Agri Vehicles Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: starting with sheep  (Read 9058 times)

Buffy the eggs layer

  • Joined Jun 2010
starting with sheep
« on: December 29, 2010, 06:43:08 pm »
Hi All,

   I am hoping to start with Wiltshire horn sheep next year and wanted a bit of advice on what I need to look after them. I need to repair and replace my parameter fencing before I start and planned to get someone in in the next month to rid me of my rabbit population which is grazing down my pasture. I also intended to fertilise the pasture and flush the grass through in spring.

Can you please tell me what supplies and equipment I would need to get started, feeders, shelters, hay etc. Also, what would be the best time of year to buy them and wether I should start with ewes with lambs at foot or some weaned lambs to grow on.

Any advice appreciated.



  • Joined Aug 2010
  • kent
  • observe react administer enjoy !!
    • photos
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2010, 08:17:34 pm »
I started with sheep last year, what I did was in may/june was too buy some store lambs, I kept them until October when they went off to the abbatoir to forfill orders for them that i had secured, from that I wanted to progress to my own ewes and a tup, I now have 27 ewes and two tups, I have been amased by the money I have actually spent so its good to do some sums first !!

£4000                      L200 Mitsibushi 4x4 truck
£324.00                   hurdles x 27 @ £12 each another 16 on the way
£1200 + vat             trailer about to be purchased Iwilliams P6 sheep trailer(cant find second hand for love nor money)
£50                         8 foot  second hand tilting hay rack with lid
£200.00                  Accessories ig, tup paint, hoof spray, hoof trimmers, castration kit, ear tags,

And thats without any hay or ewe nuts, £5 per bail and £7.76 ewes nuts 18%, super lick £16.00

Worming kit and flystrike kit   £???

also learning curve with all the paperwork for animal health ect movement licences ect
But loving it all

Suffolk x romneys and Texel X with Romney Tup, Shetlands and Southdown Tup


  • Joined Mar 2010
  • Devon
    • Drake Ryelands
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2010, 08:23:28 pm »
Ours wasn't quite like Andy's!
Our trailer was £300 (though we have bought another now)
Sheep have been between £50 and £150 each
Feed is £5 per bag
Hay £2.50 per bale

The expensive bits have been Heptivac, worming and fly-strike things. 
Foot shears and dagging shears are always good - not too expensive either.
We bought a whole hoard of lambing things that we haven't used, rather to be safe than sorry!


  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2010, 08:42:18 pm »
Why do you want to fertilise the pasture? If you have a mixed grass / clover / herb sward, putting on a nitrogen fertiliser will encourage the grass, especially ryegrass, but at the expense of the other plants. Cover will fix your nitrogen for free and is higher protein than grass so good for sheep. Nitrogen may be what a commercial intensive farmer would spread but maybe not achieve you want to achieve. If the land has been grazed by livestock, you may not need potassium and phosphates at all, as these are contained in manure.

You may need to lime, depending on the current pH of the soil. There may also be trace element issues that need to be addressed.

You also need to be careful when you spread fertiliser. If you do it before the grass is actively growing, the grass can't use it and it may leach out of the soil into watercourses.

If you haven't already done so, consider getting a soil test done - this will show you what is and isn't in the soil, and you can act accordingly.


  • Joined Oct 2008
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2010, 08:55:45 pm »
Best piece of advice i can give you is something i learnt the hard way,make sure that your boundry fence is high enough and strong enough,all our boundry is now double fenced as here goes the story.

Nov 2nd knock on front door at 8.30am your sheep are out they were in our back garden but they have now moved on to the next field,panic stricten jumped over fence into next doors farmers field couldnt see them,hooked trailer up and drove round spoted them about 1 mile across a roads into next farmers fields,no car access so by the time i walked up to where they were they had gone again,eventally located them about 2 miles from us in with some cows but there was the challenge the field was only cattle proof and not sheep proof and there was no where to confine them in to to catch them,for 2 days we tryed to catch the little monkeys with no luck,on the third day we had a call to say they had moved onto another farmers field who had a pheasant shoot that morning so once they started shooting they were gone again,this time they turned up on the railway line and had been stopping trains for the whole of a saturday morning but railtrack were brillant sent lots of help and we manged to get them off the track and corner them in a horse trailer.When we got them back it was 2pm nov 5th.

