Flock Management Highlights:
De-worming. Take a few fecal samples to the vet to check for worm load. De-worm the flock
with the vet-recommended de-wormer, plus 10cc Garlic Barrier and 10cc Apple Cider Vinegar.
Also, in the Fall I give the sheep Cod Liver Oil at the rate of 5cc per ewe and 6cc per ram. This
helps them carry vitamins A and D for the next several months and use it as needed. For more
information about de-worming, scroll down to the section on natural de-worming.
Protein. We provide a protein block or lick to the ewe flock at this time of year - it helps them
maintain condition as the pasture lessens. For the rams and wethers, I increase the amount of
Chopped Alfalfa hay they receive with their tri-weekly supplements. They enjoy it and I find it
much less wasteful than providing Alfalfa hay. For more information about supplements, scroll
down to the section on Supplements, vitamins, and minerals.
Water. Purchase and use a water-trough heater. I can't tell you how important it is to have
this before you have ice. Once your water is completely frozen-over, and four inches thick, the
water heater will be almost useless. Drinking cold water slows the function of the rumen and
can lead to loss of condition.
Minerals. Keep the salt/minerals dry, or they will be useless.
(scroll down for "regular maintenance and management")
Worming. There are a few important things to know about internal parasites. The life
cycle of the worm depends largely on the grazing habits of the sheep and the
environmental conditions. Most worms enter the sheep through the mouth (others
through the nose) while the sheep is grazing. They can remain in the stomach of the
sheep throughout their life cycle, and if they are expelled, they can remain in the ground
until consumed by another sheep, and start the process over again. Warm and humid
conditions are the most favorable for the worm to live outside the sheep. Here are a few
things you can do to lessen the sheep’s chances of becoming overrun with worms:
1) Rotating the sheep so they do not graze on the same pasture too long can cut back
on a sheep’s worm load (or having your sheep graze on a piece of land that is so large
that they worms die before being consumed by the sheep, because your sheep have so
2) When you feed your sheep hay, be sure you feed them in a feeder off the ground.
3) Take care when you worm, and how you worm. Use the correct de-wormer for the
kind of worm your sheep has. How do you know what kind of worm? Have a fecal
sample taken to your vet to determine what kind of worms you are dealing with.
4) Your sheep having access to proper minerals and vitamins helps the sheep naturally fight
off worms, and especially having the proper balance of copper in their system can significantly
reduce the worms’ ability to reproduce within the sheep. Please read more about copper and
its place in the sheep’s diet.
When you worm your sheep, rotate them to a new pasture. Only worm sheep that are in need
of being wormed. If you worm too often, worms will build up a resistance to the wormer. These
are called “super worms”. Sheep can also develop super worms if they are wormed with the
same wormer over and over again.
How can you tell if your sheep need to be wormed? Any one of these following
conditions: loss of condition, persistent clear snotty nose, anemia (light colored gums
and membranes around the eyes, swelling under the jaw known as bottle jaw), coughing, loss
of appetite and alertness.
Please remember to follow the instructions on any drug, or the instructions given to you by a
vet. Some de-wormers are safe to double and triple dose, but others can be lethal.
When consulting my vet, the only natural de-wormer I mentioned that caught his attention was
Garlic Barrier. This ultra-concentrated garlic extract given regularly can really knock out the
worms. We give 10cc per sheep approximately once every 6 weeks.
There are a few other natural de-wormers available. I use a combination of them in addition to
specific de-worming when necessary. One item I use is diatomaceous earth,
it is made up of the microscopic exoskeletons of ancient organisms. They literally cut the
worms up and kill them.
A product called Basic-H, added to your flock’s drinking water for three days in a row (we do
this once per month) will break down the worms’ protective outer layer and allow them to be
killed by your sheep’s stomach acid. This practice is more effective against stomach worms
than worms that can travel other places in the sheep’s body.
Some people prefer to de-worm with chemical wormer just before starting a natural de-
wormer regimen. I encourage you to check the condition of your sheep often, to be sure
they are handling their worm load, and do not become overrun with worms, no matter
what your preferred worming regimen.
Here is the info on "Garlic Barrier." www.garlicbarrier.com. Click on the following
link to read a scientific study on the effectiveness of using Garlic Barrier as a wormer in
sheep. Garlic Barrier is also approved for use in raising organic livestock. In order to use the
correct dilution of Garlic Barrier, you must purchase the 1 gallon size. The smaller sizes are
too diluted to be used in accordance to the study.
