Farm Diversification: Adding Sheep to the Equation

Meet NUTMEG:

ImprovedLamb

Early this year, we moved the majority of our dairy herd back to the big dairy, for many personal reasons. Of course, it’s still winter…dark, enclosing, housebound winter…and I sheepishly asked my husband, “What about sheep?” I had always wanted to try sheep, but fears of not knowing anything about sheep, anyone with sheep, or how to keep sheep in meant I never got far in the thoughtful quest for sheep. Til now.

He (husband) loved the idea! Wow! That turned into a spring of visiting every shepherd we could find, learning a lot, and falling in love with a few particular breeds (Border Leicester, Romney, Cotswold, Icelandic, etc.)

A Craigslist search revealed a Black Border Leicester ram for sale, so we quickly went to see and purchase him, and he will arrive in July. We also found local Romneys and Cotswold x Romney crosses that have been bred for decades for wool quality, so we have a deposit down on a few ewe-lings, too.

And then he, the husband, saw an ad for a lonely California Red yearling ewe (unbred) who was housed with a flock of Texel ewes that were much bigger and bossier than her. This lammy had been shown at the Spokane Fair in the fall, so she had some idea of human contact, but not a lot.

RaggedyLamb

We bought her. Worst case scenario, she was a practice lamb to test out our sheepy dreams.

She arrived looking housebound in an itchy matted wool jacket (see above!). A friend said sheep can be sheared by scissors if that’s all you have (Big R was out of sheep shears, and our cow clippers would be plugged from the lanolin, so I need to buy a “sheep” head for the clippers before we can use them).

Scissors… took me three days to get her looking (below) alive and not mangy. I thought I did quite nicely, but my crummy back was sorer than it’s been in a long time.

Pruning shears sufficed for hoof nippers, so she’s got classy heels now.

Isn’t that red face adorable?

Afterlamb

I took a cleaned sample of the little unmatted under-wool to the local fiber group….and they said it’s pretty (oatmeal with flecks of red, quite inspiring!) but she has a dandruff called SCURF. Sue said, “It can be caused by matted wool and parasites, many people have been able to clear it up by treating parasites. Fran said, “Scurf will stay with a lamb, you should cull her.”

Here’s a lady’s account and photos about buying a fleece with scurf, so you can see why it’s a bum deal: http://threesheeps.blogspot.com/2011/01/fleece-of-sadness.html

At this point, she’s our only lamb, so I hope there’s no risk in keeping her here for now as I try to treat it. First, I was advised to wash her. Not normally a good thing to do to sheep (their lanolin can get washed out, I think is the reason, and leaves the lamb and fleece unprotected for a few weeks). In this case, though, I wanted her as clean as I could get her and she barely had any wool anyway, and the weather was in the 70-80’s, so a bath was actually quite nice she thought. I used mild ECOS liquid detergent and a splash of lavender essential oil to wash her in. The scurf did not go away, but at least she was clean.

Second, I dewormed her with Ivermectin. There are limited options for sheep because of their wool, so I’ll need to study up on that more. For now, my cow dewormer sufficed.

ImprovedLamb

This photo was taken today. I think she’s filling out quite nicely, don’t you?? As soon as I figure out where to buy a sheep shearing head for our electric trimmers, I plan to shear her again. Then, the test will really be on as to whether the scurf is really gone or not.

If it’s not gone, I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions, is there anything more I can do? Sell her?? Will it spread to the other lammys that come (because I wouldn’t want to risk that!!).

In the mean time, she’s a good practice lamb (albeit expensive, I’m now finding out, but a good venture often starts with failure, eh?)

Steer Rudy loves Nutmeg, and Nutmeg depends fiercely on him for protection (nobody is sure what from, but she is sure “something” is out to get her, often she suspects the dreaded….halter!)

BuddiesLambCalf

We started the duo out in electric netting from the wonderful company Premier One. Repurposed hog netting, since we don’t need it for pigs this year.

Fencing Option1

She was so easy in that, we have since graduated to two strand electric fencing, today is day one, all is going (almost too) well!

Fencing Options2

So start-eth the sheep saga. Even though we may not get to keep Nutmeg like we hoped (surfy little bugger) I feel confident we’ve at least done our best and have some inkling of an idea of how it is to work with sheep now!!

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3 thoughts on “Farm Diversification: Adding Sheep to the Equation

  1. Update: The treatments mentioned in this article worked. Nutmeg has had twin lambs two years in a row – gorgeous fat lambs that she raises up like a champ. ZERO scurf – the deworming and lavender water seemed to do the trick. While her wool does not felt much, it’s still a fun “unusual” wool to work with.

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  2. Cheryl in Oklahoma

    Hi Michelle! I got here from the Deliberate Agrarian blog. I did a search for scurf treatment, but didn’t find much info. Povidone-iodine (Betadine brand name) seems like it might work if you can get down to Nutmeg’s skin. I like virgin coconut oil as a natural treatment for skin. Hope you can get her healed. Enjoyed your blog and ‘Meg is really pretty!

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    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      Thank you very much, I appreciate your suggestions. Right now we call her Nutty-Meg, because she is a bit spastic. We just brought in two babies (a meat one and a Shetland ewe lamb) and they’re very sweet, so maybe they’ll settle Meg down!! Sheep is a whole new world for us, so I am confounded as to how to treat their ailments. Iodine is a good suggestion, I might just try that, heavily diluted, next time I shear her (later this week, I got new electric shears to try out!)

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