Very new to keeping sheep!

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4 years 2 weeks ago #540404 by CarolynNZ
Hi everyone - we have a very small flock of Arapawa sheep made up of 1 ram, 4 ewes and 2 surprise lambs. We are hoping that our ram has done his job and our ewes are now pregnant. We are also hoping that our ewes know what to do (2 of them must do!) as we are very much feeling our way! Any help or suggestions always welcome!

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4 years 1 week ago #540414 by 16 Paws
Replied by 16 Paws on topic Very new to keeping sheep!
Hi Carolyn, and I hope you enjoy your sheep as much as I do. I too, knew nothing when we moved to our block. The Lifestyle articles on this site were really valuable starting points, but also see if neighbours can be helpful. The best advice I think I could offer, is to spend time each day with your sheep. Get to know them and how they behave. Then you will pick up what’s going wrong quicker. Hopefully in enough time to find help or answers. They are lovely animals.

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4 years 1 week ago #540416 by CarolynNZ
Thank you for your reply. We do indeed spend a lot of time with the sheep and have got to know their characters - they are all different. We are pretty sure that one of them is very close to lambing so are waiting anxiously for the new arrival. The mum is mum to one of the ‘surprise’ lambs who arrived last winter. She was obviously preganant when we got her and we had no idea she had been anywhere near a ram! Hence the surprise. We are hoping that second time around she can cope as well as the first. Will let you all know if and when!

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4 years 1 week ago #540421 by Ronney
Replied by Ronney on topic Very new to keeping sheep!
Hi Carolyn,
Sheep are labour intensive in terms of shearing, feet etc. but like most animals, manage to procreate themselves without too much intervention from humans. Your most important job is to ensure they are vaccinated (approximately 2 weeks prior to lambing) and then standing back and observing.

The ewe will normally separate herself from the others and find a quiet space in which to lamb. You just stand back (preferably from the lounge window) and watch what's going on. If the nose and two front feet are showing your ewe is doing fine and within a short space of time she should have a lamb - or maybe two - on the ground. Continue to observe and make sure that one or both get up and suckle.

Once you have a good rapport with your sheep most will be happy, but a little wary, to have you come up close and have a look to make sure all is well. If you do feel there is a problem don't hesitate to ring your vet. Yes, you do have to pay them but I look at every vet call as a learning experience.

Enjoy your lambs:)

Cheers,
Ronnie

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4 years 1 week ago #540422 by Mudlerk
Replied by Mudlerk on topic Very new to keeping sheep!
Hi Carolyn, and welcome!
The first mistake I made with sheep was to try to move a ewe and her new-born to shelter soon after the birth.
For the first 24 hours, the ewe will try to stay near where her baby/ies was/were born...tied to it by the smell of her own amniotic fluid. Once the lambs have had drunk enough of her milk to smell like her [You will notice that when a lamb starts to nurse, her mum will duck her head round to sniff the lamb's backside, just to make sure it is she's feeding her own offspring.], the ewe will shift her attachment to her child/children.
I don't know how they do it, but ewes know the sound of their babies bleating from all other lambs, from the beginning! Lambs, however, can't tell their own mum for ages, and will run to anyone for a feed [I've even seen them try out their dads!]
Endless entertainment, to more than compensate for all the worry...

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4 years 1 week ago #540449 by LongRidge
When we started 27 years ago, we bought sheep that supposedly knew what they were doing so we didn't do very much preparation. But we soon found that experienced mums were not necessarily good at doing everything. So now we work on the principle of Murphy's Law and have an emergency kit for birthing all the types of animals we have.
I'll get back with the minimum that I think you should have for sheep.

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4 years 1 week ago #540456 by CarolynNZ
Hi there everyone - thank you for all your info. One of the ewes looks very close to lambing. Her udder has bulked up and she often has her tail up. I will let you know how it all goes - just hope we don’t have to wait too long!

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4 years 1 week ago #540516 by tonybaker
Ronney has the right idea, keep away and let nature do its thing! You can scare the mums easily, they know what to do. Once the lambs are born, then you can keep a closer eye on them.

5 acres, Ferguson 35X and implements, Hanmay pto shredder, BMW Z3, Countax ride on mower, chooks, Dorper and Wiltshire sheep. Bosky wood burning central heating stove and radiators. Retro caravan. Growing our own food and preserving it. Small vineyard, crap wine. :)

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4 years 5 days ago #540554 by CarolynNZ
Yes - that was certainly our plan!

