The Shepherd’s year
This is the traditional start of the shepherd’s year.
The year begins at least 6 weeks before tupping, when you want to look at your breeding stock and make sure they are going to be in a fit, but not fat condition.
Depending on the number of sheep you have, you many not need or want to keep a ram. Luckily there are many breeders who will help by lending or renting rams. Always check the blood lines to prevent close breeding. See the 'Tupping' page in the Hubandry tabs, for information on ‘Kinship’ the service the PSBG offers to evaluate relatedness of a ram to your ewes.
Bonfire night is the traditional time to introduce the ram to the ewes, so lambing begins on 1st of April.
Worming - It is now recommended that this is only done when needed, so use dung sampling with worm counts. This service is available from most vets and many agricultural stores that sell medicines.
This is the quiet time for the ewes. After you have taken the ram out you need to keep interference to a minimum to prevent the ewes from re absorbing or losing their lambs.
Some people find it useful to have their ewes pregnancy-scanned to find out which ones are in lamb, this is usually done at between 70-90 days after the date that the rams were in.
Vaccination ( Heptavac P Plus) for Pasteurella and all the Clostridial diseases needs to be given to all breeding ewes 4-6 weeks pre lambing. Young stock to be retained will also need a dose.
Portlands only need a minimum of concentrate feed prior to lambing. They nearly always have a single lamb. So it is better to feed the ewe more once she has had her lamb to encourage milk rather than have a big lamb that can make a difficult birth.
Hay can be fed especially if the weather conditions or grass is poor.
Lambing - This is a time to be enjoyed. Some sheep are housed if lambing early or if the ground is very wet, but if later in the spring then lambing outdoors is good.
If this is your first lambing, try to get some experience either at a local farm or a course run by a college or breed group. It will give you more confidence!
Agricultural stores have lists of supplies available for lambing, the main ones you will need are iodine for treating navels, lubricating gel in case you need to assist a lambing and a packet of colostrum as a back-up. You must record dates of lambing and which ewe and lamb(s) go together, so have pen and paper ready.. Portlands very good at lambing and should need little intervention.
Always make sure you have your vet’s number in case you need to get some antibiotic or just ring for advice. A good relationship with your vet is worthwhile.
All sheep will be out at grass.
Lambs benefit from a vaccination ( Heptavac P Plus) from 3 -4 weeks of age and then again after an interval of 4-6 weeks.
The main concern in summer is parasites so do worm counts and keep a check for blowfly in the wool. You may want to consider Clik or a similar product which helps prevent flystrike.
Shearing is done in late May early June usually by a professional shearer.
Weaning - This is when the ewes are taken away from the lambs. If you can manage to get them out of hearing from each other all the better. Three to four months is usual. They reach a stage when both mother and lambs do better when separated.
The ewes will require at least 8 weeks before they go back to the ram to recover their body condition and rest.
Then the cycle starts again...