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Getting sheep

Guest Tracy

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My mom and I are going in together to get some sheep, I have located some "dog broke" sheep in 2 diff places, one group is Marian's(somethiong that starts with a M) and the other are Sulfolk/Columbian crosses, both sets are ewes. One guy has 6 to sell and the other has 3, so what is the best kind to get? and how many? None of the dogs have any sort of sheep experience.

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Are you sure that sheep are dog broke and not dog abused....there is a big difference. (Were the dogs that worked the sheep, good working dogs)


Besides the breed of sheep, you need to be sure that they are healthy. Are the ewes bred? What age are they? All these things need to be considered.


Generally, Columbias and Suffolks are the heaviest(do not mean weight) breeds to work and may not be the best to start a young dog on.


Off the top of my head I can only think of the Montadale breed of sheep that start with M.


You really need someone with experience to see the sheep to help you decide. People on the boards can only guess.


I would think that a minimum of 5-6 sheep is necessary. Also, if you mixed the flocks, they will not stay together for awhile and would be harder for your dogs and you to start on.





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I can't offer any dog advice on types of sheep, but something that starts with an M could also be Merinos. I have 3, and they aren't terrible with my untrained B.C. - but they're mixed in with my Natural Coloreds. Strictly speaking on my opinion about breeds of sheep, I'd go with the M's - I don't like Columbias or Suffolks - crosses probably aren't any better. My experience with Columbias is that they're nuts and difficult to handle. Suffolks aren't much better, tend to eat more to keep in shape, and seem to have more health problems. If the M's are Merinos, they should have heavy, fine fleeces - nice, but sometimes difficult to get someone to shear (are more difficult than the more non-wool or coarser breeds).


I agree with the above advice- health and age is very important, you might ask to see them worked by dogs, and mixing the two groups will take quite a while before they act as one, and the stronger personality will be the leader of the pack. Mixing nutty sheep with mellow ones never seems to mellow the nuts, but rather makes the mellow ones nutty. Just my two cents without seeing them.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was happy to stumble upon this discussion as I am facing some of the same questions as you probably are. I already had a bunch of my sheep questions answered from the politics board but still have some more if anybody is willing to give me some more input.


I never thought of sheep being athletic until last month when I was "attempting" to work some Suffolk sheep with my untrained dog. The training session was cut very short when one of the ewes jumped the 4' fence quite easily and ran off to who knows where.


Is it common for sheep to be able to jump a 4' fence like this? How high is a good sheep fence?


I was at Tractor Supply today looking over fencing and the 5' sure cost an arm and leg more than the 4', so I am hoping I will be able to get by with the 4' and running some barbed wire above that.


Also, what about continual grazing vs. rotational grazing. It would be so much easier to just fence in an acre and let them graze and use the same area to work them, vs. having to divide up the acre with fencing that will need to be taken down when ever I want to do some training. I am on limited acerage. Does anybody do the continual grazing with just a few sheep without the pasture taking too much of a beating?



Trisha Eifert

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Guest PrairieFire

Trisha -


I've seen a full grown ramboulliet ram jump a 6' gate....when pressured...


And that's the key - the pressure thing...some sheep, lambs in particular, but some other easily panicked ewes, will run headfirst into a fence they think they can't jump...


Go to my webpage and read the story on "Progressive Training" to find out how my wife taught a 1500# cow to leap 5 foot fences...


So controlling the dog is fairly important under those circumstances...although suffolks aren't the easiest sheep for a green dog, either...


48" high fencing is enough, honest.


And there's not much sense in rotatinally grazing an acre - I don't think...

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I agree with Bill - I've had some Rambouillets that jump better than my horses, but that's when they decide to. I've had sections of 3' fence that has worked - except for the one now and then that is convinced the grass is greener on the other side or some such thing. I would stay away from Columbias. My limited experience with them is that what they can't jump, they climb or tear down. There was even a time at my parents' house that part of the pasture was fenced with a single strand of non-working electrical wire, falling down in spots. The sheep knew where the boundary was and very seldom did they get out - maybe once a year at the most they'd take a jaunt. Those were older sheep that knew the boundaries and had no interest or reason to go elsewhere - plenty of food, water, shelter, and no dog "harrassing" them. I don't know about how well different breeds work with dogs, but if you're concerned with jumping and such, you might check into some of the smaller, quieter breeds such as Romneys. I'd stay away from Cheviots; they;re excellent jumpers (and nuts besides).

