If you have vacant small pasture in your rural home, and can’t think of a profitable and fun way to use it, consider raising sheep! They are such docile animals and they will provide wool, milk and even meat. However, there are a few basics you must know about raising these fluffy creatures, and the below tips will help you get an idea on what you are getting into, and how you can make it a success.
Learn how to handle them
Handling sheep can be a pretty easy job if you know what they like and more importantly, what they don’t, however, if you try to use the tricks you use on other animals to try and handle sheep, they will probably never behave the way you want them to. One distinct characteristic of these animals is that they always move towards others of their kind and as a flock, and they hate staying confined by fences and always move as flocks towards open spaces, usually located uphill.
It is generally easier to handle them around gentle curves, where there is no direct sight of what lies ahead. You can also use food to wheedle them into following you without trying too hard, but this will take some time. They love grains, apples and peanuts and you can use these delicacies over time to make them get into the behaviour you prefer.
How to feed and treat them
An acre of good quality pasture will be more than enough for four sheep to grow healthily as they are ruminant animals that eat plants, fresh grass and hay. As long as the pasture is growing well, they will not really need any additional supplements as the grass itself contains all the nutrients they need.
However, during the winter season or a draught, you will have to add some supplements to their meals. Be extra careful when you are choosing vitamin and mineral supplements for your sheep, because most mineral mixtures which are high in copper, although great for other animals, can be toxic to sheep.
You should also know when to shear your sheep and equip yourself with a proper sheep shearing handpiece to do a good job. Typically, an adult sheep must be shorn once a year, but depending on each animal’s fleece growth rate, this may differ.
One of the biggest problems faced by sheep farmers is parasitic infections, which can spread like wildfire among these animals who are confined together as flock in a closed space. Rotating pastures on a bi-weekly basis will help curb the spread of diseases considerably, and if some animal show symptoms, deworming treatments must be given immediately.
Foxes, wolves, dogs and even birds of prey such as eagles are also a major threat to your sheep and they must be sheltered in a well fenced and protected area, where there is no chance of entry to such predators. Maintain trained dogs to protect your flock and also warn you if a troublemaker is approaching. Put bells on them so that you will always know if they are excited or scared, and make sure the pasture in an open area where you can clearly see at any time of the day, so that you can respond quickly if a predator is coming their way.