Minerals and vitamins are essential to life. Traditionally the sheep industry has told us that
sheep have a low tolerance of copper (it’s toxic), so you should be mindful of the copper
content in supplements or sweet feeds. If you own other livestock such as cows, goats, and
horses, keep their salt and other supplements out of reach of sheep, as they usually carry a
much higher copper content than sheep can handle, and often uses the form of copper that is
more toxic. For example, 12ppm is pushing the limit for sheep, and many horse supplements
carry 45-65ppm of copper. We place our horses’ salt block on top of a sturdy fence post so
the sheep can’t reach it.
Quite often, the belief that copper is toxic comes from two observations: copper oxide is toxic to
sheep, and the “white” breeds of sheep are more sensitive to copper than the breeds of sheep
that have color. Please also understand that when we say breeds of sheep that have color,
that the white sheep within that breed are still considered to be a sheep with color. For
example, a white Icelandic sheep is still a sheep with color, because their white coat is a pattern
that covers every follicle, but genetically, they are a black or a brown sheep.
The breeds of sheep that have color often have a higher requirement for copper in their
system. Copper sulfate should be researched and included in their mineral mixes. Sampling
your local soil to determine the proper amounts for your flock is an important step to helping
them reach their optimal health. I highly recommend “Natural Sheep Care” by Pat Coleby for
more on this topic.
Provide a free choice, loose sheep mineral for the sheep. They should not be given a
block of salt. Shamrock and Purina both make loose sheep salt with selenium and it is
available at most feed stores. Make sure that it is kept dry, and that the sheep have a
constant supply. If they run out, the sheep may binge themselves when the minerals are
made available again, causing selenium poisoning. Selenium is essential, but also toxic
in large quantities. Selenium in most salt mixes is a byproduct of certain metals. Organic
selenium is far less toxic and is derived from yeast cultures. Natural and organic selenium
sources and products are hard to find, but worth the extra investment of time and money.
Vitamin E is essential, but lacking in many of our sheep’s diets. Water soluble vitamin E is
available from www.pipevet.com. Take extra care that sheep receive vitamin E in the hot days
of summer, and also during pregnancy. Vitamin E does not pass through the placental wall, so
the lamb must receive its vitamin E from the ewe’s milk. If the ewe is vitamin E deficient, she will
be unable to provide vitamin E for her lamb, and this may lead to white muscle disease. Some
shepherds choose to give vitamin E shots to newborn lambs.
Other supplements for sheep include:
Beet Pulp is an inexpensive and easy supplement. I have two older ewes that live mainly
off of beet pulp, rolled oats, kelp, and soybean meal, pumpkin seeds and flax. A 50 lb bag of
beet pulp should cost you no more than $10. Use 1 part beet pulp pellets and 3 parts water,
let sit for about 12 hours, until absorbed, then feed to sheep. This mush is easy to chew and
the sheep really love it. It easily holds other supplements that are finer such as kelp and
Nutritional value of Beet Pulp:
Crude Protein: 10%
Crude Fat: .5%
Whole or Rolled Oats Icelandic sheep are a primitive and hardy sheep. I have found that the
Whole or Rolled Oats are a better supplement when mixed with Beet Pulp than a traditional
supplement of COB. Whole or Rolled Oats are safer for your rams and not as "hot."
Soybean meal is a wonderful high protein supplement for your ewes in times of pregnancy,
lactation, or reduced quality of hay (such as in the winter). They love this stuff! It has a great
source of protein, but also helps the ewe to use her own metabolism, and helps her avoid
Soybean meal should be reserved for your ewes. It can cause burning in rams during
urination. That will make them cranky, and we don’t want that. Soybean meal should be
used in moderation. Only ¼ of a pound per ewe per day at most. It can be mixed with
soaked beet pulp very easily.
Nutritional Value of Soybean Meal:
Crude Protein: 46%
Crude Fat: 2%
Crude Fiber: 3.5%
In the summer, when sheep neglect their minerals, but need them the most, you can mix
soybean meal with their loose mineral mix to encourage them to eat it.
Kelp is a supplement that can be mixed with the loose mineral mix or other supplemental feeds
and provides wonderful benefits to sheep. Kelp is part of the sheep’s natural diet in Iceland. It
improves wool quality, reduces wool break, and improves their health from the inside out. Kelp
helps the sheep use the selenium they have taken in from the minerals, and can help them
resist heat stress in the summer. So, where can you buy kelp? We have had good luck finding
it at our local feed store, but if you can’t, here is a place that will ship it to you: www.noamkelp.
