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A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Sheep



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Raising livestock, big or small, is a rewarding experience. Knowing you can provide for your family is, in my opinion, the best feeling in the world! Also, when SHTF, it’s good to know that your food supply is there to keep you and your loved ones healthy and well fed.

The decision on what livestock is best can be a difficult decision; especially if you are a beginner. There are factors such as how much space you are able to give them, finances available (it can be expensive), the quality of your land, etc. The list of considerations can seem endless at times.

People, who are just starting out, choose smaller livestock such as sheep. They can be raised for meat, wool, and even milk. They make an excellent choice if are just beginning!

There are many advantages to raising sheep such as:

  • Sheep are small and easy to handle
  • They don’t require a lot of space
  • They don’t need a perfect pasture
  • They will eat brush, grasses, and weeds that grow in poor soil
  • They are gentle and docile
  • They can be trainable – you can teach them to come when called, to follow you, and to stand
  • You can raise sheep for their meat, wool, and even milk in some breeds

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We’ll go over the following steps to help you decide if sheep farming is right for you and the steps needed to care for your sheep:

  • Decide on the reason why you want to raise sheep
  • Consider if you have the financial resources to raise sheep
  • Choosing a breed
  • Decide on how many sheep you will purchase
  • Creating a suitable environment for the sheep
  • Order your sheep breed from a certified breeder
  • Bringing your sheep home
  • Feeding them when required
  • Make sure there is always fresh water
  • Comb and wash them regularly
  • Keep the sheep wormed and healthy

Decide on the reason why you want to raise sheep

People raise sheep for a number of reasons such as earning a living from their wool, hides, meat, milk, and vegetation control. It is important to understand from the outset that you cannot try to do everything with this multi-purpose animal because different breeds are more suited to one aspect or another. The pasture, feed, and production practices will vary according to what you want the sheep for. Unless you have the necessary time, appropriate experience, adequate resources, and appropriate pasture, don’t over-extend.

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Consider if you have the financial resources to raise sheep

Finances involved in setting up a sheep-breeding operation include the cost of the sheep, the cost of fencing, any feed required, vaccinations and vet checks, and transportation costs. In addition, any requirement to stockpile food, providing shelter for your sheep, and very poor weather needs to be taken into account.

Choosing a breed

There are hundreds of breeds of sheep, but here are some of the most popular.

Dual-purpose (meat and wool):

  • Corriedale
  • Dorset
  • Polypay
  • Tunis
  • Columbia

Meat:

  • Hampshire
  • Katahdin
  • Romney
  • Suffolk
(Image via)

(Image via)

Decide on how many sheep you will purchase

Where you live and the productivity of your land will determine how many sheep you are able to sustain. If you are seeking to make a profit from the sheep, you will need to factor in the market prices and the likely returns. In many places, it is very hard to make a profit from sheep raising on a small scale. It becomes even more difficult when the environment includes a harsh winter and additional feed and shelter must be provided for the sheep.

Creating a suitable environment for the sheep

Determine how much land you have available for your sheep and go from there. A rule of thumb is 5 ewes per acre.

The pasture must also be productive. Provide adequate fencing around the area to prevent wandering and to prevent dog or other animal attacks. Provide some form of simple shelter for the sheep. Adult sheep are fairly hardy provided you have selected the right type for the weather in your region.

Order your sheep breed from a certified breeder

Purchase sheep breeds from recognized breeders. There should be a local or national sheep breeder’s association that can assist you to find the names of breeders. Check online or in phone directories.

Bringing your sheep home

If you can have the sheep delivered, this is obviously easier. If you must collect them yourself, hire or purchase a suitable sheep trailer for safe transportation. If you need to make several trips, make sure the breeder is not too far away from you or you may need to make arrangements for overnight accommodation for you and the sheep.

Feeding them when required

The key to feeding sheep is to ensure good quality pasture. A poor pasture should be supplemented with hay, specialized pellet feed, and salt lick blocks. When sheep are unable to graze, such as during winter when snow is on the ground or during a drought when pasture is poor or non-existent, you will be obliged to feed the sheep daily. This is a time-consuming process, so consider this possibility if you are not farming full-time.

Make sure there is always fresh water

Ensure a steady supply of fresh water, usually in the form of a long trough accessible by many sheep at once. Check regularly that the water is being recycled daily (if electrically driven by pump) or ensure to change the water by hand daily. If you don’t they will get sick.

Comb and wash them regularly

If you are raising sheep for wool, showing, or as a pet, regular grooming ensures a healthy and tidy fleece.

Keep the sheep wormed and healthy

Ensure that the sheep are wormed regularly with a commercial worming paste suitable for sheep. Other considerations include dipping sheep to prevent pest infestation and in some places, tails are docked as a precaution against fly-blown disease. If you are in an area subject to foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks, take appropriate precautions to protect your sheep. Seek veterinarian advice on the best and most humane procedures for protecting your sheep against disease.

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