Florida Champion Shepherd Competition Questionnaire

Florida Champion Shepherd Competition

This information is what we will be using to question the Young Shepherds during the Florida Champion Shepherd Competition.



Q. What are the advantages of raising sheep in Florida?

A. Year round grass and moderate temperature. We have local markets and consumption.

Q. What are the disadvantages for sheep in Florida?

A. No large market year round, parasites, sub tropical grass, expensive horse and pet veterinarians have no interest in low value farm animals.

Q. How many sheep equal one animal unit (1 cow & 1 calf)?

A. 5-6 sheep equal 1 animal unit.

Q. How many ewes per acre on poor pasture and soil (sandy), thin grass & weeds?

A. 3 ewes per acre on poor pasture and soil.

Q. How many ewes per acre on good (clay/sandy loam) bahia or coastal pasture moderately fertilized?

A. 6 ewes per acre on good pasture, moderately fertilized.

Q. How many ewes per acre on improved pasture, added clover, legumes, improved crab grass, winter rye or rye grass?

A. 9 ewes per acre on improved pasture.

Q. How many acres would be required to maintain 10 ewes? (Assume all have access to salt and mineral, and in case of drought supplemental hay.)

A. Poor pasture: 3 acres for 10 ewes Good Pasture: 2 acres for 10 ewes     Improved pasture: 1 acre for 10 ewes

Q. What breeds are suitable for all pasture or organic production in Florida?

A. Florida Cracker, Gulf Coast, St. Augustine, Katahdin, Barbados Blackbelly, St Croix

Q. What breeds are suitable for pasture, limited feed with Famacha monitoring?

A. All of the above, especially Katahdin, St. Augustine, Barbados Blackbelly, Dorset, Finn

Q. What breeds do better on dry lot, barn and show?

A. Dorper, Texel, Suffolk, Southdown


Q. What advantages would mixing in Dairy genetics bring to a commercial flock?

A. More colostrum and milk for multiple lambs. Longer lactation to support lambs through the summer parasite season. Faster growth and mature size of cross bred lambs.

Q. What disadvantages come with dairy genetics?

A. Poorer meat conformation, especially Friesian crosses. All require a higher maintainence diet year round.


Q.How do you judge wool on a sheep?

A. Part the wool on the side and look for crimp, fine fiber, freedom from hair fiber, soft, at least 3 inches long at shearing.


Mammals such as humans cannot digest grass and fibrous roughages. We don’t have appropriate enzymes. Ruminant mammals like sheep, have a special adaptation to change roughages into a form they can digest.

1.Plants harvest solar energy.

2.Ruminant animals rapidly harvest the plants.

3.At leisure they regurgitate a bolus of feed and chew their cud, or RUMINATE. The second time the food is swallowed it is finely pulverized and mixed with saliva.

4.Sheep have 4 “stomachs,” and finally this bulky mass of roughage moves into the 4th and largest section of the stomach, the RUMEN, a 5 gallon fermenting tank.


Billions of bacteria and protozoa use these roughages for their own growth and reproduction, and break down this fibrous mass into fats, starch, sugars, vitamins and minerals that the sheep can finally digest. These bacteria are the only source of Vitamin B12 (Thiamin) in nature.  Without a properly functioning rumen, sheep cannot digest food.

Small Intestine: 80 Feet. Finally the food is in the right form and the right place to FEED THE SHEEP. The small intestine is the main area for nutrient absorption.

Large Intestine: Many vitamins and water are absorbed in the large intestine. What the sheep doesn’t use passes on to the large intestine, and eventually goes out to feed the grass in the form of urine and manure. Water, vitamins, and grass feed the sheep – Sheep feed the grass with urine and manure = sustainable agriculture.


Q. What is the natural food for sheep?

A. Grass, forbes, browse

Q. What deficiencies are common in Florida pastures?

A. Selenium, Vitamin E, Zinc, Energy, Salt

Q. Why is grass, hay or even pelleted hay so important for sheep?

A. Cellulose and bulk required for the rumen population to work effectively.

Q. What would be the cost for maintenance, not lactation, of 10 ewes with no pasture for 30 days?

10 ewes weighing 130 lbs eat 3 lbs/hd/day legume hay or 3.5 lbs/hd/day coastal hay

10 ewes weighing 150 lbs eat 3.5 lbs/hd/day legume hay or 4 lbs/hd/day coastal hay

If you purchase alfalfa @ $_______per ton, how much will it cost to feed that ewe for 1     year?

If you purchase coastal @ $_______per ton, how much will it cost to feed that ewe for 1     year?

If you purchase peanut @ $_______per ton, how much will it cost to feed that ewe for 1     year?

(Alfalfa and Peanut hay are “legumes.”)

