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Discussion Starter #1
Thinking about in the future getting a few sheep. What is a good starter sheep? I'm looking for breeds so I can start my research, any experiences, good and bad, would be great.

TIA
 

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Just living Life
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I would say,, a smaller breed of sheep that has been halter trained, for ease of handling. You can also check out your local 4-H groups.

Babydoll southdown sheep,, over all are mellow and easy to deal with.
I know of a breeder that sometimes has very mellow cross breds too. If interested, Please let me know. ;)

Here is a web site to look at....

http://www.nebraskasheep.com/directory/
 

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If you're not interested in the fiber aspect, hair sheep are very hardy and low maintenence. No shearing, no docking, and quite tasty. Good pets, too.
I have Barbado sheep, they're on the small side, (mature ewes are about 100 lbs.) I can handle them with no problem.


<img src = "http://mediaservice.photoisland.com/auction/Sep/2003957565017817195598.jpg">

This is one of my ewe lambs when she was a few days old.
 

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Malinda,, your lamb is sooooo cute!!

A bottle Fed ewe lamb, from the tiny Soay or Barbado would do well too.
Stay away from the breeders that never handle their sheep though,, they can be hard to tame down.
 

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Real farmers don't need cute; we need practical. I can see where many folks who merely keep livestock as decorative pets would find the cute aspect the most important. And that's ok as long as they don't try to sell breeding stock, because cute and tame are not good definitions of quality breeding stock.

As a farmer and conservation breeder keeping many unrelated bloodlines, I've bought many a "tame" sheep, only to have him be trouble with a capital T. And I've bought many unhandled sheep who have turned out to be the best behaved animals. So there are no hard and fast rules.

I think that handling them is less important than good breeding for health, disease resistance and ability to thrive on basic care, rather than needing lots of drugs or veterinary care to keep them alive. That said, I do enjoy my sheep, and handle them as much as they allow me to. I believe in letting my critters be themselves, and do what comes naturally. Quite often, many of them come around and want to be my buddy. That's a nice bonus, but not the whole reason for keeping sheep. They are practical, multipurpose livestock, and one of the easiest keepers if you choose the right breed.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Greener,
Since you are so opinionated as to why one should have sheep, how about telling me your experiences with the breeds you've had?

Bergere and melinda,
Thanks for your responses. Gives me a start.
 

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We have had very good luck with both the Katahdin and Dorper hair sheep. Both breeds are very hardy and prolific. Crossing the Dorper onto the Katahdin gives us much faster gains and keeps the mild flavor. The shedding quality eliminates the need for a shearer and wool disposal. Both breeds are very docile and a joy to work with! :D
 

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Brandi what do you want the sheep your keeping to do for you? Wool, pets, meat, hides, 4h, dairy????
 

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Like Ross says you need to know WHY you want sheep. If you are a spinner the Romneys have wonderful lustrous wool. If you are planning to make money selling feeder lambs Suffolks put on weight fast are great. If you want to sell your wool to a commercial buyer you might go with Columbias or Rambouillets. I do not know about "back east," but out here in the west "hair" sheep of any type do not bring any sort of maket price. The easiest to lamb out of any I have owned have been the Cheviots, the lambs seem to bounce to their feet and start suckling with no help from me at all!! Having owned and lambed out 50 to 75 ewes every spring for many years I can say that the ones that are easiest to handle are my pets; that is, the ones I raised as bums. All of mine get pretty tame, but the pets are super easy to deal with. Especially those teenage mothers! But do be sure to study up on fencing and shelter needs for your area. Know what kind of hay is available. Know what kind of wormer you need to use and how often. Ditto for various vaccinations. Know how to trim feet. You CAN make money with sheep, but if you do not manage them right you can LOSE a lot in a hurry. Best of luck.
 

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Just living Life
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Greener,,, yes, I understand about Quality,, When I was breeding, I only bred the best, and culled heavily, I did not sell culls to anyone. Over the years I ended up with very few culls,, and alot of very nice animals. However, I am also in the mind, most of the people I sold too were smaller Homesteads, that wanted easier to handle sheep.
So I proved both, with NO loss of Quality at all. There is nothing wrong with handling and halter training the ewes and wethers. It does not make anyone less of a Breeder or Shepherd for doing so.

The best advise I have always told people. If you are not sure what you want to do,, maybe only own two sheep for a start. Having nice Quality, but gentled sheep are the best to start out with.
 

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Here in the midwest, hair sheep lambs bring the same price per pound as the wool lambs ~ except Barbados which usually bring a little lower price. There are even a few Halal processors that prefer the hair sheep. Check in your area as to which are bringing the better prices as you weigh your options.
 

