Caring for sheep has been completed by humans for thousands of years as the benefits of developing a flock for meat, wool, or simply for fun can be an attractive choice to make. Sheep, rams, and lambs are known for being relatively easy to work with as a shepherd, in many cases sheep will begin to respond to commands to follow, be fed, and move into their shelter when called, according to The Spruce.
The following are ten tips to make sure a flock remains as healthy and productive as possible over any career as a shepherd.
Choosing a flock
A flock of sheep will usually have to be purchased to make sure the novice shepherd chooses the best animals to make up a flock a few simple tips on choosing a healthy flock should be discussed. One of the best options for a shepherd is to examine each ewe carefully to make sure they are walking with heads held high and an alert appearance as they are walking around a pasture; a shepherd should run their hand down the spine of each ewe or ram being considered to make sure they are strong, muscular, and not too flabby.
Creating the perfect shelter
It is important to have everything prepared for the arrival of a flock of sheep, including the construction of a three sided, covered shelter to assist in keeping every sheep safe from the elements and potential predators. Mother Earth News reports each member of a flock requires around six square feet of living space to remain healthy and happy throughout their life and to avoid the development and spread of disease. Ventilation and the adequate movement of air should be provided in a bid to ensure every sheep is protected from the extremes of heat seen across much of the U.S., according to Follow Your Dream Farm.
Cull your flock
A subject not many shepherds enjoy discussing is that of culling a flock as it continues to grow and multiply when a ram is performing at his maximum potential throughout the mating season. Raising livestock can be an expensive business and any lambs born not meeting the standards of good health should be removed from the flock to avoid any illness arriving for the farmer. The benefit of sheep farming is those lambs culled in the Spring can be used for meat at home or sold for meats.
Get the best feed
Sheep are known for their ability to rummage for food such as grass and hay, which should make up a portion of the daily feed provided for any flock. Sheep can largely be left to their own devices in a pasture field where grasses and plants growing naturally will make up the majority of feed, but in times of drought or extremely hot or cold weather when grasses are not available a mixture of grains and legumes to make sure a flock of sheep remains as healthy as possible at all times of the year.
Always have water available
Sheep are grazing animals and require a large amount of food to be consumed each and every day, water is another must for all sheep who require as much as two gallons of water per day. In hot summer periods, a sheep may increase their water intake which should be adjusted for these issues.
Make sure lambs are cared for correctly
A healthy ewe will produce between one and two lambs each mating season to give a shepherd a happy problem of a growing flock to care for. Most breeds of sheep see lambs born in the Spring months when the weather can still be cold and force the shepherd to take some drastic action to care for the young lambs in their early weeks. The mother ewe can be sheared to force her to remain in her shelter to care for her lamb within the sight of a heat lamp for added comfort.
Reward good behavior in livestock
As with the majority of animals, the aim for any shepherd is to make sure their flock are well trained and cared for at all times to keep them fit and healthy. Although effective grazers, sheep also enjoy a treat and being rewarded for their impressive behavior; a good choice is to reward sheep with carrots and fruits, plus a favorite treat of most farm animals is animal crackers once in a while.
Sheep require grooming
As with all animals, the grooming routine of any sheep is needed to keep the animal healthy and happy. A thick wool coat is grown to provide a comfortable environment at all times for the ewe and should be removed at least once each year to avoid the ewe becoming uncomfortable and stressed. Crutching, the removal of hair around the anus and nipples is a popular option in the weeks before the lambing season begins.
Record keeping is essential
Record keeping is an essential part of raising a healthy flock as knowing when a ewe is due to give birth to make sure the shepherd knows as much as possible about their flock as possible. Each ewe and ram should have their own record and charts detailing mating activities and when a ram began mating with ewes to make sure an estimate can be made about when to expect the first lambs to be born. Other records that should be kept include annual wool yield and number of lambs born each season.
Keep a flock healthy
Finally, probably the most important aspect of managing a flock of sheep correctly is to ensure each ewe is given the chance to remain as healthy as possible at all times. Almost every ovine breed is known to be a target for a range of internal and external parasites which should be removed at regular intervals through the use of a pest removing dip. Routine vaccinations will be recommended by a veterinarian who will administer all the necessary shots required and identify any potential health issues seen in the local area a shepherd should be aware of.