Apple Cider Vinegar (preferably unpasteurized), used as a drench or mixed with the water
supply, acts as a natural antibiotic and cleans the system. It improves wool quality and helps
sheep resist disease naturally. We mix the apple cider vinegar into their water troughs on a
regular basis. We also drench them with 10cc Apple Cider Vinegar, and 10cc Garlic Barrier
about once a month.
"We have been using cider vinegar on our flock now since 2002 and believe the
improvement in overall health and wool quality can be directly attributed to the cider
vinegar. We add 1/4 gallon to a 30 gallon water trough at least once a week and more
often during the hot weather. Every time we handle an individual animal, we drench them
with 10-20 cc. of cider vinegar mixed 1:1 with water. I am now infusing garlic in their
drench vinegar in order to obtain the health benefits of garlic (put 4 heads of garlic,
chopped into a quart of cider vinegar and let sit for two weeks; mix 1:1 with water and
save for drenching)" --Laurie Ball-Gisch, Lavender Fleece.
Garlic boosts sheep’s immune system. Infuse garlic in your apple cider vinegar drench,
or chop it finely and serve mixed with wet cob. See the above section on Natural
Wormers for more info on Garlic and concentrated liquid Garlic (called Garlic Barrier).
Drenches for Sheep
In communicating with several of my fellow shepherds, it has become popular to use a
homemade drench for the sheep to ensure they are receiving the nutrients you feel are best
for them. Often times when supplements are put in a drinking supply, or when left available for
free choice, the shepherd may feel that not all of the sheep are receiving all they need. I am
constantly learning new ways to improve my flock management. That includes learning all I can
and watching my flock for their improvements with the treatments that I try on my farm. I
encourage you to do the same. Never stop asking questions and always watch your animals to
see if they are benefiting from what you give them.
Drenches are often used for de-worming and improving the mineral/vitamin balance within the
A simple drench for natural de-worming, immunity booster, and vitamin boost is:
10cc Garlic Barrier
10cc Apple Cider Vinegar (preferably unpasteurized)
20cc Sheep Nutri-Drench
That is 40cc total per sheep, given orally.
This drench is safe to give to any member of your flock. I try to give this drench about once
per month or every 6 weeks.
2x per year drench
In May and in September I add a special ingredient to the “Simple Drench” listed above. I add
6cc of Cod Liver Oil for each ram, and 5cc for each ewe. Cod Liver Oil is an excellent source
of vitamins A and D and Omega 3 fatty acids that can help the sheep through the hot summer
months, and increase their health through breeding time (allowing the ewes to retain more of
their fertilized eggs). You can read more about the benefits of Cod Liver Oil in Pat Coleby’s
book “Natural Sheep Care.” You don’t have to spend a bundle on Cod Liver Oil for your
sheep. Most of the cod liver oil you find in the stores are for human consumption and have
been highly marketed as fountains of youth. As such they have been extremely overpriced.
You can find cod liver oil for your livestock at amazon, by clicking on the link listed below. Make
sure when you purchase Cod Liver Oil that it comes in an opaque container. Light depletes
If an animal appears to be anemic (that is, have light membranes) here is a drench to help
boost the iron in their blood, and to increase their copper, which can inhibit the worm load. You
should also consider that they may need additional de-worming, if you suspect that their
anemia is caused by an increased worm load. (Note: Copper can be toxic in high doses. Avoid
over-use of the drench listed below).
1 cup Garlic Barrier
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
¼ cup Liquid Vitamin E
1 cup Red Cell
1 cup molasses (preferably organic),
Mix well and dose at a rate of 30-60cc per adult sheep and 15-30cc per lamb. The above
amounts make enough for about 20 doses. Give no more often than every 3-4 weeks.
Preferably, you would only need to use this drench in times of intense worm load and anemia.
Please consider using this in more of the summer months, and giving the sheep a break from
the Red Cell in the winter, to prevent any build up of toxic amounts of copper in their liver.
Avoid giving Wethers highly-soluble carbohydrates. This can lead to water belly (also
known as urinary calculi, or urinary stones). The treatment is long, and this condition
can easily lead to death. For urinary tract health, you can give your wethers ½ cup of
cranberry juice twice a week (make sure it’s 100% juice, or you’re just giving your sheep
sugar). One of my wethers (Floki) loves the stuff, and slurps it up, but his brother (Flosi)
doesn't care for it, so I give it to him in an oral syringe. Check with your feed store or vet
to find out which of your supplements have high levels of highly-soluble carbohydrates
Diagnosing urinary calculi should be done by a vet. However, here are some signs to
look for: loss of appetite and alertness. Lack of urination. Bloated underbelly and
Treatment: ¼ tsp ammonium carbonate in water (or cranberry juice and water) daily for 3
months. Ammonium carbonate is an appetite suppressant, so be sure that your wether
is getting enough to eat while on the medication. Do not start any medication regimen
without consulting a vet.
