I’m sure every Kiwi would agree its’ not hard to find a sheep in New Zealand. The fact is that although we are a sheep producing country, not everyone truly understands or respects sheep. Whether you are a farmer of just the proud owner of a lifestyle block, the New Zealand code of welfare of animals demands you treat your sheep well and provide them the essentials – food, water, shelter and the ability to exhibit natural behaviour. These are the basics of life but anyone put in the situation of having to hand raise a lamb would agree that from the moment the lambs feet hit the ground, caring for this new life albeit a satisfying task, is a demanding one. Sheep are not usually allowed to be kept in the city, or suburbia. It is important you have good, well fenced pasture and shelter. For those of you considering a lamb for a pet, know that they are social animals and happier in numbers. They make fun pets for the whole family and will live for 10 – 15 years if well cared for.
Raising a Lamb
A new born lamb should be feed colostrum as it’s first feed within the first 12 hours of life. Colostrum contains among other things antibodies that work to help protect lambs from infections that can cause diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.
If the lamb is or becomes unwell or weak consult your veterinarian.
Young lambs need good bedding and shelter to protect them from cold, wet unpredictable spring weather
New born lambs must be bottle feed up to 6 times a day with a carefully prepared milk substitute – this can be purchased from a feed and grain store. The amounts of feeds reduce as the lamb grows so be sure to follow instructions carefully.
Always make sure that the bottle is taken away after feeding, a lamb can get bloated if it is allowed to suck on air from an empty bottle.
Decide weather you require to dock or castrate your lamb – this must be carried out between 12 hrs and 6 weeks. If the lamb is too old then these procedures are considered ‘significant surgical procedures’ and must be carried out under anaesthetic by a veterinarian. If you can check your sheep daily then docking is not necessary – Did you know sheep wag their tails when they are happy!
Be aware of fly strike, it is deadly! Check under your lamb/sheep’s tail and rear end routinely for diarrhoea and fly eggs or maggots.
It is recommended to castrate ram lambs, adult rams can be very strong, rambunctious and in some cases quite dangerous. Once castrated though it is the perfect pet!
Get advice from your rural store or veterinarian regarding a drenching program and mineral supplement that best suit your lambs.
Sheep grow wool continuously, so it is important to shear them at least once (in some cases twice) a year. Shearing is usually carried out in spring, this way the sheep won’t get overheated during summer. Shearer’s can be very busy and hard to book, it is best to locate one in your area and book him/her well in advance.