with the Malin.

Birth weight – 2.8-3.2 kg
Adult weight – Male – 90-110 kg and Female – 60-80 kg
Twinning rate – 40%

Poll Dorset

This is a Dorset breed except that the Poll Dorset has no horn. Other breeds introduced to Sarawak include Thai Long Tail, Suffolk and their crosses. The performance of this breed is similar to that of Dorset Horn.


In general, sheep husbandry practices fall into any of the following three systems of management:

Free range System

This is a common system practices in Peninsular Malaysia by small holders whereby the sheep are let loose to graze in the morning and are kept at night in simple shelters with little or no fencing at all. Shepherds are sometimes employed.

Semi-Intensive Systems

Under this system, the animals are released during the day and housed at night. Supplementary feeding may be given when necessary. Proper shed with necessary facilities are provided to accommodate large flock size. Fencing is necessary for open pasture. Sherpherds are needed to monitor the flock movement if integrated with other crops such as coconut, oil palm or rubber plantation.

This type of animal husbandry practice is good as the flock health could be monitored daily in the morning before releasing and in the evening when they come back.

Intensive System

In this system, the animals are always kept indoor and stallfed with concentrate feeds, fodder or other agricultural by-products. They are provided with good housing facilities and require only minimum land size.

This system is not encouraged as the main aim of sheel rearing is to integrated with perennial crops and to fully utilise all the forages under crops trees. Concentrate feeding is very expensive. However, this type of management can be recommended for a fattening project as well as for lambs from birth till 3 months old to ensure good health care and better growth rate.


Management of the sheep flock

A flock of sheep in the farm can be categorised into several groups for ease of management of the flock. This include new born lambs, pre-weaned lambs, post-weaning and growing lambs, adult sheep and pregnant ewes.

Management of new born lambs

Immediately when the lamb is born, make sure that the respiratory tract is clear and the lamb can breath easily. Remove the mucus if necessary. Always allow the dam to lick the lamb and ensure that the lamb gets an adequate amount of colostrum from the ewe. The colostrum is very important as it provides energy and antibody and acts as laxative to unblock the gut of the new born lambs. The navel should be treated with tincture iodine and the pen wher the lamb and the dam should be clean, dry with good ventilation. It is important that adequate fine grass, additional supplements, clean water and mineral salt be provided. The dam and lamb should be penned together for at least 2 weeks. If there is insufficient milk, give calf milk replacer initially at 600 ml per day.

Management of Pre-weaned Lambs

Pre-weaned young lambs are kept in the pens until 2-3 months of age. After grazing, the dams are later put back with the young. This allows ease of management of young lambs and to keep them away from hazards.

For those lambs on calf milk replacer, the amount can be gradully increased from 600 ml per day to 1,400 ml at 4-6 weeks. First deworming can be done at one month old.

Management of Post Weaning and Growing Lambs

Weaning of young lambs is usually done at 3 months of age. Weaned lambs are usually kept together and allowed to graze in the vicinity of shed for at least 6 hours per day. Additional concentrates are provided as supplements when animals return to the shed. Deworning is usually done at monthly interval. However, if worm ifestation is mild, deworming can be carried out at two to three months inverval.

Management of Adult Sheep

Adult group usually comprises ewes and rams which have been selected for breeding. Younger ewes can also be allowed to graze with adult flock but mating cannot be controlled. Unwanted or surplus males should be castrated and sold. Poor rams and ewes not suitable for breeding should also be culled. It is advisable to follow the necessary flock health programmes closely.

Management of Pregnant Ewes

When all year round breeding is practised, the late gestation ewes, for ease of management, should be grouped together and allowed to graze until they are ready to lamb. They are kept in maternity pens which must be clean. Sufficient cut fodder, water and supplement ration at 200 - 300 gm/day should be given to pregnant or lactating ewes. This is 20-30% higher than daily ration.

General Management Practices

The general management practices that should be adopted in a sheep farm include tail docking, castration, shearing of wood, dehorning, hoof trimming and control of ecto parasites.


This is the cutting of tail surgically or using rubber ring. This exercise is important so as to keep the crutch area clean and dry and therefore less likely to be struck by flies. Dock all the lambs 3-7 days old at about 2 inches fromt he base of the tail.


Castration is necessary on the male lambs not meant for breeding after 3 months old, that is after good ram lambs have been selected. Castration is conveniently perfomed by using an elastrator (elastic rubber ring) or a burdizzo.


Sheep Maturity Age

Sheep mature when they are 6-9 months of age. Maturity depends very much on the following factors:

Breed of sheep - Small breed like the Malin matured earlier than bigger size breed or the exotic breeds

Feed - Sheep that feed on quality forages or grass and sufficient food supplementation mature much faster

Environment - Sheep from tropical countries mature faster than those from temperate countries

The recommended age for breeding is 15 months for the females and 13 months for the males.

Important Characteristics of Reproduction:

Oestrus cycle - 15-20 days (average 17 days)
Lenght of Oestrus - 20-42 hrs (average 30 hrs)
Signs of Oestrus -
  • Restlessness
  • Reduced appetite for food
  • Climbing on other sheep
  • Keeping near to the ram
  • Swollen and redden vulva
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Shaking the tail and allowing to be mounted
Gestation Period - 144-152 days (average 148 days)
Lambing interval - Lambing interval for sheep is between 6-8 months with twinning rate of 10-20% and average of 1.2-1.5 lambs per ewe per year (or 3 lambs/ 2 years)

Breeding Management

The breeding of the herd can at any time of the year.

The recommendations for the buck to ewe ratio are 1:40-50 or 1:25. The ratio depends on the breeding management. For whole year round mating, a ration of 1 buck to 40-50 ewes is practised. Otherwise, 1 buck to 20-25 ewes is recommended for periodic breeding period.

Factors to be considered when selecting animals for breeding:

  1. Flock performance record. Refer to performance records and visual appearance of the animals
  2. Identify the group of animals from which the selection will be made. Choose the correct breed and group of animals.
  3. Examine the records of each animals (if available)

Factors which might be taken into consideration include:

  1. Age of animal at the time of selection
  2. Performance of that animal to-date
  3. Performance of animal's parents in term of growth rate
  4. Performance of animal's siblings

In a self contained ewe flock where lambs are being selected, examine:

  1. Dam's record of fecundity and her recorded ability to rear lambs
  2. Lamb's own record, i.e. single, twin or triplet and its size

Growth rate

  1. Note the birth weight, weight at 3 weeks and 3-4 months

Generally, the heavier animals will tend to produce faster growing offspring and lambs from single birth are invariably heavier than multiple birth.

Selected male and female should have the following desired characteristics:

  • A good strong head, bright eyes and alert
  • Neat shoulder
  • Good chest girth, with well spring ribs
  • Good length and width of loin
  • Wide and deep hindquarters, well muscled but not undoly fat
  • Food jaw confirmation, teeth evenly distributed, with correct number for age of animal, jaw should be neither under nor over-shot cutting edges
  • General conformation according to breed type
  • Female animals should have two tents, normal vagina and broad pelvic
  • Male should have both testicles pendulous and of similar size. There should be no signs of scrotal hernia on handling. Testicles should not feel soft and flabby since these tend to be sterile.
  • The male should have strong cannon bones

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