Shepherd’s Calendar

The calendar starts with May because that is when most new shepherds begin their flocks.


  • Check your fences before bringing home new sheep.
  • Check your pasture for toxic plants.
  • Give new sheep hay before turning them onto lusher pasture than they are used to.
  • Check for keds and treat your sheep if you see even one ked.


  • Practice pasture rotation.
  • Provide plenty of water, salt, and mineral/vitamin mix.
  • Watch for fly-strikes (cluster of tiny eggs) and maggots.
  • Keep rear ends trimmed to discourage flies.


  • Provide shade for your sheep in hot weather.
  • Provide 1 to 2 gallons of cool, fresh water daily for each adult sheep
  • Check the feet of limping sheep; trim hooves if necessary.
  • Check for parasites by fecal count and deworm if necessary. Record data of deworming.

If you are planning for fall breeding:

  • Put your ram in a shaded area near the ewe.
  • Shear the ram’s scrotum to keep him cool.
  • Start flushing the ewe before you plan to bring in the ram for breeding
  • Body-condition ewes.


  • Continue to provide shade.
  • Consider necessary parasite prevention and deworm if necessary.
  • Consider purchasing hay and/or grain for winter. Store grain in rodent-proof containers that sheep cannot get into.

If you are planning for January lambing:

  • For early lambs, keep the ram in a shady place during the day and bring him in at night.
  • Maintain ram condition; give him ¼ – ½ pound of grain daily if necessary.
  • Keep the ram with your ewe for at least 6 weeks so they have two chances or more for mating. A marking harness on the ram will indicate that mating is occurring.
  • Mark on your calendar the date you turned in the ram with the ewe, so you will know the earliest date to expect the lambing. Also mark the date if you observe any mating take place.
  • Body-condition ewes.


  • Locate a place to purchase your winter supply of hay.
  • Have water, salt, and mineral/vitamin supplement always available to sheep.
  • Make a list of repairs needed on shelter, fencing, and equipment, and start the repairs before cold weather.
  • Continue parasite control. If you are deworming, be sure to read the label for any precautions about timing before slaughter.
  • Get sizable lambs to market. Shear them first, or ask for their pelts if you have a good wool market.
  • Clean out where you plan to store winter hay; save the manure you collect and spread it on the vegetable garden.
  • If you have apples, feed a few (but not too many at once) to sheep. Set aside some windfalls for winter.

If you are breeding your sheep:

  • For late lambs, flush the ewe (add grain to diet) and then bring in the ram.
  • Reduce grain gradually after flushing.
  • Record dates when you see breeding take place.


  • Clean out sheep sheds and barn and spread sheep manure on garden.
  • Have your winter hay and feed plan ready.
  • Clean out and check your waterers; winterize the faucets.

If you are breeding your sheep:

  • If your ram harness indicates no activity, purchase or borrow another ram.
  • Note that the ewes of some breeds may quit cycling by late January.
  • Check over your lambing supplies. Order supplies by mail if necessary.
  • Make lamb jugs.
  • Body-condition ewes.


  • Keep grain in rodent-proof containers and take steps to get rid of rodents.
  • Order antibiotics and store them in a refrigerator for emergencies.
  • If any of your sheep are limping, check hooves and trim or treat if necessary.

If you have bred your sheep:

  • Check your lambing supplies. Order ear tags, if you plan to use them.
  • Separate the ram from pregnant ewes so he doesn’t injure them.
  • Body-condition sheep and adjust ration accordingly. If the ram is run-down, feed him well.
  • Add a small amount of stock molasses to the pregnant ewes’ drinking water.
  • Make lamb jugs if you haven’t already.


  • Put molasses into ewes’ drinking water to keep the water from freezing and to add sugar to the ewes’ diet.

If you have bred your sheep:

  • Crotch the ewes to prepare them for lambing. Remove dirty tags from their udder and legs.
  • Begin checking the udder of each pregnant ewe; if an ewe’s udder is hard and lumpy, she may have no milk, and you should be prepared to bottle-feed her lamb.
  • Four weeks before lambing time, begin feeding ewes’ ¼ – ½ pound of grain daily with their hay.
  • If an ewe is listless, she may have pregnancy toxemia; call your veterinarian.
  • Consider calcium supplement for your pregnant ewes if their diet is low in calcium.
  • Body-condition sheep to evaluate if they need supplemental nutrition.


If you have bred your sheep:

  • Watch pregnant ewes carefully for signs of labor. Now may be the time to start nightly lamb checks.
  • Be sure pregnant ewes are getting exercise.
  • If an ewe refuses to eat, she may have pregnancy toxemia or be about to lamb.
  • Crotch ewes if you haven’t done so.
  • Add molasses to pregnant ewes’ drinking water (1 cup per gallon).
  • Have clean, dry lambing pens ready.
  • After a lambing, put the ewe and the lamb into the jug. Strip the ewe’s teats and “snip and dip” the lamb’s umbilical cord. Make sure newborns get colostrums within 2 hours of birth. Give the ewe warm molasses water.
  • Dock lambs’ tails when they are 2 to 3 days old and castrate male lambs when they are about 10 days old. Ear-tag newborns with lamb tags and record birthing information.


  • Make sure salt is available.

If you have lambs:

  • Watch lambs to be sure that they are having normal bowel movements.
  • Watch twin lambs to be sure that one isn’t growing more rapidly than the other; if that happens, supplement the feed for the slower-growing lamb.
  • If an ewe loses a lamb, you may want to try grafting an orphan lamb.
  • Ear-tag lambs.
  • Check each ewe’s feet and trim and treat them, if necessary, before taking sheep out of the pen.
  • Give plenty of fresh, clean water.
  • Continue feeding grain to nursing ewes.
  • Prepare the lamb creep (an enclosure that allows lambs to enter for supplemental feeding, but prohibits older animals from entering).


  • Check sheep for parasites and if necessary deworm all sheep and restock deworming supplies.
  • Start shearing if weather permits. Keep mothers with their lambs as much as possible to avoid confusion. Do not shear wet sheep. Keep fleeces clean.
  • At shearing time or 10 days later, treat for keds if they are present or have been a problem with your flock.
  • Trim hooves at shearing time.
  • Clean out the barn or shed and put old hay and manure on the vegetable garden or spread over an area of the pasture that needs to be fertilized.


  • Place your feeder on well-drained ground to avoid hoof trouble.

If you have lambs:

  • Keep fresh water, salt and feed in the lamb creep.
  • If your management system is set up for it, let in lambs before turning ewes onto new pasture, so they can get the best of the grass.
  • Have your vet take a fecal count on lambs when they weigh about 40 pounds and deworm if necessary.
  • You may want to wean them at this time.
  • Before lambs are weaned, decrease the ewes’ grain ration and feed them only hay to reduce milk production.

From Storey’s Barn Guide to Sheep. Storey Publishing, LLC. Edited by Deborah Burns, Sarah Guare and Dale Perkins.