Don't know nuthin about sheep

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by donsgal, Oct 6, 2006.

  1. donsgal

    donsgal Nohoa Homestead

    May 2, 2005
    SW Missouri near Branson (Cape Fair)
    I have recently gotten into spinning wool and I would like to be able to start from "square one" by raising a sheep (merino, preferably), and doing my own shearing, carding, etc., etc.

    Having seen sheep at rodoes, fairs and other similar events, I am aware of their incredible hearding instinct. Apparently, being in a heard is virtually THE ONLY DEFENSE that a sheep has from a predator and in any unfamiliar environment, as you know they are virtually inseparable.

    My question: Would a sheep suffer from being an only sheep? Would it be lonely or have other "problems" because of its feeling vulnerable not having a heard to help defend them? Is this a bad idea? Would having two sheep be INFINITELY better mental-health wise for the sheep or does it even really matter. (yes, I know that worrying about the mental health of a sheep sounds a little goofy, but I *DO* want my critters to be happy critters).

    Sheep experts???? Advice???? thoughts?????

  2. ajaxlucy

    ajaxlucy Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jul 17, 2004
    I must be goofy, too, then, because I worry about my sheep flock's "mental health". Mine cry when they get separated and they're alone. They don't like it a bit. They cry and won't eat and rush around and act stressed. So get at least two.
    I do have to say, though, that my Shetlands don't stick right together, and my horned ewe will stomp and charge if she feels threatened. It's been an extra challenge for my pup who's just learning to herd the sheep.

  3. Bearfootfarm

    Bearfootfarm Hello, there anybody in there.....? Supporter

    Jul 12, 2006
    Eastern North Carolina
    You need at least two or it will cause a lot of stress, both to the sheep and to you from listening to them bleat all the time
  4. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2004
    Washington State
    Not all sheep have incredible herding instincts, but most sheep appriate a buddy. I've got several (unfortunately) who appear to be loners. Currently I've got one ram lamb who squeezes through the gate to be in the other pasture with the horse instead of staying with his flock mates :shrug: If you can get two, that would be best (because loner or not, everyone needs a friend), but if you've got another critter that can peacefully co-exist with one who'd not completely herd bound, that should suffice.
  5. linda in se ny

    linda in se ny Well-Known Member

    Apr 13, 2005
    When we bought our first sheep 181/2 years ago we bought one ewe lamb from a guy about 30 miles away. We brought her home and she hollered all night and half the next day so we called him back and went and got another one. Even if you raise one on the bottle and it's bonded to you not sheep it will still want to be with you and not alone. I suppose like anything they'd get used to whatever companion they had but in the mean time they'd be pretty miserable.
  6. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

    Nov 26, 2004
    New Zealand
    Do you have any other stock? Animals don't have to live with their own kind to be happy and if you have a cow or a pig as a paddock mate for it, you will probably find that it will be quite content.

    I have a sheep that will only live with cattle - the result was that it took three years to get her into lamb because she wouldn't stay with the ram and ewes at tupping. And a pig that loathes other pigs and is quite content to be on her own but will tolerate the company of the odd sheep.

  7. shepmom

    shepmom Well-Known Member

    May 29, 2003
    I agree get 2 sheepies, donkey, horse something else that would provide some companionship.
  8. ShortSheep

    ShortSheep Well-Known Member

    Aug 8, 2004
    Donsgal, some breeds have stronger flocking instincts than other breeds. Your sheep will be much happier if she has a sheep companion. Even if they tend to wander away from each other, (and some do, some don't), I think there is some comfort for them in knowing that their friend is near by.
    A shepherd that is concerned with the mental well-being of their stock is a good shepherd. I know I try to keep mine "happy". Not only is it humane, but a happy sheep will be healthier and produce better for you than a stressed sheep.
  9. frazzlehead

    frazzlehead AppleJackCreek Supporter

    Aug 23, 2005
    near Edmonton AB
    Be careful...

    they're addictive!

    From "oh, we'll just get couple for fun and 4H" ... first sheep bought in July of this year, there are now four out there in the field, and in 20 mins I leave to get the next four!


    (Seriously though, most do best with a buddy of the same species - not necessarily same breed, but sheep ... a few will be content with other animals, but it's hard to tell in advance.)
  10. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

    Jun 19, 2004
    Just a couple of comments: yes, as others have already said, sheep prefer not to be alone. If you have goats (but goats and sheep need different mineral mix), a horse, a cow, or something, you won't absolutely have to get two sheep, but it would be a good idea.

    Second, you mentioned merinos. They are one of the breeds with a strong flocking instinct. But that lovely wool is quite difficult to shear, compared with other breeds. This is for two reasons, and sometimes three: 1. their wool is very dense, more so, I think, that any other breed. This means that there is a lot to cut through with every stroke. 2. their wool is VERY greasy, which gums up the cutters, whether you are using electric or hand shears. And 3. some merinos, not all, still have a lot of wrinkles, which make shearing really difficult. If you DO get merinos, make sure you don't get one from wrinkled lines.

    I would recommend your first sheep should maybe be an easier-to-shear breed, such as Romney. Of course, if you have your heart set on merino (and there is no nicer wool!), you can struggle through the difficulties. But I've seen a professional shearer take half an hour, with professional electric shears, to do each Merino. He zipped through the Shetlands in ten minutes.

  11. jlo

    jlo Active Member

    Sep 1, 2006
    Most sheep need company but we have a bottle baby that doesn't care about being with the other sheep at all and prefers to slip out of the gate and join the dogs in the back yard and visit with people on the porch. If you only want one and have a small piece of property, perhaps a bottle lamb would work for you.