At our place we keep sheep handling to a minimum. We make regular pasture moves for rotational grazing but otherwise handle the flock as little as possible. We rely on herding dogs when we do work with the flock.
Handling Young Lambs
When we are docking tails and castrating lambs we make use of the training paddocks we have set up for stock dog clinics.
This area consists of a 24 foot square pen with gates on each side of it. Each gate leads to one of four various sized paddocks.
With the help of the dogs we set the entire flock into a smaller paddock. From here we fill the small 24 sq ft pen with groups of ewes and their lambs. The pen is small enough to allow us to catch the lambs with ease.
We do our catching and docking and then set the lambs into another paddock. Once the pen is clear of lambs we release the ewes and bring in the next group.
Handling Ewes for Treatment
For the times that we need to administer treatment to ewes we use a handling race set up in our shearing shed.
Much of our sheep handling system is comprised of portable sheep panels. Early on we would change the set up until we found what worked the best. Then we would work on making that set up permanent.
Basically we set the flock into the back end of the shearing shed and move smaller groups of sheep toward the front when needed. Sheep panels funnel animals to the entrance of the race.
We place a guillotine gate near the entrance to control flow and a stop gate at the end. We pack the race, walk along the outside, catch ewes by the head and treat as needed. Our sheep handling race is single file width with anti-back up bars.
Until we make the race permanent, it is secured by tying both sides to short metal T posts pounded into the ground (dirt floor). These posts can be removed to change the set up.
We find that the ewes have enough front and back wiggle room to make holding them still for a needle a bit of a workout. Lambs can also turn around in a single file race set for the ewes. A head gate or an adjustable width race would help with this.
We insert a two way sort gate into the race when we need to sort.
As the flock size dwindles at the back of the shearing shed we swing perimeter side panels in closer making a smaller and smaller area all the time and therefore making it easier to file sheep into the race.
We use a similar set up on shearing day with the race coming up along side a plywood shearing floor. The shearers head gate is installed at the end of the race to hold the first ewe. Panels with flip doors in the center allow shearers access to ewes standing in the race and a means to tip them out of the race for shearing.
Plans for a Growing Flock
Our future sheep handling design to accommodate a growing flock is set up with the shearing shed at the hub. There will be permanent yards on the outside while everything placed within the shed will remain portable. Since we only have sheep in the shed three or four days per year this allows the shearing shed to be a multi-use building otherwise.