Sheep Farming Basics

Are you getting sheep for the first time? If so, are you ready?

  • Your sheep will need protection from predators, from microscopic parasites, and from  extreme weather (snow, heavy rain, summer heat). 
  • They will also need effective fences to stop them straying, and fresh water and mineral supplements available at all times. 
  • You also need to know a bit about sheep nutrition, how much acreage they require, what you can feed them, and how much. Learn how to avoid over-eating disease (enterotoxemia) and acidosis
  • If your sheep are going to be having lambs, it wouldn't hurt to know the basics of sheep obstetrics
  • Although it is possible your sheep never develop hoof problems, it helps to be aware of solutions just in case - especially in our high rainfall region.

You can easily find good information about all these thing online.University Extension services are particularly useful. 

Purdue University's College of Agriculture has many useful publications about sheep and goats.

Just type "sheep extension" into a search engine and heaps of university extension sites will pop up offering all sorts of interesting info. 

Even better, there may be sheep workshops and short courses available near you. For example, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture's Sheep Unit offers excellent and free one-day workshops four times a year. They are designed specifically for beginner sheep farmers (you don't have to own sheep to attend). Contact Dr. Donald G..Ely at University of Kentucky, You will learn a lot at these hands-on workshops, and come home with notebook binders full of up-to-date information. . A good place to network with other sheep farmers, too.There are similar workshops at Kentucky State University, University of Tennessee, and many more.Try to find one that offers hands-on experiences right there in the barn or field with the sheep.

There are useful books about sheep, too, of course. When I was starting out in sheep, I constantly referred to Storey's Guide to Raisning Sheep, by Paula Simmons and Carol Ekarius, and Raising Healthy Sheep (Second Edition), by Dr. Cleon V. Kimberling and Gerilyn Parsons. (I grew up on a sheep farm in Australia, but I guess I wasn't paying attention to the serious stuff back then.)

Sheep equipment vendors like often contain good general sheep information on their websites, and looking at all their products, such as fencing and feeders, will give you good ideas for DIY projects.

I am also happy to share, in my Blog below, things I've learned along the way, and what works for me. Every farmer and every farm is different, with different characteristics, advantages, disadvantages, constraints and tolerances. Some of my practices may work for your farm, others may not. As an increasingly elderly woman (born 1951), I am particularly interested in ways to save labor and simplify operations! I have opinions about everything and perfect solutions for nothing, meaning that I'm constantly tweaking my methods.  

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