General Care and Feeding
I am fortunate to live on a farm and have my own trainer mobs. They still require looking after though, and it can be time consuming. Hand feeding them when there is no grazing can be a little difficult too.
Trainer mobs will need drenching more often than paddock sheep as they are usually kept in a small enclosure. At least three to four times a year. They need to be crutched a few months before shearing. Crutching is not just for clean bottoms, some sheep get wool blind making them difficult to work and handle. If you have ever been flattened by a wool blind sheep you will see the importance of this. And of course they need to be shorn once a year.
Keeping them free of lice is also important. There are long wool treatments available but the best way is to backline them (this involves pouring a chemical down their back when they are freshly shorn) after shearing. Some of these chemicals are quite dangerous so always know what you are using and use it appropriately. It is probably best to ask at a local rural store.
The worst problem sheep have is getting flystruck, this is more prevalent if the sheep are kept in the same area constantly. The flywave hits in spring when the ground is still wet and the grass still green. This is when the blowflies breed. Be very vigilant. Once again there are chemicals that can be applied to prevent flystrike, but if you do not want to use them you must check your sheep regularly. If they get struck then you must have something available to treat them as they can quickly die. There are powders and sprays but once again these can be strong chemicals so watch your dogs do not come into contact with them. There are natural treatments available too, so ask around.
If they are kept on wet ground for too long they can develop lameness from their feet becoming too soft. Moving them to dry ground generally fixes the problem. It is ok to alternate dry ground with the wetter areas but check them regularly.
Sheep can also develop lameness from foot abscesses. These can get better by themselves but sometimes require antibiotics or lancing of the abscess and then keeping it clean as possible. Older sheep may need their feet clipped if they are constantly on soft ground. Running them on harder ground can help keep their feet short.
The easiest way to feed them is to have rolls of hay right near their pen so it can be thrown over as needed. Some people let the sheep have free access to the hay but I find they eat too much and waste it. Their diet can be supplemented with lupins or oats in summer if there is limited grazing or they are getting worked a lot. Also sheep pellets are available but I have never used them. Sheep will always appear hungry so don’t overfeed them or they will get too fat. If the weather is cold they will require more feed also.
Other things you can feed them are branches of the Lucerne or tagastaste tree, vege scraps like cabbage or corn leaves and carrots and carrot tops and they also may eat comfrey leaves in moderation. Apples too are ok once again in moderation.
Sheep will also graze on most trees so watch out for poisonous trees such as the Oleander. Check with locals who will know the area better.
For those who are not aware, farm sheep have a different color ear tag which relates to the year they were born.
Here is the list of colours. 2003 Light Green, 2004 Purple, 2005 Yellow, 2006 Red, 2007 Blue, 2008 Black, 2009 White, 2010 Orange. The colors then start over again.
Also it is possible to tell their age by their teeth and you hear farmers referring to their sheep by the amount of teeth they have.
Sheep have no teeth on the front part of the upper jaw; this is simply a hard fibrous pad.
Lambs have 8 milk teeth until they are about 12 months old. These teeth erupt within a week after birth.
From 12 to 19 months they are referred to as two tooths or hogget’s. They have two central incisors and six milk teeth.
From 18 to 24 months they are four tooth sheep, and have two central incisors, two middle incisors and four milk teeth.
At 23 to 36 months they are six tooth sheep and have two central incisors, two middle incisors, two lateral incisors and two milk teeth.
From 18 to 48 months they are full mouths or eight tooth sheep and have two central incisors, two middle incisors, two lateral incisors and two corner incisors.
After this stage their teeth may deteriorate and they become ‘broken mouth.
Their teeth will fall out or wear down; the progress of this depends on the conditions in which the sheep were grown. A sheep that has no teeth is called ‘gummy’.
British breeds of sheep mature at a faster rate and their teeth may erupt earlier.
More extensive information is available here.
Australian Wool Innovation.
Rio and Lara bringing the mob to the gate.