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Sheep nutrition, shearing and trimming

As well as taking steps to protect your sheep from diseases, pests, poisoning and grass seed infestations, you should also attend to their general health, wellbeing and welfare. This includes monitoring the nutrition in their diet, regularly shearing, and trimming horns and hooves.

Nutrition

Managing a balanced diet is crucial to keeping your sheep healthy. For detailed information on nutrition and what to feed sheep during their different stages of production, read about supplementary feeding for sheep.

Shearing sheep

You should regularly shear your sheep to reduce problems associated with heat stress, flystrike and lice.  Sheep with short wool are also more active and mobile, making them more able to graze.

Shearing rams

You should shear rams twice a year, at roughly 6-month intervals. One shearing should occur about 2-3 months before joining.

Find out more about managing rams for successful sheep breeding.

Trimming horns

Long horns on rams make handling the animals difficult and time consuming. Rams have no need of them, beyond protection during fighting.

Horn trimming is very stressful for sheep. You must properly restrain the ram to prevent serious injury. When trimming, it is recommended that you cut the horn about midway around the first curl from the head, level with the animal's ear. This will normally result in a small amount of bleeding but will not cut into the 'meat' of the horn.

If horns are cut too short, rams can become susceptible to flystrike.

Trimming hooves

Sheep with overgrown hooves, particularly rams, will have difficulty walking far enough to get the maximum nutritional benefit from available pasture.

You should use hoof trimmers or a good pair of garden secateurs. Regular trimming will prevent any need to cut deeply to get the hoof back to its original size and shape, which can result in some temporary lameness. When trimming hooves you must restrain the animal properly to prevent injury to the sheep and yourself.

Welfare of sheep

You have a duty of care to look after your sheep. Find out about your responsibilities by reading the code of practice for the welfare of sheep.

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