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HELP! Important questions about boarding sheep for training?!

bc soul sista

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HELLO!!!! Been trying to find solutions for this city girl trying to progress with stockdog training/trialing with limited access to sheep!!!


Looked extensively into renting land for my own sheep to be on...but after much research it seems boarding sheep at another persons active farm seems to be the best bet...as there is someone regularly there to look after the animals. Probably a little more costly but worth it in my book....


I have gotten the most response from Horse farms in the area, there are quite alot of them...some with rather large fields or open areas which would be ideal to take my sheep out on and practice....


Other than the obvious need for more re-enforced sheep fencing in the area where mine might be staying.... can anybody help me with any other questions/concerns I should have when going to look at these places?


I have never owned livestock before, so recommended resources would be great also!!!!


I want to have a clear idea of what I want and am looking for when I go to these farms...and dodn't want to seem TO MUCH like a bleeding Novice, although I'm sure that will be hard to disguise ;)




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I'd ask them if they are willing to dedicate a space solely to your sheep. If the plan was to let them graze with horses, then it might be problematic sending a dog out for them.


If they have board fencing, you'll need something to keep the sheep in. If horses are using the same space, then you'd have to opt for "no climb" fence, which is much more costly than regular field fence (but oh so nice).


Being able to rotate your sheep through horse pastures could help your parasite control problem.


Large fields for working dogs are nice, but will you need to schedule with others for the use of that field (that is, if someone wants to ride there, who takes precedence, or can you both use the field at the same time)?



Sheep have different mineral requirements than horses and should not have access to horse mineral blocks because they contain too much copper for sheep (too much copper will eventually kill sheep). So there are practical management issues like that as well. Horse hay generally would be fine for sheep, but not their feed.


Not all horses will accept sheep, so you'd have to be concerned about shared spaces in that regard as well.


There's more, but I think the first thing to ask would be what spaces would be available to you and your sheep and would those spaces be shared? The answer to that would then define the next questions you would need to ask.



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Hi Sista,

My concern would be for your dog(s) once you find a place for your sheep. If you are a "bleeding novice" the best thing for you to do is take lessons from a reputable trainer. Otherwise you might end up with bleeding sheep, or bloody awful dogs.


Many times once you've begun with a trainer, they will let you come out on your own to practice on their sheep. That would be ideal for you. No responsibility for sheep care, the ability to practice what you've learned. Even if there's a fee involved, it would be less than buying then boarding your own.

Cheers and good luck.

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Dear Wouldbe Shepherds,


I often hear urban friends say, "I'll just buy a few sheep for my vacation cabin - to keep the grass down."


But sheep don't willingly eat tall grass.


I suggest they buy a cow or two instead. "Put 2 cows out there and leave them six months; when you return you'll have 2 cows. Two sheep? When you come back you won't have any sheep."


Sheep- particularly those from Lord-knows-what source - do not thrive without shepherding and shepherding is no easier to learn than sheepdogging.


Sheep are low cost, high production, high human input animals. If you don't know what you're doing and don't attend to them properly, they will die.


I second Amelia's recce: Find a trainer and work his/her sheep. You will learn about the sheep as you learn the dogwork.


Neither you nor your dog need to work stock every day or even every-other day. Once a week is plenty - once every two weeks if that's all you can manage. When I'm expanding a young dog's horizons, I'll drive four or five hours to a friend's sheep, work that evening, and again in the morning before I come home.


Donald McCaig

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I would also caution the ownership of sheep if you're not familiar with them. There are so many illnesses they can have, so many things that can go wrong. Every region has its own illnesses or parasite problems or possible deficiencies in the soil/grazing. With no knowledge of sheep husbandry, you may face a pretty steep learning curve - and the very real potential of losses. If you *do* find a sheep with a snotty nose or losing weight for no apparent reason, or bloated from getting into something it shouldn't, will you be able to identify her as ill and know what steps you must take to help?


