New to shepherding

mystang89

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Hello all,

I am about to close on a farm that has 7 acres of fenced pastureland. I don't know what the pasture is made up of but I do know that it does have 5 or so natural springs that run through it at various points. I live in Southern Indiana to give you a perspective of my weather situation.

I have read different threads trying to familiarize myself with Sheep, what I need to look out for, how to care for them, what grasses they like, how to pasture, rotate, worm, flush and all those other words which are currently swimming around in my head.

http://www.milkingsheep.com/sheep-milk-production/
http://ag.ansc.purdue.edu/sheep/arti...mbdisease.html
http://www.sheepscreek.com/rural/lamb.html
http://www.sheep101.info/sheepdiseases.html
http://www.sheep101.info/201/parasite.html
http://www.sheepscreek.com/rural/pasture.html
http://www.sheepscreek.com/rural/predator.html

These are just a few of the links that I have completely read. My mind is


Here are some of the things that I know, consider them my guiding list. I know I want Dairy Sheep, probably East Friesian I know that I want to do things as absolutely naturally and self sufficiently as possible. Meaning no chemicals, no pesticides, no unnatural fertilizers (10-10-10) etc. I'd like to try to make my own grain for when they need extra energy. Things like that. I know that this will not be a business. I will have at most 10 sheep probably. They will be used for meat and milk. I want a horse or 2 as well. I say this so you can picture what I'm wanting to graze together.

At this point, as I said, my mind is overwhelmed. I know I still have at least 5 months till I think about getting any of those but in that time I want to learn and know as much as possible. So my questions at the moment would simply be:

What would you do different at the beginning of raising sheep?
What are some simple pointers for a beginner?
What are the most common things to look out for?

I know that I will have SO many more questions to come, they are all scattered inside that tiny hole I have in my head at the moment that I can't even make sense of them. One day I will write down little bullet points and shoot them at you all but for now I just need baby steps.
 

mysunwolf

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Please consider getting a different breed if you are looking to do things naturally (I assume this means with the least amount of chemical wormer possible, no antibiotics, less grain, and I'm sure there are more items I'm missing). I know some good people in the midwest raising Katahdins that milk almost as well as an EF. The Friesians are a high maintenance sheep that need a lot of grain to stay in condition when lambs are on them, even when you are not milking them. They also tend to have more health problems and are more fragile than meat breeds. If you have streams running through the property they are going to have more parasite and foot rot issues, but your pastures will look great.

That being said, I know some Icelandic/EF crosses that are the best of both worlds and might do well in your kind of situation. They are hardier than the high percentage EFs and milk almost as well. I'm currently developing a line of EF crosses that are very hardy and milk pretty well.

Simple pointers?
• They WILL get worms, no matter how much DE and pumpkins and wormwood etc that you feed them. Be prepared to use chemical wormers to save your lambs.
• You WILL lose some sheep, and that's okay because the learning curve is steep.
• Find an excellent sheep/goat vet in your area (I actually prefer the goat vets because they understand the value of a dairy animal better than sheep vets) and establish a relationship with them by asking them to come out and do basic fecal tests, blood draws, or check-ups on the flock.
• Purchase your initial sheep from someone whose operation looks similar to yours and whose management practices are like yours.
• Don't rush into purchasing, find someone willing to sell their older (5-6 years) stock at a reasonable price (high percentage dairy sheep can run $300-$800+ a head so be prepared for that... but a higher price doesn't always mean higher quality sheep!).
• Join some Facebook groups that specialize in dairy sheep (Milking Sheep and Homestead Dairy Sheep are two that I know of).
• Find a dairy sheep person near you who can help you find some good deals on stock and help you pick out a small starter group that will work for you (not always possible to find someone like this, but if it is possible I always recommend it).
• Be prepared to screw up, seriously! And be prepared to keep trying.

Sounds like you are certainly doing your research! I hope you keep researching, but don't forget to find some people in the sheep business and listen to their advice (please not mine, someone else's would be much better). It may not always apply to your sheep operation, but they still have a lot of knowledge to share.
 

Goat Whisperer

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Welcome to the forum :frow
Congratulations on your new farm-to-be! You must be thrilled :weee

If you are planning on doing everything natural, you WILL have hardships.

