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An Introduction to Raising Sheep


Raising sheep can be a fun and profitable venture but, before you begin, be sure you know what is involved. Most farmers raise sheep for their meat and/or wool. Some choose to raise sheep for their milk. What are your intentions? Will this be an additional revenue stream, a family food source, or merely a hobby? At Southern States®, we know that any farming opportunity, including raising sheep, requires proper planning and the right equipment to be successful. Here is a brief overview of a sheep farmer's requirements and responsibilities.

Raising sheep can be a great option for farmers and others who don’t have enough land to keep cattle but still want to raise some type of livestock. The general consensus amongst sheep farmers is that you can have 4 to 6 sheep per acre as opposed to one cow and her calf per acre. Sheep are social creatures and are happiest in a group setting, so it is recommended that you keep a minimum of four or five sheep. Once mature, sheep can range from 50 lbs to 500 lbs depending on the breed.

Before starting any new pursuit, it is important to understand the costs involved. Fortunately, sheep can be relatively inexpensive to raise. Start-up costs include the price of the sheep, fencing, and shelter. You may even have the shelter and fencing already set up. On-going costs include any sheep feed required and health costs, including vaccinations and vet visits. Raising sheep does not require a lot of expensive machinery. A mower may be needed to cut overgrown fields, but proper pasture management should limit the need for this. Basic supplies will include a set of clippers for shearing and hoof trimmers.

Sheep do not require complex or expensive shelter. They can survive most of the time outside provided there is some basic shelter from the wind and bad weather. Their housing can vary depending on your budget and your climate. The ideal accommodations are dry, open-sided, and well ventilated. Hay, straw, or pine shavings used as bedding can provide extra warmth and comfort for your sheep.

Feeding your sheep can be quite affordable. Keep a fresh supply of water accessible at all times. Pasture grass is the main source of food for the sheep herd, but sometimes you may have to supplement with sheep feed and other grains. Proper grazing management will not only reduce costs associated with supplemental feed, but it will also help manage overgrowth. Develop a timetable for rotating your sheep throughout your pastures because if left too long in one location, sheep can wreak havoc on your fields. Overgrazing of pastures can kill the grasses, lead to soil erosion and increase farm costs associated with re-seeding.

While sheep are less susceptible to diseases than other livestock breeds, they’re more prone to parasites and extremely vulnerable to predators. Fortunately, the sheep owner can help ensure his or her flock's health and safety. Be diligent about preventing internal parasite infestation which can cause death in young lambs. Predators are a serious danger to sheep and include animals such as coyotes, wolves, mountain lions and dogs. A sturdy, well-built fence will help keep predators out. Guard animals can also protect your sheep. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, some recognized breeds used for livestock protection dogs include: Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherds, Maremmas and Komondors.

You can learn more about raising sheep from the American Sheep Industry Association. For all of your farming needs, you can count on the experts at Southern States.


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