Q. What would be the best practice to preserve your pasture during this winter’s drought?

A. Irrigation, depopulate by selling or harvesting, put ewes in “sacrifice” field, wean early to reduce ewes feed bill, find alternative less expensive feed (day old bread), change future breeding season


Q. What are the most important target numbers?

A. Number of ewes exposed to a ram and fed for 5 months.                Number of lambs weaned. Pounds of lamb per ewe weaned

Q. What is the usual breeding season?

A. Fall, early Winter

Q. What breeds may breed out of season?

A. Dorset, Katahdin, Florida Cracker, St. Augustin, Tunis, Barbados Blackbelly, Gulf Coast, St Croix

Q. What triggers the breeding season?

A. Days growing shorter after the Summer Soltice on June 21. (Less than 14 hours of light)

Q. How often do ewes cycle?

A. On average 16 to 17 days

Q. How long is the fertile period?

A. 28 hours average

Q. What pasture plants cause sterility?

A. Red clovers and sub clovers. Best breeding pasture grasses, white clovers, turnips, rape

Q. How can you determine that breeding is taking place?

A. Raddle color on ram’s brisket, or marking harness on ram will mark ewe’s rump

Q. How can you tell if the ewes are pregnant?

A. Change raddle color or harness crayon to another color after 17 days. If all the ewes are marked again, the ram may be sterile. Change ram. If only a few of the ewes are marked the second time they may be at fault. Leave ram in another cycle and change color again.

Q. How would you prepare ewes for breeding?

A. Have BCS at medium. Flush feed if they are thin. Trim feet, deworm if necessary. Vaccinate with CDT? Seek advice.

Q. How would you prepare rams for breeding?

A. Trim feet, BCS plus, deworm if necessary, shear if needed

Flushing is a term used to describe the feeding of ewes prior to, and shortly after breeding to increase fertility and egg production.  If ewes are thin, feed 1/4 to 1/2 lb of corn per/ head/day for 2 weeks prior to putting in the ram. Continue feeding for another 2 weeks to keep ewes on a rising plane of nutrition. Flushing is important only for thin ewes. If ewes are in good condition, the corn is wasted.


Q. What does the ewe need in early pregnancy?

A. BCS medium, balanced nutrition, vitamins, mineral supplement, freedom from stress. A more than 20% loss (embryo resorbed) in early pregnancy is common. Shelter ewes from weather extremes, avoid diet changes and working sheep.

Q. What is the ewe doing in early pregnancy?

A. Developing the placenta, bonding to her lambing time companions

Q. What dangers are present?

A. Poison plants, dogs, deworming or medication may cause birth defects

Q. What does the ewe need in last month of pregnancy?

A. A nutritionally intense alfalfa, etc., diet. It’s getting crowded in there! BCS medium or a little better. Exercise. Avoid crowding heavy pregnant ewes through narrow gates and at feed bunks. Avoid overheating. Avoid changes in diet.

Q. What are the signs of Ketosis or Hypocalcemia in ewes?

A. Ewe is listless, confused, shaky, foaming at the mouth, can’t stand.


WARNING: Some infections that cause abortions in ewes can also infect pregnant humans. Pregnant women should not handle sick ewes or fetuses. Toxoplasmosis is deadly to fetuses.

Lambing Begins

The ewe may separate herself from the flock, she is restless. Uterine contractions increase and cervical dilation may take 3 or 4 hours.

The water bag breaks and the first lamb should arrive within an hour.

If it takes over 2 hours, seek advice.

If the ewe is still restless after the first lamb there may another lamb on the way.

When the ewe relaxes and the lambs are nursing, offer her fresh water and her usual hay. Wait until the next day to resume concentrates.

Cut lamb’s umbilical cord to 2 inches, and dunk in 7% iodine to prevent joint ill.

Even a well socialized ewe is aware that she and ehr lambs are especially vulnerable at this time. She needs to feel secure, and not interrupted in her instinctive train of thought. Take pictures and have visitors tomorrow.

Normal Lambing

Q. How do you prepare for pasture lambing?

A. Ideal field has a thick rug of clean grass between a newborn and soil born disease, south slope, wind break, no trash or poor fencing to trap lambs, and a good guardian dog to protect lambs from vultures, eagles, hawks, neighbor dogs, and coyotes.

Q. What is the best way to feed pasture lambing ewes?

A. Hay and self feeders accessible, and allow even the most timid ewes access to feed, and avoid the feeding frenzy that can injure or disorient newborn lambs.

Q. How do you prepare for barn lambing?

A. Preferably several months ahead, strip out whole lambing area, indoors and out, and remove anything damp or dirty. Brush or hose off dust and cobwebs, pens, feeding troughs. Spread lime (wear mask). Shut out all animals and keep clean and dry. Just before lambing, put in clean bedding, assemble clean water buckets and hooks to hang them high enough that lambs can’t jump in and drown. Heat lamps and     spare bulb. Check barn lights.

