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pasture rotation/sheep

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  • pasture rotation/sheep

    Anyone rotate sheep on and off their horse pastures? I've recently learned about Gulf Coast Sheep, and I am really intrigued. I'm wondering if alternating horses and sheep in my pastures would be a good idea.

    Possible benefits: Sheep and horses have different parasites, so theoretically the horse parasites would die during the month (or two or three) while the pasture was grazed by sheep. And the sheep parasites would die while the pasture was grazed by horses. Also, sheep are foragers, rather than straight grazers like horses. So, while the horses would eat the grass, the sheep would eat the honeysuckle and other 'pest' plants.

    Possible problems: More animals to take care of. (How hard are sheep to manage?) Predators. (I already have non-climb fencing and a Border Collie, though.)

    I would love to hear anyone's experiences!

  • #2
    We did that for a while - and boy did those little fellas keep the fence posts nice and neatly weedeated. In the end, it was a lot of work taking care of extra animals. We just have a small place though.

    A large racehorse farm uses them for exactly the reasons you state, they have double fencing between the pastures and everything is kept so trim and nice.
    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
      In the end, it was a lot of work taking care of extra animals. We just have a small place though.
      Hi Foxtrot's! Thanks for sharing. Can you elaborate about how much work the sheep were? What did they need?

      One of the reasons I'm interested in the Gulf Coast sheep is that they are apparently highly resistant to parasites and hoof rot. They are the mustangs of the sheep world, I guess... Descended from the sheep of Spanish conquistadors that went feral. Apparently they are used to improve other breeds' resistance to parasites and disease and can be maintained for 30+ years without dewormers. I was hoping (and I may be very wrong) that maybe all they needed was shelter, forage, first aid, and once a year shearing.

      Comment


      • #4
        I also do it. Sheep are great complimentary grazers on horse pastures. They are nature's weed eaters and can clear out a lot of the stuff you don't want your horse to eat. As well as that I also use them for getting rid of a lot of the grass to help to restrict grazing for horses. They're also pretty good company for a solitary horse as well. I actually had an orphan foal with a sheep in his stable for some time. Finally they taste REALLY good with roast potatoes and mint sauce.

        I've got quite a few breeds - all pretty hardy in type because of the weather we have here: so the likes of cheviots, swaledale, herdwick, hebridean. You need totally different fencing for sheep though as they'll walk straight through fence rails.

        You need to worm them, trim their feet and sheer their coats so they're not exactly low maintenace but they're easier than horses. You have to take care in relation to feed as they can get laminitis - again not as quickly as a horse on rich grass can.

        Oh and I've got about 2,000 ewes, 30 rams and in spring a heck of a lot of lambs! So just ask away.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          WOW, Thomas! 2,000 ewes! WOW!

          I have a little 9 acre farm with 4 horses. I've got about 7 acres of pasture, which - in this area - is plenty for 4 horses. Our soil is sandy loam, so it never gets muddy, and the grass is Coastal Bermuda, which is super tough. In the spring, summer, and fall, I have grass to spare. In the winter, I have graze-able stubble and supplement with hay. I have 3 paddocks - a 1 acre, a 3 acre, and a 4 acre. My fencing is non-climb wire mesh with a strand of electric tape on top.

          I was thinking of getting 3-5 ewes and maintaining them as weedeaters and fleecemakers. I'm not interested in breeding or eating them. At least not at this juncture. Definitely don't have enough land for that kind of operation.

          Do you use sheep dogs to gather your flock? How often do their feet have to be done? Do you shear them yourself or hire someone?

          Have you ever heard of Gulf Coast sheep? I doubt there are any in the UK, as they'd've had to have been imported. Here's a link. They are the descendents of Spanish conquistadors' sheep that went feral in the southern US, so apparently they have developed pretty impressive parasite and foot rot resistance. Natural selection, and whatnot.