Now my boundry fence is 5ft high but the only way we can see they got out as all fences still in tact was around the area that was suppost to be our manage where there is a bank around 8 ft high we think that they were on top of the bank when we had alot of those horriable fireworks and it scared them so they jumped off the bank into next doors field,they are now not aloud in that area and have been moved to a field in the middle of our land so if they were to jump out they would have jump through 3 fences each side to go over the boundry.

Whilst we were redoing fences that took alot of time and money they had to be indoors in the stables as just couldnt take the risk,they had been roaming around for months quite happy with no problems which made us think it could only have been the fireworks

« Last Edit: December 29, 2010, 09:06:05 pm by piggy »


  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2010, 09:09:13 pm »
What kind of sheep you got, Karen? I don't think ours would leave even if we left the gates open  ;D


  • Joined Oct 2008
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2010, 09:14:59 pm »
They are soays,the day they were on the railway track i did have to laugh as by that point i was all cryed out as me and railtrack stood on the track with the train creeping along at 2 miles an hour blastings his horn with them just walking up the track in front of the train without a care in the world.


  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2010, 11:28:01 pm »
Sounds familiar - I know someone who had soays and they only got near them twice in 2 years, and that was the day they bought them and the day they sold them.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.


  • Joined Oct 2008
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2010, 11:34:55 pm »
I have to say in there defence they are bucket trained and a few of them are very tame and can touch them when feeding but the trouble was once one of the untame ones went they all went.


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2010, 11:47:07 pm »
Little devils  :o ;D I'm surprised you still love them after all that  :D.

I agree that, as they say: 'good fences make good neighbours'.   All our march fences are now double fenced with hedging in between and the only time any sheep have ever got out has been when someone has left a gate open. Make sure the gaps between bars of the gate are not too far apart as lambs can get out between them.  We have tied chicken wire to all our gates, and hang a stob by wires from the bottom rung to close the bottom gap.
Buffy, I don't think Wiltshire horns will be as athletic as Soays, but the fencing is still important.

If you are unfamiliar with sheep, I would recommend that you buy ewe lambs at about 4 months old when they are weaned.  Ours are that age in August, but if your seller lambs earlier they will be available earlier.  By buying lambs, you will have a while to learn about all the general management needs, and get to know them, before you have to go through lambing.  I am not sure if Wiltshires are lambed at a year or as shearlings.
When we sell to new flock owners, we sometimes also sell them an in-lamb ewe, so they will have one experienced ewe to give them some lambs of their own early on, before their bought lambs are old enough to lamb themselves - many people like this and others would rather wait for an extra year to learn more slowly.
For equipment, the basics are; a shelter (simple home constructed with four sides and roof, low as sheep are not tall; water - this could be from a stream if you are lucky enough to have one, a water bucket refilled by you daily from a tap, or a gravity-feed drinker connected to a tap or rainweater collection barrel( agric suppliers stock these drinkers); hay feeder of some kind, depending on how many sheep you have. do good quality hay racks, troughs and hurdles and many agric merchants stock various makes. Some kind of catching system is essential - no matter how tame your sheep are, when you want to catch them they will not want to be caught. We use a simple set-up of a pen made of hurdles and direct the animals into it using electric netting, but not electrified, just set up as a big fishing net, with a wide scoop at one end, gradually closing the gap (against a fence)  and the hurdle pen at the other. Foot shears - I find that the small ones which fit my hand easily and look like pruning shears are fairly useless - big sturdy ones with a slightly serrated edge suit both of us fine. Daggers to neaten the bum ends, and hand shears if you intend to shear them yourself.
For medecines such as wormers, anti-flystrike pour-ons, vaccines and so on, it's time enough to decide on those once you have your sheep - the breeder you buy from will give you advice and let you know if the lambs have been started on a vaccination programme or when they will need their next Crovect or Clik.  I always advise new breeders to get to know their vets - a helpful vet will make all the difference.  When we first started keeping 'funny' sheep about 15 years ago our vets thought we were mad but now they love our little sheep and one has this year started his own flock of Soays.
You will need hay for the winter - about 5 bales per sheep, and a little straw for bedding and you will need to feed concentrates in the winter, especially once you begin breeding - ask your breeder for advice on what she/he feeds hers/his.
I don't think you need any more equipment than this.  Fancy things like dosing guns are not necessary for a  small flock as you can buy individual plastic syringes for oral dosing, or with needles for injections, for a few pennies from your vet, and you will waste less product. Once you have your animals and you get used to handling them you will discover for yourself what you need beyond the basics, but don't spend money on stuff you may never need.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2010, 11:52:48 pm by Fleecewife »

