Care of Sheep

Photo of lamb
Photo of lamb
Photo of Ram
Photo of yearling lambs
Photo of yearling lambs and dog
Photo of lambs

First lambs born at McCarthy Ranchette, twin black ram lambs.

Photo of ram, named Budweiser

Photo of our Ram, Budweiser at adulthood.

Photo of lamb

Photo of Ginny's ewe lamb, a twin, born in Spring 2023.

Photo of lambs and ewe
Photo of lambs and ewe

The famous Babydoll smile that these sheep are known for.

Photo of lamb

Where do I start to learn about Babydoll Sheep and their care? 

This is information about the Babydoll breed. 

This book is extremely useful, and contains a lot of very helpful information around fencing, feeding, disease prevention, maintenance and more:

Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep

Here is the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Sheep from the Canadian National Farm Animal Care Council, which I found to be helpful as well. If you enjoy more in depth reading, you can dig into articles in the Merck Veterinary Manual and reach out to your vet with questions. 

What types of questions should you ask the breeder of your sheep? Here is an article on some things to look for. We welcome all questions! 

Please read up on Johne's Disease and don't be afraid to ask your breeder what they do to ensure biosecurity on their property, health testing, including fecal testing, and more. 

Should I get a small first aid kit together?

Click here for some recommendations from us on what to keep in your kit to start. 

Can I just get just one sheep?

Sheep are flock animals. Therefore, they always need at least one other sheep flock member. We do not sell to homes that don't already have at least one other sheep.

Can I keep sheep on my property?

You'll need to make sure that your property is zoned for sheep and that your county allows sheep on your specific property. There are also rules for how many sheep you can have. If your property is safe for the sheep to graze on, they will keep the pasture trim in no time. The more space you have for grazing, the less you'll have to supplement with additional hays. Here is information on Babydoll Sheep weeding from the OEBMSSR. 

How often do Babydoll sheep need to be shorn and have their hooves trimmed and vaccines performed? 

For sheering, it's best to have sheep shearers lined up before you purchase sheep. We shear dependent on the weather and state of pregnant ewes, but generally in Southern California, yearly around March. Make sure they sheer Babydolls and come to your area. Here are a couple sheep shearers that generally see Southern California: 

Fred Flory


Click here for the California Wool Growers Shearer Directory for more contacts. 

** Important note: if you live in an area that has some Foxtail or foxtail type grasses, get into the habit of checking deep within the eye duct pocket of the sheep while you are trimming their feet. Right in front of the sheep eye duct, there is a pocket area with a bone in front of it. This is where the foxtails like to hide. Pull out any foxtail grass seeds that may have lodged in this area before it causes any problems. Also check ears and around the mouth. 

Check every 2 months, but generally, every 3 months for hoof trimming is good. We like this hoof trimmer. We vaccinate our sheep yearly (generally around shearing time, although exceptions apply for pregnant sheep to pass along antibodies, check with your DVM), and boosters are required for lambs.  For CD/T , we use this vaccine (or this one) at 2ml each sheep and these needles (18 or 20 gage and 1/2 inch) and syringes (3ml Luer Lock). Communicate with your local livestock veterinarian for further recommendations on recommended vaccinations in your area. Here is a good article from Clemson University on vaccination protocol. 

San Diego Livestock Veterinarians: 

Dr. Jorge Aranda, San Diego South and East Counties, CA

East County Large Animal Practice, El Cajon, CA.

Dr. Robin Perry, Carlsbad, CA.

Catching them to do any kind of procedures can be tricky with some lambs and adults, so we use this Shepherd's crook

What about deworming? 

We appreciate deworming as a way to keep our livestock healthy. That said, we do not believe in routine deworming, as we do believe you can over worm, and create other issues.  An affordable way to do this is to work with your veterinarian for a program, and discuss sending off fecal samples from your sheep (either through your veterinarian, or through an accredited laboratory, like UC Davis Laboratory) for analysis before deworming. This will help you decide if you need to treat, and furthermore, treat appropriately for the parasites that are actually present, if at all. A good time to do a fecal exam is once in the Spring and once in the Fall.  If deworming is then recommended by your veterinarian, they may recommend Ivomec drench (oral) or injectable, Panacur drench or Valbazen drench (not for use in pregnant animals), and you may need a DVM approval to purchase. 

Where do I buy sheep supplies? 

We have found good luck locally at feed stores, although online works great as well, and at Premier1, you can also call to speak to sheep experts for additional advice. We have found them to be very helpful with advice around fencing (either electric or permanent sheep fencing) to help maintain predator safe environment for the sheep. 


Valley Vet

What do I need to feed them?

Olde English Babydoll Sheep are known for generally being easy keepers. Good pasture is the easiest way to feed them. We make sure they are locked up at night with hay, generally Orchard/Teff/Bermuda mix, and let them into the pasture late morning after the mist has dried off, staying there to graze all day.  We only give Alfalfa to pregnant ewes as a treat when they are pregnant or nursing.  We have had amazing luck choking out weeds like Foxtails with pasture grass that is a cover crop with the annual Crimson Clover.  Information on sheep pasture from Cornell Small Farms. We ordered this annual seed (dies off in the summer) from our local feed store. Info on toxic plants: Toxic plants to livestock from UC Davis .

When the pasture dries up in late summer, we go back to only feeding the hay blend. We offer grain specific to sheep (copper is toxic to sheep, do not feed goat grain), either textured (preferred) or processed grain, in extremely small handfuls as treats to lambs as a creep feed and during weaning. This is usually available at a local feed store, although sometimes we need to ask that it be ordered in.  For pregnant or lactating ewes, we offer RSG Nutrition from Premier 1. 

We also always have Sheep specific Minerals (Purina Wind and Rain Sheep Mineral) and offer free choice Baking Soda that we buy in bulk from Costco. They do nibble on both as they need. Please remember to never offer minerals that are formulated for goats or other animals, as it has copper included. 

Want to learn more? There are several Facebook Babydoll sheep groups to learn more. We've also found local sheep groups in our area. Many shepherds/sheperdess' are on Instagram, and offer more sheep community.