Housing and Shearing Sheep in January

30 January 2017

Richard Smith's picture
Richard Smith

Housing and Shearing Sheep in January

This month Richard is in the sheep barn talking about the sheep enterprise at Daylesford.

  • Richard lambs 1,250 Lleyn ewes commercially and also lambs 250 pedigree sheep including Kerry Hills, Ryelands and Cotswolds. In the Daylesford system, the sheep are brought in to be housed in January. At this time Richard finds shearing the sheep to be very beneficial.
  • Shearing the sheep when they are housed in January can bring many benefits:
    • At Daylesford temperatures can go from sub-zero to 10 degrees within a day. This puts a huge strain on the wellbeing and metabolism of the sheep and can result in problems. If the sheep had thick coats they could become overheated and stressed. Richard points out that there are 1,250 sheep in the barn and there is no sound of panting from any of them.
    • Shearing in January avoids the stress of shearing in the summer; which can be stressful for the sheep and is a lot of work in getting each mob in and back out again.
    • When it comes to lambing time, the lack of wool means you can see everything that is happening and the lambs can suckle more easily.
  • Although it may seem strange to shear sheep in the winter, Richard explains that he has found it to be the kindest thing to do.
  • Once shorn, the sheep take about 24 hours to build up a new protective covering of grease on their coats. You need to make sure the sheep are comfortable so Richard advices choosing a mild day to shear. He also has a golden rule -  the sheep need at least 8 weeks of wool growth before they are turned out again. 
  • Between each sheep pen in the barn, Richard builds a ‘wall’ of hay, stuffing it into walkthrough troughs. This provides a food source for the sheep whilst reducing drafts through the pens.  
  • The sheep have ad lib food in front of them. Richard feeds his sheep a good quality silage as well as hay. Access to fresh water is also extremely important. A rainwater harvesting system sends the water into various UV filtering systems before it is pumped back into the sheep barn. This helps to keep the cost of rearing the sheep down.
  • The sheep are scanned in the third or fourth week of January. Based on this they are then moved into individual groups of singles, twins and triplets and the empty sheep are also marked up.  
  • Another issue to look out for and get on top of at this time of year when the sheep are housed is lameness. When in the barn, it is easier to see and treat any lame sheep. Richard explains that they foot bathe the sheep as they come into the barn, and then a second time about 10 days later. This, and careful management and husbandry of the sheep, has meant that he and his team feel in control of lameness.
  • The sheep get fresh straw three times a week. The straw is unloaded into the front of the pens, and the sheep gradually pull it towards the back of the pens. This is an effective way of bedding up the sheep and requires minimal time and effort.
  • The sheep barn is fitted with curtains/windbreaks which can be pulled down over the doors to keep drafts out. If the weather is sunny and still then the doors will be left open to allow as much fresh air into the barn as possible.
  • Richard believes that the Lleyn sheep have adapted to the system he uses extremely well. They are a medium size sheep and produce 100% of the lamb whilst eating a medium amount of food. The Lleyns will lamb at the end of March / beginning of April. In the last third of pregnancy, the nutritional requirements of the sheep increase but this can be kept to a minimum with the Lleyns. By breeding these Lleyns in his system, Richard has made huge efficiencies.

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