Intro & what sheep are easy/lawnmowers?

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by mucklingmom, Nov 19, 2003.

  1. mucklingmom

    mucklingmom Member

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    Hi, gang!
    I'm new, and got here searching on sheep breeds. Great site!!
    Anyway, my name is Amy, and my husband and I are building our new house on 20 acres of former Hereford pasture in Washington State. We are realizing that we are going to need some animals to keep the vegetation under control. We have our eye on a milk cow, chickens and sheep.
    We are wondering what sheep are easiest (since we also have 3 kids under 5) according to the experienced among you, and make good lawnmowers without being too huge?? We were looking into Corriedales, 'cuz we think they're cute, but they're looking awfully big. Does size have anything to do with how manageable they are? Would we need a sheep dog, too? Any thoughts are welcome. Thanks so much for being the voices of experience, here.
    Mucklingmom
     
  2. McFox

    McFox Member

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    The only way to go is hair sheep. Katahdin females and percentage Dorper Ram. You won't have to worry about shearing them [wool is worthless unless you spin] they are small and gentle, efficient grazers. They are inexpensive and are great to eat and sell for freezor lamb.
     

  3. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I would suggest Dorsets, shearing isn't the worst job going and wool can be a marketable product. Typically Dorsets are agreeable it's mostly how much they are handled and are familiar with you. Young children shouldn't be unsupervised with any farm animal. Some breeds are wilder than others, North County Cheviots are my favorite to pick on based on the 40 or so we have! They have a place in the industry I would imagine them as the best range sheep out there. You do not "need" a dog to work sheep I prefer it and it's a lot easier but bucket trained sheep are fairly managable too. (come for grain) Consider what is available locally for reputable breeders. Buy quality stock and put some time into them, but do consider everything you want the animals to do. Good natured grass munchers isn't any breed in particular.
     
  4. MAC

    MAC Active Member

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    Look for some Southdowns; you'll find that they are smaller and for the most part more gentle. And they're cute, too!
     
  5. Sue

    Sue Well-Known Member

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    I agree that the hair sheep are an excellent choice for ease of management. In most areas anymore, the cost to shear a sheep is greater than the profit for the wool. In our area, no one will even take it away so then you have the burden of trying to dispose of it. With hair sheep, you will find a good market for breeders as they are becoming quite popular, and also a good market for your meat. The flavor is quite mild in the Katahdins and Dorpers that we raise. They are very docile animals and pleasant to be around. All your feed conversion goes to meat and to mommas producing for their young as opposed to the wool. You also save on stressing the animal at shearing time especially if you are attempting to learn to do it yourself ~ not an easy job!! Hair sheep are also known for their greater parasite resistance. Barbados are the only ones I would tend to steer clear of as they are much more flighty and do not grow nearly as fast.
     
  6. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Shearing has some advantages too. As soon as a sheep is shorn it's metabolism accelerates and feed conversion improves in efficency. Makes a preflushing shear all the more effective. Plus the handling during shearing is a good oportunity to condition score, hoof trim, check teeth, etc. All handling is stressful but the more you do the more familiar the sheep become to being handled. You want tame sheep so you'll have to work with whatever breed you get. You'd have to compare costs with prices too. No good sheep is expensive; however some cost too much for what they'll produce so do your math. If I could sell a hair sheep lamb I'd check out Dropers. No idea if they are what you want as "tame" but at least the lambs look a little more promising for putting on meat. Do shop around and be prepared to travel, the right sheep is worth the trouble, for any breed/type.
     
  7. Kasidy

    Kasidy Well-Known Member

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    Any type of sheep can be really gentle and easy to handle---especially if it has been raised as a bum. I run about 50 head of ewes and the ones that were bums are all very friendly, even the cheviots!! We do have a dog, but like Ross says it is usually much easier to move them by just calling and getting them to follow you. I don't even carry a grain bucket most of the time. I guess because a number of them were bums they got used to coming when I called and trained the rest.
    As far as the shearing. It can be a problem to get a shearer in some areas. But if you have a very gentle sheep you can do it yourself with a good pair of scissors. We have professionals come and do our herd. But occasionally I have run out of the type or color of wool I need for hand spinning and then I take one of my really tame ewes, tie her to the fence, sit down on my stool and cut her fleece off with scissors. Sometimes I give her a handful of grain. It takes a while--a half hour or more compared to five minutes or less for the pros with the electric clippers. But if you have a tame ewe, who has been tied up periodically as a youngster it works just fine. In a few years when we sell most of the livestock I will keep three or four ewes to mow grass and just "shear" them myself with scissors.
     