In fact, do you have an idea of what sort of medical supplies you might need, so far as antibiotics and the like? What about if a sheep gets a serious cut - can you suture that or would you need to haul it to a vet? (Which gets $$$.) And if a sheep dies - have you arrangements to dispose of the body? You'll want to do regular worming, too, and you may or may not need to trim hooves.


Also, what kind of sheep would you get? Where are they from? How were they raised? How healthy was the flock they came from? Are they tame? Are they wild? Have they ever seen a dog? Will they respect a dog and move off nicely, or turn belligerent and charge them, or worst of all, will they simply panic at the approach of a dog and run? Sheep like that are dangerous because they can run so blindly they'll hit a fence or gate and break their neck.


Also, will you get hair sheep or wool sheep? Wool sheep will require shearing, hair sheep will not. But some hair sheep, such as Barbs, can be flighty as deer, if not handled first by sensible, trained dogs and knowledgeable people.


Also, will the fencing be secure enough to prevent loose dogs getting in to attack or chase them? Will you have a night pen/shed for them, or would they just sleep out in the pasture? Again, I'd worry about safety, because even the nicest pet dog can do terrible damage if they get into a field and go to merrily chasing sheep.


What about feed: will the pasture hold them year around, or will you have to buy hay? If you need hay, how much can you afford to buy and do you have a means to haul it? Don't forget you may need block salt and possibly mineral supplements.


How often will you be able to check on them? Even if they are securely fenced, sheep aren't animals you can just leave out there and only visit once or twice a week. Nor would I trust the people who own the property to do your husbandry for you. They might not notice that a sheep is coughing or has an abscess or an injury, or foot rot or some such, and then you'd come in to find a problem that's days old.


I'm sorry if I sound off-putting, but if you are new to sheep and sheepdog training, as it sounds like, I think it would be unwise to jump into the responsibility of sheep ownership, unless you have a good mentor to guide you.


Respectfully submitted,



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Thanks for all the great replies!!!


I guess I should have explained more...I am not a "bleeding novice" in terms of training/handling my dogs on stock....I have been at it a couple years and although am not trialing in open yet(hoping to get there soon)...have worked countless hours on all kinds of sheep, have worked in pens, helped with lambing/chores...done set out at trials/taking lessons/clinics with many a "big hat"...and currently running at the pro-novice/ranch level in USBCHA trials....


I think I've sought after and gained a great deal of knowledge without actually owning my own sheep....


The problem is not my lack of drive or knowledge to improve in my understanding of the great skill that is training and handling or sheepdogs, or the livestock we work...............it quite simply is access to good sheep to work.


I have very close friends within 20 minutes of me with excellent sheep to work and they are my "mentors", good friends and VERY sheep knowledgable....but they are busy, they are often gone at clinics or trials, and don't want there sheep worked when they aren't there...it's very diificult to track down consistent time..


And having to go weeks at a time sometimes without sheep work is just not helping us progress....I know people a couple hours away where we can go work on big outruns and distance work...but to be able to just get my dogs out a couple times a week, working on keeping things clean, a few drills and just practical work would do wonders for my dogs and I!! Then when we get the opportunity to get out to bigger areas..we are ready to work on those skills, without having to refresh on all the basics and not even getting to the difficult stuff..


I'm sure there is MANY a story of some awesome newer handlers that were able to be really succesful going out once a week to work there dogs...but that's just not me. I need repetition and I need practice.


Like I said, I do have a knowledable couple friends who are available within a phone calls notice of any help or questions...and who plan on helping me set up any fencing/shelter/etc requirments...


But having there own farms they to, are unsure of what to expect or look for in a good "boarding" type situation..hence why I was hoping to get some insight from anyone who has been through it or might have some excellent suggestions :)

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Secure fencing;


letter from the vet or extension specialist outlining that there are not "cross species" diseases/parasites between sheep and horses or if there are what concern they would be.


