I never liked sheep ... until I met a Shetland!I never liked sheep. You would never find me hanging around the sheep barns at the county fair contemplating the fine lines of a Cheviot, Suffolk or Montadale. Meat is usually not on the menu at Winter Sky.
So why are there eleven Shetland sheep sharing a homestead with my daughter and me?
It all began with goats. I had French Alpines for more than eight years. At one time my dream was to breed a National Show winner. The goats required large amounts of attention, tons of grain, too much obstetrical care and water hauling. I loved them, but they never paid their way even figuring in the milk and meat they provided. It was always a struggle to find buyers for even my loveliest kids, and then I barely paid for the cost of keeping the doe for one more year.
A friend told me sheep were easy. I didn't like sheep. Nevertheless, after a spinning lesson, I researched wool breeds and found the Shetland -- an unimproved breed with many instincts and native hardiness intact. Sounded good so far. They come in the widest range of colors of any breed -- even better. They are small. I am small. They have naturally short tails that do not require docking. After years of disbudding disbudding
removal of the immature horns in young ruminants. This is a much simpler and less traumatic operation than removal of the adult horns and is usually done without an anesthetic. The usual technique is a dehorning tube or set of scoops. A hot iron has some exponents. kids by my woodstove, I can do without smelling burning flesh and hair.
The first time I saw Shetlands, I liked Karakuls better. The second time was the charm, and I brought a pair home to see how well they would work out. Would they live up to their press?
The first Shetland ewe to lamb on the homestead was a yearling yearling
an animal in its second year of age, e.g. yearling cattle, yearling filly, yearling colt.
rinderpest in wildebeeste in the Serengheti. . I never knew she was in labor; I fed her breakfast, and two hours later there was a vigorous lamb by her side. She was in full fleece, but her lamb found the udder udder: see mammary gland. .
It has been this way every time. Without fall the lambs come with little fanfare, get to their feet and find food.
The first winter I tried hauling water for the sheep. All week long they turned up their noses and went outside to eat snow. So I stopped hauling water. Even when nursing lambs, the ewes prefer the snow, so I just make sure they can get out to it. My flock is shut in barns at night to protect against predators because I live in the middle of wilderness.
The lambs are fed small amounts of grain. The older stock also receive some grain as a treat for coming inside at night. They don't require much -- less than a quarter pound per head per day.
They do need large amounts of minerals and salt. I feed baking soda baking soda: see sodium bicarbonate. , salt mixed with selenium selenium (səlē`nēəm), nonmetallic chemical element; symbol Se; at. no. 34; at. wt. 78.96; m.p. 217°C;; b.p. about 685°C;; sp. gr. 4.81 at 20°C;; valence −2, +4, or +6. , iodized salt iodized salt
contains 200 mg potassium iodate per kg of salt. and loose mineral salt free-choice. I do not give my sheep any Bo-Se or CDT CDT
Central Daylight Time
CDT Central Daylight Time
CDT n abbr (US) (= Central Daylight Time) → hora de verano del centro;
(BRIT shots. During the worst winters for snow and cold, I have had one or two sheep come down with pneumonia that I've successfully treated with antibiotics or oral sulfa sul·fa
Of, relating to, or containing sulfanilamide or any sulfa drug.
sulfa (sul´f .
Shetlands seem particularly immune to foot problems. They've never shown any signs of foot rot, and my barn has a clay floor. I've never seen any signs of external parasites. I do worm my flock with Ivermectin ivermectin
an avermectin with broad activity against many helminths and arthropods. A broad-spectrum anthelmintic, acaricide and insecticide, used orally, subcutaneously and as a pour-on. in the winter to help prevent skin problems. I alternate it with Tramisol or other wormers during the summer. Lambs are treated once with Co-Rid prior to weaning weaning,
n the period of transition from breast feeding to eating solid foods.
the act of separating the young from the dam that it has been sucking, or receiving a milk diet provided by the dam or from artificial sources. .
Shetland sheep are good to eat. But because they have such lovely fleeces (micron counts for undifferentiated fleece average mid-20s) and are so inexpensive to keep, I castrate castrate /cas·trate/ (kas´trat)
1. to deprive of the gonads, rendering the individual incapable of reproduction.
2. a castrated individual.
1. many of my ram lambs and sell them as wethers for $50.00. Shetland prices were once high, but quality registered breeding stock is now available throughout the country in the $200 to $600 range. For a list of breeders, write to: NASSA, 265 Truway Road, Luxemburg, WI 54217.
Housing needs, especially in milder climates, are minimal. just a wind-break and shelter from the sun and rain in a well-fenced field will do. I use welded wire purchased from a local discount store for my ewe flock. The rams are kept in woven wire once used for goats. A few of the sheep will climb or lean on the fences, but they do little damage. Shetlands look for holes or places to crawl under fences, so periodically check for weak spots. Electric fencing or netting is also effective, but I have no power.
The rams can be aggressive, especially during breeding season. A pail of water in the face stops charging temporarily. My rams are most impudent im·pu·dent
1. Characterized by offensive boldness; insolent or impertinent. See Synonyms at shameless.
2. Obsolete Immodest. towards me. The worst one will often come up for petting and attention from small toddlers and show no signs of bad temper. As with any male animal, they need attention and respect.
I taught myself to blade shear, as no shearer will come to my place in April. Can it be the quarter mile snowshoe Snowshoe
a recently recognized cat breed; it is a medium- to large-sized cat with blue eyes, and coat color similar to a sealpoint or bluepoint Siamese, but with a white nose, chin, and ventral midline, and white boots on all feet. trail to the barns? My sheep don't sit for me -- obviously, they've never read the books on proper sheep behavior. They squirm, dig in their hind feet and flip about until they are upright once again. So, I halter them while I shear. I also halter or hold them against a wall with my thigh to trim hooves, which I do four or five times a year. Pregnant or nursing ewes' feet grow rapidly.
The eleven sheep in my flock range in color from cream to silver to deep charcoal gray with spots ... from pale gold to deep red-brown and beyond. Staple length ranges from about four inches to 10 or more. The luster in all the fleeces is good. I feed linseed linseed, seed of the flax plant. pellets in my grain that helps make strong, lustrous lus·trous
1. Having a sheen or glow.
2. Gleaming with or as if with brilliant light; radiant. See Synonyms at bright.
There's a good market for fleeces -- $6.00 $12.00 or more per pound. Handspinners are fairly demanding, so the cleanest, softest fleeces bring the highest prices. I'm slowly spinning up yarn to create tapestries in natural colors on a Navajo loom I built.
Another by-product of my flock is the compost from the bedding in the barns. My garden is flourishing. Production is so good that I can market organic produce to local restaurants.
So consider a primitive breed for your small farm or homestead. Shetland sheep have filled the niche here at Winter Sky. They've proven hardy, reliable and profitable.
But I must confess, even if they weren't all of the aforementioned, I'd still own them. Every evening when chores are done, my daughter and I sit with the sheep. Surrounded by several colorful, soft, peaceful ewes is a lovely way to end a busy day.