I am looking into sheep and have questions.

Isaac

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If you are looking for a good movable fencing you can get it at premier1.com. I got the electric fencing and I moved it twice a day on one acre and its really easy to move, you just pull the posts out and put them one at a time in your hand then walk to where you want the fence put one post in the ground then start laying it out on the ground stick the last post in the ground where you want it then walk back putting the other posts in the ground. On one acre I grazed 16 ewes and lambs all summer. What I did is I divided the pasture into fourths with the fencing, then I would graze them on 1/4 of it for an hour in the morning then do the same in the evening just in a different 1/4.
Sheep are very laid back animals, I will have to say I like them more than goats. If you're looking to spin wool and make yarn get wool sheep; Rambouillet is a very soft wool breed, but if you would like longer wool Wensleydale or Teeswater is a very laid back breed of sheep, even the rams are laid back, but still, don't turn your back on a ram unless you know what you're doing.
Hope that helps!
 

Ridgetop

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I am not trying to talk you out of raising sheep. But there are some things you should do first.

Definitely talk to @secuono about wool and sales of wool if you are buying sheep planning to sell their wool. In some locations you can't even give it away. If you have no experience with wool you should look on U Tube for videos on how to shear, skirt, process, and card wool. Remember that is is a lot harder to do it than it looks in the videos. It will require an investment in equipment as well.

Before planning on getting sheep to spin their wool, you might want to take a spinning class to learn about types of wool. We took a spinning class using the teacher's wheels, and purchased wool. It was not easy. We also had our own Dorset wool processed and we spun that. Dorset wool is coarser and we were able to spin that more easily, but still not skilfully! LOL Various types of wool are produced by different breeds of sheep, some of which is soft (therefore harder to spin for a beginner) and some that is coarser (easier to spin for a beginner). These different types of wool were traditionally used for different types of garments. Coarser wool was harder wearing so used for socks, outer garments, etc. Softer wool was used for inner garments that touch the skin. If you want to raise sheep for wool to sell to spinners, you need to learn about wool, weight, crimp, etc. Also learn about skirting your "fleeces" and how to wash the fleeces, card them, and produce hanks of wool ready to spin or sell. That is a whole other set of learning than just how to keep sheep. We have had sheep for 30 years and are not competent spinners. In addition, when I skirted and washed my first fleece I "felted" it! LOL I had our next shearing of 10 fleeces skirted, washed, and carded professionally for about $300.00. It is not cheap.

Another item of knowledge you will need with wooled sheep is shearing. Shears are expensive and you have to have several sets of blades and cutters. The type of shears used for shearing sheep are different than standard horse or dog clippers, Then you have to get the blades sharpened after shearing. Also expensive. If you have someone experienced who can shear for you great! I switched to Dorpers after my shearer went to $50/head. I used to shear my own, but I m older and it is a lot of bending, hard in the back. If the sheep are not extremely tame, you have to restrain them while attempting to shear off the fleece.

You have to shear the sheep once a year. It is necessary to take the fleece off in one piece with no extra cuts producing "shorts" which cannot be used. Shorts and a messy shearing job lessens the value of the fleece. It is a skill that must be learned carefully since the shears are heavy, and the cutters are very sharp. The blades can actually take off a finger. Even professional shearers have been known to accidentally shear off a nipple or penis. It is better to take off the fleece "in the grease". Then do the "skirting" - picking out all the bits of twigs, burrs, debris, dried mud, and manure from the dirty fleece before washing it. After washing the fleece by hand (many changes of hot water) and air drying it, you need to "card" it which again means taking a sheep card (like a giant sharp wire pin brush and brushing out the clean fleece back and forth for hours to get it fluffy and turn it into "batts".

Like I said, I don't want to discourage you from keeping sheep, but for the amount of pasture you have you should consider buying weanlings and raising them to freezer size. That will give you experience with keeping sheep without a large investment in equipment, fencing, clippers, or spinning equipment. The moveable electric netting as suggested by @Isaasc would be the best plan to get you started and you could use it for other applications if sheep did not work out for you. If you decided to move ahead with purchasing sheep, be aware that most of their feed will be purchased hay that you will have to buy and carry to them. Be sure to check out the prices for hay in your area since they can range from $6/bale to $40/bale depending on the type of hay, and area you live in.

