The Sheep Project

The Palomares sheep group is always open to new members. You can decide to take a lamb to the fair, or just learn about lambs in general. There are other projects besides sheep if you decide this project is not for you. The sheep group does however, take quite a bit of time and work. In this project you will learn how to budget money, select your lamb, feed your lamb, care for your lamb and how to get your lamb ready for fair. We have a sheep meeting once every month and we try to set a time where everyone can attend. The leader also holds practice showmanship meetings to learn how to present your lamb at the fair, the leader usually gets a former 4H sheep member to work with us. Check out our tabs for more information.

When I first heard about the web project, I thought that I would be staying up late every night trying to write information about sheep to post on this website. I thought I would never finish it! Nevertheless, here I am all finished and it is posted for all to view. After I accepted my topic, sheep, I decided to ask my dad for some help on finding some websites. I asked him because he is the Palomares Sheep Leader for our 4-H club. He goes on the Internet all the time to find out more about what is going on out in the sheep world. I asked my dad for help and he gave me the addresses to all these cool websites!

My parents thought this was a great topic for me, since I live on a ranch and own 18 Ewes, 1 Ram and 9 lambs also known as "sheep." I am responsible each day to help with chores on the ranch. We currently have a set of triplets that require supplemental feeding, so I give them a bottle of milk, a can of grain and a handful of alfalfa. I also had quite a bit of information around the house from my 4H sheep project. My dad said he would also give me a couple of phone numbers of some of his sheep friends if I wanted any more information. I have spent quite a lot of time searching through my dad's stuff that I would be able to use for this web page. I think I found some good information that will be very interesting.

All my research has led me to believe that watching and listening to your animals will help you know what they need. Listening to and watching your sheep will let you know how they are feeling. The Information to come is something everyone needs to understand how to care for and manage your flock. Especially if you are planning to become a sheep breeder or a 4H sheep shower this information is for you! This web page will demonstrate the challenges of raising sheep and the many rewards that come with them.

Check out our tabs for more information about how this project works.

  • Why Do You Want Sheep?

    Sheep are not only raised because they look cute. Sheep are raised because they have products that keep us alive. Sheep provide us with meat to eat, milk to drink, glue, soap, cosmetics, ointments, candles, fertilizer, tennis racket strings (from their guts) and fabric from the wool sheared from their hides Sheep are valuable to both consumers and farmers. Sheep can live in many different climates depending on their breed type. Three top breeds in the United States are Suffolk, Hampshire and Shropshire. The Suffolk sheep are the leading breed in the United States. They are the largest sized breed and are most commonly known for fast weight gain and milking ability. Second, are the Hampshire breed, which are noted for rapid growth and efficient feed conversion. They have a mild disposition and more muscling than the Suffolk sheep. Third, is the Shropshire breed, one of the heartiest wool producers in the medium wool breeds. All these breeds are valuable to the farmer depending upon the nature of their business. In 4H, the choice of breed for market and show is a cross between a Suffolk for fast weight gain and Hampshire for good muscling.

    What Do You Need To Have To Own Sheep?

    Sheep are very easy to manage. A sheep farmer/rancher/breeder would keep his flock in a pasture approximately 1 acre per 5 head. A feeder of sorts would be needed to feed alfalfa to the sheep, when grazing the pasture is finished. The farmer would also need to have necessary vetrinerary supplies on hand, vaccinations, hoof trimmers, halters and water buckets. A 4H market lamb would need a pen approximately 30 x 30. To care for and get your lamb ready for show you would need something to feed your lamb, so buy some high protein grain and alfalfa. You will also want a container to put your grain in, preferably, a garbage can; you will also want a feed scoop so you can get the grain out. After eating all that food your lamb will defiantly be thirsty! To fix this, get a water bucket. The average market lamb will drink seven gallons of water a day! Your lamb will also love to go for a walk with you! Make sure you buy a halter to safely walk your lamb. The halter will rest around the lamb's nose and ears. Before you head to the fair you are going to want to wash your lambs with soap, water and a scrubby, this will make it easier to shear (give a haircut to) your lamb because all the lanolin will come out of the wool. Shearing your lamb before leaving will make it easier on you while you are at the fair, this doesn't mean you won't have to shear your lamb at fair though! In order to shear your lamb you will need a stand and a pair of clippers. The stand will hold your lamb still while you give it a haircut. After shearing your lamb, clip its feet with a pair of hoof trimmers. This will make it easier for your lamb to walk. Make sure, before you put your lamb back into his pen to put a blanket on him this will keep him warm and his skin fresh!

    How Do You Keep Your Sheep Happy And Healthy?

