The type of shelter your sheep miniature sheep need will vary depending on the climate of your location. In areas with mild weather, a three-sided "run-in" shed may suffice, while in regions with harsher weather conditions, an enclosed barn/shed with sufficient ventilation may be necessary. It's important to note that enclosed structures can put sheep at risk of pneumonia, as they may inhale ammonia from urine especially barns with dirt floors.
In addition to shelter, it's crucial that your sheep have access to shade throughout the year. This can be provided by trees, run-in sheds, or metal carport coverings. It's equally important to ensure that your flock has a supply of clean and fresh drinking water at all times.
There are multiple approaches to safeguarding livestock from predators. Though llamas can be ferocious, they are still prey animals. Donkeys, on the other hand, may not always demonstrate a protective instinct, whereas some can be excellent protectors. Unlike other animals, dogs don't give up when confronted by predators and remain vigilant against any "intruders" in the pasture.
Raising puppies as guardians can take up to three years of consistent training, making it a time-consuming process. Hence, we advise against getting puppies unless you already have an adult dog to help with the training.
Bluebonnet Animal Rescue Network located in Whitewright, TX, often has adult dogs for adoption that have already proven their guarding ability.
Natural grasses and hay are the natural choice for both Harlequin and Babydoll Southdown miniature sheep. During Spring, Summer and Fall when forage is abundant, sheep will prefer that and supplementation may only be needed following lambing. When natural forage is lacking, you'll need to acquire hay. Opting for "horse quality" hay that's available locally is a good choice. Sheep don't require "fancy" hay like alfalfa, which can actually lead to urinary calculi in males, a life-threatening condition.
It's vital to research local plants that could be toxic to your sheep before bringing them home. These animals have unpredictable eating habits, so it's best to err on the side of caution. The same goes for any ornamental plants you may have in areas where your sheep will be grazing. Be sure to take necessary precautions to keep your flock safe and healthy.
Upon taking your lambs home, they will have received all necessary vaccinations for one year. Subsequently, a CDT shot once a year will suffice.
It's important to learn how to examine your lamb's inner eyelids for any signs of paleness, which could be an indication that they need to be dewormed. Checking their inner eyelids every three months is recommended. If you're uncertain about what the inner eyelids are telling you, it's best to take some fecal pellets to a professional livestock vet for a thorough fecal examination. They can advise you on what medication to administer if your lamb is found to have worms and treat according to the vet's recommendation.
A knowledgeable livestock vet is an invaluable resource for your sheep's care. In the first couple of years, you can learn a lot from them and gradually take over routine aspects of your sheep's healthcare.
The CDT vaccine is a must-have for all sheep. It shields against three severe diseases: Clostridium perfringens type C, Clostridium perfringens type D, and Clostridium tetani (aka tetanus). These diseases can cause a lot of harm, such as "overeating disease," acute indigestion, convulsions, and even death. The vaccine can prevent all these issues.
If you don't give this vaccine to your animals, they can become severely ill, and treating them can be quite expensive. Enterotoxemia, caused by the overgrowth of bacteria, can happen to any animal, and the only way to prevent it is to vaccinate. The bacteria that lead to this disease are found in soil and manure, so keeping the area around your sheep clean can only do so much.
Type D is particularly dangerous and affects the most vigorously growing lambs. The bacteria use the food the lambs eat to grow even faster, which can lead to death in no time. Even if you don't dock, tag, or castrate your animals, they can still be exposed to tetanus bacteria through cuts and wounds. Tetanus can cause lockjaw, paralysis, and can also be deadly.
Miniature sheep must be shorn at least once a year, typically in the Spring season. This is key to what sheep need to survive. While you can attempt to shear the sheep yourself, it is a difficult task that requires practice, patience, and time. It is noteworthy that lambs usually receive their first shearing when they reach one year old.
Employing a professional shearer is highly recommended, as they possess the requisite expertise, skills, and knowledge to execute the job efficiently while minimizing stress on the animals. The cost of hiring a certified shearer is well worth it, with each sheep taking less than 8 minutes to shear. To find a certified professional sheep shearer, one can conduct an online search, seek recommendations from fellow local farmers, consult with high school Ag teachers, or approach leaders of 4H and FFA clubs.
Unless you are fitting a Babydoll Southdown or Harlequin sheep for a show, there is no reason to bathe them. A good rain is all they need to refresh their springy locks. Bathing miniature sheep removes their lanolin which is essentially a wax that is generated by their woolen coats. For the sheep, it functions as an exceptionally potent water repellent, assisting in keeping their coats dry, soft, and insulating even during heavy rain showers. Lanolin is what sheep need to survive.
