What You Need to Know About Raising Sheep

What You Need to Know About Raising Sheep

I love raising sheep. I was a shepherd for Halloween as a child, but who knew I’d actually become one.

Sheep aren’t dumb. They’re actually quite friendly, docile, obedient, and trainable. Yes, our sheep are trained to come when we call. Raising sheep on our ranch has become one of our favorite things, so if you’re thinking about getting sheep let’s go through some things to consider before you buy.

You Don’t Always Need to Shear Sheep Did you know that not all sheep are wool sheep? Most people think there are just wool sheep that you have to shear, but that’s not the case. Some breeds have hair that they self-shed throughout the season which saves you an extra step. We raise Katahdins here on the ranch, and this definitely saves us time. However, if you’re looking for something to sell, wool is great.

Sheep Can Provide Milk & Meat Yes, you can milk sheep. Sheep milk is highly regarded for cheesemaking. Like milking any animal, training takes patience and there’s a little bit of a learning curve to handle the milk safely. But it’s just as delicious as cow’s milk.

Also, lamb meat is delicious. Don't just get a sheep so it can mow your grass—it would be a waste not to harvest them. While they’re mowing your lawn they’re growing themselves nice and fat.

Sheep Need Friends If you are considering getting sheep, you have to know that you should get more than one. Sheep are flock animals and like to be together. You would have a pretty lonely ewe if you just got one. I recommend starting with five to seven ewes. When you want to breed them you can rent a ram or buy two so they have a friend when they aren't in with the ewes.

Sheep Need the Right Grass One of the key things to raising sheep is the pasture. Sheep are ruminants, like cattle, which means they just eat grass. All of their nutrients come from the pasture. So logically, you need the right grasses for them to thrive.

Sheep like a variety of grasses such as legumes like clover and alfalfa, forbes like broadleaf plantain and dandelion, and orchard grass. If you don’t know what grasses you have, a quick search on a plant app will tell you right away. If you don’t have the right grasses, you can supplement them with a high-quality hay bale filled with legumes.

Sheep Need Minerals Another key to raising sheep is having the right minerals. Lots of people say that sheep are "born dying," meaning that they die super easily and quickly. While the latter is true, if you see a sick sheep chances are it might be too late.

However, there are precautions you can take to avoid sick sheep and supplying minerals are one of them. Parasites are often the culprit, so a good mineral lick with protein and rotational grazing will go a long way.

Sheep Require Pasture Rotation Buying sheep is a relatively large commitment, and you must make sure they have housing, fencing, water, pasture (or hay) every day. One of the larger commitments is having enough pasture to rotate your stock.

If you keep sheep in the same pasture their whole life, they will mow the grass completely down which won’t allow it to regrow properly and will deplete soil health. Additionally, they will constantly be in their own manure which will increase chances of getting parasites. Rotating your sheep every week will save you from a lot of health problems.

I hope that gives you a little insight as to what it's like having sheep. We love raising sheep and hope you will too!

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