Top 10 Tips For Preparing Your Sheep For Winter


You might think that just because your sheep are covered in wool that they won’t need to survive through the winter.

But this simply isn’t true.

The tips for taking care of your sheep during the winter include providing them plenty of food, keeping their water warm, removing any ice that builds up, taking care of their hooves, figuring out how to keep them dry, using bedding for your sheep, providing them a shelter, making sure there is plenty of ventilation in their shelter, and deciding whether or not to use a heat lamp.

Read on to figure out what you might be missing.

Why

This first question you might ask is “why should I do anything to take care of my sheep for the winter”.

The answer to this question is because you can’t keep doing the same thing throughout the whole year for your sheep.

With the changing temperatures, there are things you need to change to make sure your sheep feel comfortable.

Just like you would change up the temperature in your house, you are going to want the same kind of changes outside to make sure your sheep are getting the same treatment.

Provide them plenty of food

When you get cold, your body tries a lot harder to keep itself warm.

And because your body is trying to keep you warm, it is going to burn off more energy.

And again because your body is producing more energy, it is going to need more calories so it has the energy to burn.

The same is true for your sheep.

So take the opportunity during the winter to feed your sheep more than you would normally feed them.

According to FarmAndAnimals.com:

Many farmers supplement their sheeps’ diet with stored produce, such as squash and pumpkins. If you have oak trees on your property, your sheep are sure to enjoy the acorns. If you are unsure if there is anything that your sheep should avoid, read this post about what not to feed sheep.

https://farmandanimals.com/what-to-feed-sheep-in-winter/

This might be especially nice during the time right away Halloween since it would be a good time to get rid of your jack-o-lanterns.

Otherwise, try to feed them any produce that you may have laying around.

Hay cubes might be a good option if you run out of hay.

Keep their water warm

Depending on where you live, your water might freeze over during the night or day.

If the temperature gets under 32 degrees any time during the day or night, the water for your sheep is going to freeze over.

This means that you have to pour out and refill your water multiple times during the day.

If you have a rubber water trough, this will be a lot easier to pour out and refill each time, since the rubber is going to make the trough flexible.

The metal water troughs are nice, but they aren’t very conducive for the easy refill.

Another option is to purchase a water heater for your metal trough.

This will make it so the water stays warm all throughout the day.

It won’t get the water in the trough to the point of boiling, but it will keep it warm enough that it doesn’t freeze multiple times throughout the day.

This keeps you from having to do extra work and gives the sheep water all throughout the day.

Remove any ice that builds up

Any animals with hooves are not great at walking on ice.

Sheep are not an exception to this rule.

So it is important that as you are preparing for winter and while in winter than you remove any ice that builds up around where the sheep are.

And this means you might have to pull out your shovel and dig under and remove any ice that is forming.

It doesn’t sound like the most fun, but put that jacket on and remove the ice from your animal area.

Make sure your sheep have a salt lick

Imagine you had all this gas build-up and that you didn’t have a way to get rid of it.

Sheep have this problem.

And apparently, they have the problem because they can’t burp.

This then causes the sheep to bloat.

This problem can sometimes be solved by them walking around and chewing on the grass in the field.

But it isn’t always solved that way.

And so it becomes a problem sometimes in the winter.

And the best thing you can do for the sheep is to provide them with a salt lick.

The salt allows them to even out all the minerals that they need and reduces the chances of your sheep dying from bloat.

There are many different choices for salt licks.

You can find it at your local hardware store.

Or you can purchase some online here.

Take care of their hooves

A whole article could be written about taking care of your sheep hooves, but covering all of that is outside the scope of this article.

But according to Sheep101.info:

To trim the feet, securely hold the leg of the sheep. Inspect the hoof and remove any mud, manure, or small stones between the walls of the hoof. A rotten smell is usually indicative of foot rot. Clean all the junk and crud out of the hoof using a knife or the point of the shears. After cleaning the hoof, begin trimming around the perimeter of the hoof.

http://www.sheep101.info/201/hoofcare.html

Suffice it to say that you should check the hooves and if you haven’t trimmed their hooves in some time, trim them down a little right before the winter.

If you’ve ever trimmed the nails on your dogs, you know that you shouldn’t cut too much at once or you might end up making your dog bleed.

The same thing is true for your sheep.

First get some hoof trimmers, like the ones found here.

Trim a little bit and then come back a few weeks later and then trim a little bit more.

At any side of pink while trimming and you’ve trimmed too far.

