List of Items for a Beginning Sheep Farmer, Part Two
I will continue in this part 2 of the article on individual supplies and tools you will need to get started with Sheep. See the Summer 2017 issue of the Small Farm Quarterly for Part 1. I leave it up to you to research where you get the best price or what combination of items are the most reasonably priced once you include shipping fees.
Fencing is a very broad subject, and this article can only point you into various direction where you could go. The question will be if you want to build permanent fencing or if you want to operate with temporary fencing. Perhaps you like to do a mixture of both, as I do. I have a woven wire perimeter fence, and all my interior fencing are electric nettings. If you can build fencing yourself, you may have a good source locally for posts and wire. If there is no local supplier, Kencove is likely to have all what you need. Round Southern yellow pine posts would be my personal choice when building a permanent fence. No matter how old you are, each of these posts is likely to outlive you. High tensile wiring, whether it is single strands or woven wire, is in my view the way to go. For interior fencing I find electric nettings the safest. Premier One Supplies has the greatest variety of them, but is not the only supplier. Nettings 35 inches high with double-spiked posts is what I would recommend. Some have successfully worked with electric twine or poliwire and reels as interior fencing. In the past, I had to work with it and I find it just too unsafe. Sheep get out. Dogs can get in.
Don’t forget your Powerlinks to connect your hot perimeter fence with your interior fence. Also, I tend to go the extra mile to put up electric fence signs. Citing common sense will unfortunately be an unsuccessful defense if someone gets entangled in your electric netting, gets shocked, and then complains about it or even sues you. Electric fence signs go a long way in your defense.
I make my hay feeders from livestock or cattle panels. They are 16 feet long, which is about the circumference of a round bale and are the same height as such bale that is sitting on its flat side, which is four feet. I cut staggered holes in them that a sheep’s head can fit through. The panels, as well as a fork to spread out wasted hay around the feeder, are likely available at any local farm store.
Lambing season requires a variety of items. If you will castrate or dock tails, you will need “O” rings and a ring expander. It is advisable to have a tube feeder on hand to feed a new-born lamb that has problems to secure survival. Those who intend to bottle-feed orphan lambs will need bottles and nipples as well as milk replacer. While calf milk replacer is substantially cheaper than lamb milk replacer, it is not recommended because of its copper content. Yet, there are many who raise lambs successfully on calf milk replacer to save money. Colostrum can be purchased as well in dried form, although I freeze cow’s colostrum just prior to lambing season. Let’s hope you will never need it but if you do, have a prolapse harness and retainer in store when lambing is approaching.
Spray paint specifically designed for sheep, like the brand Sprayline, is a wonderful and easy way to mark sheep during lambing season, giving mothers and lambs a matching number. However, when I mark a sheep for other reasons, i.e. when I cut a ewe’s hoof that was limping, perhaps because she stepped on something, I use a twist marker, which is cheaper and handier for casual use. Buckets for the jugs and troughs for the pens will be needed, I expressed my preferences in part one of this article. If you wish to purchase and use your own scrapie ear tags instead of the one the USDA offers for free, you can have them custom-made by Premier One Supplies. Then there are the actual jugs themselves and the panels needed to make pens. I use rough-cut hemlock from a local saw miller to make them myself. I tie them together with bailing twine to five-foot long T-Posts to hold them in place.
For hoof care, you will need a pair of hoof cutters and a sharp knife. How do you catch a sheep? I recommend a leg crook. It comes in handy whenever you need to catch a lamb. I like using the blue leg crook Premier offers. You can also buy the head of a leg crook and mount it on a stick of your choice. Perhaps you do better with a neck crook. Many suppliers offer those. A foot bath for preventive care or as treatment against hoof rot or foot scald can be made by yourself, if you are handy with tools and lumber. If not, foot baths can be purchased from various suppliers.
Pine tar is a natural fly repellent when you have a sheep with a wound. Perhaps the guard dog bit a sheep, or you cut one while shearing – pine tar can be put directly on the wound, and keeps the flies away that might irritate it and keep it from healing. It will stay on much longer than anything else that I am aware of, and therefore doesn’t need to be re-applied as often.
Most of you will end up deworming sheep on occasion. You can do that either with a syringe and inject it, or with a drench gun and give it orally. When you have a good number of sheep, I highly recommend the Phillips Auto Drench Gun. For fewer sheep a cheaper or simpler version will do. To inject dewormer or to vaccinate, i.e. against Overeating Disease, you can use an automatic syringe. (see photo) Personally, I use one made by Allflex and attach 18-gauge needles, either ¾ of an inch or an inch long. Again, for fewer sheep a normal disposable syringe will do. Read the paragraph below for description. Both dewormers like Prohibit or Cydectin qork against the barber pole worm, or Valbazen against tapeworms can be purchased from various catalogues. You want to stay clear of Ivomectin. The deadly barber pole worm builds resistance against it in record speed.
In case of a sick sheep, i.e. a ewe having mastitis and it needs to be treated, you will need syringes and needles. The 12-cc syringe is handiest size in my view. I use 18-gauge disposable needles for it that are one inch long. Penicillin or oxytetracycline can be used as antibiotics. The most common brand for oxytetracycline is LA-200. However, there are much cheaper brands, like Duramycin or Tetra-Vet, that are the same antibiotic.
I tried to be a comprehensive as possible in these two articles. Yet, I am afraid I wasn’t and there will be items you will need that I did not mention. However, I am confident that I have given you a starting point if you are totally new to this and some pointers if you are exploring ways to manage your flock. I want to end this second part of this article the way I started part one: I did not get into much detail about each item since this would go beyond the scope of this article. However, if you want to read about it in depth you may find your answer in one of the comprehensive articles I wrote for Small Farm Quarterly over the years, which almost certainly address any item or subject I touch in this article.
Read more about managing sheep at White Clover Sheep Farm.