Wiltshire sheep - good sheep for a beginner?

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16 years 1 month ago #177071 by Murray
Mine are as mad as meat-axes. It's a result of them being so easy care that they get left to their own devices so much of the time. The "pet" orphans or the triplets that I bottle raise are as friendly as normal pet lambs so if I spent more time with them they would all be more approachable. They are quite large when fully grown and dificult to catch when fully shed (as can't grab a handful of wool!!!!) Taste great too.

Murray - Tuahiwi, Nth Canty
It is better to wear out than rust out - Bishop Richard Cumberland
Wiltshire sheep, hazelnuts, Araucana chooks and Dexter cattle

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16 years 1 month ago #177093 by reggit
Ah, well, you two have got it the wrong way round :D just get them used to a rattly bucket and they'll follow you anywhere. Took me one day to train one girl to dodge through a slightly opened gate so she could have her feed in peace away from the mob [;)]. Then all you need is an enclosed space where you can tackle them and try to wrestle them to the ground.

They are also big animals and heavy! :(

Take a break...while I take care of your home, your block, your pets, your stock! [;)] PM me...

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16 years 1 month ago #177118 by Inger
Furball, Tigger's Wiltshires are the best shedders, on this forum. She spent heaps and bought the higher grade ones from the start. I couldn't afford it, so bought lower grades and started from there.

Welcome to this forum JonC. :) All the best with your grading up.

We put dog collars on our breeding ewes (we have 7 Wiltshire ewes so far), it makes it easier to grab something to hang onto. :) It also makes it easier to tie them up so I can check their feet a couple of times a year and trim off any tufts of wool that haven't been shed by the start of Summer.

You do need to have a few pet sheep that will do anything for sheep nuts. That way, when the pets start moving, the rest of the mob come along too. Very handy when you haven't got a dog. :)

45 hectares between Whangarei and Paparoa. Registered Dexter cattle, Wiltshire sheep - black, white & pied.
New Hampshire Red poultry & Dorking poultry. Pilgrim Geese, Appleyard Ducks.
A cat called Pusscat and still looking for another heading dog.

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16 years 1 month ago #177138 by reggit
Thanks Inger [:I] but I think there are others on here with 100% shedders who have been a bit quiet lately...but they are out there!

Take a break...while I take care of your home, your block, your pets, your stock! [;)] PM me...

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16 years 1 month ago #177144 by Dobiegirl
Welcome to the site JonC. The more I hear about Wiltis, the more I'm convinced they are the way to go especially for newbie sheep owners. I would only want about 1/2 doz anyway, but because both hubby and I have to work away from our property we'd want an animal that we don't have to worry too much about in terms of feet, fleece, dagging etc as we've never had sheep before. Hubby was very put off about having any at all, but since I've done some research into different breeds has relented on maybe getting Wiltis or Wilti Xs.

Lisa
3 acres, 1 Horse, 2 Greyhounds, 1 Cat, 2 Cockatiels, 5 Cayuga Ducks & 3 Khaki Campbell Ducks
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16 years 1 month ago #177158 by reggit
It's sorta catch-22 atthe moment, if you want non-breeders, just to keep grass down/cross graze, you are paying an awful lot per sheep for the shedding/ease of care.

The prices are only logical if you are likely to breed and recoup some of your costs that way. The demand is such that 100% shedders are unlikely to be wethered, and if they aren't 100% shedders, I think you still run the risk of flystrike (although at least the dagging/crutching thing shouldn't be an issue) [:I] but others who are breeding up would be able to comment on this beter than me.

Take a break...while I take care of your home, your block, your pets, your stock! [;)] PM me...

