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Location: Maine

We have some cows but we want the place to get going to paying for itself.
So we were considering what would be best (ie. best income for the amount of land used by it).

So as we go down the list we come to sheep. From what I see Peppin Merino are the best for wool. While Rambouillet seem to be a better choice since that would open both the meat and wool market.

Anyone know much about these? Or suggestions?
I was trying to find a price but can't.


Thank you
Mike
 

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Hey Mike,

I can only offer a few thoughts, and even those may be out in left field.

While farm diversity is always a good thing, if you're talking about a small enough place and you're adding a new element such as a different type of care for a different type of animal then I wonder if sometimes just adding some more of the same thing might offer some savings in equipment, management/time, type of feed costs, (you know keeping copper away from sheep can sometimes be a real pain if you're rotating out pastures or trying to see other critters get their required amounts of copper.) Some people look at shearing as a pain, trying to find someone to do the actual shearing, or getting it processed, while others see it as an income source.

Looking at it from the "best" animal perspective, sometimes the best may not be worth it if they cost too much, are hard to find in your area, (paying for shipping) As with all animals, if you're on a "learning curve" you might consider getting a few grade animals so if you experience any loss, that loss will be a minimal expense rather than losing a top grade animal.

That said, I've seen a 3 acre Market Greenhouse set-up sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, while a 3 acre pasture will only go for $9 grand to $18 grand. So, if you're looking for the farm to quickly pay for it's self, that may be a route you want to go.

Now on to sheep. Looking at the Rambouillet breed page on the Oklahoma Sheep breeds site, it looks like while they grow top quality wool, it's only like 2" to 4" ??? Wow, that's all? My Border Leicester's grow from 10" to 12" per year so maybe a less quality fleece but more of it might gain you higher returns. (We shear ours 2 times a year) that may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you feel about shearing! Plus I HATE the trash wool around their face & legs of both breeds that you mentioned. And there is also that extra patch of skin on both breeds it looks like. (I would imagine its not a big deal to a professional shearer, but I kept nicking the one Merino cross we had.) But as you mentioned they are top quality wool breeds.

Cormo's seem to be right up there, you might check into those as well. Or, call around to a few fiber processors and see what their thoughts are, many of them also sell fiber directly and can offer some great advice.

What ever you decide to do, good luck and keep us posted...
 

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Mike,

I also live in Maine. I do ok selling market lambs, but could probably make more money selling hay out of the field instead (It would sure be less work). It sounds like you are looking more at the wool market than meat market based on the breeds you mentioned. For that you will need to have a good shearing job done and try to keep them clean and free of VM (Veggie Matter). Depending on the number of sheep you have, it can be very hard around here to get a shearer to come to your place. I do my own shearing because I found that a shearers in my area were charging between $10.00 and $15.00 a sheep. So to break even, I would have to get a min of $3.00 a lb. While I can get more than that out of my better fleeces, but I have many that are not worth that. So for me, I don't count on any income from the sale of my fleeces, but I also don't have the expense of hiring a shearer.

You should check out the Maine Sheep Breeders Assn members page for breeders in your area.

http://www.mainesheepbreeders.net/MSBAMembers.html

You should also talk to hand spinners in your area to find out what types of wool they prefer. It may make no sense to have Merino type sheep when hand spinners are buying Romney, Border Leicester, Cotswold, etc.... As they are the ones that are going to pay you top dollar for your fleeces. Don't even think about the wool pool, it was $0.36 or $0.37 per lb last year. But you can sell at the Fiber Frolic or the Common Ground fair and do ok.

Good luck, I personally think Sheep are great, but then that is why I have them and not goats....
 

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The people here (Michigan) that I know who make money from their sheep have their sheep shorn just before they are sent to market. If they spin, they keep the best fleece for themselves. If you let the shearer take the wool, you won't pay for the shearing. You are probably talking about starting with three to five sheep. Look for a breed of sheep that is a good mother, easy lambing, healthy. I started with Black Welsh Mountain, which are a small primitive type sheep that are reputed to never get hoof rot. I can attest to that. If you have a dryer spring than I have, it won't be an issue, but it's something to think about.

I think you should start with a hair sheep and concentrate on selling meat. Barbados ewes drop multiples and do so more than once a year. You don't have to breed them twice a year, but you can. If you decide you want to grow your own fleece for spinning, it would be cheaper to buy the fleece you want from a neighbor or show, have it processed and use that. You can also add a nice fleece ewe or wether to your flock to run with the meat sheep.

Sheep run well with cattle. Cattle prefer grass, sheep prefer forbes, but they'll all eat the same hay. As for minerals, if you are rotating your grazing, you put one group in first with their proper minerals while the other group has their proper minerals. You then remove the minerals when you put them together.
 

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Or you could try the Katahdins. Lovely breed, gentle, great with children, good quality meat, drop in multiples and no shearing. Lamb with little to no interfrence.
 

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Location: Maine

We have some cows but we want the place to get going to paying for itself.
So we were considering what would be best (ie. best income for the amount of land used by it).

So as we go down the list we come to sheep. From what I see Peppin Merino are the best for wool. While Rambouillet seem to be a better choice since that would open both the meat and wool market.

Anyone know much about these? Or suggestions?
I was trying to find a price but can't.


Thank you
Mike
You've gotten some good advice already - let me add my 2c....

Make sure you already have a market. Look for lamb customers - check your local farmers markets and restaurants.

Then look at your land - do you have all lush lowlands/great pasture? Then yes, merino, corrie, etc is great. If you have a vertical rock cliff that looks like goat country, start considering the more hardy breeds. Hair sheep are one opportunity, but if you don't have the lamb market available - you may need to look at profiting by selling both wool and lamb.

I too, started with the Black Welsh, and have had limited issues that face the larger breeds, but as my pastures are improving, I'm adding Bluefaced Leicesters to cross on the smaller sheep to provide for my larger customers (smaller sheep are hard to deal with come butchering time - usually the butcher has one price for any size). You have to be creative with the smaller sheep (sell everything but the baaa!)

As to the larger breeds - in general - they are definitely harder to care for, less resistant, and all around take more care. You have higher returns for that care though. I have a token Border fleece ram (soon to be wether) who also falls under this category.

HTH a bit...

Also - BEFORE you sell your fleece, I highly recommend taking a spinning lesson or two -just for market research. It enables you to look at your fleeces constructively -
Andrea
 
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