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Author Topic: sheep breed options  (Read 810 times)

suzi

  • Joined Jul 2022
sheep breed options
« on: September 23, 2022, 09:10:47 pm »
im looking in invest in some new ewes next year (ewe lambs, hopefully bottle babies)

atm i have friesians and an icelandic X freisian. the castrates and ram are going to slaughter in november.
im not wanting dairy sheep as 5 is enough along with 2 goats (i will be upping them in time as well. but thats in hand as i know more about goats).
im wanting easy to handle, smaller, friendly (i have young kids so thats important) good mothers that are happy lambing inside as i tend to lamb over winter and lamb insider.

can anyone recomend a breed please?

Richmond

  • Joined Sep 2020
  • Norfolk
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2022, 09:44:35 pm »
Why "hopefully bottle fed" babies? If you want to breed from these ewe lambs, wouldn't you want them to have the best start in life, reared by their mums, rather than being bottle fed orphans?  Or am I missing something?

When we first ventured into sheep I read, and was also advised by others, that moving forward if we wanted to breed, then the best option was to buy in naturally reared ewe lambs as they would a) be healthier than bottle fed, and b) inherit/learn mothering skills from being reared by their mums.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2022, 09:49:37 pm by Richmond »

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2022, 07:23:45 am »
A smaller traditional breed - ewes that do their own lambing - would be my point to start. And the most likely recommendation from me would be Shetlands - but mine have never done indoor lambing - when given the choice of an open fronted barn the Shetlands went resolutely outside.


First and foremost you have to think about why you want sheep and what you want to do with them - meat (selling fat lambs or meat for home consumption, possibly with home slaughter, mutton or lamb), wool (sell fleeces, spin yourself etc etc), lawn mowers....


As said above, I would not recommend to get bottle lambs for breeding ewes, and whatever you end up doing NEVER have a tup/ram that was bottle-fed. Especially if you have youngsters helping you. Bottle-fed rams have no respect for their handlers, and when hungry will barge right into you for their feed. Also never leave a male lamb on the bottle intact, as you would just hand the problem to the next new sheepkeeper.


BUt you have literally about 100 breeds of sheep to choose from...

PipKelpy

  • Joined Mar 2019
  • North Shropshire
  • Dreamer with docile cow and sheep!
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2022, 07:38:11 am »
I also like to lamb over winter and though not small like the primitives, Dorset Down. They tup for November quite easily (I found this out by accident as I prefer December!) I loved my Dorset Downs, pure girls and tup. Mine were quiet so very laid back! In 2004 I purchased Shetlands and put my Dorset tup on them for lambing the next year. Now, the Shetlands didn't lamb until March, but their offsprings, had the early gene ability meaning they could and did lamb in December. If you want natural winter lambing then you need a sheep that can do it or a % that can do it.

Due to electric costs escalating my sheep are running with a tup now, but they are Wiltshire Horn and a Dorset Down Tup so aiming for February. My sheds are all LED lights but they still cost to light!

I have lambed bottle reared and some have been brilliant mums, they were cades so Suffolk X mules, Texel x mules, BUT I have also noticed, compared to my Dorsets and my homeborn X's, they didn't seem to last. By age 5 (to me young) I could honestly say they were knackered! One started having lambing issues age 4, (had trouble passing twins) kept as liked her, disaster and vet bill the following year so she was culled, another just didn't want to lamb so brother in law for 3 years running had to pull them, he said everything perfect, just idle, she culled, another could lamb anything and had multiples each year but had a dead tit year 3 I think, but kept as she was a really nice ewe (that and it gets annoying and at time emotional to part with nice ewes!)

But my Dorsets lambed without issues until they were 8 or 9 and were only culled when they started to have problems. Others were sold on with lambs or in lamb as I was downsizing to the Shetland X's due to the size (ease) of handling them.

I'm very partial to Shetlands, not for the wool, just their characters, get the right ones and they make me smile! Have actually bought some in again but am going to keep the offspring pure this time, (for now!) I wanted a black sheep, got 2 now and some brown to go with my pure white Wiltshires!
Halter train the cattle to keep them quiet but watch your back when they come a'bulling! Give them all names even those you plan to eat. Always be calm. Most importantly, invest in wellies with steel toe caps and be prepared for the clever cow who knows where the toe caps end!!

suzi

  • Joined Jul 2022
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2022, 08:01:51 am »
my 1st instinct has always been shetlands (i kept a couple of weathers years ago. they were amazing.i adored them).

reason  i like bottle babies is the ewes are soooo friendly. the ewes i keep now are freisians and useless mothers. they produces 1 ewe lamb that between 5 lambs and 4 ewes they kept alive! (1st year lambing. ive learnt soooo much for next time). they have 2 weathers that are being processed along with the bottle ram i bought in may (yup, 1 of the many lessons ive learnt. never a bottle ram)
i plan to AI or hire a friesian in a few months as im confindent that the ram i have now isnt doing his job (hes a trier bless him).
im also stearing down seperating the dairy ewes from meaters.

i only lamb inside because of fresians being such bad mothers. its just what ive done. i have no issues lambing outside in therory as i am here most of the time to watch whats going on. i also have 2 decent set ups for smaller sheep. maybe shetties are the way to go.

thank you,

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2022, 09:26:27 am »
If you do go Shetland, make sure you buy from a flock that is demonstrably friendly.  (They aren't all, and sheep from a flock kept very "hands off" could be quite feisty.)   

Downside with Shetlands for you...  Not so many bottle lambs to find, Shetlands have a low incidence of triplets and a very, very low incidence of birthing or mothering issues! 