It's hard to say what is "natural" & "unnatural" because you technically would be putting your sheep in an "unnatural" environment. You are going to have them in a fenced pasture and that would = "unnatural" because they wouldn't live like that "in the wild". I'm NOT saying this to be rude or come off as a jerk, just to give you another perspective.

You will be milking them, that would be considered "unnatural" if you look at chemicals etc. as unnatural.

I know with dairy goats, it is not wise to pick the most common dairy breed and put them in an environment where it basically "hands off" while it is still expected to produce at an "unnatural" rate. It almost always kills the doe or she is always struggling.

Glad to see you are doing your research first! :thumbsup If you truly set on raising an "unnatural " breed in an "unnatural" environment but treating "naturally" you will want to take the next few years (not 5 months) and research. It will have to be more than online searches and books. You will need to find the actual data, not just something you want to hear (I see this a lot!).
 

Green Acres Farm

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Welcome to the forum :frow
Congratulations on your new farm-to-be! You must be thrilled :weee

If you are planning on doing everything natural, you WILL have hardships.

It's hard to say what is "natural" & "unnatural" because you technically would be putting your sheep in an "unnatural" environment. You are going to have them in a fenced pasture and that would = "unnatural" because they wouldn't live like that "in the wild". I'm NOT saying this to be rude or come off as a jerk, just to give you another perspective.

You will be milking them, that would be considered "unnatural" if you look at chemicals etc. as unnatural.

I know with dairy goats, it is not wise to pick the most common dairy breed and put them in an environment where it basically "hands off" while it is still expected to produce at an "unnatural" rate. It almost always kills the doe or she is always struggling.

Glad to see you are doing your research first! :thumbsup If you truly set on raising an "unnatural " breed in an "unnatural" environment but treating "naturally" you will want to take the next few years (not 5 months) and research. It will have to be more than online searches and books. You will need to find the actual data, not just something you want to hear (I see this a lot!).
I thought Suzanne from the Tennessee Meat Goats site had a good article regarding that:

http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com/articles2/organicGoats06.html
 

purplequeenvt

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I agree about the EF. I've had only a little experience with them, but I found them to be very parasite prone and fragile.

With good breeding and management you CAN get your stock to a place where they are much more parasite resistant. It can take years though. We've had sheep for 16 years and just in the past 3 or 4 years have we reached the point where I can say that our flock needs minimal deworming. That is with close monitoring and pasture rotation.
 

Mike CHS

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That is a good article. It reminds me of something our mentor told us when we were talking about something organic (I don't remember what). He said if you want to do right about your livestock you need to consider there is "organic" and there is "reality".
 

Bossroo

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Would you please give us better understanding of you, your abilities, family situation and their contribution to provide labor , reliable income sources, etc. . What are your soils, weather, types of pasture grasses to provide a carrying capacity for livestock, grain and their production yields . What is your reasoning of having dairy sheep for milk production ? With 5 or so springs on 7 acres, one would suspect moist soils which translates to more incidents of hoof rot and liver flukes in addition to the other parasites. And as Mike says there is organic and then there is reality. You will have to treat with commercial medications that contains specific amounts of active ingredients and potency as " organic" ones are more often than not not reliable as to these tidbits. So, that being the case, you will leave some parasites that will eventually reproduce a resistance to organic dewormers.
 

mystang89

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Please consider getting a different breed if you are looking to do things naturally (I assume this means with the least amount of chemical wormer possible, no antibiotics, less grain, and I'm sure there are more items I'm missing). I know some good people in the midwest raising Katahdins that milk almost as well as an EF. The Friesians are a high maintenance sheep that need a lot of grain to stay in condition when lambs are on them, even when you are not milking them. They also tend to have more health problems and are more fragile than meat breeds. If you have streams running through the property they are going to have more parasite and foot rot issues, but your pastures will look great.

That being said, I know some Icelandic/EF crosses that are the best of both worlds and might do well in your kind of situation. They are hardier than the high percentage EFs and milk almost as well. I'm currently developing a line of EF crosses that are very hardy and milk pretty well.

