Routine Care of Sheep

 As I have mentioned already on this site, sheep are not dissimilar to goats when it comes to general care. In some ways they are easier to keep, and in others there are more problems associated with them.

These are the commonly accepted care requirements for sheep:


1-Feet trimming

2-Worming

3-External parasite/fly treatment

4-Vaccinations

5-Annual shearing

6-Vitamin/mineral supplements



Feet Trimming

Depending on how hard/rocky or how wet your ground is you will need to trim your sheeps feet 2-6 times a year. You just have to keep a general eye on their feet and trim accordingly, the more often its done the less problems you will have but if you ground is very dry and hard you should find their feet wear down a lot naturally. A great tip is if you feed your sheep once a day, do so a hard concrete/stony surface, it helps to wear down their feet. Sheep are prone to more foot problems that goats but a lot of this is probably due to the fact sheep are left out all year round, often our winters are very wet and they are often kept on fairly boggy ground and rarely have their feet trimmed. Our Patchwork sheep do naturally have good feet but if you don't take care of them you will get problems. You can trim your sheep s feet your self very easily. We can show you if you are buying lambs from us or you can ask a local farmer/smallholder for advice. You could even pay someone to do it if you aren't confident. It can be done with specially purchased foot shears or even with a good pair of scissors, either with the sheep turned over or tied up and done similar to how a farrier does a horse.


Worming

Sheep usually need to be wormed 2-4 times a year, depending on how much land/stock you have. We usually use a wormer that does for liver fluke also as our land is in a fluke area. Wormer is administered orally, either with a specialist gun/applicator or with a large syringe, best to just use a syringe if you only have a few sheep. You can buy wormer from an agricultural shop/online/sometimes from your vet or some farmer/smallholder locally may have spare left over. It is important to worm you sheep, they can loose condition, become ill and even die from a heavy worm burden. But it is also important not to over do it as wormers are harsh on the sheeps gut. You should also try to rotate using different wormers so you don't inadvertently create a super resistant worm population! Its a good idea to time worming with moving to a new field/fresh pasture, that way your sheep won't contaminate the fresh grass with worms too. You can actually take a stool sample and send it away for analysis to see how much worm burden your sheep have and know when to worm them that way. If 1 or more of you sheep suddenly get very messy bums and everything is sloppy that end it is usually a good idea to worm them and see if that clears it up, if not then you can explore other causes, similarly if your sheep have very poor body condition even though receiving plenty of food.


External parasite/fly treatment

Most people no longer 'dip' their sheep, and we certainly don't. You can now use a pour on spray, like 'Crovect' or 'Clik', which gets sprayed on their backs in early summer/late summer, this kills off any external parasites and helps prevent fly strike. We no longer do this though unless it were necessary. Crovect is very corrosive.. I wouldn't dream of getting it on my skin so why subject the sheep to it... These type of sheep are naturally resistant to parasites and fly strike, because of their relatively short fleece and short tails, we feel its not necessary and have stopped using sprays on them. So its up to you whether to use it. Probably we would advise not to, unless you find you sheep actually have a problem with parasites such as lice/ticks, only then you would need to treat them.


Vaccinations

We no longer vaccinate our sheep with Hepta Vac P, we have done so in the past and have seen some very bad reactions to the vaccine.. Hence this year we not going to vaccinate our sheep. It is also realistically difficult to get the lambs covered with 2 vaccines before they leave us at 12 weeks, considering there can be 6 weeks between youngest and oldest lambs, and vaccinating lambs too young can be ineffective as it interferes with the antibodies received from their mothers colostrum. If you buy sheep or lambs from us you can get them vaccinated if you so wish, you will need to follow the instructions of the particular vaccine you are using and usually give them 2 doses, 4-6 weeks apart. It is best to consult your local vet if you are unsure and for advice. 


Annual Shearing

All sheep need to be sheared once a year. Some breeds naturally shed their fleece, some of our sheep do, or partially shed. Some people keep sheep specifically for the fact they can be sheared and provide a wonderful fleece! Others see it as a pain and only shear for welfare issues. Sheep are usually shorn in early summer, May/June/July time. Depending where in the country you are and how warm/cold it is at the time. It is necessary to shear them, if you don't you run the risk of the sheep over heating in very hot weather and greatly increase the chance of fly strike. Lambs aren't sheared until the following year, so if you buy lambs from us in July/August you won't need to shear them until the following year. Its probably best to get a local farmer/shearer to shear the sheep for you if you aren't confident enough to have a go yourself. But if you are, for a small number of sheep you can purchase some hand shears and find plenty of useful tutorials online!


Vitamin/mineral supplements

Something that is often over looked. We dose our sheep with a vitamin supplement during lambing time, pre-tupping and sometimes in the winter depending on weather/condition of grazing/sheep. Not all grass/ground contains all the vitamins/minerals required by sheep, especially in persistent wet weather when they are washed from the ground. If sheep are kept on a very small area they probably won't be able to get everything they need. If your sheep are not breeding then they have much more chance of getting enough of these things to sustain them. If needed you can buy specific vitamin/mineral feed buckets or salt based blocks specifically for sheep. But be careful with these as the sheep can gouge out, rather than lick, the hard mineral buckets and damage their teeth. It is very important that you don't give them anything intended just for horses or goats as these contain high amounts of copper which is poisonous to sheep in a high enough dose.