Another option for you might be to get Dorsets or Dorset crosses for now (bottle lambs could be easier to come by, and the Dorset genes will give you great adaptability in terms of breeding calendar), then use a Shetland tup on all your ewes, at least for a year or two, and keep on the nice ewe lambs.  Once you have a flock of easy lambing good motherers, you can if you want start to stretch the tupping date to lamb later and outdoors.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2022, 09:29:50 am »
My Shetlands lamb outside from mid-April onwards - simply because by that time I (usually) have some grass growing and we often have a last winter come-uppance in early April (Eastern Scottish Borders). Also by then it is light fairly early in the morning and at night - sheep lambing outside do so most often at first light, or just before. So I just go out before milking my goats, collect the lambs (and ewes) and pen for a day or two to observe bonding, spray navels and castrate the boys.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2022, 09:35:05 am »
My own experience with keeping bottle-reared ewe lambs on as breeders is much the same as PipKelpy's - some have been fab mothers but they aren't all, and in the main (with some exceptions - yes I am looking at you, Alice :hugsheep:) they seem to have a shorter and less productive breeding life than the average.  And choosing to cull a still quite young but not fully fit or very productive ewe which you reared on the bottle is a very hard decision, every time.  :'(

However, any sheep brought on as weanlings and run on in a friendly, well-handled flock, provided not from a very self-sufficient breed or feisty flock, will tame down pretty quickly and can become as friendly as any bottle-reared lamb, without the attendant problems. 

So I wouldn't be too wedded to getting bottle ewe lambs, if you can find the type of ewe lamb you want to buy at weaning. 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

PipKelpy

  • Joined Mar 2019
  • North Shropshire
  • Dreamer with docile cow and sheep!
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2022, 09:43:19 am »
If you do go Shetland, make sure you buy from a flock that is demonstrably friendly.  (They aren't all, and sheep from a flock kept very "hands off" could be quite feisty.)

Too right! Out of the 42 I bought the first time, half climbed the walls, literally! And I was younger!

These ones I have now, I purposely asked for friendly! Registered, delivered and glared at me! Next day, the black one was my new best friend, within days most of the others accepted me! The lambs all now adore me (helps they can eat out of my pocket when I kneel down) and 2 of the ewes, at first reluctant (as they are Castlemilk Moorits) also come running to me! Chuffed with them pair. They don't seem to mind Mary either (cow!)

These came off a REPUTABLE breeder!! Also bought in a few new WH off a "reputable" breeder, mum suggested shooting them as even now , 3 months later, they are mental. She did say they hadn't been handled I just didnt, to my cost, realise she was serious! Debatable whether or not these registered sheep will survive to the end of this year, let alone to lambing time, they're bonkers! Only got them so I could breed my own pure replacements! My own non registered WH remind me of my Dorsets, laid back!

Goes to show, high pedigree, registered etc ISN'T everything!
Halter train the cattle to keep them quiet but watch your back when they come a'bulling! Give them all names even those you plan to eat. Always be calm. Most importantly, invest in wellies with steel toe caps and be prepared for the clever cow who knows where the toe caps end!!

Richmond

  • Joined Sep 2020
  • Norfolk
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2022, 09:50:14 am »
We have Soay and Wiltshire Horn. All bar one came here as 5 month old weaned lambs. One of the Soays was wild as hell and scared of everything. Within a year all of them were silly tame. The one who was very wild now lies down in the field with me and lets me roo her wool off come shedding time. Two of the Wiltshires come up for cuddles and I mean proper cuddles - arms round and big solid hugs, not just a face stroke. One will paw my leg for more attention. They are like big woolly dogs! Spending lots of time with them is the key to getting them tame and trusting. It's a great way to end the day, sitting in a field with sheep all around you.

silkwoodzwartbles

  • Joined Apr 2016
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2022, 11:06:41 am »
I love my Zwartbles but if you want small, they won't suit you. My little boy (5 years old) did a few Young Handlers classes this summer with his Z ewe but I did notice that a lot of the other kids either had coloured Ryelands or Blue Texels so I reckon either of those might be a good call if you're wanting something smaller, with a bit of carcass and easy for kids to handle  :thumbsup:

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2022, 05:25:42 pm »
Ryelands and Texels have shorter legs than Zwartbles but are both extremely chunky sheep, I would say hard for a small adult to tip over.  Ryelands are pretty tame, though, so you'd probably get on fine using a halter and doing their feet stood up like a horse.

For a high incidence of hands-free lambings, though, I'm not sure I'd choose any of those breeds.  Shetland every time for me on that front.  I say it often, my #1 piece of lambing equipment is a pair of binoculars, and I've never had to put my hand inside a Shetland ewe put to a Shetland or other small primitive tup.  Sometimes a first-time Shetland or Shetland x mother might need a steadying hand for the first feed of her first ever lambs, but after that they are brilliant.  I had one ewe developed a humungous "cow teat", which needed some milk stripping out and the lamb teaching how to get on it - but the ewe was so tame I could do all that loose in the field until the lamb got the hang of it. 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Twotwo

  • Joined Aug 2015
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2022, 06:31:16 pm »
Another vote for Dorset Downs ... they are medium sized calm sheep, also they lamb and easily are good mothers.
My rams have just gone in and even with the warm weather the ewes are ready .. lining up for their new boys 🤪 due mid Feb 🤞

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: sheep breed options
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2022, 04:41:45 pm »
Although large Zwartbles are kind and quiet sheep, at least mine are.  I lamb indoors in February and no artificial aids to breeding.  The odd ewe that is not cycling by the time I remove the rams gets sold on, So I am selecting for natural early breeding sheep.

 

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