Acquired: Bred animal myself
Posted Mar 31, 2014
It took Australian farmers 7 generations to finally breed the Corriedale into a new, ‘pure’, breed of sheep that is distinctive for having a dual purpose that suits the Australian and New Zealand farmer – it has impressively thick, yet fine, wool and large size lambs which are usually sold off for their high value in meat.
As they are particularly hardy animals, they appear to be able to deal with most climate conditions Australia seems to throw at them.
These are not a ‘pet’ animal, as such, although lambs that have lost their mothers have been known to become a family pet. Nursing is easy – a baby’s bottle and either some baby formula or even cow’s milk mixed with about an inch of water and heated slightly, as you would for a child. The easiest way to feed the lamb is to sit above the lamb on a chair where the lamb can come up under you, between your legs and then you will soon feel them butting their heads against the bottle teat as though demanding ‘faster, faster’.
As a pet they tend to act like a dog and will literally follow you around the yard and butt you gently with their head when they want attention. They have also been known to chase away other animals out of protectiveness, especially towards children.
Do not be mistaken, however, getting your son or daughter a pet lamb for Christmas is not a good idea if you live in a city – these are farm animals and herd animals and are best put back into the herd once weaned.
The Corriedale sheep has a long life span and the ewes are able to breed once a year for at least a good 10 years and are well known for having twins, meaning the average herd has a production level in excess of 100%. This high fertility rate plus the mother’s ability to look after their lambs and keep them safe can mean that it’s not uncommon for Corriedale herds to have survival rates of 140%.
Naturally, this high rate of birth combined with high rate of lambs that survive, mean that a farmer will gain significantly financially if he/she looks after the herd correctly.
This means that once the ewes have given birth, any movement from one paddock to another should be as gentle as possible with the least amount of stress. This reduces the chances of any lambs losing their mothers.
Sheep in general are usually fed a combination of hay and the surplus of crops grown by the farmer as a first source of income as well as land that is unusable or unsuitable for the farming of crops. At all times they must have access to water that is easy for them to get to, preferably a dam where the incline is not too steep so that they do not get 'bogged' down in the water and drown.
Sheep will generally eat and meander throughout a paddock all day, every day, so depending on the size of your herd and your location it is best to have more than one sizable plot of land. Once the sheep have eaten through a paddock, supplemented with hay, they are then generally moved onto another. This is usually planned well in advance so that the last paddock of feed prior to the lambs being sent off for sale is specifically to fatten them up. High levels of wheat should be avoided prior to sale and the feeding of hay alone for more than two days prior to sale can lead to weight loss and a reduction in meat quality. In Australia, Vitamin E can be deficient so pellets high in this and other vitamins fed to the lambs for around 2 weeks prior to sale is beneficial.
To anyone who has issues with animal cruelty, I would like to take a moment to explain that it is imperative for the lamb to have its tail cut off. Each farmer has his or her own way, however we used a very strong rubber band that was placed as close to the start of the tail as possible and then the rest of the tail was cut off manually using a very sharp knife. The rubber band was green and very thick and would cut off the blood flow immediately and allow the lamb to heal quickly and with the least amount of pain.
The reason I say this is that here in Australia (as in other parts of the world) sheep are renowned for what is called ‘getting flyblown’. This is when fly’s lay their lava around the anus of the sheep where they quickly turn into maggots and literally eat the sheep alive. By cutting off the tail, it is easier for the farmer to see and treat a lamb or sheep that looks to be infected (remember that most farmers see their sheep at least 5 times a week) and also if the tail is kept on, unfortunately sheep fecal matter can stick to the tail and encourage more flies.
The very last thing ANY farmer wants to see is a flyblown lamb or sheep as it is incredibly disturbing and upsetting, so this is one instance where prevention is better than cure.