Managing Gotlands – Breed Features
Gotlands are easy to manage. Their docile, friendly, inquisitive nature makes them easy to handle in a small flock without a dog. They are larger and quieter than other more primitive or wilder Northern short-tailed breeds.
Although a hardy breed meeting the requirements of a “specially qualified flock” under the Hill Farm Allowance Scheme, Gotlands should not be regarded as true hill sheep as they need good quality herbage. They are winter housed in their native Sweden and respond well to winter housing in Britain and in the run up to lambing. This makes a good opportunity for winter shearing.
To realize their full potential, Gotlands need good quality varied grazing and browsing if available. In the run up to lambing they will need trough feeding, especially those bearing twins and triplets. To finish lambs for slaughter by November (particularly triplets) they will require a small amount of ideally coarse mix concentrate feeding from September onwards.
Gotlands reach peak fertility in late October and this is maintained for about three cycles of 15-19 days. If not tupped, ewes may continue to cycle until late spring. Healthy well-grown ewe lambs become fertile, mate and lamb successfully in their first year.
Gotlands lamb easily and complications are uncommon. The black lambs are exceptionally quick to rise and suckle and the ewes are most attentive and maternal. They often have triplets and although fit, healthy ewes can successfully raise all three. It is prudent to bottle feed one if a foster mother is not available. For fostering “wet” adoption at birth is preferable as Gotlands are intelligent and can be difficult in this respect.
As with all sheep, Gotlands need regular foot care. On some soils there is a tendency towards soft peeling feet. Zinc mineral blocks can effectively control this, or in some flocks footbaths are used.