Stop trimming and give your sheep a break.

Figure out how to keep them dry

Winter is a bad time to be wet, even for sheep.

When their wool is wet and then it gets cold, then the sheep are going to be cold.

So you have to do something to make sure the sheep are able to keep dry.

This means that you will probably need to provide shelter for your sheep.

Otherwise, they will end up being out in the cold all the time.

The shed doesn’t need to be much.

It should at least have a roof.

The roof will protect the sheep from any falling rain or snow.

It should also be tall enough for the sheep to be able to stand underneath.

Though they may spend most of their time laying down underneath the shed, they might also want to stand up.

So make sure there is enough room for them to stand under the shed.

Use bedding for your sheep

On the subject of the shed, it is also very important that you provide some bedding for your sheep.

Imagine for a second that you have to kneel on the floor for hours on end.

It doesn’t sound like something you would want to do.

The same thing goes for the sheep.

After a period of time, they aren’t going to want to stand, so they are going to lay down.

So you might as well get some bedding for them to lay on.

According to FamilyFarmLivestock.com:

The best bedding material for your flock is straw. If you happen to live in an area where straw is crazy expensive, consider using sawdust (but it has a few drawbacks) or old/poor quality hay instead (see top picture).

https://familyfarmlivestock.com/what-is-the-best-bedding-for-your-sheep/

In our experience, straw has worked especially well for the sheep.

It is soft enough that they can lay or kneel down on it and feel comfortable for some time.

It also isn’t very tempting for them to eat.

So you should be able to keep the straw for a while.

On the other hand, something like sawdust or pine bedding might be too tempting for the sheep to eat.

We use pine bedding in our chicken coop and every once in a while we will find out sheep with its head in there trying to eat the pine bedding.

So try to avoid using these.

Straw is really the best option for bedding for your sheep.

Provide them a windbreak

Just like you want to have a shed for the sheep to get out of the snow, you want to have a windbreak so the sheep can stay out of the wind.

Where we live, the wind can pick up at a moment’s notice, and this can mean the winter can get really cold rather quickly.

So a windbreak can help them to avoid the hard wind.

So since you have a shed for your sheep, just make sure that one of the sides of the shed has a wall on it.

Better yet, have at least 3 walls for your sheep shed.

This means that most of the area covered by the shed is going to be free from wind.

Also, make sure that the sides of the shed face the sides where the wind comes from.

Make sure there is plenty of ventilation in their shelter

Ventilation is important in your shed because sheep aren’t careful where they go to the bathroom.

And because of this, you could end up with a shed that has a lot of poop and pee in it.

This comes with the smells as well.

The ventilation helps the good air to come in and it takes the bad air out.

Also, the ventilation needs to be placed strategically so as to not allow wind to come straight onto the sheep.

This means that you will probably want to place holes up high in the shed, two holes on opposite sides of the shed.

That way, air can come in one way and go out the other without it having to go through the sheep before it goes out.

Decide whether or not to use a heat lamp

Now, there is the question of whether or not to use a heat lamp for your sheep.

The first thing you have to consider is how close the heat lamp is going to be to the straw you are using for bedding.

If the heat lamp is too close and the straw can touch it, this could start a fire in your shed.

And especially if your shed is made out of wood, this could be the end of your shed.

So if you are going to have a heat lamp in there, it has to be high enough up in the shed that it won’t catch anything on hire.

Second, the sheep in the wintertime should have on plenty of wool.

That means that for the most part, they should be pretty warm in the shed.

One way to test out if it is worth it or not, if you are comfortable in the shed with your jacket on, the sheep are probably uncomfortable (it’s too hot for them).

If you are too cold in the shed with a jacket on, then it’s probably too cold for them too.

So play it by ear on whether or not you need a heat lamp.

Summary

The sheep need a little bit of care come wintertime.

And if you want to keep your sheep happy, then you need to take the time and spend the money to take care of them.

This includes making sure they have a shelter with walls to act as windbreakers, provide more food and water than you typically do, make sure the water has a heater so you don’t have to replace the water all the time, provide more bedding to your sheep, and make sure to take care of their hooves and trim as needed.

And if you continue to take care of your sheep during the winter, then the spring will become more enjoyable for both you and the sheep.

Bill Lantz

Bill Lantz is a database analyst by day and a weekend warrior by... weekend. He's currently building up his own miniature homestead in Central Utah with his wife and six kids. Some of his interests include knowing random trivia about films, reading history books, and playing video games with the boys.

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