Q. What lambing supplies do you carry with you in your “Baby Bucket”?

A. 7% Iodine, scissors, towel, working flashlight, note pad and pencil (writes in rain), Nutridrench, phone

Q. How do you get the ewe to the barn?

A. The ewe expects her lamb to be on the ground. If you pick it up waist high she can’t see it, and will run back to where she last saw it. To get her to follow, you have to get the lamb down to it’s own walking level (use a towel as a sling) and lure her along.

Weak Lambs – Newborn

Lamb can’t lift it’s head, lays flat: Gradually warm the lamb (warm towels – heat lamp). If it’s core temperature is too low (cold mouth) do not try to feed. Normal rectal temperature is 102.5. Lamb temperature fluxuates for the first 3 days between 102 to 103.1010

Lamb lays normally, and can lift it’s head: Keep warming. Take rectal temperature. Try giving 1 teaspoon milk. Can the lamb swallow? Is there any sucking reflex? Do not force feed. Milk may get into the lungs and get pneumonia. Tube feeding at this point might help. Seek advice.

Put a colored mark on the lamb’s forehead so whoever is checking can quickly locate the problem lamb. Keep warming. Try to get the lamb nursing on the ewe. Second choice would be a pop (soda) bottle with a Pritchard Teat filled with the mother’s colostrum, or commercial formula made for lambs.

Keep the lamb and ewe together to maintain their bond so she will accept the lamb if it responds to your care.

Quickly Check Young Lambs:

Pick up each lamb:

Healthy                          Sickly

Should feel heavy          Feels light         Starving

Mouth warm to hot       Mouth cool       Starving

Pinch skin                Pinch lasts       Starving (Dehydration)

Flank full                        Sunken In          Starving

Stands & follows ewe     Weak                 Starving

Conclusion – Ewe failed. Cull her and her lambs. (Excuse 3 or more lambs, or old age)

If the ewe is too young or too small, or was not properly nourished – You failed.

Q. What is the most common problem with young lambs?

A. Starvation


On Pasture At Birth – Observe from a distance. Ewe should immediately attend to a new lamb, getting the sack off the head and licking, or even pawing, to stimulate breathing. She should keep her lambs close and warm and let them nurse. If the lamb’s wither is level with the ewes elbow, the lamb is the correct size for that ewe, and the ewe should be able to provide enough milk for that lamb. If every thing looks good, stay away. Ewe/lamb bonding is very important. There is no reason to know the lamb’s weight or sex at this time. Just leave them alone.

20 Minutes – “Brown fat” on the lamb’s neck and back provide a quick energy source until the first colostrum gets into the lamb. Lambs that are up and nursing in the first hour are getting the best immunity.

Birth to 12 Hours -The colostrum from the ewe introduces protective antibodies into the lamb. These large antibodies move thru the intestinal wall at birth. The intestinal wall gradually changes, and by 12 hours the antibodies can no longer penetrate the intestinal wall. Immunity passed from the ewe to the lamb is over.

Q. How long can a lamb absorb immunity passed from the ewe?

A. 12 hours

Q. What does a new born lamb need?

A. Colostrum, attentive ewe, milk, dry environment

The enterotoximia (overeating disease) vaccination is inexpensive and easy.  If lambs over eat concentrate and get this disease, there is no cure or relief. They will die within 24 hours. CDT protection requires an initial shot, then an interval, and a booster. It is very important to give the booster at the proper interval. There is no protection from enterotoximia until the booster shot is given.

Docking is necessary in wool sheep to keep them clean, free from manure build up and preventing fly strike. It is not necessary to dock hair sheep, as they do not have the problem with wool matting and causing problems. The docked tail should be long enough to cover the vulva when the lamb matures, to avoid rectal prolapse. The tail should be docked about 1/2 inch, to 1 inch down from the coddle fold.


Q. When should you intervene?

A. If the ewe is not cleaning and getting the sack off the head so the lamb can breathe. If lambs look feeble or scattered. Cold rain makes it hard for lambs to get dry and warm. If another ewe (granny ewe) or even the guard dog is trying to clean the lamb

Q. What should you do?

A. Get the head clear, gently rub the lamb to stimulate breathing. Do not break fragile ribs! If no response suspend lamb by back legs and pat chest. Keep rubbing. Keep warm. Put lamb with litter mates by ewe’s head. Remove distractions – guard dogs and granny ewes if they are the problem. And move away and observe from a distance to see if the ewe will care for the lamb. Binoculars work well in this situation.If in doubt, move the ewe and lambs to shelter where they can be monitored.

Q. How will you get the ewe to the barn?

A. You need to carry the lamb or lambs low like it is walking. Use a tower for a sling and slowly lure the ewe along. If you carry the lamb high, she will not see it, and will run back to where she saw it last.


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