Your decision to start or expand a sheep business should be based on business principles. Consider the price you'll have to pay for breeding stock and the price you'll get for lambs when you sell them. Also consider how much space you have and the housing and pasturing of your sheep. If you opt to start a small sheep business, follow these steps to give yourself a chance to succeed.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Lambing building
- Winter feed
Determine how many animals you want. One acre of land for summer grazing can support about three ewes and their lambs, but this ratio will vary across the country. Contact the local extension office for sheep-grazing ratios in your area. Some farmers keep a small flock of sheep to graze areas around buildings in the farm yard where weeds could become a nuisance.
Make sure you have the proper facilities. At a minimum, you'll need a fenced pasture for summer grazing, space to store feed for winter feeding and a building for lambing. Also make sure you have time to tend the animals, especially in the winter when you'll have to feed the sheep once or twice daily. Spring lambing may require nearly around-the-clock monitoring.
Select a breed of sheep to raise. Different breeds have different traits. Rambouillet, Romney and Lincoln sheep are usually raised for wool quality. Suffolk, Dorset and Hampshire are raised for mutton.
Purchase female breeding stock. You can buy mature ewes, sheep that have had at least one lamb that has been weaned, along with yearling ewes. Because they will be having their first lambs, yearling ewes may have more difficulty lambing. Mature ewes may have age-related health problems. Decide which type of female breeding stock to acquire based on economics and your ability to deal with health and birthing problems.
Purchase a ram. Remember that the male member of the flock will contribute half of the genetics to the lamb crop. Sheep usually are bred in the fall of the year. The ewes have a gestation period of about 150 days.
Starting a Small Sheep Business
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