How to start Sheep

6 Jun

From the Rural Living Handbook, Published by Mother Earth News. 115-116

It hardly pays to buy young lambs and feed them to adulthood for strong-flavored mutton. The trick, instead, is to raise your first lambs into adult breeders, then slaughter their offspring as fat, tender lambs. With an acre or two of pasture, a shade tree, a third of a ton of hay for winter and a handful of grain a day, a ewe lamb will mature in a year and, if bred, produce a lamb or two of her own, plus five to eight pounds of wool. After maturing on its mother’s milk and a little grain and graze, each of your new lambs will provide you with a wonderful fleece hide and around 50 pounds of delicious meat.

When you’re buying sheep, it’s wise to spend a few dollars more for pedigreed stock. Stick with a registered breed that’s popular in your area– which will greatly increase your chances of selling your animals quickly and profitably should the need arise.

A minimal flock consists of a ram and two or three ewes. A male sheep is about the only stud animal that’s docile enough for a beginner to handle; the worst you can expect is an occasional cautionary butt to your backside. A ram needfs only grass or a couple of bales of hay per month to stay healthy, and should be able to replenish your herd for at least five years.

Sheep load into a truck more easily than pigs. If they won’t drive in readily, chase them down one at a time, cornering them against the fence, where they can be tackled. Once down, they’ll go limp and let you tie their feet and hoist them into the truck.

If you’re going to keep sheep, you’ll have to either get on the shearer’s circuit or learn to do the fleecing chores yourself (Storey’s has a good guide). Shearing isn’t fdifficult; most sheep sit calmly while you work. Still, you would be well advised to get an electric shearer, since few modern hands have the strength to weild hand clippers for more than a few minutes at a time.

To protect your investment, you’ll need to either fence your pasture well or keep shepherd dogs with the flock to discourage feral canines and, in some parts of the country, other predators. As long as feed and water are available, a small flock of sheep will stay put behind a single-strand electric fence strung at (sheep) nose level– but it takes a strong and tight six-foot-high barbed wire, wire fabric, or multiple-strand high-tensile electric fence to keep out predatory canines.

Some small-scale sheep raisers keep pairs of animals in eight-foot-square, wire-mesh-panel pens that are light enough to be picked up and moved to a new spot on the pasture every day. Others rotate their flocks between narrow electric-fenced strips of pasture. In both instances, shepherd dogs stay with the flocks to woof away any four-legged interlopers.

(…lambing requires more work.. that’s why you should arrange for a vet to be on 24-hour call… read whatever you can to familiarize yourself with lambing.. invest in a lamb puller, nursing bottles, heat lamps and artificial milk — and plant to stay up nights to see your ewe through their most difficult and dangerous time.) ..

No matter how endearing your new lambs are, resist the temptation to turn them into pets. Sheep get soft, spoiled and soiled unless kept out grazing in the wind and rain and snow. If pan-fed to adulthood, a sheep will loaf happily around your door, bleating stupidly and incessantly, relieving itself indiscriminately and drawing flies.

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One Response to “How to start Sheep”

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  1. Beyond Organic: Leadership, Excellence, Performance « A Global Organic Mindset - November 11, 2011

    […] plus $2 a day. I didn’t have to spend on fence or land. My attempt to raise vegetables and animals in the city is one that has succeeded elsewhere .. New York, Boston, Detroit, Milwaukee, Portland, […]

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