Preventing Urinary Calculi is easier than treating it. Prevention includes supplementing
with ground limestone, and/or avoiding feeding highly soluble carbohydrates to rams and
Icelandic sheep are traditionally shorn twice a year (Early March, before lambing, and
September, before breeding and slaughtering meat lambs).
Here are some tips on how to prepare your sheep for shearing day:
1) Keep the sheep dry, penned for easy catching (we bring them in the night before,
sometimes earlier if it's rainy).
2) Make sure they are empty-bellied. (we have the shearer come in the morning and we
hold breakfast until after shearing is done)
3) Have lots of help. Have people to sweep up, get a new sheep for the shearer, take
the finished sheep to their pen, pick up the newly shorn fleece and bag/tag accordingly.
4) Make sure the shearing area is well lit, dry, flat, and has access any requirements the
shearer needs (electricity, a large piece of ply wood to shear on).
5) Have water and something to eat for the shearer.
Why do I shear the sheep before lambing?
I shear the sheep about 4 weeks before lambing for several reasons:
1) I don't want to fuss with them too much past 4 weeks from lambing time. This might
injure the lambs or stress the moms.
2) Shearing before lambing has the following advantages:
-A recently-sheared ewe will seek shelter and take her lambs to shelter more efficiently
than a ewe with a full fleece.
-You can tell when a ewe is developing an udder or when she is getting close to lambing
without a bunch of fleece in your way.
-You can judge the condition of your ewe in late pregnancy more accurately without
fleece to deceive you.
-Lambs will find the teat a lot easier without a lot of fleece to confuse them.
-You will be able to tell if the lamb has found the teat without fleece in your way.
-No dirty dung tags for the baby to fiddle with.
-Fluids from birth will not ruin your fleece if you've already sheared.
-Hay from the lambing jug will not ruin your fleece if you're already sheared.
I try to trim feet every time I handle my sheep. In the warmer months when the sheep are
on pasture and spend their days walking and grazing, their feet usually ware naturally
and I find that my trimming is not needed. Still I find it necessary to check their feet
often. Neglecting your sheep's feet can lead to much more serious problems than just
long feet, including lameness and Foot Rot. Bacteria can collect under the feet and can
lead to foot rot (however, the entire North American Icelandic Sheep flock is Foot Rot
When trimming, the idea is to trim off the excess growth around the toe and wall of the
foot, while leaving the sole and heel (the padded underside). Clear excess dirt and built-
up muck from between the "toes" and any that may be stuck to the underside of the foot.
Find a trimming tool that works for you. I prefer small rose trimmers. These fit in my hands
easily and I can fit them in any direction against the foot that works for me. They cost about $5
at your local hardware store.
Helping your sheep cope with heat.
You can help the sheep cope with heat (anything above 80 degrees F) using the following tools:
Shear the sheep in the spring. If you missed out, it's not too late. Contact your shearer
and have the flock shorn. If you can't afford to have everyone done, at least get the rams, the
older ewes, and the weakest members of the flock shorn. Rams risk impotency for weeks,
months and even permanently if they spend excessive time in the heat. The hotter they get,
the longer the condition may last.
Cod Liver Oil in the spring: In the Spring and Fall I give my sheep Cod Liver Oil at the rate
of 5cc per adult ewe and 6cc per adult ram. This definitely helps the rams cope with the heat
and avoid impotency. It has also been shown to provide the sheep with valuable vitamins A &
D stored in the body and released throughout the summer. Don't spend all your money on
fancy health-store Cod Liver Oil. I found a gallon of it on Amazon.
Shade & water: provide ample shade for the sheep. Large trees, shelters, or an open barn
are good places for the sheep to cool off. Fill extra buckets of water with vitamin-E (see below)
and place in the shady spots so that sheep don't have to move far for water during the hottest
part of the day.
Minerals and Kelp: Provide free-choice minerals at all times. Adding kelp to the mineral mix
(at a rate of 2 parts minerals to 1 part Kelp) will help the sheep maintain and use their valuable
selenium. In the summer, when sheep neglect their minerals but need them the most, you can
mix soybean meal with the mineral mix for the ewes to encourage them to eat it (the rate would
be 2 parts minerals, 1 part Kelp, 1 part soybean meal).
