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Joined: 24 May 2008
Posts: 1265
Location: worcester
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 13 7:54 pm    Post subject: Learning about sheep  Reply with quote    

A flock of Hebridean sheep are about to join the family, Boriss daughter and her OH are buying a new home and have agreed to take over the sheep. They have help and back up from a local farmer friend with sheep and also from a local shepherd so are not alone at the deep end.

Why I'm asking on here is because we may end up looking after the house cat and sheep while their owners are on holiday. There's a horse as well but she lives with her horse friends elsewhere .
I have been interested in sheep for a long time and feel that now I need to learn about basic care.
So where best can I learn more, are there courses that would be of benefit,
What do the sheep farmers here advise for the best. Are there any recommended books that could help.

There are 18 sheep not hundreds, I couldn't cope with hundreds.

Nicky Colour it green

Joined: 25 Jun 2007
Posts: 8827
Location: Devon, uk
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 13 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

this is a good beginners book on lambing - the authors also did other books on husbandry etc.

we also joined our local smallholders association and went on a lambing day course - which was excellent... there are also courses on sheep husbandry etc.. though the rest we learned as we went along....

Rob R

Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 31902
Location: York
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 13 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

An Introduction to Keeping Sheep was my first sheep book, and would recommend.

There is also our resident sheep expert's book to take a look at; The Sheep Book for Smallholders


Joined: 13 Oct 2006
Posts: 6518
Location: Dordogne
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 13 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Go and get some hands-on. The best thing you can learn is safe catching. Yours are a native breed and will be ...energetic....

Ive had a dislocated shoulder and tennis elbow doing lambing season.


Joined: 23 Nov 2007
Posts: 1748
Location: Lincolnshire
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 13 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I am not a sheep-keeper myself and know little about them - though more than I used to since meeting a herd of Gotlands and their owners in nearby village.

This is link to their site: http://pedwardine-gotlands.co.uk/

They have a flock of about 80 and mainly keep them to sell the fleece and for breeding stock more than for meat. Amanda writes a detailed diary of their ups and downs. But more to the point there are links to other sites about sheep which you might find useful.

I enjoy reading it anyway, despite having no sheep of my own.

My blog post about the shearing:



Joined: 24 May 2008
Posts: 1265
Location: worcester
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 13 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thanks for the excellent replies.
I have borrowed the Introduction to keeping sheep book from the library and will buy the Tim Tyler book to keep as part of my library.

I will pass on the list of books to our new sheep keepers, along with the advice.
As far as I understand the sheep were pets but the flock expanded in an unplanned manner due to next doors ram getting through the fence! I think there will be a reduction in numbers but apparently Bonzo is a real pet ( castrated) and not for the freezer.

I agree about safe catching and hands on experience . When my bad shoulder is fixed I will ask again about best places to learn .
I just want to be sure that if we end up looking after these sheep that we understand their needs and can take proper care of them for a week or so holiday relief.

The new sheep keepers are planning much improved fencing as a priority . Boris daughter has experience of lambing on her friends farm Her Oh is keen to learn about his new responsibilities and prepared for the commitment that livestock require.

I'm sure that I will have further questions to ask. Boris and I wish to be supportive without interfering .


Joined: 24 May 2008
Posts: 1265
Location: worcester
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 13 10:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Ulterior motive , I've been promised a fleece

I believe that selling suitable fleeces to craft workers is on the agenda.


Joined: 07 Feb 2006
Posts: 526

PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 13 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

just to add, Tim Tynes book is brilliant. I got this book ages ago and hadn't realised he was on downsizer until relatively recently. His book really helped us.


Joined: 23 Nov 2007
Posts: 1748
Location: Lincolnshire
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 13 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Fleece, yes - I got one to bring home after helping out though didn't feel I did much. The fleece is truly delicious.

Amanda at Pedwardine Gotlands, link I gave you, seems to be very successful on the fleece selling side - fleeces are all sold before they come off the sheep. So could be worth new sheep owners contacting her and/or looking at the site when they are a bit further on with the project.


Joined: 24 Jun 2010
Posts: 2123
Location: Llanfyllin area
PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 13 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I agree Tim Tyne's book is very good,worth every penny. I would also buy the old TV vet, Eddie Straiton's book about sheep and their diseases and lambing, if you can find a copy now. He really was a great man. I was student on a farm he used to visit and he always took the time to explain to me what he was doing to the animal and more importantly why. I don't want to put you off looking after sheep, but they do have a nasty habit of dying by choice, rather than taking the life option-almost innate!


