| General Conference
|| Skill Level 1
Year of Introduction: 1944
This Honor is a component of the Farming Master Award.
1. What kinds of areas do sheep naturally inhabit?
Wild sheep are mostly found in hilly or mountainous habitats.
2. What kind of vegetation furnishes the feed most ideal for sheep?
Ideal pasture for sheep is not lawn-like grass, but an array of grasses, legumes and forbs (herbaceous flowering plants ).
3. What type of shelter or barn should be provided for sheep?
Sheep are kept in mobs in paddocks; in pens or in a barn. In cold climates sheep may need shelter if they are freshly shorn or have baby lambs. Freshly shorn hoggets (sheep up to 1 year old), especially, are very susceptible to wet, windy weather and will succumb to exposure very quickly. Sheep have to be kept dry for one to two days before shearing so that the fleece is dry enough to be pressed and to protect the health of the shearers.
A shed with three sides, with the fourth being open to the south (north in the southern hemisphere) provides adequate winter shelter for sheep. If you are planning to lamb during the winter, a closed barn that can be partially heated is vital to the success of your operation.
4. How much space is needed for each animal in the following conditions:
a. Loose barn space for adult sheep
UK government regulations (https://www.gov.uk/sheep-and-goat-welfare) specify the following minimum standards:
|Lowland ewes - 60-90 kilograms live weight||1.2-1.4 m2 floor space per ewe during pregnancy|
|Lowland ewes after lambing, with lambs at foot up to six weeks of age||2.0-2.2m2 floor space per ewe and lambs|
|Hill ewes - 45-65 kilograms live weight||1.0-1.2m2 floor space per ewe during pregnancy|
|Hill ewes after lambing, with lambs at foot up to six weeks of age||1.8-2.0m2 floor space per ewe and lambs|
|Rams||1.5-2.0m2 per ram|
b. Outside lot space for adult sheep
Intensive outdoor 'drylots'
|Lamb up to 41kg||1.0m2|
|Wether or dry ewe||1.3m2|
|Ram, pregnant ewe or heavy wether||1.5m2|
|Ewe + lamb(s)||1.8m2|
c. Loose barn space for large lamb
If confined to the barn 4-10 sq.ft.
UK government regulations (https://www.gov.uk/sheep-and-goat-welfare) specify the following best practice standards:
|Lambs and sheep 12 weeks to 12 months old||0.75-0.9m2 floor space per lamb/sheep|
d. Loose barn space for small lamb
UK government regulations (https://www.gov.uk/sheep-and-goat-welfare) specify the following best practice standards:
|Lambs up to 12 weeks old||0.5-0.6m2 floor space per lamb|
e. Pasture required for one ewe
This will depend on the quality of pasture and what supplemental feed is available, but 5 sheep per acre (.4 ha) is a reasonable start.
f. Feed trough space for mature sheep
UK government regulations (https://www.gov.uk/sheep-and-goat-welfare) specify the following best practice standards: When feeding all your sheep at once, the minimum trough space required is approximately:
|lowland ewes||45 centimeters|
|smaller hill ewes||30 centimeters|
However, if sheep have constant access to a supply of hay and silage, trough space can be reduced to 10-12 centimeters per ewe - depending on size.
g. Feed trough space for lambs
If using a creep feeding area be sure it is large enough for all the lambs to be comfortable. 2 inches per lamb according to one source.
Lambing can occur in the field, but you may prefer to bring the lambs into a barn for a few days. 25 sq ft per ewe and her lambs is reasonable.
5. What are the most favorable seasons of the year in which to make a start in sheep raising?
The best time to start raising sheep would be in the fall before breeding season. You can select your ewes and ram carefully and then control the breeding of your ewes. However, you will need to stockpile silage or other feed and acquire cereal based feed for your ewes for use over the winter.
If you are just going to have a few sheep for a hobby or to earn this Honor, then acquire breed ewes during the winter so you can quickly move on to the excitement of birthing lambs.
6. What considerations should be taken into account when selecting the breed of stock?
First you need to understand why you want to raise sheep. Sheep have been bred to optimize their wool production, meat production, milk production, and then there are multi-purpose breeds designed to do several of these. Do some market research before deciding on a breed. If there is no market in your area for wool, you should consider raising a meat or milk breed. Likewise, if the market for mutton is weak, you should go with a wool breed. Choosing a multi-purpose breed might be a good way to hedge your bet, but these animals do not produce as well as a breed dedicated to a specific end-product. Also think about how much time you have. Do you have the necessary dedication to get up early every morning to milk your ewes?
Once you have chosen a breed, you will need to choose stock. Older ewes (3-5 years old) will have fewer problems lambing than younger ewes, and they can (and do) teach younger ewes to be good mothers. If you intend to become a profitable shepherd, it is vitally important to choose animals that can produce and raise twins. It is very difficult to break even unless most of your ewes can do this. Those that cannot should be culled.
Be extra particular when selecting a ram, as his genetic contribution to the flock will represent half of the total gene pool. Each ewe's contribution will be limited to the lambs she births, but every lamb will have the same father. The ram should not be related to any of the ewes.
