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Author Topic: Some basic sheep questions!  (Read 4107 times)


  • Joined May 2010
  • Cornwall
Some basic sheep questions!
« on: December 13, 2010, 04:10:39 am »
Hello sheep forum! I'm new here! :wave:

Most of my pasture on our small holding is solely for the horses and is fenced as such. We do, however, have 3 paddocks totalling about 5 acres which are stock fenced under the post and rail.

I'm considering some sheep for us and friends for the freezer so have the following questions if any of you could help! :)

At what age are they ready to go to the abbatoir?
Presuming my guess of appx 6-9 months is correct, what would need to happen in this time? (feet trimming, worming etc?)
Do young sheep still need shearing in the summer or is it breed/animal dependant?
At what time do they needs additional feed to grass and how do I work out how much to feed?
How many lambs would you say we should start with? (i was thinking 3 or 4?)
Should I aim for females if poss or at this young an age do I not need to worry about castration/sexual maturity etc?
Do they need shelter or to be bought in in the winter or will they happily live out all year?
We ear tag the pigs ... I presume metal tags are satisfactory for sheep too?
Any aspects of sheep keeping that I should be aware/warned of?!

Sorry for the inquisition ... any help very much appreciated!  ;D :sheep:


  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Some basic sheep questions!
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2010, 07:38:34 am »
Our lambs are feady for the abattoir at 6 months old. They are Ryelands; primitive breeds like Shetlands are often run on to  a year old or more because at 6 months, the carcase is very small.

lambs generally need regular worming unless they are on clean grazing. Their feet will probably be OK although you can't rule out specific isues with individual animals. Sheep do not need shearing until their second summer; some breeds don't need shearing at all, but most do. Our lambs fatten off grass with no additional feed; if they have to be overwintered, they will need fed hay or other forage and possibly a concentrate to keep them growing. You have plenty room for 3 or 4 lambs. We don't castrate our tup lambs and they are fine. It may be different with breeds that are kept longer; if it's a single sex group, it's not an issue. Most sheep will happily live out with adequate shelter and feeding; in fact sheep do better outside. Ear tagging - phew, I'll leave that for someone else  ;D


  • Joined Aug 2010
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Some basic sheep questions!
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2010, 03:30:43 pm »
As you look like you are in England (rules are different in Scotland where I am), the best place to start with ear tags is the DEFRA site.

Metal tags not OK for sheep, unlike pigs sheep now have electronic tags (makes sense huh, all the disease outbreaks linked to sheep - 0, compared to cattle and pigs !grrr). But if slaughtering within 12 months you may be able to use a single slaughter tag instead under an exemption.  Could be a good reason to go for something that will mature in the same year as birth, unless you decide from the outset that you will bear the tagging extra and go for a lovely but slower growing native breed.


  • Joined May 2010
  • Cornwall
Re: Some basic sheep questions!
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2010, 11:38:05 pm »
Thanks for the replies guys!

Would I need to huild them a shellter or will or trees and cornish stone walls provide enough shelter from wind etc for them? Or is this again, breed dependant?

How often do I need to worm and by what method? They will probably preceed my horses in their summer pastures which will have been harrowed and rolled then rested for 3 months.

We cut our own hay so extra forage is not a problem and now we are down to 3 pigs there is plenty of room on the feed bill for concentrates if needed!

What would you suggest is the best time of year to aquire lambs? :)


  • Joined Apr 2009
Re: Some basic sheep questions!
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2010, 11:10:19 am »
We have a similar set up to you 5 acres, divided up into paddocks for horses, we have bought lambs in 2 years in a row, so are not experts but it might give you an idea.

We bought 4 lambs in the first year, day old and bottle fed, we bought them in April and they went to slaughter in October, we did not worm as they were on new ground that year, we also did not shear although we did clip round the tail area to keep clean, feet were fine no problems, bought them in a couple of days before they went to clean them up, they had no shelter when they were older, however the weather was fairly good.

Second year we decided to have 6!! day old bottle fed again, mistake! There are 3 of us here but it meant that we all had to get up every day and go to bed late at night, would stick to 4 next time, again they were bought in April and went in October, again they had no shelter when they were older, had a foot problem with one of them, nasty puss, but daughter (who loves that kind of things) cleaned it all out and looked after it, no more problems after that.

Ours were tagged and docked before they left thier place of birth and under 1 year they only need the one tag

What we have learnt from those experiences: Buy in April, slaughter in October, get booked in before the Christmas rush and the weather turns, if we bought day old again would only have 4, if we bought them weaned would have more, probably 6. We had a mixture of girls and boys, works fine because they go before they get too interested in each other!! Not sure if we were just lucky but they have been relitivly trouble free both years.
Would love to have a small flock all year but hubby is reluctant to keep them over  winter

Hope that is of some help  :)


  • Joined May 2010
  • Cornwall
Re: Some basic sheep questions!
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2010, 12:29:23 pm »
Thanks FF, it's brilliant to hear you had a good time with them!

I do have a barn I could bring them into if really needed but presume they would be happier outside anyway.

Is bottle feeding equipment readily availble and is it expensive? One of my OH's clients has told him we can have 4 lambs free in the spring but need to find out breed etc before we take them on ... mmm lamb! :yum:


  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Some basic sheep questions!
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2010, 01:14:22 pm »
If you get orphan/spare lambs make sure that  they have had plenty of colostrum. Otherwise you could easily end up with horrible diseases and dead lambs! Also i would vaccinate with Heptavac (or at least lambivac if they are not to be bred from) for peace of mind.

Make sure you have got treatment for flystrike (or you can get some from a nearby farmer), both preventative and for when it has happened. A pair of dagging shears would also be a necessity, as well as a pair of footclippers, just in case.

It may be easier to ask the farmer to ring any boys before they leave his place, then you won't have problems (and peace of mind too) keeping boys and girls together. Also make sure they take the bottle before they come to you.

If you really want to test if you can go through with raising and eating your own lambs - only get castrated boys. It is sometimes far too easy to keep females for breeding...


  • Joined May 2010
  • Cornwall
Re: Some basic sheep questions!
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2010, 06:34:42 pm »
Thanks all. I'm sure I'll have millions more questions nearer the time!


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