I just hate having people jump into something without knowing all the pitfalls. The pleasure of keeping your animals is obvious. I feel bad when owners eventually have to dispose of their animals or have multiple problems trying to deal with a bad situation. It is much better if they learn first all they can about what they want to do, and any problems they may have, as you are trying to do.

Kudos to you on seeking out the information about the risks and pitfalls FIRST
!
 

messybun

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Wow, thank you all so much for the time and information.
As far as the fence panels, when I say hog panels I mean the 8x4 or the 4x16 panels of thick gauge wire that stand alone(they also sell ones with all small holes but they are almost triple the price). The panels alone are enough to keep goats in that space, I didn't know if lambs could crawl out of the gradiated squares up higher but I don't think they'll be climbing from what I've heard. I was planning on moving the fence at least once a day, maybe twice. Sheep are flock animals, so I would put the ewes in the same pen until they had their lambs and then they'd get two separate pens, one for each mom. I was worried that lambs would need to be baby sat (I've had a goat make me babysit her baby before because there weren't any other moms around) but if they don't that will put less strain on each individual pen. Do sheep stomp grass that fast? I don't want them turning my yard to muck.
Wool sheep would be a huge investment, that's why I was thinking to start with hair sheep and not only learn from them but I was thinking that by selling the lambs I might eventually save up enough for wool sheep. Locally I can get fair to good quality hair sheep anywhere from 75-200, to get a wool sheep I'm looking at some good traveling and then paying over 150 a sheep at least and this isn't even including all the extra shearing equipment and what not. Oh, and the only shearers are from a local alpaca farm once a year, but I don't even think they do sheep. So I'd be doing that myself too.
As far as a wool market, it's big. There is a local fine yarn shop that is currently having to bring in all their yarn, there is also a large crafting scene and farmer/crafting/over-priced-trinkets market that would eat up whatever I made from yarn. I would also love to make my own clothes from my own yarn instead of just store-bought. But that is far off if ever lol.
I will euthanize an animal if necessary, but I think an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, I was just wondering if there are vaccines that are basically useless or if I should actually vaccinate.
I do have a pretty secure pasture fence, but no lgds, and I have shelters in the goat's pasture already. If the sheep got along with the goats I could put them in the large pasture every night and lead them into their small pens in the day. And yes, I will either tame my sheep or tame my best babies and sell the moms so that moving will be easy.
Hay goes anywhere between 6-12 a bale if you get it in season, and up to 18 or 20 if you have to buy non-local stuff.
Do lambs get an attitude if you bottle raise them like a horse or cow does? If I started with bottle babies they wouldn't have anyone to keep their "personality" in check other than the goats, and I don't want to deal with wooly terrors( pun fully intended). Has anyone noticed a difference in long term health from bottle babies either?
 

purplequeenvt

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Hello all, as the title suggests I am thinking about getting some sheep. I have goats already but I have heard sheep can be trickier. My goats are mostly pygmies, with one big whether(200 lb "pygmy cross") lol.
Can sheep and goats get along, or will the sheep bully my goats?


Sheep and goats can get along. A lot depends on the individual personalities. If the goats have horns, they are more likely to bully the sheep. Sheep are not trickier than goats at all. They are less inclined to be escape artists and they don’t cry and run for cover at the 1st rain drop. Their main thing is to watch their copper intake. They need some copper, but they usually get enough from their feed that any supplementation of it may cause issues.

I know that sheep are really parasite prone, my goats thus far have been very fortunate even when my deworming has gotten lazy, will sheep parasites put my current animals at risk? There is no possible way to rotate pasture, but I have a partial plan, more on that later.

In a pasture setting, goats (generally speaking) have way more parasite issues than sheep unless properly managed. Goats are browsers, not grazers and their preferred choice is to eat leaves and shrubs and not just grass (where all the parasites are).

Do sheep jump on things and play like goats do, what toys and entertainment do they usually like? Do they need anything extra special with their shelter or is it just good ventilation, waterproof, cleanable, the basics?

Sheep aren’t playful/mischievous/social like goats. They like to do sheepy things like eat, snooze and chew their cud in peace. When they do kick up their heels a bit, they usually bounce around and play with each other for a few minutes before going back to being sheep. Lambs will often climb on things, but not nearly to way kids will.

For shelter, all you really need is a place for them to get out of the wind and the worst of the weather. And 3-sided shed would do them just fine.