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16 years 1 month ago #177168 by JonC
Thanks for the welcome folks. I find it kind of interesting that nobody has suggested a few older ewes for someone just learning. Most of the larger flocks here will cull their older ewes when their mouths start breaking and those girls usually have a few more productive years in them if you're willing to feed them. I think that usually if somebody with a fair number of sheep kept a ewe for 6 years they must have liked something about them. I always feel bad when a beginner having problems ends up on my doorstep and I have to tell them that the reason the ewes they raised as bottle lambs are having problems raising lambs is because their mothers did too. Awful hard to hand raise something from a baby and not get attached to it. We started off with three 6 year old ewes from a local flock 28 years ago and I think it got us off to a very positive start and as somebody mentioned, hand feeding them gives you a chance to learn about them and makes for easy handling without a dog. Just a thought.

Jon

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from poor judgement.

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16 years 1 month ago #177169 by scooter
We started off with older ewes. Then bought a 100% shedding ram from another breeder and went from there.

"My memory's not as sharp as it used to be.
Also, my memory's not as sharp as it used to be."

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16 years 1 month ago #177171 by hilldweller
I started with older ewes (5 and 6 yr perendales, off a commercial farm). I got one season of lambing out of some of them and two out of most, and some could probably have gone on longer, particularly on a smaller, flatter block with enough fencing to enable me to keep a closer eye on them as individuals. Having now had two years with a young flock, I reckon there are pros and cons both ways. The biggest 'pro' with the older ones was some good genetics that I would not have been able to afford as hoggets or two-tooths.

JonC - are you really in Oregon? What breeds of sheep are common over there?

hilldweller

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16 years 1 month ago #177178 by hilldweller

tigger;148499 wrote: The demand is such that 100% shedders are unlikely to be wethered

That would actually concern me, if looking for a breeding ram, though I guess it's to some extent inevitable with a rare breed where numbers are being built up.

Furball if you're looking at getting wethers for the freezer, you're probably not going to have them all that long, so the upkeep with non-shedding breeds if you couldn't find Wilti wethers might not be all that bad, depending obviously on what age you're thinking of killing them at. If they're vaccinated and drenched and shorn when you buy them they could easily be in the freezer before they need any of that again.

hilldweller

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16 years 1 month ago #177180 by reggit
I think its more the case that there are so many smaller breeders that if any aren't up to scratch they end up in the breeders' freezers! :p

Take a break...while I take care of your home, your block, your pets, your stock! [;)] PM me...

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16 years 1 month ago #177187 by Furball
That's a good point about the price/upkeep thing hilldweller. Originally I was thinking of getting a few wethers and just keeping them till they were big enough for the freezer. But now I'm seeing the necessity for animals to clean up fter the cattle, I'd plan to have them year-round long-term, which makes the lower upkeep of more interest.

Mind you, from the info here, I'm inclining more and more towards getting some ewes now, and just not breeding from them the first year until I'm good enough at the basics.

Has anyone bought from this breeder? They certainly look impressive in the pictures. www.wiltshire-rams.co.nz/

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16 years 1 month ago #177200 by Inger
We only got one year of lambing out of the two old Wiltshire ewes that we started with, but they gave us twins each, three of which were female. We then bought in 4 ewe lambs which the breeder couldn't feed as that Summer was dry for their area. (Sound familiar?). We lambed the 4 youngers in their second year and it proved to me that older ewes are often less trouble, cause they know what they're doing. Of these four girls, only one (she had twins) knew what she was doing. Two others I tied up and made sure the lambs had their first feed, before I went to bed. The fourth ewe lambed when I wasn't on the farm and Mum had to pull that lamb, but it was dead.

I'm expecting better results this year from the 4 brought in ewes and the three offspring from the two old ewes, go to the ram this year. We'll see how they fare.

It does seem that feed needs to be kept fairly tight for Wiltshires as they seem prone to producing big lambs. While that may be fine for the older ewes, it makes things more complicated for the first lambers. So I'll be leaving the Wiltshires on the hills until closer to their due date, this year. The lambing paddock has too much grass to allow them to be there too long before they lamb - thus risking a larger lamb.

Its not so bad if the ewe is carrying twins, but single lambs can get too big. If the second lambers don't all produce twins this year (without problems), I'll seriously look at culling some of them. Twin lambs usually mean smaller lambs that are born easier.

