I recommend that when you first get your lambs that you put collars or halters on them and catch them up every day or two and take a couple minutes to sit with them, pet them, scratch the sides of their faces and shoulders (they like that!). You can also hold the food bowl while they eat to get them to come when called, and you can teach them to walk on a leash or halter.
Offer your lambs free choice grower food until the lambs are 3 months old then feed lambs 1 handful of Grower lamb food twice a day until 5-6 months of age. I use Mana Pro or Purina.
Sheep should always have fresh water, a loose Sheep salt mineral free choice, and a young cut non moldy hay or grass available to them.. Young cut Brome hay is good for maintenance and if you can get it a legume hay like Clover or Alfalfa is good to feed during lactation.
IF you have good grass sheep don’t need any other supplemental hay or grain, just water and salt.
Babydoll sheep generally get too fat if fed grain all year. Sheep that get too fat may never breed even if you eventually get them to loose weight, and if they do breed when they are fat they will be susceptible to pregnancy toxemia and may abort and die. It is thus important that you periodically feel the sheep for body condition and monitor their weight. You should be able to slightly rock your hand over their spine if they are in good body condition.
In the fall when the grass dries up and you start feeding hay, be sure to monitor your sheep’s body condition. Hay can have a 3 % to 17% protein content depending on when and how it was cut . If you are feeding a poor quality hay, and the sheep start to get too thin then you will have to add a sheep protein block Mana Pro) or a small amount of grain. Use common sense when feeding, but be sure you don’t allow them to get too fat.
Sometimes on a really lush grass they can get too fat just on grass and may need to be dry-lotted part of the day.
Lambs received a Clostridium C&D & Tet at 2 weeks of age and again at weaning, then once yearly.
They get dewormed once a month and receive a TSV-2 Vac at birth. Lambs should be dewormed monthly through this first summer and then as needed which may be every month to every 3 months depending on the size of your pasture and parasite load on your grass.
Some of the early born lambs may breed late their first fall, and lamb at about 13 months of age. Most will lamb the following spring as yearlings. If you plan to breed your sheep, I recommend that you Clost. CD&T vaccinate them before lambing and also give them a Vit E and Selenium (BoSe) 2 mls SQ.
Sheep should be shorn yearly in the spring, but hand shearing around the face and rear end may need to be done more frequently. Some ewes will urinate down the wool or their rear and get urine scald. Wash the area with detergent and water, and trim back the wool. Put some vaseline or antibiotic ointment on the scald for a couple days until it heals. If you wish to wash your lamb you can use any regular dog shampoo or blue Dawn Dish detergent. Hose water is fine, soap and rinse and towel dry.
If your lamb grows a lot of wool on its face, although this is cute to some extent, the wool will eventually grow over their eyes and they become wool blind. Cut the wool back on their face if this happens.
Call Midstates Livestock Supplies in Hutchinson KS 1800-835-9665 or In Kansas 316-663-5147 and ask for their sheep supply catalog. In it you will be able to order anything that you might need.Supplies necessary for good sheep husbandry:
Book: Raising Sheep The Modern Way or Sheep Industries Book, and or Laura Lawson's books.
Hand shears to trim faces and rears and to use to do yearly shearing by hand if desired. Mid states will also resharpen hand shears when get dull if you don’t know how.
Rope or buckle halters
Vaccine (fCDT for one or two sheep it would be cheaper to get from you local Veterinarian)
Dewormer alternate with Panacur and Ivomec.
Hoof trimmers (flat rose pruners do just as well at a fraction of the cost)
"Husbandry" means the care and management. I am going to share my 40 years of experience in sheep management as it concerns the Babydoll Southdown. The Babydoll Southdown Miniature Sheep is an old breed of sheep, actually one of the earliest breeds to reach North America from England. In the 60’s as breeds modernized the original Southdown became obsolete and was bred up to a taller leaner version that we see in the show ring today. The original short and small Southdowns were either bred up or forgotten until recently when a few small flocks of the original type of Southdown were rediscovered and found to be a perfect breed for a small family flock. Since the modern Southdown is so different from the old original type, these old fashioned Southdowns were renamed Babydoll Southdown to distinguish them from the modern Southdown.
The Babydoll Southdown sheep retains its small size, exceptional muscling, cute expression, docile temperament and flavorful carcass, as did the original Southdown in the early 1900’s.
Probably the most important issue in sheep management as it concerns health is body condition. The ewe that is either too thin or too fat will be prone to serious and life threatening problems during gestation. Further along in this article I will discuss evaluating body condition. The Babydoll Southdown with its broad muzzle is a very efficient grazer, and thus a very easy keeper.
Babydoll sheep need only water, a good grass or a good quality hay and a loose salt mineral for maintenance. In areas with a long growing season your sheep may even become too fat on just grass, and will require being dry lotted part of the day. Lambs should be dewormed monthly and ewes as necessary, usually 4-6 times a year and especially at breeding, lambing and weaning. If your grass is dried up by fall it is a good idea to flush the ewes before breeding.
Flushing the ewes a couple weeks before breeding encourages higher rates of ovulation and conception of twins and triplets. Flushing can be done in many ways such as deworming, offering a sheep protein block, feeding a better quality hay or giving the ewes a small handful of grain a day.
Once they are bred they can go back on a maintenance diet until a few weeks before parturition when again they will require an increase in nutrition. This you can do by either giving a good legume hay or 1/8 to 1/4 of a pound of grain per sheep per day depending on the condition of the ewe. There is a fine technique to this, because if you feed to much you risk a difficult delivery because the lambs will be too large, or the ewes too fat and ketotic, and if you feed too little then the lambs may be small and weak or the ewe not have enough milk.
