Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: First sheep  (Read 636 times)


  • Joined Nov 2020
First sheep
« on: December 27, 2020, 07:05:17 pm »
I’m looking to get a couple of sheep to graze our field. Have been told that Southdown and Ryeland are very docile but not sure where to start with buying some? Try and get some Cade lambs or buy older ones.... and to approach farmers direct or look online? any advice would be appreciated. Based in Southeast


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: First sheep
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2020, 01:36:04 am »
You are best to get three sheep for a small group - they are flock animals so if one dies, you still have two, but if you only have two and one dies then it's a mad panic to get a suitable extra sheep so the one left is not alone.

Cade lambs may often have health problems with not having been brought up by a ewe.  You are better to buy your sheep as weaned, direct from a sale  such as the rare breeds sales which are held between August and November each year - you can get pedigree rare breeds there and unregistered animals too.

 More likely you will be looking for wethers if they are just to keep your grass down rather than breeding from - first identify a person who keeps the breed of sheep you want, (doing the rounds of the agricultural shows is one way, though not in 2020), and has a good reputation for stock quality, then approach them for available stock to buy. Wethers will be lambs destined for meat, except in a few rare cases, so you need to buy them as lambs before they reach the age for slaughter (which varies with breed)  I wouldn't just buy unknown animals from an unknown source just because they are available when you want them - plan to buy healthy animals which you have examined in person.  Equally, don't be a time waster - if you have chosen your breeder, then be prepared to buy when you visit.  This visit allows you to make up your own mind about their animals and husbandry - if you are unimpressed then say so early and leave.

Above all, don't just rush into buying animals - take your time to find the right breed for you, the right breeder and the right animals.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2020, 01:43:33 am by Fleecewife »

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  • Global Moderator
  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
    • Nantygroes
    • Facebook
Re: First sheep
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2020, 08:14:25 am »

I would start by working out what the sheep are for and what plans you have for them (I agree get 3)

If you plan for pets/grazers then ...

 get wethers (castrated males).... as to breed get what you like the look of .... can just be mixed breed.   Cades from someone you know and trust would be OK ....  but unlikely to find 3 Ryland cades as they tend to be kept in very small flocks  and thus to have 3 cade males would be a disaster! Contact local smallholder breeders.
Alternative (and would be my choice ) take on some older  ewes from a local smallholder breeder.  I love it when I can rehome an older ewe or one with only half an udder which I have lovingly reared, which eats from my hand but I cant breed from anylonger.  These can live for years with some petting TLC.

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  • Joined Feb 2012
  • Somerset
Re: First sheep
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2020, 09:17:59 am »
I would agree with Backinwellies. Join your nearest smallholder association and buy wethers from one of the members who breeds. The association usually has a directory of members which lists the type of animals that they keep. Members also will usually advertise when they have lambs available.

You can look up the characteristics of the breeds on the internet via the relevant breed society. We started keeping sheep in this way and it was very successful. We also met some very nice local breeders in the process.[size=78%] [/size] :)


  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: First sheep
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2020, 11:03:39 am »
If you are looking for lawn mowers only (and not to eat) I wouold go for one of the traditional rare breeds, they do well on a grass only diet, don't get fat too quickly and are pften smaller/lighter making it easier to handle them (for shearing for example). Also a traditional breed suited top your local area (or one that has not got a record of foot problems) would be an easier choice. From my experience Shetlands are an easy breed to keep and do well all over the UK.


  • Joined Nov 2020
Re: First sheep
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2020, 11:20:54 am »
Thank you that’s all very helpful.
Last year was a nightmare for contacting people and going to the agricultural shows wasn’t an option.
Probably a silly question but will they be okay outside all year round with just a field shelter?
Also option of ewes with lambs at foot or best to avoid?
Many thanks


  • Joined Feb 2012
  • Somerset
Re: First sheep
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2020, 11:51:19 am »
Most rare breeds will be fine with just a field shelter but it does depend on how exposed your field is, local weather conditions and how wet your land gets in the winter. It might be worth discussing this with the breeder you are thinking of buying from.

The thing about ewes with lambs at foot is that the lambs grow up pretty quickly and will be a mixture of rams and ewes. Unless you sell them in a timely manner you will soon be looking after pregnant ewes. Not something I would have wanted to do in my first year. Much better to start with wethers so that you become familiar with vaccinations, worming, lameness, shearing etc before you have to deal with pregnancies.


  • Joined Oct 2012
Re: First sheep
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2020, 01:28:01 pm »
we've a couple of Soay twin tups that are wethered and "as tame as Soays get!" LOL. "Islay and BlackIsle" We're halfway between Perth and Dundee.............................. let us know if you may be interested. ScotCat :wave:


  • Joined Jul 2013
Re: First sheep
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2020, 01:40:28 pm »
I agree with those suggesting traditional breeds otherwise you will find yourself with some very fat sheep quite quickly which can bring all sorts of health issues. Shetlands are friendly, I would go for girls but really that is just down to personal preference! Have a look at a few breeds and then pick one you like. If you go for Soays or Manx or hebs just make sure you get them from a very friendly flock so they are easier to manage. The wild ones can be tricky for first timers!


  • Joined Nov 2020
Re: First sheep
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2020, 03:49:40 pm »
Thank you! I have considered Shetlands.
Does everyone have their own livestock trailer or do you borrow?


  • Joined Jan 2019
Re: First sheep
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2020, 04:12:19 pm »
Thank you! I have considered Shetlands.
Does everyone have their own livestock trailer or do you borrow?

unless you actually want sheep cheaper and easier to pick up a second hand sit on lawn mower, don’t under estimate the cost and time involved looking after a few sheep
« Last Edit: December 28, 2020, 04:19:23 pm by Mel »


  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: First sheep
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2020, 04:32:47 pm »
Sound advice from Mel there.
We have our own trailers but move sheep around quite often to abattoir, market and off grazing. If you aren’t doing any of those trips there’s not much point having one. A good trailer will hold its value so not always cheap.

For a few sheep, hurdles are essential, some hand shears (try and find a shearer for 3 sheep... easier said than done), a shelter can be a good hedge rather than man made. The number of your local farm vet and the enthusiasm to get out of bed and drag yourself to check the sheep on a winters day like today. The only thing that keeps me going in winter is lambing come February, if it wasn’t for that I’d not stick the winter weather for a few pets  :roflanim:


  • Joined Oct 2012
Re: First sheep
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2020, 04:53:35 pm »
agree with the last cpl posts! our sheep are small and we use a Mitsubishi L200 hardback for moving, but depends how far you're travelling........ and remember all the rules and regs and vaccinating etc stuff: we've more animal medicines in the fridge than human stuff. Do not underestimate the commitment. You dont just throw them in a field and forget about them when it's freeeezing and you dont feel like it! we've been out fixing fences and toe trimming this aft: it's baltic! you also need to be regd with a good vet practice, otherwise they wont come to you when you need them! do your homework, first. We never sell sheep without enquiring about where they're going, and that buyers know what they're commitment is: we dont sell to "get them back"! Hohoho. Away out now in teh biting wind and freeeezing cold todo feed supplements.................. ScotCat


  • Joined Nov 2020
Re: First sheep
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2020, 05:05:48 pm »
Thanks. I am aware of all this as we have horses ???? pigs and lots others so fully aware of the cold, commitment and drama. I am new to sheep though so trying to do my homework before we get any.


  • Joined Oct 2012
Re: First sheep
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2020, 06:00:54 pm »
all good stuff; cant wait to learn your choice! ScotCat :hshoe:


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