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4 years 5 days ago #540556 by LongRidge
We have found that late pregnancy and early neo-natal is when most deaths occur. We used to not shepherd our sheep to any huge extent in our early years, and were very upset at the losses. We would not do close shepherding if it was not worth doing, but ..... it is worth doing. We have saved many ewes and lambs which would otherwise have died if we had not spent so much time and effort with the shepherding. We have the ewes in our front paddock in full visibility, but I still walk quietly through them at least four times per day. "Easy Care" is legal, but only if it goes right. Easy Care requires lots of prior experience, lots of planning, correct and adequate vaccination, correct and adequate tonic-ing, correct select of the sire, and correct supplementary feeding. With Easy Care when a death occurs, that is neglect, which is illegal.
A huge amount of preliminary work is required to do Easy Care humanely, and I'm not certain that you have the experience or have done the other preliminary work to do Easy Care this year.

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4 years 2 days ago #540622 by Mudlerk
Replied by Mudlerk on topic Very new to keeping sheep!
The most valuable bit of lambing kit I know of is a pair of binoculars.

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4 years 2 days ago - 4 years 2 days ago #540624 by Baroque
Replied by Baroque on topic Very new to keeping sheep!
What they said ^

Just a daily walk through in non lambing times and a twice or 3-4 times/day walk through the paddocks during lambing season will usually help prevent minor issues from becoming major ones. If they aren't used to you being in the paddock with them they will soon learn to come for pellets, I just stand quietly and observe while they eat and move about in the paddock.

They are all so used to me being there now I can hand feed some and walk around looking at the others and they all come when called anyway - usually they call me when they want to be moved to fresh grass, the entire flock of 65+ will be stand waiting and baaing at the gate for me to come and take them to a new paddock. B)

Just be aware that if you run your Arapawa rams with your ewes that you WILL get several lots of lambs in a year which is not particularly good news for the ewes having to rear 2 and 3 lots of lambs in a year. Arapawas are non-seasonal breeders and they are also very fertile so I find it's better to keep the rams out of the ewe paddock until you want them to breed, otherwise the poor ewes never get a rest. Last year one of my ram lambs sired a third of last year's lamb crop at about 5 months old so make sure you move ram lambs out of the ewe paddock as well and don't put them in with the other lambs when weaned or you'll get lots of surprise arrivals like I did! :whistle: Fortunately the hoggets were all of a reasonable size to breed but I won't be making that mistake again, normally I prefer to breed them the following year.

Give your ram/s a wether for company and they'll be very happy together, plus it makes managing ewes and lambs a lot easier not having to worry about the ram sneaking up on you at the wrong time! Also it makes it easier to predict when your lambs will arrive too if you keep them together for only 2 or 3 cycles.

Breeding & training quality Spanish horses - THE horse of Kings! Also breeding Arapawa & Pitt Island sheep.
Last edit: 4 years 2 days ago by Baroque.

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4 years 2 days ago #540627 by LongRidge
I like to know when lambing is likely to begin, and when it will definitely have ended. I also don't like spraying very young lambs against fly strike, which starts about November some years. With tailing in November, the stumps can be very prone to strike.
Baroque, I suggest that you mean "put your Arapawa ewes in with any breed of ram". I think that all breeds of male sheep can breed all year, but only some breeds of ewes "all year round lambers" :-)

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4 years 2 days ago #540631 by Wren
Replied by Wren on topic Very new to keeping sheep!

Baroque wrote: usually they call me when they want to be moved to fresh grass, the entire flock of 65+ will be stand waiting and baaing at the gate for me to come and take them to a new paddock. B)


Mt other half doesn't believe me that our wee flock have a definite 'we are done with this paddock' bleat, but it's very clear to me!!

But yes in general, being able to walk among the sheep is great, but I think the most important thing is knowing which will be happy enough for you to get close, and which you might disturb and upset by doing this. There is one ewe in our flock of five that, although she comes for nuts, is not super-friendly and I definitely wouldn't get too close when she is lambing for fear of causing her more stress. They're all different, and in a lifestyle situation we often have small enough flocks to be able to recognise that, and act appropriately. Great for the animals if we are able to do that, and sounds like you are already, Carolyn. Hope you don't have to wait too long for the wee ones :)

Muddling our way through 1Ha on the Christchurch Port Hills, with flocks of heritage chickens, Silver Appleyard ducks, Gotland sheep, and Arapawa goats.

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