What can you tell me about sheep? What do I need to know?

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by hengal, Jan 10, 2007.

  1. hengal

    hengal Well-Known Member

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    Sheep were recommended as a "value added" animal to add to our little homestead, keeping in mind cost and ease of taking care of. Now I know nothing :shrug: about sheep keeping. i.e. what type is best for small area (3 acres), how much and what do they eat, are they all friendly, fiber etc.
    What are your recommendations? Thanks very much for your help! :)
     
  2. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    First recommendation, start reading the posts here :)

    They're not all friendly; some breeds are more social than others, and of course the more you handle the non-social ones, the more sociable they become.

    I'd decide if you're wanting a large animal (can be difficult to handle) for meat, or a dual purpose animal that can give you a decent carcass as well as somewhat marketable fleece. There's always dairy, but I think you really need to know that milking is what you want to do, and it then becomes more the focus instead of the value added option.

    For us, a nice breed was romney...they kept their weight well and we didn't have trouble selling off a lamb or two. I could spin the fleece and although it didn't sell for a premium, it did sell. Another breed I rather liked were the icelandics; a bit more maintenance and feed than the romney, but they do have a following that appears to be growing. They've also been used for milking, but more homestead suited (which could be nice for you if you'd like to make some cheese.)

    Like any other animal, what you put into them is what you'll get out. I find them relatively maintenance free if you've got enough pasture to rotate and avoid parasites. A little hoofcare can be done by you, and as long as they've got shelter from rain and something to eat, they're pretty easy animals (compared to horses, at least! :rolleyes: )
     

  3. hengal

    hengal Well-Known Member

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    Thanks kesoaps!

    I have been reading through these posts and I appreciate your response. I don't want to be laughed at here, but I'll ask this anyway. Is it silly just to have a few sheep for the fiber? I have a feeling someone's going to tell me, "yes its possible if you dont' want to make any money with them". :rolleyes:
     
  4. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Well, I'm silly. Many people have a spinner's flock. You have to be willing to cull though. If you can't find a home for the ram lambs, then they go in the freezer. If you don't want lambs, you can buy older ewes or wethers. If you spin, then you will always have a market for your fiber-- you. If your sheep have really nice wool, you can find a market for it, but raw fleece sales won't pay for hay. If it is turned into roving or a top, you can sell it. I have a few sheep, but way more fleece than I would ever spin, so I can keep what I want for myself and sell the rest. But, you have to have some connection to spinners. You can also have a mill turn your wool into yarn for you if you can sell to knitters but not spinners.

    Start out with three easy care ewes. You will learn so much the first year, including how much fleece you get and what you need to do with it. After that, you can add to the herd.
     
  5. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    Not silly in the least. In fact, quite possible to have a couple of ewes that pay for their own feed, especially if you have twinners and can borrow a ram. My first sheep consisted of a yearling, a lamb, and a four year old ewe; the seller sent her ram along with them for a couple months. In the spring I had four lambs. The experienced ewe twinned, the new younger girls singled. If you can get twinners, selling one lamb pays for the feed (depending on where you live and your pasture situation), and the second one goes into your freezer. If you're clever, you can keep a ram lamb, breed your ewes, then put him in the freezer. And, if your girls have nice fleeces, you'll have that as a bonus!
     
  6. Somerhill

    Somerhill Well-Known Member

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    With your small area, and wanting to keep sheep for fiber - I'd look at Shetland wethers as a possibility. I've seen them priced very cheaply/free from people who want to breed, but do not like the idea of sending their excess ram lambs to market. Then look at people's websites who sell fleeces at $10-15 per pound, and study how they do their marketing to get these prices. Its all about marketing and producing quality when you are selling fiber.
    Lisa at Somerhill
    www.somerhillfarm.com
     
  7. Somerhill

    Somerhill Well-Known Member

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    And customer service. :)

     
  8. 6e

    6e Farm lovin wife Supporter

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    I think they're all friendly when you have the grain bucket in your hand. :p
    We have Hampshire's and they are a very large sheep. Our ram you can walk right up to and put a halter and some of the ewes are to, but the rest you have to have a catch pen to work with them.
    They grow really fast and so are good for meat, but eat their fair share of feed to maintain it. They're fleece is short and not really good for spinning, but it is good for felting.
    There's the .02 on my breed.
     
  9. sheepish

    sheepish Well-Known Member Supporter

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    One of the problems with keeping sheep solely for spinning is that the fibre quality deteriorates with the age of the sheep.

    If you borrow a ram you are also risking borrowing diseases to which his flock my have immunities, but yours doesn't.

    It is much better to keep your own ram and plan on buying a new ram when the genetics get too close. Usually it is not a probelm to breed a father to daughters, but you wouldn't want to breed him to the resulting daughters.
     
  10. Somerhill

    Somerhill Well-Known Member

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    I've seen the claim that wool quality deteriorates over time, and I did notice that in my Border Cheviots - the fleeces got coarser, lighter weight, and developed kemp fibers and black fibers.
    I've not seen that happen in my Bluefaced Leicesters - my favorite fleece is being worn by an 8 year old ewe.
    Do other breeds hold their quality better than others, I wonder?
    I also wonder if wethers' wool changes much over the years since there are not changes in hormone levels and nutritional requirements, and all they are doing is hanging around, growing wool. :)

    On not keeping a ram.....another possibility is to buy a ram lamb, quarantine him, use him for breeding, and then either send him on to market or put him in your own freezer.

    Lisa at Somerhill
    www.somerhillfarm.com
     
  11. hengal

    hengal Well-Known Member

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    Thank you very much for the information - I really appreciate it! :)