Attracted by the eco-grazing solutions which are increasingly resorting to communities, more and more individuals are in turn considering using sheep to maintain their land. Among them, the Ouessant sheep seems to have many assets for such a project. What are the characteristics of this sheep? What are their needs?
Who is the Ouessant sheep?
Endemic to the island of Finistère which gave it its name, the Ouessant sheep is the smallest breed of sheep in France. Rustic, its back is straight, its chest deep, its pelvis broad, while its limbs are slender, just like the head. The horns, curved around the ears, small erect ears, are thick. The tail is short. Its wool is mostly black, but there are brown and white versions, accepted by breed standards. The skin, on the other hand, is always black.
The size at the withers of an Ouessant sheep does not exceed 50 cm, with a difference that can be up to 10 cm less for females. The weight of ewes is usually between 11 and 16 kg, while that of rams is between 13 and 20 kg.
Because of this hardiness, an ewe gives birth to only one lamb per year. The wool and the meat it provides are of good quality. Still, its size makes it an unprofitable animal. The breed almost disappeared when crossbreeding with mainland sheep, aimed at improving the profitability of the animals, began. Fortunately, in the 70s, a few intact sheep were found and helped save the breed which is no longer threatened at all. This hardiness which once was a defect, today represents an asset: this is why this breed is used a lot for the maintenance of parks and gardens. They are sheep particularly suited to the maintenance of sloping grounds.
A Ouessant sheep needs a minimum area
Even if individuals are very attracted by the idea of a garden whose maintenance would be done alone, as well as by welcoming friendly sheep on their land, in the end, few people have enough space to accommodate sheep from Ouessant.
According to specialists, it is not advisable to engage in eco-grazing below 800-1000 square meters. If a single sheep is satisfied with 400 square meters, this data does not constitute a basis of calculation insofar as this animal gregarious needs to belong to a herd of at least two or three individuals. If this is not the case, the isolated sheep perishes quickly.
What is the character of the Ouessant sheep?
Generally speaking, sheep are not easily tamed animals. But the Ushant sheep is a calm sheep and more social with humans than most other sheep.
Ushant sheep are fiercer than rams. However, each animal develops its own personality: more or less bold in the face of novelty, more or less shy, more or less affectionate, more or less wild, more or less independent.
Rams have the disadvantage of head butting, which can be solved by castration which softens his character. This practice also prevents the bad taste of the meat of pubescent male sheep, as well as unwanted pregnancies.
The sheep bleat easily. He uses the voice to communicate between animals but also with the shepherd (to express his hunger, his thirst, his desire to return …). On the other hand, a sheep does not bleat to express fear or pain.
The Ouessant sheep are greedy, which can facilitate their taming. The choice of sweets that can be offered is quite wide: hard bread, grain, fruit, vegetable leaves and vegetables.
Maintenance of the Ouessant sheep
Ouessant sheep are animals that do not need a lot of water to live. In summer, their need will not exceed a quarter of a liter per animal. We must not forget that they find water supplements in the morning dew or in the green grass that they graze. We can also give them additional granules from time to time.
It is normal for a sheep to have parasites but this population must be limited. Their presence is signaled by sneezing, coughing, runny nose, possibly diarrhea. These signs should be watched and if they become too important, it becomes necessary to deworm the sheep. A fit sheep is a sheep with an appetite. If the sheep is losing weight or if it no longer eats, it should be taken to the vet as soon as possible.
The enclosure does not need to be too high, but be careful because a scared sheep can jump surprisingly high considering its proportions. In addition, the enclosure also aims to protect it from outside animals. 90 cm in height is usually sufficient. If the land where they graze has young trees, it is essential to protect them with a 80 cm high fence. Sheep, on the other hand, will abandon old specimens.
The making of a shelter is not essential because they are rustic sheep. The shelter is only used to gather them for treatment or to lock them up in case of need.
Sheep naturally shed their wool at the start of summer. Consider mowing when it begins to peel off at the neckline.