Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Backyard Sheep

The Backyard Sheep

An Introductory Guide to Keeping Productive Pet Sheep

By Sue Weaver

Published by Storey, 15th May 2013

Living in a fairly rural part of South Wales, I am used to seeing sheep. When I walk the dog, we see sheep in fields on a daily basis, sometimes with lambs, sometimes newly shorn, and sometimes the fields are empty and the sheep have been moved to fresh pastures.

 I like seeing them, and always stop to admire the local flocks, but I know very little about them, other than that orphaned lambs can be bottle-fed and become very tame and that sheep fleece is turned into wool of many different weights and textures. This title piqued my curiosity; I simply couldn't imagine keeping sheep as garden pets, and just had to find out more...

I loved every single page. Each page I read spurred me on to read more; this book is chockablock crammed full of wonderful and utterly absorbing sheep lore. From their incredible history of domestication from man's earliest days, right through to the traditional way of counting sheep, Part One takes us on a whistlestop tour, teaching about how sheep think (they are actually really quite intelligent), react and behave, identifying the different breeds, and then having convinced the reader they really do need to have pet sheep, choosing a breed and where and how to buy your very first sheep. Differing breeds  produce very different types of wool, come in many different sizes and resistance to heat, parasites and there are specific breeds for dairy production as well as meat production.

Part Two covers the daily routine of looking after, feeding and caring for your sheep in sickness and in health, providing safe fencing and appropriate housing shelter for your new pets. They may also need safeguarding from predators in certain parts of the country, and dogs, donkeys and llamas can be used for this purpose.Once you are well and truly in love with your sheep, it is inevitable that you will want to raise another generation of sheep from scratch, and this is amply covered by Part Three, entitled - unsurprisingly - "Making More Sheep"! From hiring a ram, feeding your pregnant ewe and then helping her have a safe delivery to the basics of lamb care are described here, including how to help at a difficult birth.

Making use of sheep products is the theme for Part Four, covering how to milk your sheep and sell or use the milk products, how to get top-quality fleeces from your sheep and how to train and tame your sheep. Two recipes for  soft cheeses are included, which look absolutely delicious.

On a sadder note, Appendix three covers Emergency Euthanasia, a difficult and unpleasant topic. Readers should note that this book is mainly geared to an American market and that euthanising a seriously ill or injured pet sheep in the UK should be left to a registered veterinary surgeon and not undertaken oneself.

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