Before you start
Time and dedication
Do you have the time to check sheep every day and plan for husbandry tasks? Could you cope with caring for sick animals? Cover will be needed for holidays or illness.
Sheep are not cheap lawnmowers but complex animals needing careful health management.
Before buying sheep, go on a short course at your nearest agricultural college to learn the basics, or learn via local smallholders groups. Sheep are prone to some devastating ailments if not managed properly. It is ESSENTIAL to be familiar with the more common types of problem such as blowfly strike, foot rot and deficiency diseases, and to carry out routine preventative treatments like vaccinations.
Sufficient well-drained grazing is required. Overgrazing will lead to health problems for your flock.
Supplementary feeding may be required and mineral block licks to provide trace elements are needed.
Fresh water must always be provided, sheep will not drink stagnant or stale water. If there is no suitable stream of good quality water, then water troughs must be cleaned out and replenished regularly.
Security and fencing
To keep your sheep in and dogs out the grazing needs to be well fenced.
The Portland is a horned breed and so can become entangled in poorly strained wire or netting. (Electric netting should not be used, and electric wire fencing must be inspected regularly.)
A smaller fenced or hurdled area where you regularly feed the sheep is needed for inspection of the flock.
A field shelter or a good thick hedge allows sheep to escape the worst of the weather. Lambing survival rate and body condition maintenance are significantly improved by the shelter provided by a hedge.
A dry, clean weatherproof building is desirable for early lambing and sick animals, and for storage of hay, straw and feed.
Help and advice
Do you have friends or neighbors who can land a hand if needed? Is there someone close by with experience of keeping sheep whose help you can enlist?
You should find a Vet to advise on healthcare before you get any sheep.
How many sheep can you manage?
Sheep naturally flock together in large groups and will be stressed if kept alone- a minimum of three is ideal for a first flock.
Do you have facilities to keep a ram and a companion, or will you be able to share, hire or borrow one?
This skilled task is needed every year and good shearers get booked up early - who will shear for you?
Hurdles (at least six)
Water and feed troughs
Feed storage bins (or dustbins)
Trailer (if you will need to move your sheep)
Drenching and dosing equipment
Lambing kit & First aid kit
A crook and halters to handle sheep
Animal husbandry suppliers will have catalogues of other useful equipment and gadgets.
Basic items for First Aid
Antiseptic (purple) spray,
Antibiotic spray, e.g. Terramycin (oxytetracycline) – available from your Vet
Disposable rubber gloves
Cotton wool for cleaning wounds etc.