Do they need anything different in feed, aside from no copper, anything different from goats as far as grass/hay, corn, sweetfeed, bread?

What you feed is going depend on what you have for animals. Growing lambs may need a little extra grain, but a pair of pet wethers would be better on grass/1st cut hay and as few snacks as possible.


I want to start with hair sheep because they are supposed to be more hardy and easier lambers. Does anyone know if this is actually true? I don't have much experience helping with birth and we don't have a vet to help so I want to start with something hopefully more manageable.

You get what you pay for. If you go to an auction and buy someone’s cull ewes, you’re most likely buying yourself heartache and trouble. If you take the time to find a farm that purposely breeds for easier management then you‘ll start in a better place. If you want good sheep, expect to pay more for them.

I get really annoyed by people who go around advertising this breed or that breed as “the best thing since sliced bread”. There are hundreds of breeds of sheep for a reason. Each breed was originally developed for a specific purpose whether it was a certain type of wool, meat production, milk, etc.... There is no one “best” breed out there. *You* need to figure out what your purpose is for raising sheep and choose a breed based on that. If a hair sheep fits that purpose great, but don’t choose hair sheep just because you’ve heard they’re the easiest, best, what have you.

I have always had wool sheep. I don’t think that I will ever switch to hair sheep. For me, sheep are supposed to be woolly. My sheep are easy lambers, good mothers, and hardy, but that’s how we’ve bred them to be. The ones that have serious issues are retired, put in the freezer, or sold. I will not sell a cull ewe as a breeding ewe. What the buyer chooses to do with her is up to them, but she’s sold without papers and with full disclosure.

Has anyone milked sheep before, how much do you get about?

This is going to depend on what breed you have and whether they’ve been bred for milk production. For example, Icelandics are considered triple-purpose. Wool, meat, and milk. There are some lines that it would be a waste of time trying to milk and other lines that have been bred specifically for milkiness.

I milked a few of my ewes (Border Leicesters and 1 weird crossbred) this spring and I was getting about 1 1/2 - 2 cups daily BUT I was only milking once a day AND they were at the end of their lactation.

What meds do I have to have on hand? I know a basic antibiotic, vitamin b, and calcium what else should I have on hand? What vaccines do you ACTUALLY need?

LA-200 or Pen-G (both can be purchased OTC at your feedstore) are good basic antibiotics to have on hand. I keep both, but I have specific criteria where they are used and so far (knock on wood), I have not had to resort to anything more powerful from the vet.

B-complex is useful anytime an animal has been stressed or is under the weather.

Calcium isn’t something that I normally keep on hand except during lambing season.

CD&T is the only vaccine that I would recommend without hesitation. I have lost animals to enterotoxemia/pulpy kidney/over-eating disease/whatever you want to call it AND to tetanus.

Enterotoxemia will take out your biggest, nicest babies without any warning. They’ll seem fine and then they are dead.

Tetanus is not something you ever want to witness an animal going through.

Rabies is another to consider giving, but I don’t usually give that unless my sheep are going to shows.

Now, it's later, here's my half-baked plan. Use hog panels as a movable pen. I have my pasture that is a bit under an acre fen with sheep and goat wire and it has two strands of polyrope on the inside( if it decides to work that day!!!) but there is a chunk of my land that isn't fenced and has to be mowed and my goats can't quite keep my pasture down anyway. So, in the summer I was thinking to put the sheep into and 8x8 pen and move them as often as they eat it down. I have seen people put large panels on wheels, but any lambs would be able to get out so I was thinking the small panels unless anyone has a different experience or a better idea. My grass tends to be lush, would two sheep be able to be maintained on a quarter acre?

Do yourself a favor and get some electric netting (Premier1 has good fencing) and a fence charger (there are plug in, battery, and solar powered options).

You’d be moving that 8x8 pen multiple times a day. Work smarter, not harder!

The thought had been to graze the two sheep together and then when it came lambing time to move their fence into my pasture, as a jug, because there would be more predator protection. Then I could either move individual mama and lambs outside the fence when they were ready or both mamas together. Depending on how they get along, I could make an 8x16 rectangle of cattle panels and let moms and babies graze in the same pen. Would and 8x8 or 8x16 be enough space to keep the sheep happy, or would they get cabin fever over the summer? They would of course get a movable house with them.

