Sheep Care 101

BYH Project Manager

Loving the herd life
Jul 9, 2012
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There are many different uses for sheep, including raising them for meat, milk, wool, among others. Generally speaking, sheep live 6-14 years on average and are wonderful, lovable animals.

If well cared for, a sheep can sometimes live up to 20 years. Sheep can be found in almost every country in the world, and there are few places where they aren't. They are extremely hardy and can withstand a variety of climates.

Throughout the world, there are many different breeds of sheep (more than 200). Each of these breeds thrives and fares well under specific weather and environmental conditions.

You need to select and purchase the right breed based on your geographic area and living conditions if you plan to raise a few sheep or operate a sheep farming business.

It's important to learn more about sheep care before beginning the operation.

Each sheep is unique, each farm is unique, and each sheep farmer's personality is unique. So you should do quality research in order to determine how to raise sheep best for your situation.

If your sheep experience any health issues, consult a veterinarian in your area. This article focuses more on the basics of sheep keeping.

Sheep Shelter​

You first need to make sure that your sheep have a very good shelter that is also comfortable for them. The sheep will need shelter from predators as well as adverse weather all year round.

Although your sheep will enjoy a barn, you don't need one. They will be happy with just a three-sided enclosure. But having stalls in a barn is a good idea because you can separate sick or pregnant sheep from the rest of the flock.

Sheep are grazing animals, so having a shaded area outside will be beneficial to them.

When the sheep go outside to graze, the shaded area will provide them with a place to rest. For this purpose, a few trees or a hanging structure should suffice.

You should also make sure the shelter is comfortable for your sheep. You can give them straw bedding, and how much bedding you should have depends on how much time your sheep will spend inside their shelter.

Give them good, thick bedding of dry hay during the colder climates for keeping them clean and warm. Sawdust is not a good bedding material for sheep since it can ruin their wool.

Along with the above facilities in the shelter, you also have to ensure a good ventilation system.

You can either install a fan inside the shelter or keep the doors and windows open to allow air to flow inside.

In hotter climates and during the summer this is imperative in order to keep the sheep cool.

Sheep Pasture​

You should prepare a pasture for sheep before beginning. In addition, make sure your pasture is able to support the amount of sheep you intend to have.

You may want to consult an expert in your area regarding pasture size recommendations.

As a general rule, the size of pasture is influenced by soil quality, rainfall levels and distribution, as well as pasture management. Wet weather feeds more sheep per acre than dry weather.

The sheep eat mostly grass, clover, forbs, and other pasture plants when allowed to graze freely. Sheep generally prefer forbs and will always seek them out when they are available on a pasture.

Therefore, you can prepare your pasture with a variety of grasses, plants, and forbs.

Sheep Fencing​

Putting up a fence for your sheep is very important due to the fact that sheep are very adept at escaping. You can keep your sheep inside with the aid of a good fence system. Sheep also require fencing as they are vulnerable to predators (especially coyotes).

A fence of 1.5 meters high is usually adequate to keep sheep inside a pasture. Some areas, however, require higher fences to prevent predators.

Sheep Feed​

To care for sheep, it is essential to feed them quality food. Although you have pasture for the animals, you must continue to provide quality supplementary feeds. Natural pasture cannot always provide food for sheep year-round.

When the pastures are not sufficient to feed your sheep, you can use hay for them. Accordingly, the quantity and quality of grass will determine how much hay is needed.

If you feed your sheep grains, try not to overfeed them. Grains are actually not the best for sheep. Eating too many grains can also result in bloating.

For sheep, get a grain mix that is specially formulated and suitable for sheep if you need or want to supplement their diet with grain.

Your sheep's feed should never be stored for more than one month. The feed can mold if stored too far in advance, making it toxic for the sheep.

Therefore, it's best to give your sheep fresh food. Sheep require salt as well, so be sure they have access to salt (salt is a natural source of minerals that sheep require).

For this purpose, salt blocks may be used. Loose mineral salt is also an option.

You can place it in a feeder inside their shelter and it is less expensive than salt blocks.

It is also important that your sheep have access to enough clean and fresh water in addition to quality feed.

However, not only must you provide a safe environment, adequate pasture, and quality feed to your sheep, but also consider their other needs such as shearing, health care, and vaccination.

Sheep Shearing​

Every year, you should shear your sheep. Consider shearing your sheep when the weather is warming up rather than before cold weather.

Sheep Hoof Care​

Sheep are often affected by foot rot. In fact, animals that walk on damp or wet ground are more prone to the condition.

Having soft hooves makes bacteria more likely to infect your sheep's hooves when they walk on damp or wet ground.

For your sheep to avoid such problems, maintain a dry environment.

Sheep Health Care​

Pay attention to your sheep's behavior. It is easy to spot sick sheep by their unusual behavior.

By keeping an eye on their basic health, you will be able to detect any problems earlier so that they can be addressed before they spread.

Generally, nasal discharges are one of the first signs of a respiratory infection.

Be sure to check your sheep's coat continuously for parasites (such as mites and lice) and treat them as soon as possible.

Sheep De-worming​

The stool of your sheep should be checked periodically for worms. A professional can help if you aren't able to do it yourself. Follow your veterinarian's recommendations for de-worming.

Sheep Vaccination​

The majority of health problems can be prevented by vaccinating your sheep timely. The care of sheep also involves this aspect.

Taking care of sheep involves all of these things. Maintaining the health and productivity of your animals requires good care.



Ridin' The Range
Jun 2, 2021
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North Carolina!
Hi, I am getting a new lamb. His name is Cash. Is shavings ok for their bedding or is it just like sawdust? What are forbs? Is there anything else I need to know?


Herd Master
May 9, 2017
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Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
Hi, I am getting a new lamb. His name is Cash. Is shavings ok for their bedding or is it just like sawdust? What are forbs? Is there anything else I need to know?
Depends on the kind of lamb... a hair sheep would be fine on sawdust...

The article says sawdust is bad for the wool. So, does your lamb have wool? (I have never had sheep, but have had horses and goats)

Forbs are a broad class of plants. So, when you look at your pasture, you have woody plants (trees, bushes, things with wood stems or trunks), you have grass, you have sedges ("sedges have edges" if you roll them in between your fingers, but usually look grass-like.), you have reeds ("reeds roll" so no edges when rolled between your fingers. Again grass-like, these have a hollow stem), and then you have FORBS.

So, the forbs are dicots (grasses, sedges, and reeds are all monocots, whereas bushes and trees are usually dicots), and include dandelions, daisies, plantain, chickweed, etc.


Herd Master
Jun 21, 2015
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Hi, I am getting a new lamb. His name is Cash. Is shavings ok for their bedding or is it just like sawdust? What are forbs? Is there anything else I need to know?
What are you hoping to do with him? How cold does it get? With my show lambs, we used shavings because their body wool was not very important, and we blanketed them and kept their legs wrapped. I do know people who use straw in the winter because it keeps the lambs warmer. PM me if you have other questions, or just ask them here.

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