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Sheep keeping in pictures
  1. Susan G. Trimmings

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Sheep Husbandry and Disease. A Photographic Guide Agnes Winter. Clare Phythian 208 pages, hardback, £25. Crowood Press. 2011. ISBN 978 1 84797 235 4

AT age seven, the Beano was the best thing since sliced bread. The thrill of Dennis the Menace was balm to the soul of a ‘good’ child and the ease of a story told through clever illustrations was thoroughly addictive. Just as absorbing is this extensive pictorial guide to sheep keeping.

Handling this book, the temptation to browse through the pictures is immediate. The first dipping from topic to topic and deviating into the text for further information easily passes an hour.

How I wish I had had this book eight years ago when I went through my shearlings' first lambing. Here are all the photos necessary to confirm the normal stages of labour and birth, plus a few to give life to the saying ‘buy a sheep, buy a shovel’. In total there are 49 photos in this chapter on lambing alone.

There are over 600 clear photos of healthy animals, good husbandry and inexpensive, well-thought-out equipment. This is the stuff of everyday sheep keeping. The emphasis is firmly on welfare and health, and intervention before problems become chronic, but the authors haven't shied away from showing the results of neglect. The strategies – often simple – to maintain a healthy flock, from prevention to cure, are extensively covered.

Routine procedures are addressed and lengthy chapters are included, importantly, on internal and external parasites, lambs 0 to 2 weeks and lameness. The last of these is excellently covered with 43 photos and sound advice. There is also an unusual and useful chapter on thin adult sheep and a most comprehensive index.

This book is easy to read and easy to use as a reference. The chapters are sensibly arranged and start, significantly, with ‘Keeping your flock secure’. Vast amounts of information are gained simply by looking at the pictures and reading the annotations. Most useful is the cross-referencing in other chapters. The pictures vary in size, so that the layout of the book is always interesting. Many topics are covered that inexperienced sheep keepers might take years to learn without instruction. Six photos show a method for turning over a sheep; four show the process of dosing and five relate to flystrike. There are many photos of regularly used equipment and some guidance on choice.

The only subject that might benefit from more coverage is shearing. This is a stressful event for sheep and breeders, and there are many opportunities for mistakes in welfare and biosecurity.

Novice sheep keepers would do well to buy this book when planning a new flock. It would enable them to avoid many time- wasting and costly mistakes. It would stand alone as a reference for several years and continue to be valuable long afterwards.

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