Guide Running a Small Flock of Sheep

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Running a Small Flock of Sheep

Tell us if something is incorrect. David G Hinton. Book Format: eBook. Digital delivery to your. It seems that lambs are raised with much more tolerance and patience than discipline, but that is not always by choice. I am not sure exactly what happened. All I know is I came through the gate, then heard a funny noise. I turned around to find her draped over the top of our Miniature Cheviot ewe. The Pyr stayed completely limp—just looking around, obviously trying to figure out how to get off without hurting the sheep. I cannot praise this breed of dog enough.

We have two, and they are both absolutely wonderful! She is also starting to lose weight. She grazes constantly all day and I am supplementing her with grain. That is done by feeling her backbone and the flesh on either side of it. When sheep still have their wool, it can be difficult to truly see how thin or heavy they are.

That wool coat hides a lot! Also, as in the case with this ewe, a sheep can look quite plump in the evening after coming in from a day of grazing, and yet be losing weight. I will try to compensate for the toll her lambs are taking on her, by increasing her grain. This picture is taken in our front yard where we have a small orchard and a wide variety of ornamental plants. Babydoll sheep are known to be useful in orchards and vineyards for organic weed control. This is mainly because of their short stature—not because they dislike nibbling. As you can see, there is one sheep working on the lower leaves of the apple tree.

For our uses, the Babydolls work well. It makes them easier to mow around the few times that is needed and I think they look better. For other plants, it is a give-and-take situation. They nibble at my hostas, but have also eliminated most of the dandelions which they love. Yesterday, they were seen eating poison ivy along the creek bank! If I lose a couple more rose bushes this year, they will be replaced with peonies.

Like all successful relationships, there is compromise.


They are teaching me how to have a pretty yard AND have sheep to help weed and mow it. Now that the vines are budding, the sheep have been moved elsewhere. Later, when the vegetation needs to be pruned back, they will be brought back in. As the grapes ripen, they will be taken out again. The usefulness of these little sheep is dependent on being placed in the right environment at the right time. The sheep are going to do what they do naturally—and that can be considered highly productive or a destructive nuisance, depending on where the manager chooses to graze the sheep, and when.

Ultimately, they are what they are—it is up to us to use them in a way that can also be beneficial to us. Weaning time is here for the boys! Although people often think that vaccinations, banding tails, neutering the males, and placing ear tags are traumatic, experience has taught me that they are very insignificant events in the life of a lamb, compared with weaning. The bond a lamb has with his mother and sibling is very strong by this time.

They are used to sleeping together and have a lot of verbal and physical contact throughout each day. Although it seems that milk is the need, at this age the psychological needs are much greater. Nursing has become a comfort more than a means for sustaining life. The lamb spends most of his day grazing and drinks water frequently. They are able to still interact with their mothers and sisters, but unable to nurse. During the first night, I noticed that the ewes slept by the pen, providing comfort at night.

The boys spent the first couple days calling a lot, but the ewes seldom answered back. When the ewes and remaining lambs were allowed out of the pen in the morning to graze, they left the boys without a look back. Those are the signs I am watching for. If the ewes readily leave their lambs, they are physically ready for weaning to happen. I am also slightly decreasing the amount of grain I am giving the ewes, to slow down the milk production. They are thin, so this is a fine balance.

I watch the ewes closely for any signs that they may be having problems, since they are my main concern at this stage. They all appear energetic and bright-eyed so far. By the third day, the boys are playing with each other much more, and although they still enjoy interacting through the fence with their families, they seem content with their new routine and playmates. The ewe lamb was weaned from her mother this week. It went well, with little protest from the lamb nor her mother. It seems both were ready.

They consist of the scrapie tags that are necessary for any sheep leaving the farm. I do not like to put them in until the lambs are weaned, because I feel it is too rough on their ears while they are nursing. I would rather insert them later than have torn ears. They are held close while it is done and immediately offered a handful of grain afterward.

When released, most come right back for more petting or more grain.

Running a Small Flock of Sheep by David G. Hinton -

Most need very little trimming, but it is good for them to get accustomed to the procedure. Then they should get a booster yearly in the spring. It takes them that long to achieve adult size, and before that I feel the risk is too great for problems. This week the older sheep got sheared.


The little ones spent the week enjoying each other, eating, and sleeping. When I am with them, the little ram patiently stands the closest so I will pet him. The little ewe lamb is also friendly, but just a bit more timid. This is the usual behavior. It is also why wethers make such wonderful pets! This week I purchased another flock that included more ewe lambs. The existing lambs quickly taught the newcomers to run to me when I call. It is so much fun to watch all their little fuzzy heads pop up from the grass and then have them come bouncing as fast as their little legs will take them!