7. What is the ideal size of flock for inexperienced beginners in sheep raising?
Inexperienced shepherds should start out with a flock of 25 sheep or fewer. Remember your flock will triple in size at lambing time, so plan accordingly.
8. What winter feed is most ideal for sheep?
As winter sets in pasture will become inadequate for the nutritional needs of your flock. At the same time the ewe's diet needs to be supplemented to handle the nutritional demands of getting pregnant, and carrying a lamb or lambs over the winter, and feeding a lamb or lambs in the spring.
Grass starts growing in spring, grows well until mid-summer when both growth rate and nutritional value falls. Grass has a growth spurt in September before it stops growing over winter. The quantity and nutritional value of grass depends on a number of factors such as the species, soil type and condition, geography, and climate.
Cereals alone are not enough. Sheep need the long fibers of grass, hay, haylage, or silage in their diets to keep them healthy. So when the grass is not growing, you need to supplement the sheep’s diet with hay, silage or haylage.
Ewes are usually given a concentrate (cereal based) feed, in addition to the forage element of their diet during two times.
- . From a few weeks before mating through a few weeks after mating (usually in the fall for spring lambs) This is called flushing.
- . In the final trimester of pregnancy (7 or 8 weeks pre-lambing) for ewes carrying multiple lambs.
Cereal based feeds come in pellet or mix or as a feed block. Cereals provide protein and energy while the feed company adds vitamins and minerals, plus and molasses to improve palatability.
9. What type of care should be given to lambs?
Caring for lambs is a topic that can not be fully covered in a few paragraphs, so we will only give an overview here, that if learned, will be suitable for demonstrating the knowledge requirements of the Honor. We urge you to do further research before embarking on the adventure of raising lambs.
The health of the ewe impacts the health of the lambs. Ewes should not drink alcohol or smoke... (wait that is the Temperance Honor). Assuming a fall breeding, add grain based feed to the ewes' diets to support the growth of the fetuses and development of mammary tissue starting in late February for Mid-March lambing. Also about four weeks prior to the start of lambing season, ewes can be vaccinated for clostridium perfringins type C and D (overeating disease) and tetanus so that their lambs will receive immunity when they drink the colostrumlate.
Generally lambing occurs without the need for human intervention. If you have good breeding stock and have culled ewes that only produce singles you should have mostly twins and triplets. With the thin margins in sheep you can not afford unproductive ewes. Lambing can occur in a barn or outside depending on the climate and timing.
Some shepherds like to use a small pen (5 ft. x 5 ft.) called a "jug" for new lambs for one to three days (if there are no problems). This facilitates easy observation and helps the lambs and ewe bond. Kind of like the maternity ward in the hospital. On the second day, the lambs are weighed and ear-tagged. Record the birth date, sex, weight, and ear tag number of each lamb. You may also want to dock tails and/or castrate.
After life in the Jug, move the lambs and ewes to mixing pens with perhaps four ewes and their lambs. Here they figure out which ewe is their mother and start to socialize. A little like a daycare. After a week or two, the lambs can be released into the general flock.
Creep feeding & pasture
By the time the lambs are two weeks old, they should gain access to a creep feeding area. Creep feed is feed given to young nursing lambs and a creep pen is an area fenced with a narrow opening so that young animals can enter but adults cannot. Creep feed can be a mixture of soybean meal and cracked corn or other suitable feed mix in your area.
The lambs also need access to fresh water, high quality hay, and minerals in the creep area.
When the grass starts to grow the lambs should get pasture access with their mothers. Here they will learn to graze.
When the lambs are 6 to 8 weeks old, they should be vaccinated for clostridium perfringens type C & D (overeating disease) and clostridium tetani (tetanus). They should receive a booster approximately four weeks later. Check with your local vet about appropriate vaccinations for your area.
Weaning and Sale
Lambs are weaned by the time they are 90 days old by separating them from their mothers. They are also weighed and this information recorded for future reference. Between 3 and 4 months of age you need to separate the rams from the ewe lambs to prevent premature breeding.
After weaning the lambs continue to graze and are given supplemental grain. Time to start selling off the lambs. Generally all the but the very best rams will be sold for meat, along with the ewes that will not be kept as replacement breeders. Most of the lambs are sold by August 1st assuming lambing in March.
Consult a local vet or experienced sheep farmer to determine if deworming is required in your area and situation.
Ewe lambs are bred when they are about seven months old and at about 100 lbs they have achieved approximately two-thirds of their adult size (depending on breed).
Main Source: http://www.sheep101.info/raisingsheep1.html
10. Know the meaning of the following terms:
- a. Castration
- Castration is the act of removing the testicles of a male animal.
- Castration is commonly performed on domestic animals not intended for breeding for the following reasons:
- To reduce or prevent territorial behavior
- To reduce or prevent aggression
- To increase growth and weight of the animal.
- To improve the taste of the meat.
- b. Commercial
- A commercial flock is one that produces lambs for sale as meat rather than as breeding stock
- c. Concentrate
- Food high in nutrition, low in fiber, and easily digested.