    It seems like a lot to have for just a couple of lambs, but it is helpful to become a good caretaker. Keeping your lamb happy is a whole other topic though. Your lambs like fresh clean water daily. Maybe, if you check it twice a day they will be even more happy that you're their owner. Another way to keep them happy with you is to give them a good shelter from all elements and clean it once or twice a week. Your lambs don't like to stand around all day either. They like to get out and have some exercise. To exercise them, chase them around in their pen. But, take turns with someone else because they become tired a lot less quickly than we do. Another way to give them exercise is to put up bars or poles dividing their pens in half. This way they have to jump to get to the other side. If you don't like either of those ideas, put their food at one end of their pen and their water at the other this makes them walk farther to get their necessities. This is also a good way to keep them healthy. As any breeder knows, shots such as: Bose (selenium for strong muscles), Tetanus, Sore Mouth (herpes virus) and Enterotoxaemia (an overeating shot) are very important! Every lamb should have all of these shots at least once. Worming monthly is also very important. Trimming hoofs is a good way to keep them walking comfortably, hoofs grow over the pads of their feet, mud and dirt are stuck in between the pad and hoof which causes your lamb to limp. That is why you sometimes see sheep grazing on their knees. This may sound like a lot to do but, it all pays off when your lamb turns out healthy and happy! There are many more diseases that sheep can get that are contagious to humans too! There are many types of diseases a lamb can get and they are all different! For example, abortion is the loss of babies, and Ovine Progressive Pneumonia is a lung infection. Another disease is Caseous Lymphadenitis, which is the creation of an abscess in the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, kidneys and spleen. Entropion is turned under eyelids and is very uncomfortable to lambs. There is also Polyarthritis or arthritis in more than one leg joint, a Prolapse that is where the intestines of your sheep come out its rectum, and Urinary Calculi or a build up of crystals in the bladder of the sheep. But, don't forget Mastitis, the hardening of the ewes udder or Coccidiosis, blood-tinged diarrhea. Sadly there are a couple diseases that can kill your sheep like; Pregnancy Disease, which is the stop of producing carbohydrates, and Scrapie, which are muscular tremors and convulsions. Luckily, there are some diseases you can treat like; Foot Rot or the rotting of the foot, Sore Mouth or herpes covering the mouth, tongue, and udder of the ewe or lamb, Pinkeye which is when your sheep's eye turns pink and puffy and last, Starvation or when your sheep is not fed (www.sheepdiseases.com) Moving on, docking is a very painful subject. Docking is to take off a lamb's tail in the lamb's first week of life. Docking a tail prevents fecal matter or poop, from accumulating around the hindquarters and tail of the lamb, reduces fly strike or wool maggots, and facilitates shearing. The tail should be no shorter than past the caudal tail folds. To dock a tail you can use an elastrator, which places a rubber band around the tail and slowly cuts off the blood circulation to the tail. Another method is the electric docking iron, which cuts and cauterizes the tail. Or, you could use the emasculator, which both cuts and crushes the tail off at the same time. Lastly, the burdizzo, which only crushes the tail, then you, must cut the tail off manually with a knife. Other options are that you cut off the tail with a knife or burn it off yourself. The elastrator is the least painful, just by the sound of it! It also protects against tetanus, and is a bloodless method unlike the other methods. After the band is applied to the lamb's tail, the lamb will lie down or jump around shaking its tail trying to shake off the band, but gets used to the feeling and forgets about it. If you use the elastrator, the tail will fall off between seven to ten days. This is the preferred method to most breeders.

    How Do You Keep Sheep Safe?

    There is a lot to be concerned about when grazing your sheep on open land. Sheep farmers experience losses due to predators that chase and kill their sheep. The biggest predator is coyotes. They kill 51.7% of sheep where dogs, the next biggest predator, kill 22.7% of sheep. A category titled all other animals are at 8.6% of kills, mountain lions with 7.7% of kills, bears with 4.5% of kills, bobcats or lynxes have 3.3% of kills, Eagles with 1.1% of kills and lastly, foxes with 0.5% of kills (www.Sheep101.info/). The only way to stop these predators from killing all your sheep is to get a guardian. There are many different types of guardians like; dogs, llamas, or donkeys. There are pros and cons to each animal though. For instance, dogs are the most popular guardian, but they can't be pets. Llamas are very aggressive, but only to small predators because llamas are afraid of larger animals. Donkeys are good with small flocks but they need different shots and food than sheep. If you don't want a full time guardian, try mixing your flock with some cattle, but only do this while your animals are grazing (www.Sheep101.info/). There usually isn't much concern with predators (except for the common dog) with the 4H Market lamb. These lambs are in a smaller area and are usually closer to the house where the owner can hear if there are any problems.