Joined: 24 May 2008
Posts: 1265
Location: worcester
PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 13 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Yes , being asked to look after woollies is a worry.
Are all sheep suicidal , I was hoping the primitive ones were a bit more enthusiastic about surviving.


Joined: 02 Jul 2005
Posts: 37953
Location: yes
PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 13 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

catching the wee horrors is difficult one handed
in open land or a big field wolf tactics work ie select target and win by stamina and guile.
get a dog to help if possible

two people and a rope can be good for driving them into a smaller area

several people and some trained dogs (even if tied up a good dog can reduce the chance of sheep going somewhere other than where you want them )is less difficult

they have good traction which makes groundwork wrestling interesting and are quite good at butting so be careful if you need to grab them,the head turn hold that rob showed me is rather useful and although it would be fatal in the human and therefore a bit odd first try it is safe for sheep and gives a good grip.
if possible get tuition in close handling and herding

the sheepy evil will to mayhem ,murder and suicide can be partially overcome with stealth and tactics ,good fences and common sense help but their will to chaos is strong

ace on a plate but a critter im not comfortable with(tis mutual as they dont like me either) hope you like yours

ps i have loads of respect for folk who can handle sheep they are far more challenging than cattle(even the evil ones) or pigs(even the determined ones)

pps watch out for the random jumper heading at your face for no particular reason

ppps sheepy midwifery is a specialist subject with some experts in the ds community

Downsizer Moderator

Joined: 08 Jun 2005
Posts: 18395

PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 13 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I hope you and yours enjoy your new Hebs, and their fleeces.

Generally, sheep do not need an awful lot of looking after in between specific times of tupping/scanning/lambing/foot-trimming/clipping'n'dipping/more foot-trimming/dosing, drenching or whatever you decide you want to do to them.

On a normal day, you want to be 'looking' them twice a day, once first thing, and once at dusk. Make them move around, so you can see whether any are limping, unwell, etc. Count them. Check possible places sheep may be lying down being ill/dead. like behind stane dykes, in bushes, by the burn....

Some sheep - Texels, I'm looking at you - will limp for the hell of it because they are drama llamas.

Otherwise, enjoy them. In the field, on the plate, on the loom.

An elderly friend keeps a wee flock of elderly Hebs (other smallholders' cast-offs) as lawnmowers and suppliers of fleece for peg-looming, and she manages to catch them, as a) they are quite small, as sheep go; and b) she has them trained to come and eat Weetabix from her hand.

Sheep will run in the opposite direction from your direction of travel. If you want a group/line of them to go left, walk right along them.
Once you get one to go, most will follow. (hahahahaha)

If there are two of you and no dog, one of you can be the dog.
Building funnels / races as an approach to gates or pens is good.

Web resources : Temple Grandin has written useful info on handling and working with sheep, and working with their natural behaviours.

I really like sheep, though I find them infuriating and endearing in equal measure.

Last edited by gil on Sun Oct 27, 13 4:43 pm; edited 1 time in total


Joined: 24 May 2008
Posts: 1265
Location: worcester
PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 13 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thankyou for the replies. I'm booked for holiday relief and too far away to get involved with everyday care unfortunately . The sheep belong to Boris daughter and her OH.

Luckily I will not be expected to deal with lambing.

Gil thanks for the info of what to look for on twice daily checks. I hope that I will not need to catch any of them but.
I expect to have to make sure they have water and any food they need and to make sure they haven't got into any trouble. I will have phone numbers for local back up, a local shepherd and a local farmer I can consult.
No dog, I'm not a dog person although I have cared for them as holiday relief. I shouldn't have to move them anywhere mercifully.

I don't know how tame they are, the wether is defiantly a pet so might be quite bold and possibly even a bit pushy.

I wish I knew somebody local who could give me lessons on basic sheep care.

Thanks again for the advice, I will keep this thread going and report back on progress.


Joined: 24 Jun 2010
Posts: 2123
Location: Llanfyllin area
PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 13 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Invite the farmer and his wife round for lunch and suggest a walk after lunch? and do the same with the local shepherd! They will be casting an eye even if they don't appear to be and doubtless they will say ' if I was to be doing anything tomorrow I would be getting yon ship' feets' done. And if you make the right noises he they will be round to advise/do the job. A bottle sometimes helps.

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