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Brandi in VA said:
Greener,
Since you are so opinionated as to why one should have sheep, how about telling me your experiences with the breeds you've had?
I went over and over my post and couldn't find any mention that one *should* have sheep. But I certainly don't deny that I am opinionated! :D

We've only had 2 breeds on sheep on our farm; we started out with Shetlands and Soays. Shetlands are great and we had a good time with them; they are very personable and the wool is lovely to spin. Not all of them require shearing; we learned that many could be rooed. But there came a time that I had to choose to do 2 breeds "just ok" or do one breed really well within the space that I currently have. I chose the latter, and chose the Soay sheep because they are not as plentiful as Shetlands and more in need of conservation. I believe in keeping and using more rams than most breeders do, in order to keep bloodlines separate and provide good genetics and unrelated breeding stock, so our ram flock is about 40% of the entire sheep flock. I have well over 100 pages of information on my website about keeping sheep; including the all important aspects of ram management, and also detailed photos and descriptions on hoof trimming.

We butcher our culls, have the hides tanned, I've spun their fiber (lovely stuff!) and enjoy watching them in the pastures. They keep the blackberries from encroaching on our property, keep the pastures mown, provide excellent manure for the gardens and pastures, and are basically an essential part of our farm. I can't imagine ever being without them; sheep really are a multipurpose livestock animal. But if you are on a sheep forum, then you already know that! :D
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Greener, sorry I must have misunderstood your post. Probably the mood I've been in today. :oops:

Should have posted why I want a few sheep in the future, if I decide to go this route. Will more the likely sound odd to most but oh well. The main reason, it gets cold here in the winter, my dogs are outside most of the time (unless it gets too coldthen they come in). I want the wool to add to their normal bedding to help them retain heat better. A friend of mine has done this the past few years with good results. Also want extra meat during winter, chicken gets old. lol I'm not big on selling to the general public and don't want to be a "breeder" or make money. Want something easy to handle and hardy, size doesn't matter, market value doesn't matter.

All the info has been great so far. But what are the downsides to some of these breeds that ya'll have experienced?
 

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What a neat topic!

I want to ahve a few sheep in a few years too- for spinning (and felting and weaving) and eating and training herding dogs with. Has anyone had any experience with Black Welsh Mountain Sheep? I think these are really beautiful sheep (and my renfaire cloak is made out of BWMS fleece- was a gift from a friend who weaves and has her own sheep- it's the most wonderful thing I've ever owned, clothingwise.), but since I'm leaning towards desert and range, probably not a practical choice. However, I don't know *anything* about them excecpt their wool is really nice and soft. (Well, and they're cute, but as you said, that's not a reason to get one or another breed. Not of livestock, anyway.)

Cait
 

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We have American Soay sheep. I chose that breed for several reasons. I decided to get sheep primarily to keep my dh off of our slopes with the tractor! So brush and weed patrol is their primary function. My second concern was that although I have had considerable experience with other livestock (horses, goats, hogs, cattle), I had never kept sheep and wanted a breed that was fairly tolerant of novice sheep owners. The Soay are very hardy and seem quite self sufficient. I wanted to avoid the health problems that I had heard so many of the old timers around here talk about-feet, parasite, lambing, etc. So far, with a low stocking rate, I have been able to use herbal wormer and have maintained a parasite count of -0-! The ewes lambed quite well without my involvement and we have had no other health problems.

I do like the small size of the Soay and the fact that they shed their wool instead of needing sheared is an added bonus. The sheep I got were quite wild when I first got them, so I am feeding them a small amount of grain (about a cup and a half for seven sheep) a day just to get them accustomed to approaching me and to clarify that I am a good guy, not a predator. I need them to be a little more manageable because of the layout of our farm and the fact that I am doing a lot of pasture rotation and need them to move in the general direction I call them.

Should my dd ever decide to exhibit some of our Soay in 4-H, then we will work to tame some of them down even more and train them to halter. My basic principle for my sheep and every other animal on this farm is that they are here only because they serve my purposes. Should they be unable to do that, then they will be replaced. But I feel perfectly justified in determining whatever purposes I choose. A couple of the animals here have the primary job of providing companionship. And they do a great job of that. Others clean up the pastures, others feed us, others guard and protect all the rest of us, etc.

