Sheep: How are they cared for?

Firstly the rules with any livestock they need Food, Water and Shelter. So today I will be going over what it is I do to provide for my sheep in those areas.


Housing:



Sheep are pretty resilient animals. The breeds I have thrive in cooler weather due to there wool coat. But they do require some sort of shelter to get out of the weather. They need shade in the heat of the summer and protection from the harsh winds in winter. While we do have a barn where the sheep go during lambing, they live outside all year round. They do have a little shed they can retreat to if they choose. But more often then not you will find them huddled in a circle together keeping warm in winter or lined up end for end along the shadiest side of the barn in summer. With the lambs though... they have to be dried off and warmed up as soon as possible after being born or you risk them getting lethargic and possibly dying.


Water:


You need to provide them with clean water everyday if filling a tank. We have 2 auto waterers that are heated and the sheep drink from those. This has been a game changer for us in the winter. But even those on the -20ish Celsius(-4 Fahrenheit) days do tend to freeze over so make sure you open them up.


Food:


Now this is where I do things a little differently then most. I don't feed grain year round to my sheep. My sheep are grain hogs... I would have sheep that way 300 pounds if I fed them grain all year. So I feed my sheep grain for a few weeks before breeding and then while the boys are romancing them. This brings their body condition up to a point where they will have the stores to start feeding the babies within. Then about a month before they lamb I will start slowly bringing grain back into the feeding routine. The last month of a sheep's gestation are where the lambs grow the most and the mama's can go downhill fast if they don't get the right nutrition. From October to End of May I feed hay to the sheep. There is times where they will still forage on the pasture until the snow is too thick of a blanket for them the paw through. Like right now, I am feeding them hay every other day as they still have a lot of forage out there. I am always checking their body condition and if it starts to drop then I change up the feed.


Illness and disease:


Again this is an area where I don't do as others do. I don't routinely vaccinate my sheep. They were vaccinated when they left the farm we bought them from, that is it. I manage my flock naturally and so far it has been working. There were no fatalities this last lambing season. None of the mama's went down with pregnancy toxemia. There is no foot rot and there was no orf. Now I am not against using medication if it's needed. I do have antibiotics on hand IF I need them. The sheep get lots of exercise and are supplemented with loose minerals to help them thrive. In the cool wet of spring as they are just starting graze on the fresh grass they get moved more often so that they won't end up with a heavy worm load and need to be treated for them. But this again is something I monitor closely. If I notice strange poops or some of the sheep starting to have droopy ears then I check everyone and I will treat if needed. Usually if they get moved to a new paddock it clears up. Also we free range our chickens and they attack anything and everything that could be in the POOP.


So there you go, I hope I have shed some light on why I chose to raise sheep. They are a very interesting animal and a great fit for any homestead. Something new this year that I will be doing more of is milking my sheep. I can't wait to share the details with you when I start after lambing. Speaking of lambing... I am set to start lambing January 8th so a little over 8 weeks from now.


Until Next time....

Kimberley

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