Also, be prepared to work away from someone on their horses, they used to freak at the boarding facility when mini horses came out, can't imagine what they would say when the sheep came out!


What would your responsibility be if the sheep got out while you were not there.


Access to sheep on a regular basis is really helpful..But i live on a sheep farm and I don't work my dogs as often as some of my students :)



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My concern would be..protection from potential predators..sheep are not good at protecting themselves and must be "put up" or have some sort of guardian out with them (dog, llama, donkey,ect).


Having sheep in with horses wouldnt work for me..Ive watched a horse chase and try to stomp into the dust a sheep..Ive also seen a ram chase a pony around the pasture..just better, IMO, to get them seperate.

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Hi again!


Then if you feel secure in your knowledge of sheep husbandry and your ability to keep regular tabs on them, then I'd second or third the insistence on security from predators. Even if you don't have coyotes or big cats, there is always the chance of someone's dog getting in with them. Even if the dog doesn't attack and bite, he could easily cause great injury by running them into fences or to the point of collapse.


So, I'd want secure fencing and a safe place to house them for the night.


Good point, as well, about having a letter from a vet laying to rest any worries about cross-species parasites or disease. Best of luck finding a good situation! I'm so very blessed by having three different friends who own sheep and work their dogs weekly. Otherwise ... I might well be in your boat. :)


~ Gloria

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All the cautionary advice listed in this thread has been right on the money. I want to reiterate how horses VERY often react to sheep. I have raised sheep since I was 12 years old, over thirty five years now During livestock shows there are often rodeos offered in the evenings. The sheep were always banned from the main barn due to the rodeo stock horses and rodeo competitors' horses having such dangerously panicky reactions to the sheep but even in a separate barn a few hundred yards away sometimes the mere sight of sheep tied in the alleyway caused panic. They eventually moved the sheep shows to the days when the rodeo was not being offered. In May I brought five sheep to a youth ranch day. There were about four cowboys with four horses on a hot walker while they were saddling four more horses for a team roping demonstration. I stopped and warned them not to get on their horses until I settled the sheep In a small pen about three hundred yards away from the arena with my dog. They laughed about it but wanted to see the dog work, so they left the eight horses tied and came to watch. Imagine their shock when all eight experienced roping horses went berserk - bucking, kicking, squealing and acting generally foolish. This went on for well over thirty minutes and two never did settle down and had to be stalled.


If you are boarding your sheep where there is a static horse population over time the horses might become completely oblivious to the sheep. My horses have no problem with the sheep and I use them to set out on horseback. However I have a friend whose horse bit the hell out of a sheep that had lived in the same pasture for over a year with no issues. The sheep almost died from the traimatic injuries sustained And I know of a serial sheep killing donkey as well.

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The horse-sheep interaction is definitely a concern. I got a mini donkey and raised her with the flock and she's started causing problems chasing and biting--the sorts of problems I had hoped to avoid by raising her from a baby with the sheep.


At my old place, the horses next door always went on a running, snorting spree whenever the sheep came near their pasture. They lived within sight/soud of the sheep 24/7 and yet still seemed to use the presence of the sheep right next to their pastue as an excuse to act silly. Then again, I know horses that lived with sheep just fine. Unfortunately, whether the horses behave well around sheep is something you find out by trial and error, only in this case the error could be life-threatening for equine or ovine. <--of course all of this is why I suggested you start with discussing the necessity (or non-necessity) of shared facilities.



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You might check with the local large animal vets, feed stores ect and ask if there might be someone who has sheep closeby. Maybe someone who used to have sheep and would have the facilities available for you to rent. What comes to mind is maybe a couple who's kids are long gone and they used to have sheep when the kids were around. Maybe even check out the county fair and ask around, call local auction market, contact shearers ... Maybe there are better places out there than a horse boarding facitity but you have to know someone who knows someone.


Hope you find a good place



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