Basic Sheep 101

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by milkinpigs, Jul 24, 2006.

  1. milkinpigs

    milkinpigs Dairy/Hog Farmer

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    Don't know that much about sheep; can you fine folks give me one or two pointers that you've learned by experience? Something that anybody thinking about getting a few lambs or a couple of ewes to possibly raise a few lambs should know beforehand? Much obliged for any thoughts....
     
  2. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    Y'know, for a moment I thought you milked pigs...and milking sheep became a far saner hobby...

    But as to pointers...a lot of the basics apply to all grazing animals, such as pasture rotation and deworming. Quality feed goes further than cheap stuff, no quick changes to feed. Good management is always good management, no matter the species.

    You'll need to decide if you want hair sheep or wool, as with the latter you'll need to consider shearing at least once, and possibly twice, each year. Will you be wanting to show? Registered stock, if so. Or even if you're wanting to sell to others who show. But for a few lambs in the freezer, papers won't matter.

    Sheep can't handle copper, so if you've got a goat, it'll need it's grain seperate.

    Fencing...that's my biggest issue (aside from having an over-crowded pasture this last year.) Hot wire works for some sheep, not others. Electric netting, same deal; works for some, not others. Some sheep find the weakest area of a fence no matter what. Dolly needed fence posts set close together or she'd try to tunnel out beneath the fence. No, not try...she did.

    Lots of good reading here on the sheep board; everything from bloat to coccidia and lambing issues. Certainly the best sheep board I've found online, as everyone is ready with an answer!
     

  3. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Hmmm If you have a lot of pigs or have had a lot of pigs your forage crops may be too high in copper from spreading pig manure. They are that sensitive. Check out the book recomendation in the sheep board directory, and I hope you get more responces here. Sheep are a bit like catle and a bit like Children. Feed them like cattle and worry as if they were your children. Sheep are more affected by worms and other parasites, they need the 8 way vacine like cattle but might get by with a simple 3 way (they cost nearly the same so whay bother going short?) No supplimental copper in thier mineral or feed and most breeds benefit signifigantly from grains when cold and/or pregnant. There in a nutshell is sheep farming. My advice is to read more advice than this.
     
  4. Sprout

    Sprout Well-Known Member

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    I would recomend getting a few bummer lambs and raise them for your freezer. Much less of a comitment than a ewe and lamb for the first year, and you can learn the basics. And even if you screw up your only loosing a table lamb and not a good breeding ewe, which are often very hard to replace.
     
  5. kirsten

    kirsten Well-Known Member

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    My whole flock is made up of bummer lambs so far. UNless you have lots of time and time to read and study, don't start with them. It is the hardest way to go and the scariest and most stressful.
    My advice would be to spend time with your sheep, study their personalities and learn what you need to be seeing when you look at them. You have to see all these things when you look at them and a practiced eye takes time becuase with sheep, you really need to be on the ball. You need to catch stuff early. What shocked me the most was how they would blow up by nighttime- I was constantly in fear of bloat and shoving stuff down their throats and just worried to death! But we also had a lamb die becuase it did not get enough colostrum, several cases of navel ill, entropian, actual bloat and a heap of other strange problems like I thought one had mange but it was merely a pus-y infection which set into the legs as a result of scours. We had to tube feed. I got sick for two weeks when we first got some lambs, thought I had crypto... It is an adventure!

    Thus buy nice 6 month old lambs and keep them company a lot.
     
  6. Terry W

    Terry W Duchess of Cynicism

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    I am enjoying watching the behaviours of my two new, "first" sheep- a ram and a wether -- yeah, yeah, the Amish are all laughing at me, but at least I won't be having babies before I am ready!!!
    My guys are 7 and 8 months old--I dodnt have to mess with a bottle, nor am i dealing with fully mature behaviour. they came to me "wild" and now, i have found ways to "work" them woithout a lot of stress on them or me-- that may be a good way for you to start-- Mine are hair sheep, but I have sheared some of the woolies-- If you plan on woolies, you are probably better off making sure they are not deathly afraid of you--
     
  7. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Why don't you start with three culled ewes. Anybody with sheep probably has a few old ewes they are thinking about culling, and if they've been pets they will be happy to let you take them rather than the freezer. Get them before they are bred (soon). This will give you experience with grazing, fencing, feeding hay over the winter and hauling water, but without the worry of pregnant ewes or new lambs. You will also be able to judge if you like that particular breed.

    When you start with breeding, make sure you have a really good ram. He should have good temperment, a straight back, and otherwise a good conformation and good fleece. A ram is half your flock. Your old ewes will be aunties to the new lambs, as well as show the new sheep where everything is, how far to keep away from the dog, and the general routine of the place.

    If you get wool sheep, you need to line up a shearer in January.
     
  8. milkinpigs

    milkinpigs Dairy/Hog Farmer

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    kesoaps,I do milk pigs;as a matter of fact I have the only Grade A Swine dairy in the state of Texas. Thanks for the info...now which is the best breed?
     
  9. eieiomom

    eieiomom Well-Known Member

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    Tracey:

    No :nono: No :nono: No :nono:
     
  10. Sprout

    Sprout Well-Known Member

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    Let me clarify. I should have put this in my post. I mean a weaned bottle baby, as opposed to a momma raised weanling. I would definatly agree that bumer babies and babies in general are not the place to start for a beginner.
     
  11. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    ROFL!!!! Deb, are you reading my mind? A grade A pig dairy. Just when the sheep world here thinks I've gone bonkers milking my sheep, I'll come along with some milk pigs! Okay, this calls for a pig milking contest, I do believe, at the fair. Yes, indeed. Here, Suey, Suey, Suey... Heck, it beats pig racing hands down! :1pig:


    Haha...DD just proclaimed herself to be adopted! :p
     
  12. Terry W

    Terry W Duchess of Cynicism

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    Kesoaps-- I do NOT think milking sheep is crazy-- and my kids are not claiming to be adopted--

    milking pigs-- hmm, can you see the milking machine? But-- I would be willing to bet-- as close as pigs are to humans, even more so than rats, that pig milk would be better for our kids than cow milk is..... right now, goat milk is considered the "universal replacer" for babies of all types. I wonder what Fox Valley uses in its different formylations now.....