Finding the Right Sheep

RobertPaulson

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Hello everyone,
I'm new to ranching, but I have about 12 acres of pasture on my homestead that I want to put some sheep on.
I'm living in Eastern NC, in Duplin County about 45 miles from the coastal town of Wilmington. All this to say, the weather is pretty mild all year round, but relatively hot during June/July, temps averaging in the 90s.
I'm looking for a sheep that is low maintenance and fits in well with my ecosystem, and can provide some meat to my family. It doesn't have to be a ton of meat, but I'd like it to be at least worth killing the animal, and to taste good.
It seems from browsing the forums, the St Croix and Katahdin are the most popular for my situation, with the majority of posters preferring the Katahdin because its meatier. My only concern is that I read the Katahdin is a mountain sheep, and I live in the lowlands, where the soil is rich, not rocky. So I'm figuring the St Croix might fit in better with the ecosystem I have.
Anyone have any experience with these breeds or raising sheep in NC or the south?
Thanks in advance.
 

SageHill

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Sounds like you're on the right track choosing hair sheep for low maintenance. I know there are others here that can give you more info on those two breeds. I'm not in a lush area like you so I've got no idea what else is there.
 

Mini Horses

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Yeah, almost all sheep in my area are Katadhin. Rarely see a wool sheep. Also, Katadhin can be milked -- shorter lactation than a bred for milk sheep but, an option. They do well at auctions I've attended.....so, assume good meat.

I raise goats, dairy & meat, so haven't ventured into sheep. But know locals with them, all hair types. I'm 75 mile drive north of Wilmington.
 

farmerjan

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I think that any hair breed will suit. The thing you will be dealing with is worms, and feet problems. That said, Katahdins seem to be very adaptable and have been bred by people in all areas. If you can do some rotational grazing, to help to keep the worm load down, and if they don't have "soggy swampy" ground to have to stay on , you shouldn't have much trouble with things like foot rot... Trimming them will probably be a little more often than if they had "rockier" ground to be on... But that said, it also depends on the strain...
We have White Texas Dall sheep. Look like "bighorns" ... Semi-wild rather feral... But what i wanted to show by example is my son has some from 3 different strains... One has GREAT feet, terrible worm resistance (we are always worming them) and mediocre horns; one strain has superb worm resistance and terrible feet, SUPERB horns; and the third strain has decent feet, moderate worm resistance and not very good horns... He has been crossing them to try to get better worm resistance and good feet on animals that produce real good horns also. The rams are raised for the horns and he usually sells them to hunting preserves....
So you will have some good and some not so great qualities in different animals... I would go with the Katahdins for the meat, and if you buy some local, you will be able to get something that is more suited to your area...
There is a small animal auction near @Mini Horses and since she said it is 75 miles from your area, she might see some at that sale and be able to get you a breeders name... or you could make arrangements to meet up with her at the sale or something... See if there are any sales/auctions in your area...
She and I meet at least twice a year at a poultry swap that is about 1/2 way from both of us and spend the day just looking and chatting and visiting... nice to meet the ones that you "talk to" all the time on here.
 

Baymule

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I’m in East Texas, hot, humid, hot, parasites love it here, did I mention hot? I raise Katahdin hair sheep. There are strains that are very parasite resistant, some are not. Virginia Tech University has a parasite resistant program and they use Katahdins. I have a ram from that program, Ringo. He’s 10 years old and never gets wormed. I went to Tennessee to @Mike CHS farm to buy Ringo from he and his wife Teresa. Teresa taught me how to run fecal exams for worms. It was a real eye opener and it is a wonderful tool for better management of my flock. I would recommend that you take fecal samples to the vet several times a year so you know which sheep need worming and which don’t. Then you can treat the ones who need it and not just worm them all.

Since you are so close, contact Virginia Tech for breeders enrolled in their program.

You can choose to start with a few of top notch sheep and grow your flock. Or you can choose to start with a few unregistered commercial sheep and grow your flock.

I started 7 years ago with Katahdin/Dorper cross commercial ewes. I lost some along the way to various causes, parasites, broken (shattered and unfixable) leg, ruptured pre pubic tendon-had to be put down. I learned how to save cold rejected lambs due to the wonderful people here giving freely of their time, advice and concern. I took twins to a vet, not knowing how to feed them. He tube fed them, they were cold and died in my arms that night. Obviously the vet was dumber than I was. NOW I know to warm them up before feeding them, because of my many friends here on BYH. I successfully raised 2 bottle lambs in February 2021.

I love my Katahdins. I have never pulled a lamb. I have never donned an OB glove and “gone in” to turn a backwards lamb, or assist birthing in any way. That’s not to say that they all never need assistance, just that mine haven’t. If a ewe needed help, I certainly wouldn’t hesitate. Their normal birthing is to surprise me in the mornings when I go to let them out of their night pen.


I don’t live in the mountains. Katahdins are adaptable to anywhere you live. Katahdins are awesome.
 

Margali

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I second the Katahdins 😉 but you need good bloodlines for parasite resistance. I got my starters from @Baymule November 2021. They had ivermectin then and ewe in Feb 2022 after weaning. I just had fecals done and 1-2 or no eggs.

I think biggest help was rotational grazing on about 3 acres so they didn't eat grass down to ground.
 

Bicoastal

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Another vote for Katahdins here. There is a reason they are the most popular hair sheep around. If your primary goal is food, it would be cheaper to simply mow and buy a couple lambs from the market each year for your freezer rather than care for sheep year-round.

Have you watched Clarkson's Farm on Amazon? Hysterical sheep adventures. He added up the expenses and found just how expensive his cheap lawn mowers were. 😆

If you are buying now, you need to get shelter and hay lined up quickly. Winter is coming.
 

catherinecarney

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Have you contacted your local cooperative extension office to see what breeds they recommend or what the local breeders are raising? In my county the extension office is geared more to high-input commercial agriculture, but they at least can point me in the right direction for smaller/sustainable system approaches.

One caveat with Katahdins (and most other breeds) is the need for tail docks. Not my favorite thing to do which is why I went with a short tailed breed, and if you do perform docks (and castration) fly strike could also be a major issue for much of the year so be prepared with fly spray as a preventative.
 

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