Build them a secure paddock with a shelter for winter housing and lambing. During the summer move them out to pasture together. Sheep like to have enough space to move around and pick and choose what they eat. They don’t like to eat poopy grass or heavily trampled grass.

Do sheep even babysit each other's lambs like goats do?

No. Lambs will run around with each other, but the moms know their babies and they won’t die for another ewe’s lambs.

For the half-cooked part... the winter. What would I do with the sheep in winter? I would assume I sold the babies, but where would I put them? Could I put them in the pasture with the goats? Where would I put the sheep if they didn't get along with the goats? Any ideas?

Like I said above, winter paddock with shelter. They absolutely can be run with your goats as long as you don’t feed extra copper. What most people do is to feed sheep grain and minerals and then bolus the goats a couple times a year with copper.

Now, for the business part, does this sound doable? Would I be running in the red or is it even possible to not? Is there a possibility of making my own yarn, I know there wouldn't be much of it because they would be hair sheep, but with extra work can it even be done?

You aren’t going to make any money and won’t even come close to breaking even on 2 sheep. I sold 6 six (5 lambs, 1 breeding ewe) this year and made enough to cover hay for this winter and buy a new ram. A 7th lamb I traded for my other ram. I‘m happy that I covered the hay cost, but that money in no way covers everything else I’ve put into them this year.

I do my own shearing so that saves me some money and if I got my act together, I could sell some wool.

You won’t be able to do anything with the ”wool” from a hair sheep. The staple is really short and it will be full of hairs which make it scratchy and unpleasant.

If wool is something you are interested in, then look into wool breeds. There are some many out there! Things to consider are: your climate and availability of the breed. Romneys and Border Leicesters are both hardy, popular breeds (ie, you’re likely to find decent stock) with fleeces that fiber artists like. Both breeds grow decent meat lambs and have a reputation for good mothering abilities. There are also some of the primitive breeds of sheep - Jacobs, Shetlands, Icelandics, Navajo Churro, etc. Not the best option if you are looking for a traditional size lamb carcass, but hardy and versatile animals.

There are fine wool (merino, Rambouillet), medium wool (most of the meat breeds - Southdown, Suffolk, etc fall into this group), and long wool (Romney, Border Leicester, Lincoln) sheep as well as the primitive breeds and hair sheep.

I shear my own sheep. I shear on a fitting or milking stand and I don’t have fancy shears. I’ve got a pair of Lister clippers that have coarse shearing blades from Premier1 on them. I’ve got through almost the entire flock twice with 3 sets of blades. You can use something like that or handshears or even scissor!

Final question, and I know there have already been a ton of them, what does no one tell ewe about sheep because it should be basic knowledge but it isn't?

Sheep aren’t as stupid as they act. Most of the time anyways.
 

Nao57

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If sheep are more prone to parasites, then is it safe for humans to use their milk without them transferring to us?

How do you make sure this doesn't happen?

A moveable pen is a good idea I think. But the bigger it is, the harder it will be to move. But I think you'd have to have some size for sheep, because they need more space than say poultry. If you are doing moveable fencing, then I think zip ties won't work for connections as they break with stress. Were you going to do the connections with hog rings, or something else in the fencing panels to join them together?

I like your ideas and would like to hear more about it.

And wishing everyone luck and success.

PS if some sheep breeds are better for milk than others, then does that mean that some breeds are more parasite resistant than others?
 

messybun

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If sheep are more prone to parasites, then is it safe for humans to use their milk without them transferring to us?

How do you make sure this doesn't happen?

A moveable pen is a good idea I think. But the bigger it is, the harder it will be to move. But I think you'd have to have some size for sheep, because they need more space than say poultry. If you are doing moveable fencing, then I think zip ties won't work for connections as they break with stress. Were you going to do the connections with hog rings, or something else in the fencing panels to join them together?

I like your ideas and would like to hear more about it.

And wishing everyone luck and success.

PS if some sheep breeds are better for milk than others, then does that mean that some breeds are more parasite resistant than others?
With all livestock there are some who were naturally parasite resistant, and people took that strain of animals and made it into a breed. Sometimes parasite resistance depends on individual animals though. Yes, there are some nasty things that can practically be transferred through milk, that is why you pasteurize, or at least boil, milk. But when I’m talking about parasites I mean ones in the gut, which don’t transfer to the milk, completely different body systems.
And I would do basic d rings on the fence because they are sturdy, cheap and easy to move.
 

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