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Are you ready? There might be lots of these.

My new lambs are just weaned. The little ram is attempting to mount the little ewes. I know he can breed at 5mos onwards. When can the ewes breed? Do you breed as lambs or wait until they are yearlings? Some people do/ some don't.

How do you house your ram/rams? I often see wethers for free/ cheap. Should I get my ram a buddy? I plan on running the ram with Cocoa the 3 yr old ewe and leaving Meryl/Catinka together to mature.

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Congrats - I'll give you my 2 cents worth.


First, my ram lambs try to mount ewe lambs, mothers, each other just about from the time they walk - it's a guy thing I guess. Are they Dorsets - am I remembering right? Not sure, but to be safe, I wouldn't leave them together past 6 months. Some breeds will breed year-round practically, and even some breeds that normally wouldn't, have had a bit of those that will crossed into them so they will too. So depending on when you want lambs (gestation is approx. 5 months), decide when you want the ram in. Ewes tend to cycle about every 18 days(if memory serves me right)once they are cycling (sheep technically are seasonal breeders). I leave my rams in for at least a month (longer is usually preferred) to be sure of catching them in at least one cycle.


I typically wait until my girls are a year old - if I have a fall ewe lamb (say born in Sept), I sometimes put her in to be bred the next Sept (when she's just a year old). I've had (have one right now) ewe lambs that lamb about the time they're a year old - bred in their first fall. Most of the time, this is an oops - ram broke through a fence or some such thing. Most do ok, but seems like if you have a problem, it's going to be with the younger ewes or those that are in upper years (say 7 and older). I show, so I also like to let my girls mature out and finish growing for show reasons as well as their own well-being before breeding, but I have colored Rambouillets that mature slower. Some of the "meat" breeds mature earlier, and may do just fine being bred at younger ages.


Rams will do ok by themselves. I've had them by themselves, with other rams, or with goats, horses, etc. Depends on the particular ram, but some get pretty nasty with other rams - possibly might treat a wether the same way. If you get him a buddy, try to get something similar in size and age, probably do better that way.


I know I'm rambling, but there aren't any hard and fast rules - it's what works for you with your particular sheep in your situation. Ask 10 people and you'll get 11 opinions - each worth less than what you pay for it usually. Good luck. I just got a new ewe lamb today (bought her, have a ram that didn't produce this year). If you think BC's are addictive, wait until you've had your first lambing season (even if it's only 1 or 2 ewes, which may make you worse than a whole bunch). You'll either fall in love or haul them all to market the next day. I've had sheep since I was 9, and I still get anxious for lambing season - it sounds corny, but it's a time for a fresh start and new hope - not to mention they're so darn cute bouncing around the pasture.

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Just adding my 2 cents ...


Our lambs are usually born in March. And our ewes generally lamb for the first time near their second birthday. We had one once that lambed just short of her first birthday (quite unusual since we also have rambouillets). When breeding ewes that have not fully matured, you need to pay extra attention so that they have sufficient nutrition both for themselves and thier lambs.


One book that has really come in handy for me is Paula Simmons "Raising Sheep the Modern way". There is alot of good information in it. I think it may now be published under the title "Storeys Guide to Raising Sheep". I also like "The Sheep Farmers Veterinary Handbook" but it is alot more tenichal and geared to larger opperations. It also costs a bit more.


As Jordi said, there are lots of different opinions out there. I'm sure you'll get lots of great addvice from others on this board!

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My new lambs were born around November, thats why I was wondering. The ewes will be a year old (more or less) this coming fall so I could breed them for next March lambs.

Another question. I've checked out every book in the library and I've spent alot of time sitting on my duff looking at sheep websites. I don't have a clear idea on what makes up a good sheep ration. How safe is barley? I can purchase a Deer mix which is whole corn/ whole oats and barley. I have to travel fairly far to get a proper sheep ration but I will if I have to. I have a large blue salt block in the horse pasture. Should it be moved to a horse-only section of pasture? I know I can get sheep friendly mineral mix at the Co-op. Is there any thing other than copper and urea I should be watching out for in feed?

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What was the person who sold you the sheep feeding them? Where did they get their feed? If they arrived in good condition, why not just stick with that?