- d. Cross bred
- A cross bred lamb has a sire (ram) from one breed with a dam (ewe) from another.
- e. Dam
- A dam is the mother of a sheep.
- f. Dock
- Docking is used as a term for the intentional removal of part of an animal's tail or ears. The term cropping is also used, more commonly in reference to the docking of ears, while docking more commonly—but not exclusively—refers to the tail. The term bobbing is also used. Many breeds of sheep have their tails docked to prevent fly strike.
- g. Drench
- A drench is an oral veterinary medicine given to an animal to rid it of intestinal parasites, such as roundworm and tapeworm.
- h. Ewe
- A ewe is an adult female sheep
- i. Flushing
- Flushing is providing especially nutritious feed in the few weeks before mating to improve fertility, or in the period before birth to increase lamb birth-weight. It can also mean removing unfertilized or fertilized egg from an animal; often as part of an embryo transfer procedure.
- j. Forages or roughages
- Forages are grass, shrubs, and plants that can be used as food for sheep. Roughages are high fiber foods such as hay and some pasture plants.
- k. Gain
- The increase in weight of a lamb over a period of time.
- l. Gestation
- Gestation is the carrying of an unborn creature in the womb; pregnancy.
- m. Grease weight
- The weight of the fleece from a freshly shorn sheep.
- n. Heat
- A time period when a ewe is receptive to mating.
- o. Lactation
- Lactation is the production of milk by a female mammal.
- p. Polled
- A polled animal is one that has had its horns removed. Some breeds of livestock are "naturally polled" meaning they do not develop horns (and thus do not need to be polled).
- q. Purebred
- An animal whose parents belong wholly to the same breed is called a purebred.
- r. Ram
- A Ram is an adult male sheep.
- s. Ration
- A mixture of different types of feed.
- t. Registered
- An animal which has been issued a certificate by a breed association. A registered animal is guaranteed to be a purebred.
- u. Scours
- Diarrhea. It can quickly kill a lamb.
- v. Scurred
- Possessing the rudiments of a horn - hardened skin tissue where a horn would normally grow. The scur is not skeletal tissue.
- w. Sire
- A sire is the father of a sheep.
- x. Wether
- A wether is a castrated male sheep.
11. Care for two or more lambs until marketed or until three months of age.
This honor was written in a time when many Pathfinders lived on farms, so it was easy to raise some sheep. Today, most Pathfinders do not live on farms, so to earn this honor may require some creativity.
First, you will need a place to keep your sheep. If you live in a suburban area, check your zoning with the city before turning sheep into your backyard.
Alternatives to keeping your sheep at home might include:
- Ask friends and family about areas they own you could use. Perhaps someone has grass that needs natural mowing.
- Volunteer at a petting zoo
- Look online for someone with small acreage who would not mind seeing your sheep in their field
Next you will need at least one pregnant ewe (hopefully with twins). For this you will need to find a ewe and get her breed. The livestock auction or a sheep breeder are good places to start. If you buy at auction you will need to buy or borrow a ram. For this reason you may prefer to buy from a breeder that will help you get started and offer advice.
After that you need to apply your knowledge to raising the lambs. Don't get too attached though because eventually the lambs are going to be sold.
Have fun being a shepherd.
World sheep numbers According to the Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, there are more than one billion sheep world wide.
2010 World Sheep Inventory - Top 10 countries
Country Number of head
- China 134,021,213
- India 73,991,000
- Australia 68,085,500
- Iran 54,000,000
- Sudan 52,014,100
- Nigeria 35,519,800
- New Zealand 32,562,600
- United Kingdom 31,000.000
- Pakistan 27,800,000
- Ethiopia 25,979,900
Source: FAOSTAT 2010
The USA is not even close to being in the top 10 sheep owning country list. "Over the past 200 years, the U.S. sheep population has come full circle. From 7 million head in the early 1800's, sheep numbers peaked at 56 million in 1945, then declined to less than 7 million head on January 1, 2003. At the same time, industry emphasis has changed from wool to meat. Sheep numbers increased slightly in 2005 and 2006, the first time since 1990." Source <http://www.sheep101.info/farm.html>
The Bible says Jesus is our Shepherd, an illustration that was a lot more meaningful to people who either raised sheep or were close to someone who raised sheep out in open fields. Today, many people in cities rarely even see sheep except in cartoons, much less understand the relationship between sheep and shepherd. As you care for your sheep consider how Jesus cares for us, his sheep.
The title "Pastor" comes from latin and literally means "feeder of sheep". In Spanish the word pastor also means shephard, and is most often seen by American's in the name of several types of "shephard's cheese". Think about how a Pastor is like a shepherd as you complete this honor.
- Getting Started Raising Sheep (voanews.com).
- Getting Started in Sheep Government of Saskatchewan
- Introduction to Dairy Sheep Farming — Getting Started by Bee Tolman
- Getting Started with Sheep with Emphasis on Commercial Operation by Thomas Nash, University of Illinois.