June 25, 2015

New Shepherd Questions

Q.  I am going to purchase my first sheep this weekend. I have been on numerous websites, but still have a lot of questions. The sheep were born in March of this year. What does that make them?

I have a 10X10 run in shelter with good ventilation ( I am also putting in a fan), with barn doors to keep them in at night. It is on dirt, but I plan to put straw on the floor. 

A.  Sheep that are less than 1 year old are called "lambs."    When born in the spring as are yours, they can also be called "spring lambs."  Between one and 2 years of age, they are called "yearlings."
A dirt floor, covered in straw, makes an excellent place for sheep to bed down.  The fact that you can close the sheep up at night will be VERY helpful if there are any predator problems in your area!  It's also a useful option during rainy/snowy conditions, as well as at lambing time.  If your fences are secure and the neighborhood relatively safe, older lambs and adults can certainly spend the night outdoors during good weather.

June 11, 2015

Still here!

Although it's not been active as of late, the info in this blog is generally timeless.  So I've not made any alterations to the posts here.

We're still active shepherds, and still welcome sheep-related questions!

November 22, 2010

Battering Ram

I have a bottle baby lamb that is about 7 months old. He was castrated 3 months ago but still wants to butt me and my granddaughter. We were the ones who bottle fed him. When I give attention to one of the "siblings" (those bottle fed around the same time as him), he has to push between us. Some days there is no problem; but he seems quick to jerk his head at us.  Sometimes he back ups, with ears back and jumps to buck, then swings his head. The other day he got me with a horn and cut me and bruised me.
If I can push him with my leg on his side, he backs off.  Many times ignoring him, he will back off; but if we are head on he will not. My granddaughter he goes after all the time, but as a baby (first 5 weeks he was here by himself, no other lambs and in the house) she was his playmate.
I want to train him, I only have 6 lambs all were bottle babies, and no other sheep. 

What can I do? Will he calm down since he is castrated?
Thanks for any help

I really wish I could offer some great ideas here; but to be perfectly honest, I'm not very optimistic about the outcome of this situation.  Once a sheep starts butting behaviour, it only gets worse as he matures; and there's no simple, sure way to curtail it.
Castration will help, but it's usually most effective when done at a very early age (a few days) and before the butting behaviour starts.  Your only options now are to retrain the lamb against his natural urges.  The very first thing I would do is keep him away from your granddaughter.  He obviously feels very comfortable challenging her, and that sounds like a recipe for disaster.  He apparently views her as an equal in your "flock" (using the term loosely here, as this sheep probably considers humans as part of his flock), and probably won't stop until he "wins."  Never, ever, ever allow ANYONE to pet him - or any of your sheep - on the top of the head.  Carry a squirt gun, squirt bottle, or something similar any time you're near him.  A dose of water right in the face will deter him.  Don't coddle him or apologize for disciplinary actions...you're trying to make him slightly afraid of you!  Forget about any schemes which might include whacking him with something, as that will only serve to reinforce and encourage future butting.
If you are really serious about keeping him at all costs, keep him away from humans as much as possible.  The idea is to make him more like a natural sheep - i.e., slightly shy or afraid of humans.  It'd be best if he were running with other dam-raised lambs, and had as little future human contact as possible.
I realize I sound somewhat draconian here, but believe me...my advice stems from many sorry experiences.  Although domesticated for millennia, sheep have never really been bred as pets as have been cats and dogs.  And although some rudimentary training is possible (such as walking on a lead), sheep are not trainable as are dogs.  To make matters more complicated, you're trying to un-train natural urges here.  I'm not sure that's at all possible.
I do wish you the best of luck.

Lambs Won't Nurse!

We sometimes have a problem with young lambs not feeding from the mother.  They seem to not  know how to suck.  The ewe has healthy teats and milk.   We have tried  rolling the ewe onto its back, holding the ewe and offering the teat to  the lamb. This works well if the lamb knows how to suck, but if it doesn't  what can we do?  Can you advise?   Appreciate your site.

A chilled lamb usually has no interest in food.  If that's the case, the first order of business is to warm the lamb up by whatever means you can (e.g. hair dryer, immersion in warm water, etc.).  You can try tube-feeding the lamb warmed colostrum or warm dextrose (NOT cold milk or replacer!); usually that helps *if* chill is the problem.  Once the lamb nurses for the first time, it should do ok after that unless something is seriously wrong.
You can tell if a lamb is cold, by the way, by sticking your finger in its mouth.  If it's cold in there, the lamb is chilled.   At the same time you'll be checking for vigor of sucking response.

Your use of the plural here tells me you've seen this more than once. Perhaps it might be a good idea to review your bloodlines, and look for a different and/or more unrelated ram.  Loss of early life vigor is one of the first signs of inbreeding depression.

July 10, 2010

How Can I Tell When My Ewes Will Lamb?

My 2 ewes are looking very close to lambing. Their udders have swollen nicely. How can I tell how close they are? We bought them pregnant. 

Indicators vary from breed to breed and individual ewe to ewe,  esp. depending upon age.  But generally, once a ewe starts making an udder the event isn't too far off.  A day or two before the birth, you should notice some subtle changes in the ewe's body and the udder.  The lambs "drop", and the ewe becomes saggier looking around the hips.  The tail head appears to move up slightly.  The udder will become full, taught, and somewhat "shiney" (assuming it isn't covered with wool!); and you will be able to express a little bit of milk.
The actual day of lambing, the ewe will probably separate herself from the flock.  She'll probably refuse feed, and may stand by herself staring off into space or start "nesting".
All these signs are somewhat subtle, and seeing them may take some experience and knowledge of your individual sheep.

May 7, 2010

Email from Charles - a new potential shepherd - and some answers

"I have been doing a lot of research into bio diverse farming methods and "flerding" techniques. I also have a real interest in setting up a sub commercial aggrobiz for myelf and my family with a lot of varied options after im done with military service.

"Without going into long winded detail about various business aspirations, I wanted to know if you had any ideas as to a good breed of sheep that gives high quality meat and wool while still producing enough milk and decent quality hide for home useage for recreational crafts that'd be good in the climate of northern Pennsylvania."

There are dozens upon dozens of breeds available in the USA. I can pretty much guarantee you that every breeder will tell you his or her breed is the best! I urge you to talk to various breeders, and ask them why they have chosen their particular breed. Take every response with a grain of salt, of course. Read everything you can about a breed before investing in it.

A few details to keep in mind:
(1) No breed is perfect in every way
(2) Most money in sheep is made by selling meat lambs.
(3) There are some niche markets for speciality breeds, wool, hides, and breeding stock; but it takes a special effort to find and develop such markets.

Just about any breed you find should do just fine in your climate.

"I am trying to see if i can come up with cost projections to grow my own feed. Also is there a preferred method of preparing pasture and grazing land? "

A great source of such information can be your county extension agent. Yes, there is most certainly methods of preparing pasture! Good pasture and hay does not just happen by itself.

"I want to start off with a small herd of maybe 10-15 sheep and slowly include cattle, on an acreage of say 100 acres of pasture. Do you think it would be possible to maintain a few cows as well as sheep and horses? "

Certainly. Starting with a smaller farm animal, such as sheep, is a good start.

April 11, 2010

Barbados Blackbelly Lambs Available

We now have a few select Blackbelly lambs on the ground. They will be weaning age in early May, and may be reserved now. Check our online saleslist at http://www.barkingrock.com/sheep4sale.htm

Update 5/6/10 - one ewe lamb left this year!
Update 11/20/10 - we are sold out for the year.  If you're interested in a lamb from our winter/spring 2011 crop, please drop us an email at farms@barkingrock.com