Additionally, I add Kelp to the flock's daily dish of soaked beet pulp & rolled oats.
Apple Cider Vinegar: We add ACV every time we re-fill the water trough. It acts as a natural
antibiotic, and we find it helps the sheep maintain their health in every season.
Liquid Vitamin E: I can't stress enough how important it is to add Vitamin E to the sheep's
water supply every single day that it is projected to be above 80 degrees. This helps the
sheep use the selenium in their body. Available at www.pipevet.com
I find that soaked beet pulp is a great little mush that allows me to mix in other supplements that
are more difficult to give the sheep. I can sprinkle on Kelp, Soybean meal (extra protein for the
ewes), or Probiotic powder. During a heat wave, when I worry about heat stress and loose
poops, I sprinkle in some powdered Priobios on the soaked beet pulp just before mixing in the
kelp and oats.
Other tips for the summer:
Parasites (worms or coccidia): Watch for loose poops and at the earliest sign of stress
diarrhea, do the following:
Take a sample to the vet and treat for the parasites reported by the vet according to their
Give the sheep pepto bismol and 5cc Probios gel every 12 hours until poops return to normal.
Clean the animals rear completely. Cut off any dung tags. Gently and lightly spray the rear of
the sheep with an equine fly spray to prevent Fly Strike.
Anemia: Check the sheep's eye and gum membranes for pinkness. Any light membranes may
be carrying an excess load of parasites, causing anemia. You should probably have a fecal
sample sent to the vet to let you know what kind of parasite you're dealing with.
To boost the iron levels of your sheep in general, or to help them recover in addition to
worming as recommended by your vet (as a result of that fecal sample), you can use the
Anemia Drench described below. You can also provide raw sunflower seeds in the morning
feeding ritual. If Anemia Drench is not an option for you, you can also use injectable iron, at
the rate described on the bottle, usually 1cc per dosage, not to be repeated within 10 days. I
find the Anemia Drench to be much more effective than injectable iron. Please note the
product called Red Cell does contain copper. Some breeds of sheep are sensitive to copper.
Many breeds that display colored genes have less of a sensitivity to copper. It has been shown
that a healthy level of copper can help the sheep fight off parasites, including the Barberpole
worm. I have found that the Red Cell ingredient, when used sparingly, has not shown ill effects
on the sheep. I am careful not to repeat the treatment within 3 weeks, and it is not often
needed. Copper is stored in the liver, so repeated use may result in a toxic build-up. Use your
Things to avoid:
Avoid providing molasses (or feeds sweetened with molasses) to the sheep during the hot
months, as it makes them attractive to flies.
Avoid getting the sheep wet. Some days it may be tempting to hose-off the sheep, but getting
them wet can attract flies, and even lead to Fly Strike. This may also lead to felted fleeces, and
ruin your fall fleece crop.
Shopping list for the summer:
Probiotics (Probios gel and Probios powder)
Selenium-E gel (www.pbsanimalhealth.com)
Screw Worm Aerosol (for treating FlyStrike)
Sheep Salt with Selenium
Equine fly-spray (I prefer Marigold Spray by EqQyss)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Liquid Vitamin E (www.pipevet.com)
My "Free-Sample" theory: In the evenings, when the temperatures have cooled and the
sheep are ready for dinner, I stroll through the flock checking for anyone that looks overly-
stressed, has loose-poops, or seems ill. I carry with me a tube of Priobios gel and a tube of
Selenium-E gel (available at www.pbsanimalhealth.com). I offer each of these products to the
sheep on a "free sample" basis. I let them check out the tube and it if seems like something
they need, they often take hold of it and I press the dosage into their mouth. I keep track of
who has chosen each of the tubes. I will let the sheep have one dose per day of the Probios if
they choose, and one dosage of the Selenium-E gel every week during a heat wave. I have
found that this method can help fine tune their ability to cope with the heat.
Inevitably you will have some sheep that enjoy taking samples, and some that avoid you. For
example: Fjola will take anything in an oral syringe that you offer -- over and over again. I have
to push her away to let other sheep have a try. I need to keep in mind that she doesn't "need"
that much probios (or anything else for that matter). On the other hand, Huldis is 12 years old
but still avoids humans as much as she can. I know that she'll never choose to take anything
from me so I make it a point to find her during hot days and dose her according to her specific
condition. Since you know your sheep best, you should use your best judgement about free
Why all this talk about Selenium? I live in the Pacific Northwest -- a Selenium-defficient
area. My local grass hay and pasture grass are lacking in this vital mineral. You should
become familiar with the needs of your local area so that you can better address the needs of