The Book Stall
The Sheep Book
A Handbook for the Modern Shepherd

The Sheep Book
by Ron Parker
Swallow Press, 2002

Structured to follow a ewe's biological clock, this manual on sheep husbandry begins with the animal's growth to maturity. A chapter on "Building and Rebuilding" is followed by sections on flushing (a period of high nutrition), breeding, gestation, lambing, lactation and weaning.

The author, Ron Parker, is a veteran Minnesota sheep farmer who combined his personal experience with the current findings of animal science to produce the first edition of this guide in 1983. It is updated in this edition with new information on breeds, banned medicines, insemination methods, and cloning.

For the homesteader, small farmer or suburban homeowner interested in livestock, sheep are ideal, according to Parker. “They are hardy and healthy. Except for an occasional aggressive ram or uppity ewe they are gentle and submissive. They are small enough for a good-sized child or senior citizen to handle. They give both superlative meat and a fiber that has no peer.”

Possibly the best primer on raising sheep for beginner shepherd, Parker's book offers detailed advice on acquiring sheep, taking care of them and marketing their wool or meat. Chapters on medications, economics and nutrition are complemented with nutritional tables and resource lists.

"Sheep haven't changed much since 1983, but many things about sheep stewardship have changed," Parker explains in the preface to this new edition. "New breeds are appearing in North America. A milk sheep industry is growing slowly. New shepherds are learning their ways with sheep, and new flocks are being started in many areas where sheep have not been common in the recent past."

Common to many of these operations, though, is a well-worn copy of The Sheep Book.

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The Sheep Book
The Sheep Book
A Handbook for the Modern Shepherd

While you are shepherding one lamb, the ewe may be getting ready to have nother one. If she has been jumpy and nervous and has not let the first lamb nurse, it may be that she feels the signs of another one coming. Be patient in getting the first lamb to the teat if another is on the way. A ewe who is going o have another lamb usually holds her tail straight out or even somewhat elevated. Also, if a water bag containing a yellow fluid protrudes from her vulva after the birth of one lamb, probably another will arrive.
Direct marketing to handspinners or selling to spinning and weaving shops is a small but vital part of the wool growing business. The single factor for success in this field is quality, and quality mostly means cleanliness. Handspinners want to do their spinning in their homes, not in a barn, and they understandably don't want wool that is full of vegetable matter like burrs, seeds, and alfalfa leaf, or filthy with dung or mineral dirt. If you want to compete in the handspinners' wool market, you will have to keep your wool clean, clean, clean.

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