management practices that contribute to superb sheep
nutrition is the cornerstone of any successful sheep
health program. My philosophy on this has always been
simple: It's wiser (and kinder and cheaper and easier) to
feed your animals well every day and avoid illness in the
first place than it is to try and save money upfront and
deal with sick animals later. I've also found that
well-fed sheep live longer and more productive lives, and
have very few problems with birthing and raising their
This is the feeding program that works for the SkyLines
flock . . .
SkyLines sheep rotationally graze our own rich, green
pastures for six to seven months out of each year.
During the winter months the sheep eat two kinds of hay:
the highly nutritious mixed-grass hay grown right here on
the farm, and leafy green, very high protein alfalfa hay.
The alfalfa hay is grown in the nutrient-rich soils of
the Columbia River Basin in nearby Washington State and
trucked to SkyLines Farm.
During the last six weeks of gestation and early
lactation period (until the pasturesare ready to graze)
the ewes also enjoy a daily serving of grain. This helps
them grow those wonderful fleeces while also meeting the
added nutritional demands of pregnancy and nursing. The
grain is pure, simple, whole barley or oats and never
includes any sort of antibiotic or other drug (nor is it
"fortified" with any animal by-products, see below). My
grain is grown in local fields by local farmers.
All year long, the sheep have free access to a
vitamin-mineral-salt supplement that is formulated
specifically to meet the nutritional requirements of
sheep grazing northwest soils. As part of my natural
internal parasite control program, I also add
Diatomaceous Earth to this supplement (see Management
Practices - Natural Parasite Control page for
Note on animal by-products: Like my grain, the
vitamin-mineral-salt supplement I provide for SkyLines
sheep contains no animal by-products. Some well-meaning
shepherds feed their sheep mineral/protein supplements
that are fortified with animal by-products such as fish
meal. Now, I realize that these by-products are a
relatively inexpensive protein source, but sheep are
herbivores just like cattle. This means they're designed
to eat grass and grains - period. It just makes sense to
me that fish shouldn't be on their menu.
rotation of summer pastures and winter lounging yards
is important, so the sheep are not standing or lying in
deep mud or manure, both of which can harbor disease.
SkyLines barns are all located on high ground, so water
drains away from the yards very quickly and doesn't pool.
Thankfully, "mud season," though it does occur, is
relatively short on this farm. See the Pasture
Management pages for more details on rotational
grazing of the summer pastures.
airy barns allow in plenty of sunshine and air
circulation all year round. Some people believe that a
good barn is one that keeps the animals inside totally
protected from the elements, much the same way our houses
keep us protected. I have come to believe that a tight
barn is actually an unhealthy barn for animals.
I've visited farms where conscientious shepherds had
designed very nice, tight, house-like barns. These barns
had very poor air circulation and provided no opportunity
for wind and sunshine to get in and cleanse the walls and
floors. These shepherds often locked their sheep inside
the barn at night for security also (in lieu of keeping
guard dogs to protect the sheep while they're out in the
fresh air). Often, the sheep that lived on these farms
were weak and quite frequently sick.
All three of the SkyLines sheep barns are metal-sided
pole barns that provide excellent air circulation.
They're basically just large sheds that the sheep can
enter or leave at will and that only offer protection
from the fiercest of the winter winds, rain, and
of exercise. From spring through fall, SkyLines sheep
leave the barn areas and live entirely out on the farm's
pastures. They spend the grazing season moving through a
series of subdivided paddocks that cover much of
SkyLines' 63 acres. Each paddock opens onto a long
central runway that the sheep use to access their water
every day. In the winter, they travel from the barn out
to their hay feeding areas and back again many times each
This daily exercise regimen not only helps keep the
entire flock extremely healthy, but it has made a
dramatic difference in the number of ewes who need
assistance at lambing time. Lambing is now a much more
natural affair, fairly uneventful, and a lot easier for
both the ewes and the shepherdess (though I of course am
still "on duty" during the entire period).
a nearly closed flock. SkyLines sheep do not leave
the farm to attend sheep shows or fairs, or anywhere
else, where they could be exposed to diseases and
parasites carried by other sheep. Nor do I purchase new
ewes from other breeders. I've bred all of my own ewes
The only new animals that are brought to the farm are new
Romney rams every few years, in order to continually
improve the genetic stock. The new rams come from highly
respected, award-winning Romney breeders, but they are
always quarantined for a minimum of one month, preferably
two or three months, just to be safe.
Since sheep are flock animals and a sheep by itself is a
miserable creature, I always choose a lamb to live with
the new ram and keep him company during his quarantine
period. No new ram or his buddy lamb has ever turned up
sick, but I prefer to err on the side of caution and
maintain this strict quarantine policy.
to maintain bio-security on the farm. Throughout the
year, but particularly during the spring and summer
months, I often give farm tours so folks can meet the
SkyLines animals in person. I'm always happy to have
visitors (as long as they call first please!), but I do
have one very strict requirement. I insist that all
visitors wear clean clothes and boots that have not been
worn around livestock or on another farm, particularly
another sheep farm. Mud and manure on boots can easily
carry disease from one farm to another, and I firmly
believe that vigilance pays off in this case. I even keep
extra pairs of boots on hand for visitors who come
Farm 4551 Highway 6 Harvard, ID 83834
Purebred Romney & Romney-Cross