Keeping sheep? or not?

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by No Regrets Farm, Jan 10, 2007.

  1. No Regrets Farm

    No Regrets Farm Well-Known Member

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    Apr 2, 2003
    A few months ago, we were given 4 shetland ewes and 2 shetland rams. They are of registered stock, but we do not own the registration papers for them. They are all a couple of years old and of good breeding stock. They are not tame what so ever, though.

    These are the first sheep we've ever had and are wondering if it's worth while to stay into sheep? I dont spin, knit, crochet, etc. I have no need for the wool. We can/will eat some meat from their lambs, but I dont know how much we really want for the freezer. If we didnt have sheep of our own, I wouldnt really care if we ate it or not. Basically, our only purpose (at this point) would be for selling the babies and for selling the wool. Is there much of a market for shetland babies? What about raw wool? Could it pay for all the feed, expenses, etc to care for these critters? Would we only be breaking even?

    We live in SW Michigan. Our pastures are ok, but they need hay in the winter and we are feeding corn that we buy for $3.50 a bushel from a local farmer.

    We could buy the registration papers from the previous own for $50 per animal. Would that make the babies more valuable?

    Any help would be much appreciated!

    Thank you,
    Cindy
     
  2. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    Jul 27, 2004
    Location:
    VT
    Yes it would make the offspring more valuable, but if you're not serious about your genetics and your breeding program it probably isn't worthwhile to spend $300 to get them registered.

    And, I'd like to point out, that you were GIVEN these animals. Which says a lot about the market for Shetland Sheep in your area, unless the person doing the giving is a relative and it was a generous gift intended to make you money in the future. If not, it sounds like they couldn't sell them, but couldn't bear to kill them, so... there you are... free sheep.

    Not much of a business plan in that... give away sheep... if you know what I mean.
     

  3. ShortSheep

    ShortSheep Well-Known Member

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    Aug 8, 2004
    Location:
    Illinois
    Hi Cindy,

    I have raised registered Shetlands for 5 years, and I'm in Illinois.
    The market in our area is saturated with breeding stock, so if you want to turn a profit with registered shetlands, you'll have to have good ones, and you'll have to work at marketing them, simply because you'll have a lot of competition against the numerous established breeders.
    Clean shetland fleece can be marketed to handspinners, and can bring up to $12 a pound if it is soft. Certain colors sell quicker than others. There is a market for the smaller carcasses, expecially around ethnic holidays. And you might be able to sell some lambs as pets. Our lambs fetch about $1 a lb at market, I sell culls as pets for $50 just to get them out of here.
    You do not need to give your shetlands grain year 'round, we only feed grain to the ewes about a month before lambing, and a month or so into lactation. No more than a 1/2 soup can each. Your grain bill should be very minimal with Shetlands, one of the many traits that make them such a great breed.
    Go over your animals with a careful eye and see if they really are worth papering. The breed standard can be found at:

    http://www.shetland-sheep.org

    A reminder that these are wool sheep, not meat sheep, so the fleece should be soft and pleasant to touch. I always honestly tell people to raise shetlands because you love them, don't plan on turning a profit. You will not get rich off these sheep.
    I do know people who make money at them, mostly by processing the fleeces into roving, and cross breeding with a cheviot or BLF for the meat market.
     
  4. No Regrets Farm

    No Regrets Farm Well-Known Member

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    Apr 2, 2003
    Thank you for the info. I will do a "little" more research, as this is my hubby's project. I guess I just dont have the passion for sheep and I am not really sure he does (anymore). He was all for it to begin with, but the newness is wearing off.

    It's a long story how we ended up with these sheep. A few years ago, my hubby (a carpenter) did some projects for a friend. Well, this friend decided (or misunderstood) the cost of a project and didnt pay. This ended the friendship until recently when we ran into him again. Being good christians, we have forgiven and moved on. He asked if we had ever gotten the sheep we once had talked about getting. He said he would like to make things right with us and if we wanted, he would give us his sheep. He's an older man with health problems and I think they were too much for him. His friend, whom the sheep originally came from, is a breeder in the area that has over 300 sheep and is doing well with them. He said they sell for around $500 a piece, registered adults. In all honesty, I think our friend was trying to make things right and find a loving home for them since he couldnt care for them. He never has been the type to resell things (I've seen this many times and he's given valuable things away to those who will use it). I am sure he could have sold them.

    Anyway, thanks again and if there is any more input...I am all ears..

    Thanks,
    Cindy
     
  5. seymojo536

    seymojo536 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    145
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    Sep 14, 2004
    Location:
    Ohio
    Cindy,

    I also have Shetlands. Or I should say my daughter has Shetlands, I'm just the banker. A couple of suggestions, first if at all possible find out the lineage of the animals you have. There may be a good reason they aren't registered besides just having not gotten around to it. Secondly, there are several outstanding breeders in that "state up north" and in NW Ohio who would probably be willing to stop by for a visit and give you an honest evaluation of your flock. Just ask, we are a pretty nice group. If you decide to keep them then by all means get them registered as soon as possible.

    The fellow's estimate of their worth could be on the high side, but if by some chance it isn't then you have some very nice Shetlands just based on the price. To see just what registered stock is going for head over to the NASSA site - http://www.shetland-sheep.org - and check out the sales page. Also there is a midwest organiztion at - http://www.mssba.org - with some lovely animals listed. A good group to join if you jump in. There are a couple Yahoo groups where we all exchange ideas and support. Look us up.

    And lastly, I would be glad to help in any way I could. My reasoning is that the more people that experience these little darlings, the bigger the market will get for them. That only means it'll be easier to sell and improve the animals we have.

    Good luck in which ever decision you make,

    John & Cat
    Simon Acres
    West Mansfield, Oh