Shetlands are landrace or unimproved breed, which is to say they haven’t had all the qualities bred out of them. While many sheep over the years have been cross and re-cross bred with the goal to produce more wool, or more meat, Shetlands have not, for the most part, and the purebred Shetland had been saved from this fate through the hard work of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Because of this Shetlands have retained all the hardiness, ease of lambing, thriftiness and longevity that they have possessed for centuries. Shetlands are a small bred of sheep, which allows for more sheep on small acreages as well as ease of handling. They are friendly and endearing even wagging a tail when scratched under the chin.
Usually you shear once a year in the late winter, February or March. This is about six weeks before the ewes have their lambs. There are several good reasons to shear at this time as you can keep track of the ewes’ condition and the sheep tend to stay closer to the barn with the newborn lambs. Some Shetlands will “heave” their fleece in early summer and you may want to have them professionally sheared again or hand shear them yourself.
Shetland wool is the softest of the British breeds and comes in many different colors. You can sell the fleeces or have them professionally spun, spin the wool and sell or use the yarn yourself for creative knitting or weaving projects. Fleeces can be sent to a woolen mill and Shetland blankets can be made.
Because Shetlands are smaller and friendlier than most sheep, 4 ft. Fencing will do. Traditional livestock fencing will work, but if you are putting new fencing up we suggest horse no-climb or simple “hog panels”. Electric fencing works well also. Needless to say, barbed wire will not work as the sheep will catch their wool in the barbs.
It could be as simple as a three-sided shelter for the sheep to keep out of the rain, snow or wind. If your farm is located where temperature is frequently below zero degrees farenheit you will be better off with a barn, as when lambing time comes it offers the best protection for the sheep and new born lambs, as well as the Shepard. Be very sure the barn is well ventilated and dry. Provide about four square feet for each sheep.
All sheep prior to lambing get a cd/t shot. This stands for clostridium perfringens types c and d – tetanus toxoid. Worming is something you need to do also. I would discuss worming with your veterinarian. We worm three times a year and may send out fecal specimens for a vet check to appraise how our sheep are doing on the worming regime. We also always have free choice salt available for the sheep, it’s not a medicine but they need it.
With rotational grazing, good pasture will support ten Shetlands per acre. If it is an unimproved pasture it may support five Shetlands per acre.
It really depends on what kind of land they are on. If you have them on just grass and dirt then it may be twice a year or more. We have a hill that is mostly rock (one of their favorite spots) and lots of gravel pathways. Most will need hooves trimmed at shearing and that is enough, a few require a second trimming. Shetland hooves deal with moisture well and Shetlands are well known for rarely getting hoof rot.
No. True Shetlands sheep have a fluked shaped tail that is four to six inches long.
Go to state fairs, livestock shows and get on the Internet to NASSA, North American Shetland Sheep Association. Talk to the breeders at the shows. It depends on what your purpose or goal is regarding your getting a Shetland. Do you want a few sheep for a small acreage and the children? Would you like to show your animals or bred for a larger flock and sell breeding stock? If you want to spin or are a spinner you will want to look for quality of fleece and color. My suggestion is to meet breeders and make an appointment to come out to the farm and see the sheep. I have met the most wonderful group of people connected to Shetland sheep … absolutely the salt of the earth folks, very dedicated to preserving Shetlands, who love to share their knowledge and love of the breed.
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