I'm expecting the three first lambers to be fine as their mums were good. They aren't such good shedders, but you have to start somewhere.

Still that's the name of the game isn't. You breed for shedding and good mothering ability. If some don't live upto the standard by their second lambing, you eat them. We don't need the hassle of ewes that can't produce lambs easily and look after them properly.

I wouldn't feel happy about selling their offspring to newbys, so there's no point keeping them.

45 hectares between Whangarei and Paparoa. Registered Dexter cattle, Wiltshire sheep - black, white & pied.
New Hampshire Red poultry & Dorking poultry. Pilgrim Geese, Appleyard Ducks.
A cat called Pusscat and still looking for another heading dog.

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16 years 1 month ago #177223 by JonC
[quote.

JonC - are you really in Oregon? What breeds of sheep are common over there?[/quote]

Yup, I'm really in Oregon, Just in from a tour of the lambing pasture and out of my rain gear. On our side of the mountains, we're too wet for fine wool sheep. Romneys are probably the most common and were what we started with. Coopworths are popular and our base flock was primarily commercial Coopworths and older Border Leicester crosses when we decided to breed the wool off them in 1999. We've also had purebred Dorsets in the past and they're also popular. Probably the most common commercial cross is blackface over any of those breeds. They're very popular with the larger operations that winter ewe flocks on the grass seed fields. (the county I'm in bills itself as the grass seed capital of the world)For shedding sheep, Dorpers have come on strong, Katahdins are popular in some parts of the country especially areas that are not traditionally sheep production areas. As a breed they are kind of a work in progress but the buyers here just flat dont like them. As far as I know the only Wiltshire Horn flock in the country is a small flock inconveniantly located in Florida, about as far as you can get from me and still be in the continental USA. Of course, they're also acclimated to a Disney World environment.

That is an interesting web site but it always plays hell with my computer. Parasite resistance is a hot issue here. The wife and I attended a workshop last month and learned how to do our own fecal egg counts. Looking forward to hours of fun.

Jon

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from poor judgement.

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16 years 1 month ago #177249 by Jo-Otago
Not wanting to rain on the parade but personally I think Wiltis are a bit over-rated. We have dabbled with them and the heritability of the shedding gene is very variable - so if you want guaranteed shedders you will need to do as Tigger has done and fork out the big bucks, and only buy sheep you have witnessed as fully shed. Plus when shedding is so strongly selected for by breeders it will be to some degree at the expense of other traits - was talking with one large breeder who focuses on carcass rather than shedding with their flock (not saying that shedding and carcass traits are mutually exclusive by any means, but the best shedders are not necessarily the best meat producers) - all depends on your aims and goals.
And we do find that the wool can make quite a mess in the paddocks, even with only partially-shedding sheep! Doesn't bother me but drives TOH mad seeing a potentially usable product strewn everywhere, lol.
Several neighbours (incl one large farm) have used them over the years and gone back to other breeds. From what I've experienced here and heard from others over the last few years, they do not produce a particularly fast-growing or early-maturing lamb (around here anyway). Just depends on what your goals and priorities are. We have found them good hardy sheep however, and with generally pretty good parasite resistance. Again, as with any breed some are better than others - we had one Wilti ram who consistently had sloppy poo and high FECs when all other rams on the property (of various breeds) had marbles. (Obviously didn't do enough background checks before buying him! Needless to say we have not kept his bloodlines in the flock).
It really depends on your priorities and what you want them for (and how much money you have to spend, lol).
Yes I have a ram from Tim Gow (Mangapiri Downs website you posted), he is half Wiltshire and half WH Marsh and is a great ram always very clean marble poo and great feet (which were my priorities when purchasing him) and really nice natured which was an unexpected bonus, however we could never afford to buy one of their purebreds! Our ram doesn't shed but has a clean belly and I am pleased that we ended up with one that didn't shed now that we have decided to go back to growing wool! :)

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