My Favorite Things
So if you are thinking to yourself how you would really like to get about 60 dairy sheep, a couple of big guardian dogs and live on a farm these are the items that I recommend you purchase:
Premier fencing--the electronet for sheep is extremely useful, makes a good dog pen, too.
Ben Davis coveralls--the blue mechanic type that you can buy at the hardware store. Perfect for milking and chores, I get tired of changing my clothes multiple times a day and finding hay in all of my pockets. With a bandana covering my hair like a babushka and these babies I look HOT, too! :P
Tritronics G3 Sport Basic shock collars--always thought that they seemed kind of cruel, but for working dogs on a farm with lots of temptations like chickens and holes in the fence they are a great training tool. It only takes a couple of shocks for them to learn a lesson for good and I've been able to give them a ton more freedom. It's probably saved them from having to be sent away as they had been implicated in a couple of chicken disappearances.
Colroy shepherd's crook, also from Premier--I figured I had to get one because what is a shepherd without a crook, but now that i have it I understand why it is a necessary component of the shephardess artillery. It is really hard to catch sheep that don't want to be caught (pretty much all of them), especially shorn sheep that don't have any wool to grab hold of. The crook gives you a bit longer arms, a way to actually grab hold of the animal, and (once they are used to it) you can lead them with it. If you hold it out to your side it also makes you seem bigger when you are trying to herd an uncooperative flock of sheep in a direction they don't want to go (pretty much wherever YOU want them to go).
Sydell portable panels--these babies have come in handy in numerous ways. A great way to make a temporary pen when I need to catch the sheep or keep them contained while adjusting their fencing. Also handy for blocking off attractive escape routes when attempting to herd them.
SID Sheep Production Handbook, also available from Premier--THE textbook on sheep. Even has a whole chapter dedicated to dairy sheep. The health chapter has some gruesome pictures but has definitelty proved useful. Has a comprehensive collection of all the random bits of data university researchers and extension agents have spent their careers collecting over the past fifty years or so, such as charts and tables for calculating rations and the feed value of beet pulp and shit like that. I keep it on my breakfast table.
The Cheesemaker's Manual by Margaret Morris--great resource for hobby cheesemakers as well as small-scale dairy farms. Recipes for dozens of the most common cheeses and good general information on the cheesemaking process, ingredients and equipment involved.
Caprine milking stanchion--Don't order the headpiece for sheep--it is only good for grooming and such because the ewes can't move their head and eat any grain or feed (and they don't like that)! I got the goat headpiece after I discovered this and have been much happier with the result. I put spent brewer's grain in the bucket holder and the ewes eagerly jump up onto the stand to be milked (although they usually need to be coerced into the milking stall).