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The Country Enterprise Handbook
Analysing your assets|Land use|Vegetables|Soft fruit|Flower & herb growing|Orchard & vineyard|Woodlands Sheep|Beef|Pigs|Rabbits|Hens|Ducks|Geese|Dairying|Kitchen|Bees|Wool|Water|Home|Contact us

Keeping sheep
...Slaughter practicality
...Jacobs crosses
...Ram management
...- Feeding
...- Castration & strike
...Summer & autumn

When the grazing falls off, you must supplement the sheep's roughage with hay.

It is worth feeding the ewes well for this affects the lambs' growth and birth numbers. Not too well though; fat animals of any species find giving birth more difficult. A mineral block should be in the field at all times and some concentrate is needed. How much depends on the sort of supplement you choose and the quality of the hay. Sheep tend to eat up fairly quickly so if you find any food left over in the trough then you are feeding too much.

We leave our rams running with the flock for most of the winter. We work on the theory that the rams see dogs and foxes off. The most docile family dog can turn killer. Dogs in groups seem to revert to their wolf-like ancestors. Hopefully you will never come across a sheep that has been mauled by a dog. If you do you will understand why many farmers shoot dogs on sight that are roaming in their fields. Dogs do not even have to catch the sheep to harm them. Sheep are timid and if chased, even if the dog is only intending to play, they are convinced of an imminent end. The ewes lose lambs that they are carrying and hurl themselves into danger. We live near the River Medway and every year a few sheep meet a watery end trying to escape from dogs.

If you have a suitable building (an airy pole barn is ideal), it is worth considering inwintering the sheep. Many more farmers are practising this today, both for the higher lambing percentages and for the comfort of the shepherd. Your enemy with sheep in confinement is condensation: sheep like fresh air, not damp air.

There have been noticeable rises in birth weights when the ewes have been sheared on coming in. There is the added benefit that your land gets a total rest through the Winter and Spring growth will therefore be more lush. Apart from feeding hay and concentrates, it may be worth considering feeding silage or hydroponically grown grass. Sheep can thrive on silage but should be introduced to it gradually, preferably while they are still grazing the fields. Hydroponic grass is fantastically popular with housed sheep. The only problem is not to overfeed them with it or they may scour.