This week, the lambs got a dose of UltraBoss on their backs to help keep them free from any external parasites. They also got a dose of de-wormer for the internal ones. Worms can be a real problem for sheep so periodic treatment is important. On the other hand, using de-wormers too much can lead to resistance. So that is an issue that many shepherds spend time weighing over. There is no clear-cut solution, and people take many different approaches. Personally, I like a combination of working to keep the sheep healthy so they can tolerate any problems better , rotating their pasture areas to help break the worm cycles, removing most of the manure daily from their night pens, and de-worming at least three times a year.

My typical schedule is once close to lambing, another soon after the lambs are weaned, and another late summer right before I put the rams in with the ewes for breeding season. Preparations are being made for the little ram lamb to go to his new home. Since he will be going out-of-state, he and the ewe lamb he will go with had to have veterinarian exams and a health certificate so they could be transported.

The little ram did very well on his first trip away from the farm. We all had to smile. As we headed back home afterward, we had to wait for a long train to pass. I wondered how the lambs were doing with the train whistle, the exhaust fumes as the engine passed, and the vibration and loudness of sitting so close to the passing train. But when we got home, they appeared to be quite relaxed about the whole adventure. As soon as they got out of the crate and were lifted to the ground, they ran calling to their friends and immediately resumed their favorite pastime—munching grass.

Well, the Big Day has come! The little ram is going to his new home. He has changed from a frail, teetering newborn to a confident, friendly young ram during these past fourteen weeks. His sister is staying in our flock, claimed by my daughter as her payment for being my assistant shepherd this year. It is always hard for me to see the little ones go. Each has its own personality and as they get older, the differences become more distinct. This little guy has always been the second to greet me when I enter the lamb pen.

The ewe he will leave with, was always the first. She would be more overt about wanting to be petted, while he would stand quietly next to my leg, patiently waiting. Rubbing him under his chin and on the front part of his chest would cause him to close his eyes and get him so relaxed he would almost fall asleep.

I will miss him. But I know he is going to a good home where he will be loved by a whole family, and especially one very young little girl who wants sheep sooooo much and has waited sooooo long for them.

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Even though my short fourteen weeks with him are over, they have been very enjoyable. I watch the young ram, his female friend, and their new family pull out of the driveway. I pick him up and hold him while his mother munches peacefully beside me. If you want to breed, you will also need a flock number from your local Animal Health Section Contact your local authority Environmental Dept. All sheep movements on and off your smallholding will also need to be registered, either with a paper form AML1 which is being phased out or online at www.

Training sheep to a bucket of feed Insurance. Also, it is important to have third party liability insurance in case your sheep escape and cause some damage. You need to obtain an Animal Transporter Authorisation and a Short Haul Certificate of Competency, which enable you to transport sheep, cattle, horses, pigs or goats for distances of over 40 miles 65km and under eight hours. Moving one animal at a time is also exempt. First decide how much land you are going to allocate to sheep and then work out how many you need.

From here you have to add in any number of variables - you may need considerably fewer sheep if the grazing is poor north facing, high altitude, poor soil etc and may want more if you have lush pasture. Inevitably, you will also have years when you have too much grass and years like this spring when the weather is slow to warm up and you will wonder if the grass will ever grow. With the former, you will get through a lot of hay to supplement and with the latter, your sheep will get fat quickly!

My Southdowns are very greedy and prone to put on weight and complain to me regularly that I restrict their grazing. There is an organisation called The English Beef and Lamb Executive Eblex which is aimed more at commercial farmers rather than smallholders, but they produce a series of leaflets on getting the most from your enterprise, which are very useful, including a booklet on grazing for sheep. Unless you are planning to breed or are liable to have annual problems with very deep snow, your sheep should not need to be kept indoors. One of the reasons why sheep have never been subjected to intensive management is that they are not well suited to keeping indoors.

Even if you are lambing, you can produce a very serviceable temporary shelter with straw bale walls and a tarpaulin roof and sheep polytunnels are very popular. Sheep can lamb outdoors, but bringing them in increases the life expectancy of the new born lamb particularly with multiple births and the comfort of the shepherd dealing with them. Even the most idle of sheep are great escape artists and your fencing needs to be robust. Hedging is not sufficient unless really well laid. Pig-wire along the bottom and a couple of rows of plain or barbed wire along the top to a height of four feet should do it.

Keep it well maintained as some sheep will climb it and drag it down. Your sheep should not need feeding anything other than grass or hay unless they are close to lambing. I supplement my ewes six weeks before they are due to lamb and for a couple of weeks afterwards, moving over to supplementing the lambs instead as they start to take an interest. Other than that, they only need constant access to water to drink all year round. You can buy mineral supplements for grazing animals but I prefer to have my soil tested every few years and treated with a mineral compound.