So I would encourage you to determine your needs well before researching what kind of animal or what breed of that animal will most fit the bill. Remember to include a determination of your budget, climate, facilities, fencing, purposes for the animals, the amount of time you have to care for them, your expertise in handling and medical treatment of them, whether you plan to breed them and how complicated that will be, and whether you need to turn a profit or whether non-monetary compensation is more important. Also, don't ignore your gut feelings about a species or breed. If Lincoln sheep seem right on paper but just don't feel right up close and personal, then stay away from them. Because it all comes down to getting enough back from your animals that you can slog out through the freezing cold and deep snow to feed them and get a big smile on your face when you see them, and be tempted to linger there a while just enjoying their presence before heading back in to the comforts of home.

Best wishes on a great choice,
Ohio Valley Soay Farm
 

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Corgitails said:
Has anyone had any experience with Black Welsh Mountain Sheep? I think these are really beautiful sheep (and my renfaire cloak is made out of BWMS fleece- was a gift from a friend who weaves and has her own sheep- it's the most wonderful thing I've ever owned, clothingwise.), but since I'm leaning towards desert and range, probably not a practical choice. However, I don't know *anything* about them excecpt their wool is really nice and soft. (Well, and they're cute, but as you said, that's not a reason to get one or another breed. Not of livestock, anyway.)

Cait
HI Cait,

I had BWM in the past,, way before they brought in new UK semen. I stopped breeding them back then when I found out just how inbreed they were.
The UK semen has brought new life back into these sheep.
I have two part bred BWM/BHC sheep. Both are halter trained.
Their fleece is easy to spin, but what I would call a medium to medium course wool.



Here is a web site with info on them.
http://www.blackwelsh.org/
 

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Down sides to the sheep I have raised, over many, many years... Humm....

Babydoll southdowns,, can't run overly fast, can go wool blind.
Needs to be sheared. Rams can be extremely aggressive. Ewes need to be watch because they do have birthing problems.
`
But, most ewes and wethers are very gentle and very easy to handle. They are a quiet sheep. Wool is very soft.

Jacob,,, really noisey, could not find a Ram to meet my standards on temperament and conformation. Very aggressive with dogs, so I find that a plus.
Some ewes can be friendly, but some are not. Wool can run from very course to medium soft. Ewes are good mother, birth without much help.

BWM,,, at the time I had them, found out they were too inbreed. And having the problems inbreed sheep can have.
Need to watch birthings,, at the time, but things should be improving with the UK blood.
Some Ewes will tame down if handle young, can be flightly,, Rams,,, could find not find that met my standards at the time.
Wethers were easy to gentle.

Brecknock Hill Cheviot... Some can be flightly, but will tame down, easy to halter train when young. Very hardy, and birth on their own,, never had a problem. Both ewes and Rams very gentle,but alert,, (But never make a pet out of a Ram), they get used to and like their caretakers,, but will disappear when strangers come around. Fleece is wonderful to spin, slight luster and nice spring to it. It runs from Medium to medium course, but blends very well with other fibers. My favorite blends in 60% BHC and 40% super soft llama.
This breed I raise for years,, until my health, and my husbands father passing away, made it not possible for me to breed sheep any more.
Boy, was that hard to give up.

So I am down to two Soay wethers,, who are partly halter trained. Training Has been halted due to horse stepping on my foot. :? :oops:
And the two BWM/BHC who are both very well halter trained.

A strong word of caution about dogs and sheep. They just do not mix. (unless a train guardian dog) Please understand that even though your dogs a great around you, doesn't mean they will be this way with sheep.
Dogs that chase sheep are not playing.
I have seen too many people find out the hard way, even after I cautioned them about dogs and sheep,, to have the new sheep owner find there sheep multalated in their own pasture, dying a slow horrible death,, and their dogs did it.
 

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Too true about the dogs and sheep! But... I want sheep anyway. I know a lot of countryfolks let their dogs run loose, but I can't afford to. Corgis are sort of like coyote-sized lunchables, and Papillions wouldn't make breakfast. I imagine Indy (my largest corgi) could definately hurt a sheep. The Papillion would probably not deign to step in a pasture with actual *gasp* manure in it..... I plan on having a 'dog yard' around the house for my guys to run in to reduce any temptation of going herding without me. (Besides, I'll need a fencecd area for agility.)

Cait
 

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They're all pretty adorable. One of my favorite things about corgis is that they are such a nice moderate energy level for a homestead. I don't ever plan to have a huge number of livestock, so it'd be kind of silly to get a border collie (unless I want one for agility and whatnot too, ,which I do...) just for a few sheep. I really don't know why more homesteaders don't consider them (Well, okay, I do, they're sort of funny looking if you aren't used to them) for a part time herder and full time family pet.


Edit: Woops.. I also am amused by the idea of having Welsh sheep herded by Welsh dogs. Perhaps could use that as an excuse to get a Welsh Cob- had a Welsh x Arab when I was a kid who was the most FUN horse ever...
Cait
 
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