  8. mucklingmom

    mucklingmom Member

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    I'm sorry - I'm unfamiliar with the term "bum" as it relates to sheep. Could you enlighten me on the meaning, please?
    Thanks.
    I'm really enjoying the answers I'm getting so far. Hair sheep look to be just what we're looking for, except hubby says that part of the "fun" of sheep is getting to use the wool somehow. Southdowns ARE really cute. They look like something out of a Jane Austen movie. It's fun to put all your answers into the mix of stuff we're considering.
    Amy
     
  9. McFox

    McFox Member

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    Stay with hairsheep, you can buy alllthe wool you want cheaper than you can produce it.
     
  10. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Wool breeds are generally easier to find unrelated sires for and easier to cross breed with a different breed. Nothing uglier than a wool/ hair cross breed. (at least I assume the Kats I saw with patches of wool were cross breeds. There wouldn't be throwbacks to their wooly ancestors would there? :eek: )
     
  11. Cara

    Cara Well-Known Member

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    A bum is a bottle baby...either mom died or deserted. They are really fun.
     
  12. mawalla

    mawalla Well-Known Member

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    To answer your quesion regarding a "bum" lamb: A true "bum lamb" is one that steals milk, bums, from unrelated ewes. (You will also see them refered to as "bummers".) It usually happens if the lamb has been regected by it dam, or is from a multiple birth and it's trying to get more milk than it can from it's own dam, or has been orphaned. A lamb that has been taken on by the shepherd to bottle feed is often called a bum lamb, as well, even if it never has tried to suck of of unrelated ewes.

    Bum lambs, or bottle fed lambs, become very dependent upon the human who feeds them. They are usually very tame all through their life. As I drove in the driveway this evening, an 8week old St. Croix bottle lamb that I have came running down the driveway to meet me! When I go out to the pasture, a two year old ewe that I bottle raised, because she was orphaned at birth, will come up to me and put her chin on my belly so that I will rub her face. Another one that is 6 months old will follow us around like a dog. She even takes walks down the street with us and goes on a leash better than any of the dogs!

    Bottle lambs are a lot of work but I enjoy raising a few of them every year. It has been a great experiance and responsibility builder for my children, too. However, it can be costly as milk replacer is not cheap.
     
  13. kabri

    kabri Almst livin the good life

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    Hi Amy, what part of Washington are you in? If it's Western, you have to consider the WET that we have here and how it affects sheep. Eastern WA is much dryer. Personally, I have had nothing but problems keeping barbadoes (hair sheep) healthy in the damp weather near Seattle. We have border cheviots which are generally smaller than the North Country cheviots that Ross mentioned. They originated in Scottland, and so their wool is very resistant to rot that some other breeds get from weeks of rain, and their hoofs can take the wet ground way better than other breeds too. Having enough shelter so they can get out of the rain (W. WA) or wind/snow (E. WA) is very important IMO. Cheviots are also smaller and easier to handle because of that. We do have trained dogs, but our oldest/lead ewe's will always come running for a bucket of grain and bring the rest of the flock with them!

    Also, if the previous owners were running cattle, you may have to do some extensive fencing... just barbed wire is not sufficient to keep the sheep in, or predators (dogs!) out.
     
  14. JerseyLightning

    JerseyLightning Well-Known Member

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    If you are in a wet area, you may also want to consider Romneys as they are extremely resistant to foot rot. They make good "pet" sheep as well, and would probably work in the lawnmower department. They produce nice wool which spins easily, so if decide to learn to spin, you'd be all set! Good luck on your decision!

    Kathleen in New Jersey
     
  15. mucklingmom

    mucklingmom Member

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  16. H A F

    H A F Member

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    Your area has alot of Soay sheep breeders. Soays are a "miniature" breed. They naturally shed off their wool, which is short and fine. They are extremely hardy, and also from Scottland, so well adapted to the wet climate. They are very primitive, and aren't easily tame, but mine know all about the grain bucket. The only down side I have found, is that they will find every single weak spot in a fence, and because they are so small can get thru.

    Are you intersted in breeding sheep, or do you really just want lawnmowers? If you really just want lawnmowers, I would suggest getting wethers. They are tamer than both ewes and rams, especially since they don't have the hormone running through their bodies.

    good luck!