Also known as shepherd, shepherdess, stock keeper, stockman, flock assistant, or livestock assistant.
This profile highlights the skills and knowledge associated with the role. However, jobs will have varying responsibilities depending on level of the role and the size or type of the business.
As a sheep stockperson, you might work with one breed of sheep or different breeds in the same flock. You’ll help the farm manager or owner with many different tasks.
You’ll meet high animal health and welfare standards by helping to care for the sheep all year round. This will include feeding, watering, giving medicines and vaccinations, and lambing. It may also include shearing. You’ll learn to observe sheep or lambs with problems, such as lameness, and report these to your manager or the farm owner.
Your role will also include checking the ewes (adult female sheep) and rams (adult male sheep used for breeding) to ensure they’re in the best condition and ready for breeding when required.
Depending on the system used on the farm, some flocks will lamb outside; others have lambing sheds to house the animals while they give birth.
Maintaining good biosecurity in livestock systems is vital to preventing health problems in the ewes and lambs. You may also have to provide extra nutrition and care to some lambs, such as bottle feeding and making sure they are warm enough.
Some manual lifting will be required as will recording of important information about the sheep, such as lameness, other health issues, or lambing records.
You might need to use machinery such as tractors, loaders, or equipment for weighing or handling sheep.
You may need to work longer hours or shift patterns during specific periods, such as lambing. Full-time and part-time opportunities are available, and contract or temporary positions are also available, particularly during lambing times.
You may need your own transport to get to work.
As a sheep stockperson your responsibilities might include:
- Helping the farm manager meet livestock health and welfare needs with correct feeding, watering, and general husbandry
- Checking and monitoring all areas of sheep husbandry, including housing, fencing, health and safety, and biosecurity
- Providing a clean and safe environment for the animals to help prevent disease, illness, and injury
- Helping monitor the health and condition of the ewes throughout the year
- Carefully monitoring and supporting ewes during pregnancy and giving birth
- Monitoring and helping newborn lambs to meet their needs
- Assisting with administering veterinary treatments and vaccinating sheep
- Using and maintaining machinery and equipment, such as tractors, loaders, and sheep handling systems
- Always following farm health and safety rules
To work as a stockperson in the sheep sector, you should:
- Be keen to work and develop skills and knowledge
- Have good attention to detail and are able to spot problems
- Be able to work with care and focus
- Be able to follow instructions
- Enjoy being hands-on with animals
- Enjoy working with others but able to work independently
- Be able to communicate well with other team members
As a sheep stockperson, you do not necessarily need a formal qualification. However, you’ll need to be interested in animals and farming and be keen to learn.
You could choose to study for a formal qualification or take an apprenticeship to give you some understanding and knowledge of the industry. Look at our training map for more information on opportunities available.
You can also gain experience by volunteering on a farm or smallholding.
If you live in a city or urban area, you could volunteer on a local city farm, community garden, or allotment. You can find some of these in your area on the Social Farms and Gardens website.
Reading farming newspapers, magazines, and websites will also develop your knowledge and understanding.
As a sheep stockperson, you’ll be competent in looking after the animals on the farm, protecting their welfare and the environment while meeting customer demands and production targets. You will:
- Provide high animal and personal hygiene standards to reduce disease and injury
- Follow farm procedures to meet high welfare standards and best environmental practice
- Help work towards successful breeding and lambing
- Make sure animals are fed and watered to meet their physical needs
- Improve the farm business by supporting successful sheep production
- Meet relevant health and safety standards
- Practice high-quality animal husbandry
- Manage grazing pastures and achieve growth targets with extra feed, if necessary
Salaries are in the region of £15,000 to £20,000 depending on experience and location, or £8.50 to £12 per hour for contract work.
As a sheep stockperson, you may choose to develop your career by moving on to a more experienced sheep stockperson role with more responsibility. This could involve looking after a bigger flock, becoming an independent shepherd/shepherdess, or supervising less experienced staff.
In the longer term, you could also work towards the role of a farm manager (livestock). This would mean taking on more management responsibilities and being involved in making business decisions.
You could also look at other opportunities, such as working with other types of livestock like pigs, poultry, or cattle.
Additionally, you could consider roles off the farm too. For example, you could specialise in sheep nutrition or work for a company that sells equipment to sheep farm businesses.
Courses which can help you on this career path include:
Level 1 Diploma Land-based Studies Agriculture
Level 2 Technical Certificate in Agriculture
Level 3 Advanced Technical Certificate in Agriculture
Short courses and online study
There are also other opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge, such as short one day courses and online study.
Practical Sheep Handling and Management Myerscough College
Sheep Husbandry UK Rural Skills
Sheep Husbandry Writtle University College
TIAH Essential Skills
Our online Essential Skills modules can help you develop your skills and knowledge in a range of areas and are a great addition to your CV.