Are you thinking about raising your own flock of sheep? Living off the land can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to consider all the facts before you get started.
Carefully Consider What Breed Is Right for You
- Research Market Demand: Depending on where and whom you’re selling to, there may be an increased desire for a particular type of sheep. For example, an increased demand for meat-producing sheep over wool-producing sheep would mean that a breed of hair sheep that sheds its wool would be a preferential choice. Be sure to research which market, whether meat, wool, fiber, or milk1 is most desirable for you, and select the right breeds accordingly.For example, the American Rambouillet is one of the most common breeds of Merino sheep in the U.S., a type of sheep known for their high-quality wool. Suffolk sheep are a popular mutton producing breed, making up more than 50% of the purebred sheep registries in the U.S. Or you could consider a breed like the Hampshire Sheep that produces both fine wool and mutton.2 The choice is yours.
- Determine Your Budget: Each breed is unique in their care and needs, which impacts a farmer’s resource management. When selecting your breed, consider what resources you currently have at your disposal and what you will need to plan for in the future. Are you planning on raising breeding stock? This would mean a greater number of females are required. Would they be purebred or crossbred? This would impact the growth of the herd and milk supply. Whatever your plan is, ensure it’s feasible and you have considered all the financial costs involved with raising sheep.
Get Prepared Ahead of Time
- Stock Up on Essentials: Every season brings its own set of challenges. For example, be sure to have a lambing kit, medicine chest, plenty of bedding, and ventilated barn for lambing in the winter months as there is a higher risk of mastitis and pneumonia3. For late lambing from April to May, pasture management is essential to ensure that lambs are fed on grass. Late spring also has higher instances of parasite.4 Look up different parasites or illnesses that could impact your herd, be prepared with antibiotics on hand, and build a good relationship with a local veterinarian.
- Create a Schedule: Flocks can vary in size, and as your flock grows, having a schedule in place ensures that you stay on top of meeting the health and safety needs of your sheep, especially if you are just starting out. This includes having a vaccination protocol, as well as plan in place for ear tags, hoof trimming, banding, and deworming.
- Lay Out Your Yard: Before you’re ready to buy any equipment, you should take stock of what your yard currently looks like to plan what equipment could go where. Considering the amount of space you have will also help determine how many sheep you can initially have. It’s generally recommended to have a stocking rate of 10-15 sheep per acre of pasture5.
Have Proper Equipment Prepped and Maintained
- Consider All Equipment Required: You’ll need a variety of equipment when raising a flock of sheep. For example, feeders prevent animals from eating off the ground, with foraging a potential cause of health problems, such as parasitic infections. It’s also important to consider equipment such as watering systems, fencing, healthcare equipment, shearing equipment, scales, and handling equipment.1 When considering what you will need, be sure to keep in mind the safety of yourself and your animals. Check out a video here to learn how YouTuber The Sheperdess uses a handling system with her micro ranch. Also, be sure to follow Sandi Brock’s journey with sheep farming by watching her Sheepishly Me YouTube channel to learn from her successes.
If you are ready to start your farming journey, Lakeland Farm is here to help. Products like the Deluxe Spin Trim Chute make your day just a little bit easier, helping you with tasks such as hoof trimming, tagging, banding, and de-worming. Click here to learn more today.