Hooves need to be inspected every 3-4 months and trimmed as appropriate. There are many good videos on YouTube that show you how. Even the goat hoof trimming videos will teach you what you need their feet are the same.
The need for hoof trimming in sheep is influenced by factors like breed, genetics, soil moisture, nutrition, and management. Sheep in high rainfall areas may require more frequent hoof care than those in dry regions. Housing can also increase the need for hoof trimming. Tools like footrot or foot paring shears, paring knife, and sheep handling equipment can make the task easier.
When trimming hooves, inspect the hoof, remove debris, and trim the perimeter of the hoof without cutting off large chunks. Proper hoof trimming can be combined with other management tasks and should be avoided during hot weather or late gestation. Photo courtesy of Premier1Supplies.com - a great online source for everything for your miniature sheep
It is crucial to ensure that both ewes and rams are healthy and ready for breeding before introducing them to each other. Here are some things to check with ewes and rams before breeding season:
By ensuring that ewes and rams are healthy and ready for breeding before the breeding season, you can increase their chances of a successful breeding season.
Penn State offer a great, in-depth overview of breeding preparations, CLICK HERE to read more.
Please remember that many of the resources address the practices for commercial flocks, and hobby farming practices for miniature sheep tend to be alot less involved.
Caring properly for ewes during pregnancy is essential for the health of the mother and the developing lambs. Here are some tips to help you ensure that your ewes receive proper care during pregnancy:
As pregnancy progresses check ewes more often to ensure they are upright and able to move. Sometimes when they are "heavy pregnant" they are found on their backs and unable to get themselves sternal or up on their feet. Righting them quickly is critical if this happens. Once righted, ensure the ewe is re-oriented and stable and away from areas that could cause her to go down again.
Before lambing, it is important for shepherds to provide adequate nutrition and care for their pregnant ewes. This includes ensuring they have access to clean water, quality forage, and mineral supplements. It is also important to monitor their health and address any issues that arise, such as infections or pregnancy complications.
During lambing, ewes may exhibit signs of restlessness, such as pawing at the ground and vocalizing. They may also separate themselves from the flock and seek out a private, quiet place to give birth. Shepherds should monitor their ewes closely during this time to ensure they are progressing normally and to provide assistance if needed.
Once the lamb is born, it is important to ensure that it is breathing and nursing properly. Lambs are born with a strong instinct to find their mother's udder and nurse within a few hours of birth. Colostrum, the first milk produced by the ewe, is essential for providing the lamb with immunity and nutrients to support its growth and development.
Shepherds may need to intervene if a lamb is having difficulty nursing or if the ewe is rejecting the lamb. This can include bottle-feeding the lamb or fostering it onto another ewe who has lost her own lamb.
Newborn miniature lambs are incredibly vulnerable and require close monitoring and care in the first few weeks of life. They are at risk of hypothermia, predation, and other health issues, so it is important to provide them with a warm, dry environment and to keep them separated from the rest of the flock until they are strong enough to fend for themselves.
As they grow and develop, lambs become more independent and playful, bouncing around and exploring their surroundings. They continue to rely on their mother's milk for several weeks before transitioning to solid food.
Weaning lambs is an important step in sheep management that involves separating young lambs from their mothers, or ewes. This typically occurs when the lambs are between 8 and 12 weeks old, although the exact timing will depend on the breed, the health and size of the lambs, and other factors.
The weaning process can be stressful for both the lambs and the ewes, as they have formed a strong bond over the past several weeks. To minimize stress and ensure a smooth transition, it is important to plan ahead and take several steps to prepare both the lambs and the ewes for weaning.
One common method of weaning is to separate the lambs and the ewes into different paddocks or pastures. This allows the lambs to continue grazing and growing on their own while the ewes can begin to rebuild their body condition and prepare for the next breeding season. After weaning, it is important to monitor the health and well-being of both the lambs and the ewes. The lambs may require extra feed and care to ensure that they continue to grow and thrive. This may include providing them with access to high-quality forage, supplementing their diet with grain or other concentrates, and monitoring their weight gain and overall health.
Weaning your miniature Harlequin or Babydoll lambs is an important step in sheep management that requires careful planning and preparation to minimize stress and ensure a smooth transition. By taking steps to monitor the health and well-being of both the lambs and the ewes post-weaning, you can help ensure the long-term success of your flock.
Ewes may require additional care and attention post-weaning. This may include providing them with a high-quality diet, monitoring their body condition and weight, and ensuring that they receive proper veterinary care as needed. It is also important to manage the ewes' breeding cycles carefully, as timing can be critical to ensure successful pregnancies and healthy offspring.