Orchard sheep

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3 years 10 months ago #551607 by bbridge
Orchard sheep was created by bbridge
Hi, looking for some advice on orchard sheep and if they are feasible year round. We are looking to have our orchard fenced off and putting in 2-3 sheep in to keep the grass down and also some meat in the freezer occasionally. I’ve now read up a bit more that they ring bark trees. Does anyone have experience with sheep in smaller groups, in orchards and can give any advice please? Can it be done, risk for trees, best breed? Many thanks

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3 years 10 months ago #551608 by LongRidge
Replied by LongRidge on topic Orchard sheep
Welcome.
The trees have to be established because they will eat the leaves when the grass becomes too short or unpalatable.
If the trees have been sprayed with a copper-based fungicide, some copper gets into the soil, and then into the pasture which can make long-term grazing hazardous for the sheep.
Ditto arsenic and DDt that used to be used in orchards can be hazardous for humans. Some places in Nelson and Tasman cannot change to long-term animal grazing because of this.
Some sheep breeds will eat anything and everything. Romneys are quite fussy so would be the best in my opinion. You will need somewhere to yard them to treat flystrike,

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3 years 10 months ago #551609 by Kilmoon
Replied by Kilmoon on topic Orchard sheep
Our sheep have never ringbarked the trees in our orchard areas (apple trees in one paddock, greengages and plums in another paddock). I imagine that would only happen if they had nothing else to eat. Ours eat the leaves no matter now long the grass is in the paddock. Everything has been pruned to "NuNu height" (one of our old girls) and she would happily rest front legs on horizontal branches or walk up the trunk as she picked her own or grabbed a branch to shake to get apples or plums to drop. She has broken the odd branch that couldn't take her weight resting on it. Only one daughter in 12 years has learnt to follow her approach to fruit harvesting - the rest wait for NuNu to feed them by shaking branches. Our orchard trees are completely organic - we do nothing but prune the apple trees occasionally - so we have never had issues with spray. Our sheep have never choked and happily chomp their way through everything that falls - windy days in Autumn mean the mob camp under the fruit trees waiting for fruit to drop.

Oh, our sheep will not touch any apples or plums from the supermarkets no matter what the type.....says a lot about store bought fruit.

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3 years 10 months ago #551621 by VioletFarmer
Replied by VioletFarmer on topic Orchard sheep
I only let our sheep graze under our apple tree's in winter, they love the green leaves and gobble up all the fallen one's too. We were away for 3 nights in January & the ewe's got into the garden & the only noticeable nibble damage was to waist height on the apricot & plums lol. I would get steel mesh tree guards if they are under 10 years old, or under 5ft. My Dad protects any poplar pole plantings by mixing up cow dung & a bit of dry clay and slathers it on. Never lost a tree to cattle damage in over 50 years!

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3 years 10 months ago #551623 by muri
Replied by muri on topic Orchard sheep
I breed small sheep particularly for orchard grazing.
Having said that, sheep will eat most trees in preference to grass if given a chance,
Bark on a tree is usually chewed because animals are lacking fibre in their diet - think winter grazing, little fibre in the grass - or sometimes as they have a mineral deficiency, especially copper.
Citrus trees in particular would be eaten by sheep yet they are really useful in the orchard when plants are deciduous, but this is not the time of the year that the grass is growing.
They are great in the vineyards and do an excellent mowing job and leaf plucking early in the season to let more light in to the ripening grapes.
Having said all that, I have small coloured sheep, some of whom are shedders that would be more suitable than most in orchards, and a few are ready to go now. Very quiet and easy to manage/
I would also add, because sheep are flock animals, two are not really enough to form a flock and I think at least three as a starter pack rather than two

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3 years 10 months ago #551630 by linrae
Replied by linrae on topic Orchard sheep
You wanting sheep for orchard yet to be planted or something years old
Makes a difference maybe to advice,

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3 years 10 months ago #551637 by bbridge
Replied by bbridge on topic Orchard sheep
It’s an established orchard with 30-40 trees in it, citrus, kiwifruit, macadamia, apples, pears, persimmon, figs, grapefruit. We have planted a couple of new trees in there - plum and plan to put in avacado. But 95% will be established

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3 years 10 months ago #551807 by Boowacker
Replied by Boowacker on topic Orchard sheep
If you spray copper on your trees it is very toxic to sheep.

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3 years 10 months ago #551811 by muri
Replied by muri on topic Orchard sheep

Boowacker wrote: If you spray copper on your trees it is very toxic to sheep.


This is not true as a standard statement for all breeds.
Texel sheep absolutely cannot have copper in their diets.
Other sheep need a level of copper, in small amounts. The problem with copper is it is cumulative and doesnt break down easily so is stored in the soil. It does kill worms so you would have no earthworms where you sprayed and the sheep might be parasite free but I would be concerned what the copper would do to the internal stomach linings etc
So yes, copper can be toxic, but not always and you will see most of the mineral licks you buy for sheep have copper in them already

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3 years 10 months ago #551813 by Boowacker
Replied by Boowacker on topic Orchard sheep
Spraying copper in an orchard situation is entirely different to minuscule amounts from salt licks. I owned a stone fruit orchard for many years And saw sheep die from copper a number of times. It accumulates in their kidneys and is released under stress.

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