          Thanks for your input!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by MaresNest View Post
            Apparently they are used to improve other breeds' resistance to parasites and disease and can be maintained for 30+ years without dewormers.
            30 year old sheep! Yowza!
            "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

            ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by Ghazzu View Post
              30 year old sheep! Yowza!
              LOL, I guess I phrased that wrong. A herd in Gainesville, FL has been maintained sans anthelmintics for 30 years. I'm sure that the individual sheep didn't live that long.

              Comment


              • #8
                With us we let them in after the horses had taken their favorite grass and the sheep tidied up. Their little feet pack the pasture down nicely, their droppings spread all over in neat little pellets.
                We are very wet here, they had to come in every night, (coyotes) and stay in all winter except for the sacrifice paddock. A local 4-H kid sheared them and we had to trim their feet a bit. They were Dorsets and usually had twin/triplets each year. When the lambs grew up we put a sign out at Easter time and they always sold straight off out property to middle Eastern people or to our Portugese neighbour. They cannot eat the same rations as horses, the copper balance is wrong, but they were easy enough. We borrowed a neighbour's ram so that was one we didn't have to keep all year.
                They kept very well and healthy in deep peat-moss litter.
                We are scaling back on our manual workload these days, but it is fun reading about your endeavour. I've never heard of the Gulf sheep, but to produce rare breed sheep may mean they don't have to be butchered - you could just sell them as breeding stock!
                Goats, by the way would not have served us, but they are the true browsers and can be damaging by nibbling bark, etc.
                Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by MaresNest View Post
                  WOW, Thomas! 2,000 ewes! WOW!

                  Do you use sheep dogs to gather your flock?
                  yep


                  How often do their feet have to be done?
                  Sheep are particularly prone to foot disease. They can get foot rot, scald, white line abscessing, digital dermatitis and a whole host more! A bit like horses, it's important keep them in the right environment . Rotating pastures, not too damp, not on clay. The feet are inspected pretty regularly and trimmed only when they become overgrown. Frequency is totally dependent on the environment and the sheep's footform but say every 8 to 10 weeks if things are all pretty decent. Some breeds are more prone to foot rot than others. The sort I keep aren't prone but they still have to be checked regularly and have foot baths.
                  Do you shear them yourself or hire someone?
                  A gang of guys come each year from New Zealand.

                  Have you ever heard of Gulf Coast sheep?
                  I hadn't but I've googled them tonight and they look very much like any common and garden English white faced cross bred like we have here in the low lands and further south. My preference though is for hardier breeds because of the weather we have here.

                  I doubt there are any in the UK, as they'd've had to have been imported.
                  They're just a cross breed though.

                  They are the descendents of Spanish conquistadors' sheep that went feral in the southern US, so apparently they have developed pretty impressive parasite and foot rot resistance. Natural selection, and whatnot.
                  I read that bit but personally I'm not convinced they're any more or less so than any other breeds. The breeds I tend to have are hardy as anything. They have to be here. Mine all tend to be "easy keepers" and they winter out, lamb out and generally pretty easily etc etc but no matter how so though you have to worm them and check them and manage them. Like any stock you get out of them what you put into them



                  Thanks for your input!
                  You're welcome

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Thanks to everyone for all the helpful info!

                    Originally posted by gothedistance
                    I shear all my sheep myself with hand sheers. The wool is cleaned in rainwater, dried in the sun and fresh air, then hand combed and carded. You can spin it, or send it off to be done. I like to just card mine into soft fluffy wool to use for anything that needs a fluffy innard, and I also felt it. Wool has soooo many uses.

                    Coincidentally, I stopped all worming with my sheep over 15 years ago. I have a small closed flock, and plenty of acreage for them to graze good grass, rain capture for water...and in all this time have never needed any vet service for them.
                    Wow, gothedistance. How did you learn to shear? Trial and error, or did someone teach you? I'd never thought of just keeping loose wool to stuff things with. What a great idea!

