Why Raise Sheep?Sheep have been a vital part of farms for thousands of years. They are raised for meat, milk, and wool. Sheep can be better than larger animals because they are relatively small and easy to handle compared to cows and pigs. They also don't need a perfect pasture and will eat brush, grasses, and weeds that grow in less than perfect soil. The sheep manure can also fertilize the soil! Did you know that an acre can support a small flock of three to four ewes and their lambs?
Which Breed?First things first, you need to decide what the purpose of the sheep are. Are you raising them for a specific need, like meat or wool? Or maybe you're going for something a little more unique and using them for milk. Sheep aren't as common for milk because the don't produce as much as cows and goats, but they are still used for that all the same. You should also keep the climate in mind when choosing a breed. While there are hundreds of breeds of sheep, these are the more popular choices based on their purpose:
Good for Meat and Wool:Corriedale
How to Buy SheepWhen you buy your sheep, you need to buy them directly from the person who raised them. Look at the flock that the sheep comes from, and talk with the farmer about the sheep's history. You'll want to look at their physical condition. Their eyes should be clear and bright, their teeth should not be worn or missing. The lower jaw shouldn't be undershot or overshot. They head and neck should be inspected for lumps or swelling. Look at their hooves and make sure that they are trimmed properly. You're also looking for a sheep that has a wide back and deep body. You don't want them to be too thin or too fat. Potbellies could indicate a worm infestation.
Care & FeedingAs you care and feed your sheep, keep in mind that they LOVE grain, peanuts, and apples. You can lure them in with their favorite treats, coaxing them to follow you. Be careful to make sure that the sheep don't think that you are chasing them. They have one defense against a predator or danger, to bunch together and run. So the first step is to learn how to get the sheep to come to you.
Sheep are ruminants, this means that they eat plants like fresh grass and hay. Their main feed is pasture grasses, salt, a vitamin and mineral supplement, and fresh water. While the pasture grass is growing, they can feed themselves. If there is drought or you're in the middle of winter, you'll want to supplement their diet.
Fencing & Shelterthe best type of fence for your sheep is a smooth-wire electric or woven wire fencing. You can also use electric net fencing for temporary paddocks. You can rotate your sheep into different paddocks to keep them on fresh pasture. Sheep don't need much protection, they would much rather have a simple, south-facing, three sided shed to protect them from rain, cold, snow, and wind. If you use a light, portable shed, you can move it around to the paddock that they are residing in at the moment.
Camdenton Farm and Garden is here for you. We carry any number of supplies from feed to tools so that you'll have everything you need to be successful. Come visit our farm and garden store in Camdenton, MO, to get all of your farming supplies!