Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Starting off with sheep  (Read 3295 times)


  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Northern Ireland
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Starting off with sheep
« on: July 22, 2013, 08:11:03 pm »
I live in Northern Ireland and i currently grow vegetables and have a few chickens but i want to start to keep some sheep for the mart or the abattoir, I have found out that i need a race, crush, and a collecting area for the sheep i would like to know more about how to care for sheep and what they require and any medical information would help also what housing would be good for them also what do sheep eat and what weights and ages should i sell them at to the abattoir any other information about sheep would be great thanks!!
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  • Joined Aug 2010
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Starting off with sheep
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2013, 09:09:41 pm »
Are the requirements re race and crush because you are actually holding the sheep going through the abbatoir on their behalf? If not and they are your own then depending on numbers the race is a nice thing to have ESP as numbers get bigger but not essential from a regulation point of view, tho it's important to have a pen or hurdles to make a pen. 

For the general keeping the Sheep Book for Smallholders is excellent :-)))


  • Joined Sep 2012
Re: Starting off with sheep
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2013, 09:36:47 pm »
Assuming NI is the same as the rest of the UK, you need a flock number and a holding number. 

The sheep need to be tagged.  If they are going to slaughter before a year old, a simple slaughter tag with the flock number is all that is needed, but if they are going to be around longer, you need an electronic tag AND a normal one, both with the flock number and individual number on.  Tag-selling companies are very helpful about these things.

When you buy in or sell, or send to slaughter, you must complete "movement forms".  I believe the preferred weight for lambs going to slaughter marts is around 35kg.  Grass and hay are obvious sheep fodder essentials...
Winter shelter and summer shade is good, but some breeds require more or less protection.  I believe I read the recommended stocking rate for sheep is 6 per acre but it will depend on your land. 

Definitely read the book! :)


  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Thornbury, Nr Bristol
Re: Starting off with sheep
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2013, 09:42:38 pm »
How many sheep were you thinking of starting off with, as this will to some extent determine what you actually need equipment wise.  I currently have 35 and have no need of a race or crush - I improvise with what I have available on the smallholding.  Many sheep keeping books will give you examples of how to improvise with a race etc.  Hurdles - wooden or galvanised are a very handy if not essential item to have - you can never have enough! 

As for medical information - where to start!  Sheep take some looking after and require worming, foot trimming and spraying for flystrike at various points in the year.  They will also need vaccinating annually against various diseases.  These are the few basic but necessary medical/husbandry requirements to consider.   If you are planning on breeding your sheep there's a host of other medical/care requirements to be aware of, but it is best for you to purchase a book to give you an idea of what to expect. 

Keeping sheep is great fun.  It can be stressful and at times it is hard work and you might wonder why you ever considered getting them in the first place, but I would not be without mine.  If you are thinking of purchasing a few ewes to breed lambs for the freezer it may be best to consider a breed which matures quickly such as the Hampshire Down or the commercial type breeds.  Smaller breeds of sheep can take longer to mature and some breeds are better suited to certain parts of the country than others - i.e. hill breeds or lowland breeds.  Circa 4 months is usual for commercial breeds to be ready for the abattoir/market

Some essential items of equipment to start you off in sheep keeping would be:-

A rope sheep halter
Foot shears
A can of antibacterial foot spray
Wormer and syringe
Fly treatment - such as Crovect, Clik or Dysect with spray gun/container
Dagging shears for cleaning dirty bums

You can then continue from there, purchasing other items for lambing, vaccinating, feeding etc as necessary.

Hill breeds will not require housing and good hedging as shelter should suffice. Even many lowland breeds are kept out all year round without shelter, although mine have free access to a big barn at all times of the year this is not at all necessary.  I like to lamb mine indoors and have lambs out within a few days, but again this is not necessary and you can lamb just as well outside.

Don't forget that you will also need to get your sheep sheared once a year before the summer arrives - I usually aim for early June for mine.  Sometimes finding a shearer to shear a few sheep can be difficult, but you might be able to sort something with a local neighbouring sheep farmer or there's also a few shearers on this forum that are prepared to travel around the country for smaller flocks.

There is a lot to consider when taking on sheep, but they are a fantastic animal to have around and will give you much pleasure.  Enjoy!


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