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Sheep to help me mow?

Discussion in 'Pasture, Hay, & Forages: Information & Management' started by Stephine, May 29, 2017.

  1. May 29, 2017
    Stephine

    Stephine Exploring the pasture

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    Would it be a good idea for me to get a few sheep to help us comply with fire safety regulations? We have 3 1/4 acres, maybe 2 1/2 of those need mowing in the spring (Sonoma County). So far I have always done as much as I could myself, with a scythe, to compost and then called in some help with weed eaters to finish up the rest once it gets too dry to make worthwhile compost. I love mowing, but it is a big job and hiring mowers is expensive. I have found myself dreaming about getting some mowing help and it seems sheep might be best for our purposes. Do you think this might be a good idea? ( I am thinking about a coulle or three babydolls maybe) Or will the sheep end up being more work and miney than what we have now? One thing I would really like is for some animal to eat these &@$#% foxtail grasses, burclover and storckbill before they start making seeds - they are such a pain with our farm dog! Thank you!!!!
     
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  2. May 29, 2017
    Baymule

    Baymule Herd Master

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    For sheep or goats, you need a good outer parameter fence to keep them in and to help keep predators out. Neighborhood dogs are the worst predators, followed by coyotes. Depending on the predators, you might need a Livestock Guard Dog to protect the sheep. When the grass is gone, you would have to feed and hay them. The same seeds that are such a problem with your dog will also be a problem if you have wool sheep. Hair sheep might be a better fit for you.

    We have 8 acres, 5 ewes, 1 ram and currently 6 lambs. 2 are keeper ewe lambs, the 4 wethers will be sold for slaughter. We have 2 Great Pyrenees because the coyotes are terrible here.
     
  3. May 30, 2017
    Stephine

    Stephine Exploring the pasture

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    We are surrounded by high deer fencing on 3 sides, the remaining side has a simple farm fence and it seems just recently deer have started jumping it, so we will be putting in a higher welded wire fence soon. We see coyotes sometimes but they usually keep away, we also have foxes and once in four years have seen a bob cat, but the cat also came in from the bottom end with the low fence,(it's a wildlife corridor alongside our creek) and the new fencing might help. Cougars are an issue, so the plan is to safely lock them up at night, just like everything else but the horses. We have a farm collie to keep an eye out during the day. We have had a neighbor's dog in here once ( he was harmless) but are keeping the gate closed now, so dogs really aren't an issue, luckily!
    The plan is for the sheep to eat the problematic grasses and weeds before they go to seed. It doesn't rain here all summer, rains usually start in November and everything is green all winter. Then around May everything goes to seed and dries out - that is when it becomes problematic. But if the sheep keep the areas nicely mowed all winter there will be no dry seeds to deal with!
    Do you think they could keep up with about 2-2 1/2 acres? If they can, we will have to get hay from about May through November, how many bales might two babydolls need?
    We have the barn to store it in, so that's no issue...
     
  4. May 30, 2017
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master

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    I have no idea where Sonoma County, _ _ _ _ is, and I am definitely not a sheep person, but my brother-in-law has 1/2 dozen adult hair sheep on about 5 acres here in deep East Texas (45 miles North of Houston) with the same goal you have in mind and if he didn't keep the tops of the grass mowed with a bush hog, you wouldn't be able to see them.
    YRMV
     
  5. May 30, 2017
    Bossroo

    Bossroo True BYH Addict

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    Stephine, Sonoma County, N. Cal. ( I used to raise hundreds of sheep in the next door Yolo County, Cal.) I don't want to scare you, but you need to know the real facts. Are you aware of what a foxtail seed head can do to any and ALL grazing animals as well as dogs and cats , etc. ? The fox tail issue is prevelent in all grazing animals ( including, sheep, goats, horses, cattle, etc. ) in their mouths, migrate into their gums and on from there. They will get them in their mouths , nose and eyes. Long wool sheep and other types of long haired animals will have the foxtails migrate through their skins into their legs, belly, muscles and organs, etc. .( Also if the sheep are NOT docked, then they have an increased chance of the foxtail migrating into their anus, vulva, and leg muscles. Also , a huge increase of fly strike sues during lush grass growth season ). Baby dolls ( short stature, wool on face, legs, belly, tail ) and long wooled sheep are among the worst for the issues to occur. I would consider the Suffolk, an open faced, and smooth leged,open bellied meat type of sheep of the wool breeds of sheep. Or an even better bet , the Dorper a hair sheep developed in S. Africa by crossing Dorset rams onto Persian Fat Rumped ewes. There are quite a few Dorper breeders in Ca.. Dogs and cats, especially the long haired ones, also are at risk of having foxtail issues. And, now you know ! Good luck !
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2017
  6. May 30, 2017
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master

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    Foxtail also presents a very serious risk of eye problems to all grazing animals and pets. Foxtail injuries to the eye is often misdiagnosed as pinkeye, but the irritation and injury to the eyes is just as serious as pinkeye itself. It should be eradicated by chemical or mechanical means before introducing livestock to the area if at all possible. Otherwise, even with grazers, you will still have to keep it mowed to prevent seedhead formation.

    Burclover is a slight problem in my area, cattle and most ruminants will devour it readily in cool season months, but this forb can cause bloat problems if it is the predominant forage available. There is a known relationship between burclover and a bacteria that causes nitrogen from the air to be 'fixed' in the plant, and tho this is a plus for the soil (when the plant dies back, the N is released to the soil) , the high N content in the green plant can increase risk of bloat considerably.
     
  7. May 30, 2017
    Stephine

    Stephine Exploring the pasture

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    I would not dream of sending them into a foxtail infested field - the plan is to get them to eat it all winter (since it starts out as lovely grass) so we don't have anything going to seed in late spring. The horses keep their paddocks so short nothing has a chance until we take them off it - would that not be similar with sheep? There's a lady just a few minutes up the valley from us with babydoll sheep to clear the vinyard of weeds, she says they are doing very well.
    Burclover is groing in patches here and there, but is not predominant - mainly we have grasses, wild oats, two kinds of foxtail grasses and lots of other kinds, then mustard and radishes, burr clover and storkbill, miners lettuce, chickweed, groundsel, sow thistles, some hedge parsley... later in the summer all that's left is black mustard. Good to know they can't have too much of the clover, we can fence accordingly.
     
  8. May 30, 2017
    Baymule

    Baymule Herd Master

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    I don't know how many bales of hay you would need. With ewes, lambs and the ram, (12 total) they eat a round bale a month to a month and half.
     
  9. Jun 26, 2017
    misfitmorgan

    misfitmorgan True BYH Addict

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    You need to find out what your stocking rate in your area is, then you will know how many sheep to get for what you have to keep it trimmed down. Once you know how many sheep you can have in the space you have you can figure out how much forage they would need daily....times that amount by the number of days you would need to give them hay then add 10% and thats how much hay you need.

    Looks like in cali your stocking rate varies greatly from 1 animal unit per 1 acre to 1 animal unit per 36 acres. An animal unit is 1,000lbs of animal, so if you say your sheep weigh 100lbs at adult weight(for a mini) and your stocking rate is 1AU per 2 acres you should in theory be able to keep 10 sheep on your 2.5 acre lot. Those 10 sheep should eat 1.5-3% of their body weight in dry matter per day or approximately 227lbs/day in hay. This depends a lot on the hay to though and grain. % full size sheep would be approximate the same.

    Something on here might help or help you find someone to ask what your stocking rate is in your county.
    http://cesonoma.ucanr.edu/Livestock_and_Range_Management/Sonoma_Sustainable_Initiative/