Starting out with sheep in Ontario, Canada? - Homesteading Today
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  #1  
Old 06/28/11, 01:07 PM
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 85
Starting out with sheep in Ontario, Canada?

I've recently discovered a love for sheep I never knew existed (no one laugh!)... I started herding with my German Shepherd Dog and I’d like to get a flock of our very own, possibly expand into a business if it turns out to be for me.
Does anyone have any suggestions where to begin?
What are the best starter breeds?
Types of shelters/housing required?
Land space per head?
Vetting, costs, etc?
Negatives to owning sheep?

Thanks in advance!

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Old 06/28/11, 01:32 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: SW Michigan
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I start by looking close by and seeing what breeds of sheep others around you have - and why. How well do those breeds perform for them? Are you into sheep for meat or fleeces or both? If you don't want to deal with the wool, you are best off with a hair-type that will shed by itself rather than having been sheared.

Land space is determined by what kind of grass/rain/etc you have for them. I have a 3-sided shelter for my sheep. They rarely go inside for winter. In your area you might need more shelter for them. Mine are always looking for shade to lounge the heat of the day away in.

You need to be ready to worm and vaccinate. You can find out what vaccines sheep in your area need through your 'state' ag department. I am not sure what that would be in Canada. They will tell you what else you need to do - I have to have my sheep ear tagged to sell them. I feed mine a small amount of grain every day and they eat hay in winter. Other than that - they eat grass. I also feed free-choice loose minerals.

For more information, you might start here. I love looking at all the breeds there are to choose from. http://www.sheep101.info/sheepbreedsa-z.html

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Old 06/28/11, 05:31 PM
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 85

Thank you, that's really helpful
Is there much profit to be made from wool? Given a choice, I'd rather not sell meat if I could get by on wool alone but I haven't been able to locate much information on wool prices here in Ontario.
Is there a popular breed for either wool or meat or is it personal preference?

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Old 06/28/11, 06:42 PM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Ontario
Posts: 12,470

Sheep farming in TO that'd be cool! Where does matter a bit Ontario is a big place. If you focus on wool you will need to build your own market unless you can find a local business that is buying wool. Romney might be a good breed to consider for wool, it seems the most frequently purchased by my wife any how. She does alot of felting and makes a decent and growing amount of money with it.

Welcome to HT's sheep board there are a few people from Ontario posting here so its a good place to get local info. Where do you plan to farm?

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Old 06/28/11, 07:07 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Virginia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EscapingToronto View Post
I've recently discovered a love for sheep I never knew existed (no one laugh!)...
Trust me, no one here will!

Another option is dairy sheep, though I have no idea what the laws in Canada say about selling raw milk. And if you want to sell wool, you might want to check out wool mills.

Here's one near Calgary: http://www.customwoolenmills.com/custom/pricelist.asp

And one in Michigan (probably closer to you, but higher prices):
http://www.zwool.com/

Not many people know what to do with a fleece, but everybody likes wool socks! If that interests you, you might even call the mill and ask which breeds' wool, in their opinion, makes the best socks, yarns, etc.
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Old 06/28/11, 07:11 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: SW Michigan
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I don't think you can make enough money with sheep just selling wool, unless you sell to hand spinners and fiber artists - even then, it won't be a huge income. You can check our Zellinger Mill's web site to see just how expensive it is. I believe they will even knit the socks for you there - in case you're not into knitting.

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  #7  
Old 06/28/11, 07:53 PM
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Right now even the property location is negotiable. I'm still in the research stages of this endeavor and would like to do as much research as possible before diving in, but thinking north east of Toronto, maybe Stouffville area.
So it sounds like to be able to make a living, one would need to sell meat?
Are there any breeds people would advise against for meat?

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Old 06/28/11, 09:00 PM
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Location: far SW Wisconsin USA
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Talk to your local herding friends. See what they recommend for a new shepherd. A few wethers would be a good starter flock to see if you really like them, before getting into lambing with some bred, experienced ewes.

Hair sheep like Katahdins are pretty popular in many parts of Canada and can handle the extremes of your weather very nicely. Many herding people prefer them so they don't have to worry about shearing. They taste good too. Of course I am biased. Ours are easy lambers and the babies are up and nursing right after birth.

Milk from dairy sheep usually gets made into cheese.

The smaller breeds may not give enough meat to make butchering worth the cost.

Good fencing will pay for itself. You can use portable electric net with a good charger for pasture, but it's not recommended for herding practice because it is easy to run the sheep into it accidentally.

Peg

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Old 06/28/11, 09:41 PM
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 85

Most of the herding crowd around here seem to keep hair sheep. I wonder if that's because the wool is not worth the work? I've never really asked them that.
Selling my animals for someone else to eat is one thing, but thinking of them as delicious is another

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Old 06/29/11, 05:22 AM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Ontario
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Meat is your best money maker. Hair sheep eliminate the work of shearing but also the wool to sell. In fairness the best wool comes off the worst meat breeds. OSMA will have info like local market prices. http://www.ontariosheep.org/ And The wool growers co-op in Ontario, where most people dump their wool for a few bux.
http://www.seregonmap.com/SCM/index.htm Try a local weavers and spinners guild for wool suggestions too.

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  #11  
Old 06/29/11, 08:03 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Ontario
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we have been sheep farming in the GTA (out towards Guelph) for 30 years.

When we started we had Corriedales. They are a great starter breed. They lamb easily, are good mothers and flock well. We made a bit from the fleece, but that was with targeted marketing and add value (sorting, carding, dyeing.)

Now we raise Rideaus, mainly for sale to commercial operations who want to improve their flock. Our mature ewes raise about 2.3 lambs each lambing. I wouldn't recommend them to someone without animal husbandry experience as keeping large numbers of little lambs alive at birth is a bit of an art. But lots of lambs per ewe works well for our small acreage. We pasture 70-75 ewes on the 10 acres we own. That is a heavy stocking rate so we have to hay feed much of the year. We do hay on another 100+ acres, some for us and some for sale.

Finding an area with a vet who works with large animals and knows something about sheep is a good idea. Most vets close to the GTA are small animal vets and don't have the licensing for large animal medications. Many of the large animal vets in the area just work with horses. As you get a bit further out the large animal vets often know cattle and hogs and nothing about sheep.

You will want to live on the land where you have your sheep. Otherwise coyotes or roving neighbourhood dogs will rob you of both profit and joy in raising sheep. We have discovered that even with guardian animals (donkey, llamas) the only way to keep the flock really safe is to confine them close to the barn every night.

Property costs are going to be an issue if you need to stay near TO and you want to not lose money on your operation. In Stouffville you will be competing with landed gentry for a pretty piece of country acreage. Factor in building fencing and shelter and the cost increases. Getting land with these in place does not add much to the cost, but it will cost you if they are not there already, especially if you have to hire them done.

A useful website with links is the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency:http://www.ontariosheep.org/

We love to help people who are starting up in the business. PM me if you want to visit our farm.

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