                    I'm also interested to hear that your small, closed flock has done well without worming. I'm not opposed to worming on principle (I worm my horses regularly), but if they can do well without it, it seems preferable to skip the drugs.

                    Originally posted by Thomas_1 View Post
                    I'm not convinced they're any more or less so than any other breeds.
                    Insinuating that I might be taken in by some majikal, butterfly pooping sheep? LOL! Thanks for the healthy skepticism.

                    I'm on my way out the door, but I'm going to keep ruminating (bad pun) on this and will probably have more questions tomorrow! Thanks again, Everybody!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The sheared sheep wool needs to be taken care of properly. When I offered mine to the local saddle stuffer, he couldn't use it because it had some of those what'sitcalled bugs in it (Thomas?). For us it was just a hobby thing, not real farming.

                      I did give the subsequent years' crops it to the local Hudson's Bay museum for them to wash, card and spin, pioneer style (that's not my thing).
                      Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                        The sheared sheep wool needs to be taken care of properly. When I offered mine to the local saddle stuffer, he couldn't use it because it had some of those what'sitcalled bugs in it (Thomas?).
                        You mean fly strike. And they're maggots!

                        I can shear a sheep if I had the motivation. But it's too much like hard work! The shearing circuit gangers from New Zealand and Australia are real experts. They're quick and efficient and you don't run the risk of cutting off your ewes nipples or ram's testicles! Yes that really happens when it's something you're not well practiced in.

                        I sell the wool but in truth it costs me to have the sheep sheared because the wool commodity market is absolutely pathetic. However they have to be shorn because I don't want them getting fly strike.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Thanks Everyone for all the info. This has been very helpful!

                          Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                          With us we let them in after the horses had taken their favorite grass and the sheep tidied up. Their little feet pack the pasture down nicely, their droppings spread all over in neat little pellets.
                          That's great! That's exactly how I was hoping it would work!

                          Originally posted by Thomas_1 View Post
                          They're quick and efficient and you don't run the risk of cutting off your ewes nipples or ram's testicles! Yes that really happens when it's something you're not well practiced in.
                          WOW! Thanks for the heads up! That would be an awful surprise for all involved!

                          Originally posted by gothedistance
                          Since you and I live in the same type of climate in adjoining states, and you will be running a tiny farm flock by yourself, I'd say my experiences with my sheep will be fairly close to what you will have with yours. So, I'm happy to share.
                          You bring up a good point, although I need to change my location. I'm from Central VA, but I'm actually in Aiken, SC now. So, not quite an adjoining state, but certainly similar enough.

                          Originally posted by gothedistance
                          There are lots of books on sheep that tell you how to hand shear -- and as you do it you will find your own method on where you want to start and how you want to proceed.
                          Any favorites you can recommend, or should I just search Amazon?

                          Originally posted by gothedistance
                          in the process your hands will get all soft with the natural lanolin in the wool. It is also nice to work individually with each of your ewes.
                          That sounds great!

                          Originally posted by gothedistance
                          If your sheep produce nice fleece, you can bundle it and sell it at any of the many sheep and wool festivals in VA, NC, MD. These festivals are held year round and are the BEST fun. You can buy all sorts of stuff for your sheep, arts and crafts, learn new techniques for everything from cooking to shearing to spinning to weaving to flock management to breeding, to buying yarns and rovings and even clothing from all different breeds and thread counts.
                          Thanks for the link! I'm marking my calendar!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            While you're at it, check out Katahdin sheep. No shearing, hardy (get some from a producer who has parasite resistant lines), and fairly level headed. I have a thing for the wool breeds, but have handled many hair sheep and these are common and practical choices for small flocks.

                            As for sheep shows, NOTHING beats Maryland Sheep and Wool, first weekend in May, Howard County Fairgrounds in MD.

