Notes from a Pastured Sheep Workshop

A few months ago I attended a short workshop on how to manage sheep on pasture. Raising and maintaining sheep on grass seems like a much better way to take care of them.

In addition to the handouts and slide presentation I took down these notes.

1) The best udder morphology for pasture lambs is high, tight, with teats above the hocks at about 45-degrees out. This is the single biggest factor in determining lamb survivability, believe it or not.

2) Soil temps should be at least 50-degree F for pasture lambing (ie. about corn planting time).

3) If the temps are greater than 65-degrees then all-day rain is OK for ewes and newborn lambs. Otherwise they need shelter from rain.

4) Turkey hunting blinds make great temporary shelter during lambing time. You’ll need one per 10-15 ewes. Sheep don’t NEED a barn to birth in. This helps save with infrastructure costs. (Winter shelter is a different matter, though – shelter from driving wind and wetness is most important.)

There are many species of goldenrod. This is a common one in the Midwest.

5) Goldenrods (genus Solidago) will cause the eyes to dry up their milk supply. Pull any you find in pasture.

6) When doing rotational grazing the flock should be no more than 3 days in a new paddock. More than that causes parasite buildup in the soil and re-ingestion.

7) Good grazing management should feed not only the sheep, but the soil too.

8) After a paddock is grazed it should ideally rest for at least 6 weeks. This gives enough time for plants to recover and parasites to die off.

9) Turnips are good to finish lambs on in the fall. Plant them in patches in the paddocks you plan to rotate through in the fall.

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