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie

Buffy the eggs layer

  • Joined Jun 2010
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2010, 10:22:44 am »
Gosh guys!

  thanks for all your advice, costings and cautionaly tales. You have given me so much practical info.

Do I need a trailer or is hiring one economical if I only need to use it when I buy the sheep and sell them?

If the pasture has been drill seeded in places in previous years and then heavily over grazed by horses by the previous owner ( and seriously grazed by rabbits!) will it be sufficient to grase sheep on or will it need a boost of fertiliser?



  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2010, 01:07:17 pm »
It depends I suppose on just what plants are in there with the grass.  Our sheep love a varied sward ie one with lots of 'weeds' in it - by which I mean things like clover, daisies, dandelions, pignut, cowparsley, oh, all the little things I don't even know the name of. They even like nettles but although they also eat thistles, we don't like them so spend a lot of energy in digging them up.
If you fertilise, you run the risk of swamping these things out.  You will also make a lot of lush early spring growth which is bulky but soft and watery and causes the skits in sheep, plus the risk of grass staggers. We prefer to let the grass grow naturally.  This means that we need to feed hay a little longer in spring but the grass we do get is good and strong, a rich dark green. The neighbours can't bear us doing this and are forever telling us it's time to fertilise, but we don't.
It might be best to wait and see just what comes up in the spring.  If the overgrazing was so severe that some grass species have been killed, you might decide to overseed with selected species, onto the bare or thin patches.  This is what we did in one field a few years back - we got specialist advice from a seed merchant who came out and had a look, discussed with us exactly what we wanted then he provided the correct mix of grass and clover varieties at the right time of year.  We raked over the whole field (mechanically) then scattered the seed by hand - took a while but it meant we could get it exactly where we wanted.  The first year there wasn't much to see, but now we have a lovely meadow with grass, clover and various wild flowers - I think there's a pic on our website but no title.
One year we had well rotted FYM spread but now we just let the sheep and poultry drop manure and between that and the clover, our grass grows sufficiently to provide the sheep with what they need.
We have in the past cut some of our fields for hay.  Sometimes when you buy in hay it has been cut from one-species fields, but meadow hay from your own fields will contain all sorts of plants as well as grass and the sheep will love it.  We now cut from a friend's fields and we are gradually getting them to avoid fertilisers and to encourage other species.

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie


  • Guest
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2011, 06:58:03 pm »
The Wiltshires are wool-less but they can still need shearing and can get flystrike at some times of the year.  And the rams are quite chunky so watch the handlebars!  I think a good stock fence is going to be enough cos these won't be jumping like the Soays, just make sure the fence is properly anchored around your perimeter.

There's a lot to learn about keeping sheep.  We've had horses for years and there's no comparison.  We found Tim Tyne's book helpful but you still have to learn most of it for yourself. 

The paperwork is complicated and tedious.  It's the same rules for 5 sheep or 5000 and keeps changing (getting more complicated).

But its very rewarding and a lot of fun.  And work!


  • Joined Jan 2010
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2011, 01:15:31 pm »
I think for me the most important thing was to have a "pet" local sheep farmer for when things don't go according to plan.  They are cheaper than a vet, often know more about sheep and are generally more accessible and amenable to battering!

I have 400 sheep now having started with 5 and still call on my chappie occassionally!

robert waddell

  • Guest
Re: starting with sheep
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2011, 01:27:36 pm »
thank god i did not get anything from you     getting a  battering every time  :o    ;D


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