Sheep Safety

Herding Sheep For the most part, sheep are the docile animals depicted in story books and songs. However, like all livestock, sheep should be treated with respect because they can be dangerous. Using safe handling procedures not only prevents injury to the handler, it is also beneficial to the sheep.

Jumping is not a reaction we expect from livestock, unless we have sheep. It is common for sheep to jump when approached from the front. Sheep can jump with enough force to break handlers' legs and cause head or shoulder injuries by knocking the handler down. For these reasons and because of the tendency to perceive sheep as "small", handlers should be aware of their tendency to jump before working with or attempting to catch sheep.

Rams also are involved in their fair share of sheep-related accidents. Usually injuries associated with rams involve being butted. A necessary rule of thumb is to never turn your back on a ram while in his pen. Like bulls, rams should never be trusted, and above all, never trust a ram that was a pet as a lamb. Former pets can be the most dangerous animals on the farm, not necessarily because they are vicious, but because actions (like butting) that were harmless when the animal was small can become very dangerous after the animal gains several hundred pounds.

Sheep are flock animals and tend to be uncomfortable when separated from a group. When one is isolated it will usually try to return to the group on its own without a great deal of prodding.

Ewes, like cows, can be very protective and defensive of their young. Be alert to warning signals the ewe sends out, like stomping her feet or shaking her head up and down. These are signs that she is angry, and she could charge.

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