To check body condition, stand next to the sheep and place your hand palm down with your middle finger over the point of her spine mid way down her back, and rock your hand from right to left over her spinous process. If your hand can’t rock she is too fat. If you can feel the spine and yet can wobble your hand from side to side she is in decent condition and if her spine feels really knobby and your hand drops quite a bit off from the spine she is too thin. Also feel her condition over her rib cage. You should be able to easily feel her ribs and feel about 1/8 of an inch of fat covering them. After the ewe lambs and depending on if she produces a single , twins or triplets, she will need up to a pound of a 16% sheep grain mix divided and fed twice a day, along with a good quality hay, water and free choice salt mineral.
At 10 days of age I also set up a creep feeder for the lambs. Right before breeding or during pregnancy is not the time to put her on a diet however so check her body condition through the spring and summer so that you can get her in shape by fall.
Though we are considering the Babydoll a miniature sheep we want to be careful when breeding for smallness to retain good muscling and sound structure. Breeding tiny, narrow, poorly muscled, unthrifty, scrawny sheep requiring c-sections is not breeding for the good of the breed. As we select for higher percentages of twins we need to also select for good mothering instincts and high milk production as well. The Southdown was originally a meat breed and typically meat breeds aren’t terribly prolific nor do they milk well. By selecting replacement lambs from ewes who can twin and feed their twins you can eventually increase the percentages of multiple births among your flock.
From what I have seen, there is some incidence of entropion in the breed. Entropion is a genetic condition where the eye lids roll and irritate the eyeball. It may be minor enough to cause only tearing or it can cause blindness. There are a number of methods of correcting entropion, and it should be corrected with in a few days of birth. Entropion is strongly passed on genetically and so that lambs with entropion should not be saved back for use in a breeding program.
Another concern that I see is that many ewes urinate down the muscle of their backsides causing urine burns on their skin. I am not sure what causes this, but I suspect this is due to a combination of heavy muscling, and or size and tilt of the vulva. Due to the increased management concerns people should select replacement ewes with reducing the incidence of this in mind.
There also appears to be a small incidence of a condition where lambs on lush pasture spit up more rumen fluid than is normal when they burp up their cud. You will see bright green liquid around the mouths of these lambs. Some lambs evidently out grow this but I wouldn’t keep any lambs back for breeding programs with this condition either.
Wool blindness is a condition caused by extreme wool growth on the face. The old Southdown breeders saw this as a management problem and spent years working to breed this trait out. To have a cute woolly faced lamb seems silly when over that ewes next ten years a couple times a year you will have to trim back the wool on her face so that she can see. Cleaner faced lambs are just as cute and take less work to maintenance.
Those are the specific breed concerns, now for the every day sheep husbandry.
People say that sheep die easily. We’ll that’s not really true. Sheep are rather stoic about showing their illness, it’s a flock survival skill. A good shepherd, however, will notice a droop in an ear or a sheep not quick to get on its feet and know something is wrong. Usually by the time a sheep is looking sick she is very ill.
When a ewe is close to parturition, she may show a variety of signs that lambing is near. Some ewes are pretty sneaky about showing signs but most will give some indication in advance. Some signs are: a pinking and translucent puffiness of her vulva, carrying the lambs lower in the ewes abdomen, and often the smiling corners of the ewes mouth level out as she approaches first stage labor.
If the lambs are in a normal presentation you need only watch the process. The ewe should clean each lamb as it is born. Some poor mothering ewes will nurture only one lamb and if this happens clean the amniotic fluid from the nose and mouth of the lamb and once it is breathing place it in front of the ewe. As soon as possible after the lambs are born dip their navel cords in Xenodine or strong Iodine. I also give my lambs .1 cc BoSE and a TSV-2 intranasal vaccine at this time as well. IF the lamb was slow to breathe, born in a particularly dirty area, or slow to stand I also give it a ½ cc of Penicillin.
Strip each of the ewes teats to make sure the teats are open and the ewe is producing milk. Ewes should be dewormed 2-3 days after lambing. This helps insure that the nutrition the ewe receives will go into milk production.
The lambs should be on their feet with in 15 minutes and looking for dinner. If the lamb is too weak to stand you must strip out some colostrum and intubate the lamb with 20 cc’s of colostrum per pound of weight. Most singles weight around 8-9 lbs, twins 6-7 lbs and triplets 5-6 lbs. Use a 60 cc catheter syringe and a size 14 French feeding tube that can be purchased from your Veterinarian or from Midstates Sheep Supply company.
It is critical that the lamb receive sufficient colostrum with in 12 hours of birth. It’s also a good idea if a ewe has a single to milk out the colostrum from one side of her udder and freeze it in and ice cube tray, later putting it in a baggie for storage for emergencies.
Lambs should be docked and castrated and given 500 units of Tetanus antitoxin at three days of age . I cut the dead tails off below the band after 6 days and dip the stump in iodine Allow the scrotums to fall off naturally. A creep feed and hay should be available to the lambs by 10 days of age and it’s a good idea to give them a Clostridium C& D and Tetanus Toxoid vaccine at 2 weeks of age and again at weaning. They should be dewormed at weaning and monthly through the summer. I wean my Babydoll lambs at 30-50 days of age.
Diane Spisak, owner of Sheepfields Akbash Dogs and Babydoll Southdowns, lives in Wellsville Kansas and has been raising sheep since 1960. She and her husband Dr. Drew own and operate The Wellsville Veterinary Clinic.