As far as rotating - wouldn't bother with it for only an acre. If you do, check out Premier supplies. I think they're the ones that have portable electic fencing - supposedly easy to put up and take down for rotating. I wouldn't bother. It's not so much how much pasture you have as how many sheep per acre plus how much additional feed you're supplying. You aren't going to have many sheep on 1 acre and have much pasture for long without supplementing, but I would think you could easily keep around 6-8 on it and have plenty of pasture - might even have to mow it once or twice a year when sections get matured. All sheep will pick favorite spots and graze it down short while others seem rich and lush to us, if they are allowed, but they will move on when those spots get short enough.

Hope this helps - and good luck.

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Trisha -

I just saw that you're in Michigan. If you're interested in Romneys, let me know. I know a nice breeder that will help you the best she can. I don't think she uses a dog, though. Has Pyrs for guardians, but have never heard her mention Border Collies. Another thought - everyone I know in MI talks about the bad coyote problem. That might be a bigger problem than keeping the sheep in. If you want the lady's name with the Romneys (she has some blue-faced Leicesters as well, maybe some other breeds), just email me.

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So coyotes are a big problem in Michigan. How do they normally get in fences, do they dig under them, or climb over? I really don't want to buy any guard animals, at least right off, so if you have any other anti-coyote tricks to share, that would be great.


I'm just buying some dog broke sheep to start with, don't really care what breed.


If everything works out, I would like to eventually get a small flock of some California Red Sheep, and sell their wool to the hand spinners. At first I wanted Shetlands but was told by more than one person that it would take a very skilled dog to be able to herd them. I have found some people that use the CA Reds to train their border collies on, and they are quite happy with them. Here is a link for information about the California Red, they are so pretty. The lambs are born red and lighten up as they grow. http://www.cell2000.net/ca_redsheep/


Glad to hear the 48" fence should be sufficient! Unless I have sheep that take after Bill's cow that jumped over the moon. And no need to put up dividers for my little acre. Yeah!

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I'm going to differ with the opinion that it's not worth subdividing an acre. If you only have six or eight sheep, it could very well be worth the effort.


The key is to do it with easily-removed fence, such as Premier's Electronet. Depending on how your acre is shaped, you could probably section it off with just two or three rolls of Electronet. Once you get used to it, it's not unreasonable to think that you could set up or take down a roll in under five minutes.


A few of the reasons to consider rotational grazing on your little acre:


-- You will use the feed more efficiently, which means you'll have less hay to buy.


-- Your sheep will have a reduced parasite burden, which means you won't have to worm them as often.


-- Your pasture will last longer, as the sheep will be forced to clean up all the forage, not just the tasty bits, which means you'll go longer between re-seedings.


If you think about the natural system of grassland ecololgy, there is basically a system of intensive rotational grazing. The herd of bison moves through, leaving nothing on the ground by stubble and dung, and then goes away until the grass has re-grown. What you're doing is the same thing, on a much smaller scale.


If you have a cheap supply of hay, it may not be worth it. But in my experience, folks with one paddock who continuously graze it quickly get to the point where there's nothing but bare spots and noxious weeds in the field -- say within five years. Then they're feeding hay year round, which hold no appeal to me at all.

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As long as you only run adult sheep on pasture you really should not have much problem with coyotes.


The people that have coyote kills that I work with are people that pasture lamb or run ewes and lambs out on pasture. That is when coyotes can be devastating.


We run 500 ewes on our farm as well as have a feedlot and coyote kills are a rarity. (Knock on wood). We have no guard animals and we lamb in sheds in Feb.

In the big Colo feedlots they occasionally have had yote problems in the past, and they have put up a parameter fence.


Often when people see a yote eating on a ewe they immediately assume the yote killed the ewe. This is not necessarily true, or if she was killed she was probably having a hard time keeping up with the flock.


If you just have a few sheep to work your dog, your sheep will probably be at greater risk from other neighborhood dogs than coyotes.

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