|Sheep Health and
Flock Management Tips
On this page I have provided links that either I have developed or that I have discovered on the
internet as they pertain to sheep care and management.
I hope that you will find this information useful.
* Cobalt Deficiency - the need for adequate cobalt in all sheeps' diets
**Of special consideration in raising Icelandic sheep - the need for adequate selenium
DISCLAIMER - I am not an expert - I am trying to share what works on our farm. Each farm flock, sheep breed, individual management style and
climate will greatly affect what will work on YOUR farm. Just like raising children, there are many ways to do it! Some of our management techniques
will differ from what the books say. And farming, like life, requires flexibility and we adjust what we do depending on the weather, on the sheep, from
what they teach us, and as we acquire new knowledge and skills. Always consult your own veterinarian before treating your flock.
|A Flock Care Calendar
(A Quick Checklist - note this is for spring lambing)
At some point you can separate the rams from their ewes by late December or into January. Some years we put a
clean-up ram in with the main ewe flock, but this extends lambing into late May or even June. If it has been a good
cold winter with hard frost, we don't worry about deworming the sheep through the winter months. Try to remember
to check and trim hooves each time you handle your sheep.
A quiet time here. It's important to get fresh water to the sheep daily. In winter's cold climates, this is the biggest
challenge to the shepherd (chipping ice is not fun work!) The best thing we ever did was to get hydrants and electricity
near the barn so we could use tank heaters. Be sure to keep mineral feeders topped off.
Depending on when your lambs are due, ewes can be shorn and their CD/T vaccinations (2 cc) given about 4 weeks
prior to lambs arrival (the llamas, alpacas and goats also need a 2cc booster of CD/T yearly). We've recently changed
to shearing the Icelandics after lambing, in early May. This results in much nicer fall fleeces, so we're going to stick
with this schedule now and shear again in the fall - if the weather is conducive. Icelandic fleece is cleanest when shorn
in spring and again in the fall. However, if we have a long, cold winter coming on, sometimes it is more economical to
leave the wool on the sheep in the fall, as they double their hay intake when shorn. Remember to trim hooves. Anytime
you handle the sheep, do a quick check of their gums and eyelids to make sure their eye membranes are dark pink or
red- white membranes indicate anemia and possible parasite overload. We've also discovered that white eye
membranes may also indicate selenium deficiency. Be sure your sheep have access to a good quality mineral mix with
enough selenium supplementation for your area of the country. We feed grass/mix hay all winter, switching to an
alfalfa/clover blend after lambs arrive. We do not routinely grain the flock. The ideal weight for newborn Icelandic
lambs is 5-7 lbs.
Prepare your lambing jugs in case any lambs or ewes need some "alone time" after delivery. Keep a "delivery kit"
available in case ewes or lambs need assistance with lambing. We keep "Nursemate ASAP" and "Lamb Drench" as
well as CMPK gel and iodine handy in the barn, and frozen colostrum (collected the previous spring). We give lambs
a Bo-SE shot after they are born (1/2-1cc depending on size of the lamb). This helps to prevent white muscle disease.
Make sure the lambs are getting enough milk -- occasionally stick your finger in their mouth. If it is warm, they are
fine! We bring the ewes (after they've successfully lambed & nursed each lamb) into the barn into a pen for 24 hours
and deworm them. This puts the worms they pass into straw in a pen, rather than out on spring pastures. We clean
each pen after the ewe & her lambs vacate it and ready it with fresh, clean straw for the next family. We believe this
helps to keep the worm load off the pastures - by bringing the ewes into the barn for their deworming.
Remember to vaccinate the lambs with their first CD/T (2cc each) at 6 weeks of age and repeat at 8 weeks. We use
CD/T with SPUR. We sometimes give a 2nd Bo-SE shot at that time and also deworm the lambs either at 6 or 8
weeks of age. Monitor lamb's weights on a regular basis to make sure they are growing well. This also helps track
which of your ewes are the best milkers.
Watch those fast growing lambs for any sign of selenium deficiency, coccidia or worms. Wet spring pastures may
cause tapeworms to flourish at this time. Also it's good practice to check protein levels of the grasses to make sure
growing lambs and lactating ewes don't become deficient in protein.
Deworm the flock as necessary. Monitor eye membranes for signs of parasite infestation. Watch for signs of heat
stress (See article link below). You will need to tag/tattoo the lambs before they can leave the farm.
Lambs should be weaned by 12-16 weeks of age. Separate the ram lambs from the ewes to prevent any "unwanted"
Take lots of photos of your flock -- this is when they are at their prettiest, in full fleece. You may want to begin
"flushing" the ewe flock prior to breeding. Check fencing and shelters to make sure rams stay where you want them
during breeding season!
Schedule shearing by mid-October, depending on where you live. Trim hooves and prepare your "breeding groups."
Icelandic ewes usually start to cycle by the end of October. We've found that most of our ewes breed by the 3rd or
4th week in November.
Click here for a handy "lambing date" calculator.
This is when we have the most work, since we have as many as 12-13 breeding groups and need to take out hay,
water & minerals to each separate group of sheep. But because it's cooler here in Michigan during the fall, the stress
from summer heat is abated and the sheep are healthy & happy.
We take apart our breeding groups by the end of December. Sometimes we put all of the ewes with one "clean-up"
ram for a few more weeks. Once the rams are all back as one group and the ewes are back together, the work load is
reduced. It helps to have water near hydrants and electricity for tank heaters.