                            One fairly simple thing to keep in mind if you do get sheep, watch your mineral blocks that your sheep can access, what is okay for horses may not be for sheep, I had to go to plain salt blocks in the pastures and mineral blocks in stalls. Sheep can't take much copper.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by BaaramuLuke View Post
                              While you're at it, check out Katahdin sheep. No shearing, hardy (get some from a producer who has parasite resistant lines), and fairly level headed. I have a thing for the wool breeds, but have handled many hair sheep and these are common and practical choices for small flocks.

                              As for sheep shows, NOTHING beats Maryland Sheep and Wool, first weekend in May, Howard County Fairgrounds in MD.

                              One fairly simple thing to keep in mind if you do get sheep, watch your mineral blocks that your sheep can access, what is okay for horses may not be for sheep, I had to go to plain salt blocks in the pastures and mineral blocks in stalls. Sheep can't take much copper.
                              Thanks for the tips!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I've never had a herd of sheep, but I did have one sheep. Her mother died birthing her in the middle of the night on the coldest day of the year (7 degrees). Poor little lamb was nearly dead when she was found the next morning. I took her home wrapped in blankets, called the vet, he told us to give her a bath in warm water, blow dry her, and keep her wrapped in blankets by the fire. She stayed in a cardboard box in our living room for a week or two, and we bottle fed her.

                                She was the sweetest creature I have ever seen. She would come if you rang a bell, and loved to follow you everywhere you went. She loved our dogs (I think she thought she was a dog), was fine with our cats, and really just wanted to cuddle all the time. Sadly, one night my dad went to let her in her pen (she loved to stay on the porch), and she wasn't on the porch. He called her, nothing. Rang the bell, nothing. He heard dogs barking, ran to the side of our house and found strays on top of her. He shood away the stray dogs, but it was too late. She only had two small puncture wounds, but the vet said sheep are known for having heart attacks when they are scared.

                                I would love to get another sheep one day. She was an absolute delight, and so easy to train (even house broken)!
                                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                "While girls schools are notoriously wild, the true party-hearty girl attends Hollins" ~The Preppy Handbook

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Aw, I'm so sorry you lost her!

                                  I will keep everyone posted on how my little sheep venture progresses.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Yes keep us posted - It will be like reliving our mini-farmer days. We even had one in our kitchen and it was my husband who got up and milked the mom and did the midnight feedings. I felt I had done my share with our three human kids!
                                    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I've got 5 sheep. Four tiny Shetlands and a Romney. They live in a chainlink dog kennel that we attached wheels to. I roll them around the pasture in summer, since they get out under my fences otherwise.

                                      Burdock, I've found, is irresistible to sheep. Mine cleaned up an 8 acre field FULL of burdock in less than a month. Ate it all right to the ground, leaving the clover and grass. The burdock made a valiant second effort, but the sheep wiped them out again. The thistles they were less than thrilled with, but they did eat them.

                                      I love my sheep. They're funny as heck and quite cute. Mine are a bit of extra effort, since my fields are not fenced to keep in critters that small. So I have to roll their pen around 3-4 times a day. Other than that, they're pretty easy keepers.

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by Jasmine View Post
                                        I've got 5 sheep. Four tiny Shetlands and a Romney. They live in a chainlink dog kennel that we attached wheels to. I roll them around the pasture in summer, since they get out under my fences otherwise.
                                        That is a GREAT idea! I don't know that I need to do it that way, as I have non-climb mesh fencing. But what a great idea!

                                        I have some old friends from college who are knitters/crocheters, and we were talking about doing a little fiber cooperative. Although there was a lot of interest initially, now that I've figured out costs, no one seems interested anymore. Even though it worked out to only about $150/sheep/year. That's what... like $12.50 a month if each person sponsors one sheep? City people. Sheesh.

                                        But I'm not giving up. I think I may open it up to local horse friends. I have a hunch that they will be less put off by the money. If ONLY we could keep horses for $150 a year.

                                        Or maybe I'll just do it all by myself.

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