It is always fun to raise a new market lamb and easy to get exciting about the having your best show season ever. Start by knowing the ten essentials (plus three key tips) when starting your show lamb project.

1. Two Sheep Are Better Than One

Sheep are flock animals and thus like the company of other animals. Having more than one lamb will allow your lamb to relax faster in their new surroundings. They are also more likely to thrive with a companion, as well as, stay on feet and be more enthusiastic about eating if they perceive a natural competition for food.

2. Housing

Prior to getting your sheep home you should prepare a clean, dust free pen to house your sheep. If you are going to exercise your lambs daily, an 8’ x 12’ pen is sufficient for two lambs. If you are not going to be exercising your lambs each day plan on having at least a 10’ x 14’ pen for two lambs. You will also want to be sure the area your lambs are kept is well ventilated but free of drafts.

3. Bedding

Make sure you change their bedding regularly to minimize the build up of ammonia. Cedar shavings work best, followed by pine shavings. If you choose to use pine shavings you will need to spray the shavings with vinegar until damp. This will prevent the lambs for eating the shavings. Do not use sawdust as the dust will aggravate the lambs and cause unnecessary coughing.

Rectal Prolapses in Lambs

Worms, coccidia, and dust are three of the main causes for rectal prolapses. Keeping your pens clean and dust free and your lambs dewormed will go a long way to minimize incidents of prolapses.

4. Club Lamb Fungus

If you purchase your show lamb project through an auction where lambs from multiple breeders are present, you will need to treat your lambs for Club Lamb Fungus. If you are unable to do this at the sale location, be sure to treat your lambs before taking them off of the trailer. Then spray down your trailer.
There are several commercial products available, however, we have had great success using Barbicide, which can be purchased at a fraction of the cost. Be sure to dilute the concentrate at a rate of 1 part Barbicide to 5 parts water. Use caution as you can burn your lamb’s skin if used at higher concentrations.

5. Start With The Same Feed

There are several things you will want to ask your breeder before taking your animal home. Be sure to find out what feed your lamb is currently eating, and if possible, get at least 25 pounds of the same feed to start. Oftentimes, breeders will give you some of their feed to help you acclimate your lamb.

Your lamb will be under stress as it gets accustomed to its new surroundings. By keeping them on the same feed, you will help to better manage this stress. If you are planning on feeding a different feed, start by adding no more than 25% of the new feed to the old. Then each day up the percentage until your lamb is completely on the new feed. Plan on this adjustment taking a week to 10 days.

Feeding Hay to Show Lambs

To reduce the appearance of big bellies, most show lambs receive a controlled amount of hay. It is recommended that they each receive at least a handful of hay (about the same amount that would fit inside a sandwich bag) twice a day. Even when feeding feed rations with higher fiber content, it is still recommended to give your lambs hay. Remember, they are rumenant animals. They will naturally process feed more efficiently and are less like to bite at or pull wool from other lambs when we allow their stomachs to work as designed. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but hay is a must.

6. Fresh Water

Lambs should always have access to fresh clean water. If watering out of a bucket, allow for each lamb to receive at least a gallon of water a day.

7. Vaccination

You will also want to ask the breeder when your lamb was last dewormed and if they have had their second shot of Covexin-8 or 7-Way plus tetanus. If they have not had their second dose, you will want to give them their booster. You can obtain the vaccine either at a sheep supply company or by asking for a dose from the breeder of your lamb. Once you have the vaccine, follow the label’s directions for proper dosage.

8. Deworming

If you are unsure of when your lamb was last dewormed, you should wait two weeks and then deworm them. Sheep are very susceptible to internal parasites. An infestation of worms or an outbreak in coccidia can drastically reduce feed efficiency, making it harder for your lamb to gain weight. Several common dewormers used by sheep breeders are not actually labeled for sheep. You should talk to your vet for a recommended deworming program. They will be able to tell you what dewormers will best meet your needs and climate.

Illegal Drugs in Show Lambs

With more and more shows cracking down on illegal drug use in show animals, you will want to build a strong relationship with your vet. Any off label use of any medication from dewormers to steroids to anti-itch cream could test positive in a drug test. If you encounter health issues with your lamb, always consult a vet before giving any medication that does not explicitly have sheep dosage on the label. No question is a dumb question when openly discussing the show ring and drugs. Talk to your vet! This is one area, where it is always better to be safe, then sorry.

9. Adjustment Period

When you first get your show lamb project home, be prepared to allow for an adjustment period. You will want to make sure your lamb is in a safely contained area where they cannot hurt themselves. You should refrain from working your lamb until they get use to you. Give them a few days to acclimate to their new surroundings and the new people in their lives. Don’t worry, it won’t take long once they realize you control the feed.

10. Shearing

If your lambs have not been shorn, you should shear them once you get them home. This will keep your lambs cooler, allowing them to grow more efficiently. Even in cooler temperatures, shearing is preferred as you can better gauged their conditioning and adjust their feed as necessary.

Congratulations on your new show lamb project! It is always exciting to start a new show year. Be sure to have your pens ready, as well as, your list of questions for the breeder. Then, remember to give your lambs time to acclimate to you and their new surroundings.

Have fun! And good luck!

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