Moving, handling & transporting sheep

Before you buy your first sheep, you need a County Parish Holding (CPH) number and a flock number. See Starting with sheep for more information. The vendor will need the CPH number for the movement licence and will give you a copy of the licence, which you must retain.

When you move the sheep on to your holding for the first time, start your Flock Register with a “movement on”.

Standstill periods

Livestock movements on to holdings trigger standstill periods during which other livestock cannot be moved off the holding. This is a disease control measure and the length of the standstill is related to the incubation period for Foot and Mouth Disease in the particular species.

These are the standstill periods that apply in Scotland:

  • Bringing pigs on to your holding triggers a 20 day standstill on other pigs.
  • Bringing pigs on to your holding triggers a 13 day standstill on cattle, sheep and goats.
  • Bringing cattle, sheep and goats on to your holding triggers a 20 day standstill on pigs.
  • Bringing cattle, sheep and goats on to your holding triggers a 13 day standstill on other cattle, sheep and goats.

A number of exemptions are permitted to the standstill rules. These include the movement of animals going direct to a slaughterhouse; the movement of breeding animals; young lambs going for fostering; and young calves moving for fostering or to calf rearing premises.

Other exemptions are in place for show/exhibition animals; and for movements where animals are held in authorised separation facilities. Your Animal Health office will be able to provide details.

Sheep handling

Sheep should be handled gently and firmly. NEVER pull a sheep by its wool or by its horns, if it has them. The former is the same as pulling a person by the hair and causes bruising; the latter distresses the animal – horns are sensitive – and the horns can break.

Sheep aren’t stupid but they are prey animals so they behave in such a way as to avoid being a predator’s (i.e. YOU) dinner. If you have a small flock, they will get to know you and can be trained to follow a bucket – you almost certainly won’t need a sheepdog.

Our Ryelands are pretty tame and most, but not all, will follow a bucket. The ones that don’t follow the bucket follow the other sheep. Unless Dan’s there. They know that if he’s there, something not very pleasant is going to happen to them.

So if we are dosing or foot trimming, I go alone to bring them in. Once they’re enclosed, Dan can make his appearance.

For small flocks, elaborate handling facilities aren’t necessary. Some hurdles are sufficient to enclose the flock for routine tasks.

Sheep handling facilities

However, there are some other pieces of equipment that can make all handling much easier, less stressful and allows one person to carry out routine tasks more quickly.


A race is simply a narrow passageway about 40cm wide and about 4m long, with solid sides. Once in, the sheep are held in single file, allowing the shepherd to walk down the side of the race and either dose or vaccinate as appropriate. The sides must be solid to “draw” the sheep through. If the sides are open and the sheep can see through, they will stop. At one end of the race will be the holding pen that sheep will be initially brought into; at the other will be one or more pens.

Guillotine gate

Located at the start of the race, it is exactly as the name suggests – the gate is in a frame and can be raised or lowered, like a guillotine (but without the blade!), by a rope and pulley system. The gate must be mesh so that sheep still in the holding pen can see their flock mates and will follow them into the race.

Shedding gate

Located at the other end of the race, the shedding gate is a gate that swings from side to side and allows sheep coming through the race to be divided into two groups. Again, the gate should be mesh to encourage ”draw”. The shedding gate is especially useful for drawing off lambs at weaning or dividing the ewes after scanning.

Weigh crate

In some respects, a weigh crate is an expensive luxury for the small flock owner, but sometimes they can be picked up second-hand at farm sales. Its use is obvious and if you want to check lamb weights either to measure performance or to select for slaughter, or to weigh sheep prior to treating with any medicine where the dose is weight determined, you will need a weigh crate.

While you can weigh a newborn lamb using a sack and a spring balance, that method’s not going to work for long. The weigh crate will fit into the race before the shedding gate so that lambs ready for market can be directed to one pen and the rest to another.

Turning crate / docking crate

There are a number of different designs of crate available to make routine tasks easier. The crate will generally fit into the race and have some method of restraining an individual sheep, usually a head yoke.

Some crates have drop down sides, some turn the sheep, some swing out of the race to allow access to the sheep for, say, AI.

These crates don’t come cheap but if you can get hold of a decent second hand one, it makes routine tasks much easier.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

Smallholding shop

When you click links below and make a purchase, this may result in this site earning a commission from eBay.

More Sheep products

© The Accidental Smallholder Ltd 2003-2024. All rights reserved.

Design by Furness Internet

Site developed by Champion IS