Sheep farming as a rural activity is subject to the vagaries of the Australian climate. For example:

The time of shearing is the most important date to be fixed in the sheep year. It begins as early as May or June in the warmer parts of Queensland and later as one moves south. In the colder parts of NSW and Victoria sheep are usually shorn in October or November. Skin parasite control follows shearing because parasites are more easily killed when the wool is short. Other procedures have to be timed according to the local climate.


Ewes need good feed just before lambing and for some time after. The season when the feed is available usually decides the time of mating. Lambing occurs 150 days or 5 months after mating. Sheep breed best in the autumn months but can only be mated then if there promises to be enough spring feed for the lambs.

Spring lambing is popular in the colder parts of NSW and Victoria and in some western areas the sheep being mated in April-May. All mating should be completed within a short a time as possible (not more than 6 weeks) with 2 or 3% of rams being used. “Flushing” is the practice of putting all breeders onto good feed 2 or 3 weeks before joining them.

This will increase the lambing rate.LAMBING: Six weeks before ewes are due to lamb they should be crutched, wigged and put into a lambing paddock where they can be kept undisturbed and with good feed. At 9 weeks and at 3 weeks before lambing they may be vaccinated to prevent entero-toxaemia or pulpy kidney. As soon as lambing begins the ewes should be constantly supervised and help given to any ewes requiring it. Lambing losses occur from cold, feral pigs, wet, foxes and pregnancy toxaemia if not properly managed.


Marking occurs 3-6 weeks after lambing. All lambs should be marked as follows:


Lambs are commonly weaned at 4-5 months of age. Lambs are weaned by separating from their mothers and put into sheltered paddocks with a good water supply, and with young green feed such as improved pasture. This is a high danger period for worm infestation. The main symptom is a lack of weight gain for example, merino lambs should gain about 700 grams per week. If the gain is less then they are probably infested with worms.


On a breeding property each year more ewes are added to the flock and therefore, the grazier must class to decide which ones to keep for breeding. Unless the worst ewes are culled the average fleece weight will not increase and may fall. Since wool is the main income earner for most sheep graziers it is not usual to class and cull until they are carrying at least 9 months of wool and with some studs not until they are in full wool. There are two ways to class:



Drenching provides protection against worm parasites. It is usually carried out by putting the mob in yards and then through a race. They are packed tightly in the race so that they can be more easily dosed with a drenching gun. They are then moved quietly to pasture.



Crutching is an important sheep farming activity and is the removal of wool from the back of the legs, the breech and over the tail. This reduces blowfly strike of the breech were the wool is wet from urine. It is carried out with hand shears in the yard or through the shearing shed. Crutching is usually carried out before mating or lambing typically, during March or July.
Dipping controls other external parasites such as itchy mite and blowflies. Traditional drenching is being overtaken by technology for example, applications directly on the back of sheep are becoming more popular.


The owner arranges with a shearing contractor to arrive with his team of shearers on a certain day. A great deal of preparation is required beforehand. For example, the shearing shed must be put in order, shearers huts cleaned, and firewood gathered. The sheep have to be mustered and sorted into groups so that they will go through the shed in uniform lines of ewes, weaners, wethers, lambs and rams. If rain threatens the sheep must be put under a roof (often in a yard under the shearing shed) as shearers will not shear wet sheep.

The size of the team depends on the size of the shed for example, in a 4 stand shed the following people would be needed: An average shearer can shear at the rate of one sheep every 2 or 3 minutes but catching sheep and changing cutters and so on wastes time. A good shearer can shear about 120 sheep a day.

See sheep – disease & management problems


An important marketing system is CALM. Under this system the sheep are described and graded by a qualified assessor. The stock are then sold through the CALM system to a buyer who does not see the sheep but relies instead on the assessor’s judgment.