Book Review: Sheep Keeping

Sue Blacker's picture
11 May, 2018 - 17:38 | Sue Blacker

This book, produced as part of the Professional Smallholder Series, by 5m Publishing has the ISBN of 9 781910 455937.  It appears to the the first of the series, which is different from the Smallholder Series of DVDs and other resources (in which naturally The Natural Fibre Company features!).  I apologise for the poor quality of the picture of the book cover!  See nicer pix of my 2018 lambs, including the quads at birth and one month old, along with a nice mum and son photo, at the end of the piece!

As such, this joins a range of similar books, such as the Haynes Manuals, Jane Upton and Dennis Soden's Introduction to Keeping Sheep, Kim Cardell's Practical Sheep Keeping, Mary Castell's Starting with Sheep, and Tim Tyne's Sheep Book for Smallholders, etc.  Most of these are written from the viewpoint of the farmer or smallholder, while the sheep veterinary books, such as David Henderson's The Veterinary Book for Sheep Farmers are technical reference books.  Within the sheep genre, there is also the "lifestyle" sheep book, some of which we have already reviewed in this blog, such as The Shepherd's Life, A Day in the Life of a Yorkshire Shepherdess Neil Astley's Ten Poems about Sheep or Philip Walling's wonderful Counting Sheep.

This is the first sheep keeping book we have reviewed on this blog and actually it is particularly interesting in that it bridges a gap between husbandry and veterinary care rather usefully.  Both the authors are vets and have worked in Wales where of course there are plenty of sheep with whom to gain experience.  Philippa Page is now a farmer in Gloucestershire while Kim Hamer continues as a vet and is also involved in the Sheep Veterinary Society.  in terms of chapters, they have divided the work in half with the first 5 by Phillipa and the second 5 by Kim.

I confess that the book has taken a while to read as it is quite densely written with considerable detail.  Here is a brief summary of the contents:

  • Chapter 1, Keeping Sheep, covers the important legal basics including identification and tagging, along with fencing, water supply, transport, handling and gathering
  • Chapter 2, The Normal Sheep is particularly interesting and includes information on typical and untypical appearance and behaviour, from body scoring through to assessing sheep muck.  This is really both informative and reassuring as it enables the farmer to look at key aspects and make judgements, with more detailed information provided in the other chapters
  • Chapter 3, The Organ Systems of the Sheep, explains how a ruminant animal turns grass into milk, meat and wool as well as providing useful understanding of how sheep see in order to handle them more effectively
  • Chapter 4, Diet and Nutrition, covers feeding, key trace minerals and weaning lambs
  • Chapter 5, Breeding Sheep, covers the obvious!  This includes selection for breeding, health and welfare at tupping, etc.  I would personally probably have added a little about ram behaviour as this can be a particular hazard when the rams are with the ewes
  • Chapter 6, Lambing Time, is a very useful summary of the basic requirements and important preparations, along with advice on when a vet will be needed and basic issues with the health or otherwise of lambing ewes and new lambs
  • Chapter 7, Sick Sheep, takes up 50 of the 200 pages, as might be expected, and gives a useful overview of the key illnesses, help with diagnosis, a useful illustration of where to give injections under the skin or into the muscle, along with a table and flow chart to help seek the answers either with a vet or in this book
  • Chapter 8, Preventative Treatments, is extremely useful to help avoid using chapter 7 too much!  It has useful tables on fluke, footrot and information on vaccines and wormers
  • Chapter 9, Preventing Disease from Entering the Flock is more information to help avoid chapter 7, including bio security and quarantine
  • Chapter 10, The Sheep Farming Year, provides a useful calendar for guidance as to when to be aware of key management needs and decisions.  There is also a useful calendar to be found on our website, which we are told works well printed at A3 size and pinned to the barn door!

Overall, this is a very useful, helpful and informative book with just about the right balance of serious technical advice and basics for beginners.  It is aimed rather above the pure beginner and was very useful for me as a reminder and revision guide.  My only real problem with it is that the photographs are remarkably poor, sometimes very unclear and let the whole of the rest of the design, charts and content down.  They are practical but could be larger, better reproduced and are rather variable in quality - I assume they were taken by the authors while at work, so have relevance but could be much more useful in illustrating the text.  Otherwise a good book and reasonable value at £22.45, compared with Henderson (738 pages) at £24.95, Tyne (320 pages) at £25.35 and Cardell (160 pages, more introductory and probably where I would start) at £12.95.

 

 

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