Simple pointers?
• They WILL get worms, no matter how much DE and pumpkins and wormwood etc that you feed them. Be prepared to use chemical wormers to save your lambs.
• You WILL lose some sheep, and that's okay because the learning curve is steep.
• Find an excellent sheep/goat vet in your area (I actually prefer the goat vets because they understand the value of a dairy animal better than sheep vets) and establish a relationship with them by asking them to come out and do basic fecal tests, blood draws, or check-ups on the flock.
• Purchase your initial sheep from someone whose operation looks similar to yours and whose management practices are like yours.
• Don't rush into purchasing, find someone willing to sell their older (5-6 years) stock at a reasonable price (high percentage dairy sheep can run $300-$800+ a head so be prepared for that... but a higher price doesn't always mean higher quality sheep!).
• Join some Facebook groups that specialize in dairy sheep (Milking Sheep and Homestead Dairy Sheep are two that I know of).
• Find a dairy sheep person near you who can help you find some good deals on stock and help you pick out a small starter group that will work for you (not always possible to find someone like this, but if it is possible I always recommend it).
• Be prepared to screw up, seriously! And be prepared to keep trying.

Sounds like you are certainly doing your research! I hope you keep researching, but don't forget to find some people in the sheep business and listen to their advice (please not mine, someone else's would be much better). It may not always apply to your sheep operation, but they still have a lot of knowledge to share.
Thanks much! I will definitely have a look into other breeds including Katahdins.
I know there is a person who lives down the road that raises sheep and I have been planning on talking to them after the closing. Personal experience speaks volumes over written articles especially when that person is from your area.

I have raised chickens, rabbits and pigeons up till now and while I know they are on a completely different level, it has made me except the fact that know matter how much you know your stuff, you will lose some animals. It's a simple fact of life. Hopefully this research will limit the amount that are lost.

I will make sure to look up the facebook groups. I don't much care for FB but I can step over that block if it means learning more.

I found a few videos from the 90s about lambing, pre-lambing and more which were very informative thankfully. Along with all the browsing I've been doing on this forum as well I hope to become more well rounded. Thank you all for the welcome and please keep the tips coming!

Would you please give us better understanding of you, your abilities, family situation and their contribution to provide labor , reliable income sources, etc. . What are your soils, weather, types of pasture grasses to provide a carrying capacity for livestock, grain and their production yields . What is your reasoning of having dairy sheep for milk production ? With 5 or so springs on 7 acres, one would suspect moist soils which translates to more incidents of hoof rot and liver flukes in addition to the other parasites. And as Mike says there is organic and then there is reality. You will have to treat with commercial medications that contains specific amounts of active ingredients and potency as " organic" ones are more often than not not reliable as to these tidbits. So, that being the case, you will leave some parasites that will eventually reproduce a resistance to organic dewormers.
I think I came off as being completely against chemicals. I am not, but the way I would like to start out and treatments I would wish to give the sheep and land would be organic (natural). If that turns out to not be in the best interest of my sheep then I will do what needs to be done in order to save them.

As far as my capabilities are concerned I have 7 children who are going to be helping me and learning right along side of me. I will be the stay at home dad taking care of everything. My wife works so we have a reliable source of income. The weather is typically a mild winter which can still dip down to the 20's. Spring comes around late april/may with summer generally around 95. As far as the type of pasture grasses, that is something which I will learn more about tomorrow but I do know that the man who owned it raised cattle for years. I know that sheep and cattle eat two different things and I am not apposed to doing the work necessary to transition the field into something that is better suited for sheep.

I haven't taken any soil samples as the house is still his and I didn't want to do anything yet but since closing is tomorrow I've let myself go ahead and hope a bit. The grain and their production yields is something which I honestly know nothing about so If you can help me there i would be most appreciative.
 
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TAH

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I had two katahdin's.
I agree with the above but I will share my experience with sheep.
Peace was 4-5 when we got her and her lamb. We got them for meat and milk.

I only milked her for a few days before we decided we liked goats milk better. Peace gave 1-1 1/2 cups a day (I never did weigh it in oz). We fed fodder, sprouted wheat, oats, and alfalfa pellets and free choice minerals and hay. Make sure you get sheep minerals. We fed all natural/organic and used herbal de-wormers and DE. Now I did the same for our goats and thought it worked good except we didn't run fecals on our sheep of goats so never ended up seeing if it worked or not. (I wish I would have known about running fecals on animals). We have our two sheep for 1 year and only trimmed there hooves every 3 months and wormed every 4 weeks. We lived in oregon and it is pretty wet here so parasites are a issue. Our pasture was a mix all different kinds of grasses, Oak trees, duggfure and blackberry's.

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