How to keep sheep: tips and best practices

Raising sheep, if you have a large lot, has many advantages. Indeed, these mammals can be bred for different reasons, whether for their milk, which allows them to make delicious cheeses, for their meat, their wool or simply to mow your lawn.

However, you will have to choose the right breed according to your expectations, because yes, not all sheep are able to offer you all of these things at the same time. You will also have to learn how to meet their needs, because you don’t just keep sheep in a small garden.

Choosing the right breed of sheep

There are more than 450 different breeds of sheep in the world, 46 of which are represented on French territory. It will therefore be important to choose the right breed according to the purpose you are looking for, because each has its specialty, but generally local regional breeds precisely adapted to the local environment are preferred.

If you wish to adopt sheep simply as ornamental animals which, in the process, will be able to mow your lawn, the more rustic breeds will be the most suitable, such as the Ouessant sheep, a rather small breed which does not even measure not 50cm at the withers, and rather docile.

If you are looking for sheep that will give you wool, opt instead for Merino, Landes sheep or Solognote sheep, breeds that have a thick woolen down, ideal for harvesting in quantity.

If you want to make cheese, breeds like Lacaune will produce milk suitable, among other things, for making Roquefort. The Manech (red headed or black headed) are also known as dairy breeds.

Finally, if it’s mutton you’re interested in, breeds like the North County Cheviot, Southdown, or Dorset Down are often bred for this purpose.

To better understand the character, behavior and strengths of a particular breed, it is best to get closer to a local farm, go observe the animals for yourself, and ask questions of the breed. breeder, who will answer all your questions.

Once you’ve made your decision, it’s best to adopt fairly young sheep. Indeed, even if they can change environment at any age, sheep that have just been weaned will accept a new environment much better.

The obligation to identify your sheep

Before adopting your sheep, you should know that since the decree of December 13, 2005, French law requires all sheep keepers to have an eight-digit national farm number. You can request this identification number from the livestock establishments (EDE), present in each department. If you need help managing all these administrative hassles, you can contact the Chamber of Agriculture in your department.

Since 2001, the sheep themselves have been required to wear an identification loop equipped with a transponder, which must be placed on the ear of the animal before its 6 months.

Finally, the breeder must obligatorily keep an up-to-date breeding register, comprising a “General data sheet and farm plan” and a “Card presenting the zootechnical sanitary and veterinary supervision of the breeding”, in which the The breeder must record all the care given to the animals.

Organize the flock of your sheep

The sheep being a gregarious animal, it will be necessary at the very least to take them by two at the same time, even if a group of 4 to 8 individuals remains the ideal.

If you find yourself, for whatever reason, with only one sheep, you should know that the latter will not stand loneliness, and could even let itself die. Thus, he will have to be accompanied, if not by one of his congeners, by other animals, such as donkeys, pigs, or even a dog who would stay with him most of the time. The main thing is that he has at least one companion so that he can live properly.

You should also know that sheep are harem animals. It will therefore be necessary to take either a ram with two to five sheep, or a group of single sheep, which will not fight if there is no female, or a group of sheep without a male.

If you plan to breed, consider separating the lambs from the flock one year after birth (the age at which they reach sexual majority), to avoid any risk of inbreeding.

to have sheep in your garden

Create a habitat for your sheep

Having sheep at home is not for everyone, since it requires a lot of space. A minimum of 200 to 300m² of grassy land will be needed per sheep, depending on the species in question.

It will be necessary to enclose the perimeter that you have assigned to them so that they do not escape, but also to protect them from potential predators. Also separate them from your vegetable garden if you have one, as they will have no mercy on your fruits and vegetables.

Building them a shelter, although it is not essential, especially if you have a breed that is accustomed and therefore adapted to the climate of your region, is highly recommended. It will always be beneficial for them to be able to protect themselves from the rain and the wind, or to put themselves in the shade during periods of strong heat.

Sheep feeding

Sheep feed mainly on the grass present in their pasture. In winter, however, grass may be lacking on the ground, and even without it, they will need to be supplied with extra energy. It will therefore be necessary to supplement their ration with hay and cereals, taking care that the latter do not contain GMOs.

Sheep, like horses, also need a supply of mineral salts. It will therefore be necessary to provide them with blocks of salt to lick.

Finally, as for all animals, consider providing them with unlimited fresh water, which will be changed every day to prevent the proliferation of bacteria in stagnant water.

Caring for sheep

Sheep are animals that require a lot of attention, especially if you are raising breeds for their wool. They should be mowed regularly so that their woolly down does not bother them, or call a professional shearer.

It should also be noted that sheep are sensitive to parasites, and especially intestinal parasites. It will therefore be necessary to deworm them regularly.