CHEBANSE, Ill. — The white-faced sheep flock on Rick Adams’
farm is almost never in a barn.
“They are outdoors all year long, except one day for
shearing,” Adams said during a pasture walk at his operation near Chebanse.
“Sheep have perfect coats on them, so they take all kinds of weather.”
However, the flock was in a hoop building this year during
“It was cold and wet in April, so this year it would have
been disastrous on lambs,” the shepherd explained. “The ewes lambed in a hoop
Ewes had the option to go outside and lamb on the nice days.
“We saved all kinds of lambs because they were in the hoop
building,” Adams said. “It was the worst April I’ve ever gone through for
lambing since I started in the sheep business.”
He also has a black-faced flock that is housed in his two
“I have two flocks because it is like having the right tool
for the job,” he said. “The black-faced sheep are really good at producing
muscle on feed, while the white-faced sheep are very good at being
The pasture for his sheep was established in 2003, and it is
divided into six lots.
“Only two of those haven’t been renewed,” Adams said.
The lots are divided into 1-acre paddocks, and the flock
includes 65 ewes, 45 yearlings and 110 lambs.
“I move them according to how they are doing,” Adams said.
“I use ElectroNet fence to divide the pastures into the paddocks, and I move the
sheep more often to get more out of the pastures.”
In one of the lots that had not been renewed, he drilled a
combination of soybeans, corn, radishes and Sudan grass.
“The soybeans and radishes are about all that grew,” Adams
said. “The sheep will probably start grazing this lot about Aug. 1 when all
these other pastures will probably be depleted.”
The problem with grazing radishes and soybeans is if the
sheep graze them too hard, the plants will stop growing.
“If you are careful how they are grazed, they’ll come back
and grow again,” the shepherd said.
Adams also has baled soybeans for forage in drought years.
“When the beans are first setting pods, they make great
feed,” he said. “We plant the soybeans after wheat, and there is just enough
wheat straw left in that feed.”
Last year, Adams flew radishes on his dad’s corn acres.
“As soon as the corn came off, the radishes started growing
like crazy,” he said.
“We had radishes 2 to 3 inches across, and they grew down 12
to 14 inches. Plus all the green foliage, when the radishes frosted, we ran
sheep on them for weeks.”
Adams built the fence for his pasture with the help of
Environmental Quality Incentives Program funds.
“This fence went in fast, and it’s been 10 years, but it’s
still in really nice shape,” he said. “It originally was five wires, but I added
another wire because I’ve got a few sheep that like to jump.”
Since this flock is outside all winter, the ewe lambs are
“If they were bred as ewe lambs, they would get thin and
have problems being reproductive while they are still growing,” Adams said. “So
we hold them a year before the ewe lambs are bred.”
The past winter was really good for grazing.
“There was a lot of good fall growth,” Adams said. “These
ewes hardly get any hay. This spring, they ate four big bales of hay.”
Sheep also handle heat well, as long as they have good
access to water.
“I don’t stir them up in the heat,” Adams said. “I have
never lost any sheep to heat.”
A dog patrols the Adams property for predators, but he still
has a problem with coyotes.
“Coyotes hate electric fence, and they don’t jump over it —
they go under the fence,” Adams explained. “These sheep are smart. If there’s a
coyote, they will group up.”
Adams’ biggest problem with coyotes occurs at the first snow
of the year when the coyotes group together.
“There is no way to eliminate the coyote population,” he
The first hoop building was built on the Adams farm eight
years ago to store hay.
“I put sheep in there the first winter, and now we don’t
store hay there anymore,” he said. “This is the best environment for the sheep —
it is bright, airy and easy to clean the manure out.”
In the wintertime, Adams closes the door at the north end of
the hoop building, and since there is no door on the south end, he stacks large
square bales of hay to block the wind and reduce the amount of snow that blows
For more information about the Adams sheep flock, visit
www.adamshampshires.com or www.adamsshropshires.com.