    What Do You Feed Sheep?

    Most breeders start their young lambs with 60 days of nursing from the ewe. They introduce grain with a little alfalfa to the lambs after the first 30 days. They provide a free food choice for them 24 hours per day in the form of a creep feeder. This creep feeder is simply a fence that has vertical openings in it big enough for a lamb to fit through into a secure part of the barn to eat. This allows the lamb's access to the food without the ewes eating all the food first. The lambs are weaned from their mothers after 60 days.When feeding your 4H Market lamb it is very important that you only feed your market lamb high protein grain that is created specially for sheep. Sheep cannot eat other animal's food because of copper toxicity. Copper is an essential to other animals except sheep. Too much copper can cause a build up in the liver, which is then dumped into the blood stream, killing the sheep (www.Sheep101.info/). When feeding your market lamb make sure you aren't feeding too much or too little. To do this, weigh your lamb in the scale your breeder owns. After weighing your lamb, multiply the weight by 3%, then divide that number by two. Now you should get a number that is how much your lamb should be getting each meal. Weigh your grain in a food scale, so you can get the exact number you got after weighing your lamb. Weigh your food each meal. Make sure you divide all your lambs from each other when feeding; this stops the lambs from eating the other lamb's food. One fat lamb and one really skinny lamb are not the kind of lambs you should be after. Another trick for when you are feeding your lamb is to feed him on a ramp feeder instead of on the ground or in a regular feeder. Ramp feeders stretch the lamb out which gives the lamb more muscle. Make sure you NEVER abruptly change the type of grain for your lamb, if you do, the lamb's system will go into shock and they will get diarrhea. Switch over little by little within a two week time- period.

    How Do You Know When Baby Lambs Are Coming?

    The ewe should be a blimp by the time babies are coming! It takes 154 days gestation period from the time the egg is fertilized to delivery. You can easily tell because her udder will be getting bigger from filling up with milk and her teats will be very large. The vulva starts to look long and floppy. The ewe will start to separate from the others to find a nice quiet spot to have her babies. In preparation for the new baby lambs, the sheep breeder may lock the ewe up in the barn by herself at night to bed down on fresh straw. Common supplies needed for birthing the lambs are a dry clean pen to put the babies in after they are born, fresh straw to put in the pen, towels to dry off the newborn lambs, scissors to cut the umbilical cord, iodine (7%) to dip the cord and lots of time! Considering it will be a normal birth, the ewe will pass a water sack. This sack is full of urine from the lamb. Next, you will see a hoof and a nose poking out. The ewe will lie down and push the baby out while standing up quickly so the lamb falls down on the ground. This drop shocks the lamb into breathing as the ewe starts licking the sack off the body. Ewes typically have twins. First time ewes will only have a single. And triplets are difficult on the ewe because they are smaller than twins and as they grow, the ewe will not be able to produce enough milk to feed all of them.

    What Happens When You Take Your Market Lamb To Fair?

    The 4-H'er bought the lamb from the sheep breeder, fed the lamb a high protein diet and exercised the lamb. Now it is time to show the lamb in the market class. When presenting your lamb to the judge, you want to always be in control. You will be in a large ring with many other kids showing their lambs too. You will walk around in a circle and stop when the judge says to. This will show the judge how hard you worked on walking your lamb. Once you stop walking, you're going to want to leave at least one lamb length between you and the lamb in front of you. You do this so that if the lamb behind you bumps into you, you have room to move forward. To set up your lamb your lamb's two back feet need to be parallel, and the same goes for the front feet. Once your lamb is set-up, smile at the judge, make sure you are constantly glancing down at the feet of your lamb and then back up at the judge. If your lamb moves, don't worry just reset the feet again, but remember not to fiddle with the feet too much. The judge will be eliminating the kids that forget to watch him, or fiddle with the feet too much etc. The judge will make his final selection, award the ribbon and talk about the class. All the winners of each species will compete for the master showmanship award from the fair. This is where you try showing a dairy cow, steer, pig, goat, dairy goat, and lamb. It is a very intense show and difficult to do. Great prizes are often awarded for master showmanship. The perfect market lamb is between 130 and 140 pounds. It is angular shape, which is smaller in the shoulders and larger in the legs. The length of loin is from the lamb's last rib to its hips. This is an expensive cut of meat and very desirable. The leg should be very muscular and the back fat should be the width of three pennies. When showing the lamb in the Market Class, the 4H'er should brace the lamb very hard when the judge touches it to show off how muscular the lamb is. At the end of this class, the judge will rate each lamb.