Babydoll sheep are ruminants. I think "cow" as soon as I hear the term "ruminant". Though this is the dictionary's version of what ruminant means:
n. Any of various hoofed, even-toed, usually horned mammals of the sub order Ruminantia, such as cattle, sheep, goats, deer, and giraffes, characteristically having a stomach divided into four compartments and chewing a cud consisting of regurgitated, partially digested food.
I bought a few sheep books as we started into this adventure. I am learning that sheep will eat a diet consisting largely of good quality hay, though should be supplemented with mixed grain (and perhaps a small bit of whole corn) during mating season, lambing season, and until weaning. A mineral supplement should be provided freely, as should salt (and one author stated that free-running iodonized salt mixed with the grain/corn is much better than the salt blocks, as the sheep could break their teeth on the blocks). I am sure I will earn an opinion of this, once I have some experience under my belt. And clean, fresh water is always a must, regardless of what animal you are raising.
When it came time to have our sheep sheared, our shearer recommended we get some Kelp Meal to help improve the quality of the sheep's fleece. We did, and within weeks, literally, their fleece lifted, became less "sticky", and they all got a sparkle in their eyes and their ears perked right up. They now seem like happier sheep. Bio-Ag Consultants & Distributors is a local company just down the road from us in Wellesley, Ontario. Because they have such great, natural products, and because they are local, I have become a huge fan of Bio-Ag.
KEEPING YOUR BABYDOLL SHEEP HEALTHY
Because Babydoll Southdowns are an ancient breed, it is reported they are not prone to many of the modern sheep problems and are resistant to foot rot. In general, they are cared for like any other sheep which includes worming, hoof trimming, shearing, and vaccination. Don't forget a big dose of love and human interaction. The more time you spend with your Babydolls, the more opportunity for interaction.
If you require help figuring out a feed rations plan for your Babydoll flock, you can contact the ruminant feed specialist at your local feed mill. I figured my ration schedule out using formulas I found in Agricultural Journals, and as a result, we now have a healthier flock producing healthier, thriving lambs!
A resource manual I purchased, on the recommendation of the breeder I purchased my sheep from in Vermont, USA, is Laura Lawson's book "Managing your Ewe and her newborn lambs". This has been a helpful tool for me, and when I get asked questions about sheep care, I refer to this book. Please ask me if you would like to purchase a copy of this book. Please do pick it up. It is a most helpful resource.
The generic sheep books on how to raise a sheep and being a successful shepherd are all wonderful resources, though I am yet to come across something that is Olde English Babydoll sheep breed specific. So these sheep books have to be absorbed, and you then need to improvise, as the amounts and measures given in a book for, say a serving of hay, will be much different for a sheep who weighs 160 lbs, than a Babydoll ewe which might weigh 75 lbs. Books are great tools, the internet is a great tool, and above all, experience and patience are the best tools. Below is some basic information that I was able to find online at the Mock Registry website;
"Babydolls require the same care as other sheep breeds such as hoof trimming, worming, vaccinations, and yearly shearing. The handling facilities and feed are not as costly as with larger breeds. Shelter can be minimal, except at lambing time. Good fences are essential, more for protection from predators than containment since Babydolls do not typically challenge fences and tend not to wander far. We will be investing in some portable, electric mesh fencing, which will be a great addition to the permanent fencing we have around our paddock.
Feed, salt and mineral supplement are important for a sheep's good health, but feeding a sheep anything containing copper could prove to be detrimental. Any feed, salt or mineral that has copper in it must be keep out of reach of any sheep. Invest in a good quality hay, and don't be afraid to shy away from unconventional feed such a fallen leaves, veggies, and fruit. Your time will be an important tool for saving you money, while keeping your sheep healthy and happy.
The Babydoll's wooly teddy bear face is unusual and charming, and always makes our guests smile. Their short legs along with their small size allows them the ability to do well in small areas. They are ideal for hobby farm owners who may not own large plots of land, though dream of the tranquility of sheep ownership. Both ewes and rams are polled (have no horns) and are non-aggressive by nature. The ewes are very good mothers, often raising twins and triplets with ease."
Since arriving back at our farm at the end of November 2009 with our new flock of sheep, I have had a chance to investigate new-to-me products for our sheep. I believe that proper nutrition is part of a preventive maintenance plan for our sheep. I feel that if we feed them properly, with the best products available, that this, in part, will "help keep the doctor away".
I use the Bio-Ag Sheep Vitamin/Mineral premix which is 100% absorbed by the sheep because of the chelated minerals. Probiotics, Flax Oil, Natural Trace Mineral Salt, Diatomaceous Earth, and dog food are just some of the Bio-Ag products that I use and love. These are healthy, natural products for our beloved animals. Great food is a great investment!
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