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Sheep care

Sheep care can be interesting and rewarding. Sheep can be raised for show or wool production, or simply as pets. Since sheep are herd animals, they should be kept in pairs or small herds rather than individually. Sheep, especially those that are bottle-raised by humans from the time they are young lambs, are usually very docile and trusting animals. Most often, sheep that are kept as pets are either females, called ewes, or neutered males, called wethers.

Sheep are grazing animals, and prefer to eat young, tender plants that grow very close to the ground. If your sheep will not be able to forage for sufficient nutrition at pasture in the winter, provide clean hay. The hay your sheep eat should be green and fresh. The outside of the bales may be bleached by the sun to a light gold color, but the inside of the bale should be fresh-smelling and clean. If the entire bale is yellow and coarse, the hay was probably left too long in the field before being cut. While it is still safe to feed to your sheep, it is not as good a choice nutritionally as fresher hay would be. Feeding hay that is brown, black, or musty smelling is not only poor sheep care, but could actually be harmful to your animals. Sheep that need extra nutrition, such as growing lambs and pregnant or lactating ewes, should also be fed grains such as barley, corn, wheat, or oats. Since most sheep will over eat grains, the quantities should be restricted according to the animals’ needs. Sheep need a supply of fresh water available at all times.

Sheep need a secure and stress-free structure for housing, which allows fresh air to flow but protects them from the elements. Ideally, each sheep should have a minimum of around 15 to 20 square feet of space. The barn itself should have sufficient airflow to allow the sheep to receive fresh air, and a solid roof to keep them dry in inclement weather. A packed clay floor is usually better than concrete, which retains cold in the winter, or wood, which absorbs urine and waste and can rot. Outside exercise areas should allow the sheep sufficient room to run and graze, but be securely fenced for safety.

Sheep are susceptible to worms, and should be checked by a veterinarian at the first sign of possible worm infestation. Check with your veterinarian for recommendations on de-worming, or on any vaccinations that may be advised in your geographic region.

Sheep are docile herd animals that can be a joy to raise. Whether for show, production, or companionship, proper goat care includes feeding and housing your sheep appropriately, and taking care of their medical needs.

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