Care of Sheep

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

Photo of our Ram, Budweiser at adulthood.

Photo of our Ram, Budweiser as a ram lamb.

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

The famous Babydoll smile that these sheep are known for.

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

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. 

Here is an article from NABSSAR Sheep Registry on next steps. When you purchase registered sheep, you'll need to apply for membership and transfer them into your name. Here is how you can do it with NABSSAR, and here with BSSBA.  For our registered sheep, they are part of North American Babydoll Southdown Sheep Association and Registry (NABSSAR), Olde English "Babydoll" Southdown Sheep Registry (OEBMSSR), or Babydoll Southdown Sheep Breeders Association International (BSSBA International). 

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. 

Can I just get just one sheep?

Sheep are flock animals. Therefore, they always need at least one other sheep flock member.

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 3 sheep shearers that generally see Southern California: 

Fred Flory


Graciano Hernandez

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 in 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

East County Large Animal

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

What about deworming? 

We appreciate deworming as a way to keep our livestock healthy. That said, we do not believe in routine deworming (except in recently lambed ewes or lambs) 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 MidAmerica Ag Research) for analysis before deworming. This will help you decide if you need to treat at all, and furthermore, treat appropriately for the parasites that are actually present, if applicable. The ideal 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 (Purina Honor ShowChow Lamb, either textured or processed grain, whichever we can find) in extremely small handfuls as treats or to pregnant ewes as part of flushing. This is usually available at a local feed store, although sometimes we need to ask that it be ordered in. 

We also always have Sheep specific Minerals (Purina Sheep Mineral) and offer free choice Baking Soda that we buy in bulk from Costco. They do nibble on both as they need. You can also offer plain livestock salt as an added option.  Please remember to never offer minerals that are formulated for goats or other animals, as it may contain copper, which is toxic to sheep. 

Want to learn more? There are several Facebook 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.