Edit: I realized as I was outside feeding my sheep that what I wrote may seem flip so I want to clarify. As someone else has mentioned, what's best varies from region to region depending upon the availability, cost and quality of the different feeds. Many sheep, when not pregnant or lactating, can do just fine on good quality hay/pasture alone. For these reasons, and especially since you only have a few pet sheep, I'd tend to go with what was working before.


If this is not possible, there are quite a few resources that tell you how to choose and balance sheep rations online. The Maryland Small Ruminant page is always a good place to start your search for sheep info. Here's one link that came straight from there:

Feeding Barley to Sheep



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Like I said, I have lots of questions.


The older ewe I bought was getting straight oats at her farm. The new lambs were getting "a bit of corn" from their farmer. The Deer mix is clean, affordable and easy to get, I appreciate the info on the barley.

I give a little grain in the winter but I've already starting cutting the horses ration back. You guys are better than any book, Thanks.

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Depending on what's in the deer mix *other than the grains* it could be a decent maintenance diet, but I would think it would be a bit low in protein as a production or growth ration.


You certainly need to watch out for copper in any feed ration -- sheep need some but too much is toxic. Depending on where you are, you may actually need to supplement copper. Deer feed, horse feed, goat feed, and cattle feed are generally fairly high in copper, so you need to look at the label and make sure that the copper in your deer mix is at a level that's okay for sheep.


I would not give the sheep access to any salt block. They tend to chew on them and break or prematurely wear their teeth. Loose trace minerals and salt are the way to go. You should be able to get a blue salt mix (lucky you -- blue salt is high in cobalt, and for some reason the mineral manufacturers in the US haven't figured out how critical this element is to sheep).


Because you asked what we do, here's a thumbnail sketch of our feeding program.


Late gestation ewes are on free choice second- or third-cut big baled silage, plus 1.25 lbs of a mixture of whole corn and roasted soybeans with a CP level of 14 percent.


Lactating ewes with singles or twins get the same forage ration, plus 1.5 to 2 lbs (depending on body condition) of corn/soybean mixture with a CP level of 16 percent.


TM salt with dicalcium phosphate and ground limestone is included in the grain mixture at a rate of 1/2 to 1 oz. per head per day.


Outwintered sheep and hoggets get .75 to 1 lb of corn/soybean mixture with a CP of 12 percent, plus free choice first cut silage.

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Here's my ration - we have it mixed at the local feed mill:

30 lb. Shelled corn

11 lb. oats

crimp oats and corn for easier digestion

6 lb. wheat bran

0.6 lb salt

2 lb. liquid molasses

3 lb. soy bean meal


I don't know it's the best, but it has more or less worked for years. I'm beginning to suspect it's borderline on the Vit E/Selenium - have had a few problems in the past couple of years that indicate that, so I'm thinking of upping the level of wheat. This is IN, so I'm sure your availablilty is much different - wouldn't even want to ask about barley around here - price would probably really scare me. I had an old timer once, when I was just getting started as a kid, tell me that you always use wheat for better breeding - I'm sure it's because of Vit.E - he didn't know why, just knew what worked - which is usually more important anyway.

I agree with checking with the guy you got them from - he's in your area and if it works, why change?

I do like complete 20% pellets for my lambs - weaning (and on up through the show season for my show lambs - mixed with grain when they get 3-4 months old). It's not necessary, but they seem to do a little better. My sheep get grain year round - usually around 1 lb per sheep per day - less in spring/summer with good pasture, more at breeding/gestation/feeding lambs stages - which tends to be nearly year round for us. With Rambouillet breeding, we can have lambs from Sept - March, usually, I aim for Sept into first of Oct., then Jan & Feb. - but I'm breeding for show season and Easter markets.


Decide when you want to be out in the barn messing with ewes and lambs - subtract 5 months, and you have a good time to breed. If you're lambs were born in Nov, you could, if you really want to, breed them this fall, but make sure they're in good weight (not fat) before putting the ram in and watch that they stay looking well fed through lambing and raising them. I usually figure that if they aren't ready to breed at that age, they won't - but I've seen some sheep, young and old, in pretty lousy condition that still breed anyhow - even if it does just about kill them.

Hope I didn't ramble too much and offered some help. Don't worry too much - ask local people what they do - that's often your best source - but the more opinions you can get, the better. Also ask locals about vets - just in case you need one. I've found it's hard to find a good vet that knows anything about a sheep around here. Good luck - you'll do great - you care enough to worry, and that's half the battle.

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