Raising sheep is a beautiful, wonderful thing, but it requires a little more attention than chickens. So if you’re thinking about raising sheep, read on to check out some things you should know before you buy.
I was a shepherd for Halloween when I was 6… I can show you the picture if you want! Who’s to know that I would be one in real life 20 some odd years later? Sheep were always part of the plan here at Sage & Shepherd Farm – it’s why we have the word ‘shepherd’ in our farm name (and because of our German Shepherd, Levi).
My husband is a natural shepherd, and I am a natural shepherdess. We love these raising sheep! They are so beautiful, docile, sweet-hearted, and friendly (if you take the time to get to know them). But they are much more complicated than a chicken, duck, or turkey. They require much more attentive care, different types of grass, different types of minerals, salts, dewormers, etc. So let’s get into it!
What You Need to Know About Raising Sheep
They Go Through Grass – Fast!
Sheep are herbivores, which means they only eat plants… which really means they need to have access to a plentiful and proper pasture. We have 3 ewes and 4 rams. We have them separated at the moment. But we move them, in electric fencing, on average every 4 days. Which means we have enough pasture for 7 sheep to eat for the whole summer, without going back to a pasture they’ve been on before. We allow 30 days for a pasture to regrow, reestablish, and rid of parasites.
They Get Worms and Parasites Easily
People always joke that sheep are just trying to die since they die so easily. But with proper maintenance, daily checks, and abundant pasture they should be fine! However, they will need to be wormed often. So there are 2 options – commercial and natural. If you’re going the commercial rate there are many dewormers you can buy in the form of a drench, which you administer through the mouth. If you are going the natural route, there are also many options. I’ve heard of people using molasses and garlic, diatomaceous earth, premade products, etc. We have decided to use the natural approach and use Molly Herbals. This dewormer is a powder and is given as a maintenance thing each week.
A tip for checking to see how healthy your sheep are worm/parasite wise is to look under their eyelids. If it’s nice and red/pink then they’re super healthy, but if it’s white, then you have something to worry about!! This is called the Famacha Guide. Google it!
They Need Supplements – Lots of Them
For chickens, it’s pretty simple, some feed, some grass, water and shelter and they’re good to go. Well raising sheep is a little different. They require certain types of grass, not too much clover, but not too little, no poisonous plants, monitoring, and many supplements and minerals. Your sheep should have access to: a salt lick with cobalt and iodine, selenium, copper (but not too much because it can be poisonous), iron, dolomitic limestone, yellow dusting sulfur, seaweed meal, etc. It’s a good idea to get a professional soil test done to see what you need more of, and to start reading this book.
Why You Need To Raise Sheep
If You Have a Lot of Grass They’re Practically Free
That’s true. If you have extensive pasture, raising sheep is relatively inexpensive because you don’t have to buy hay for the spring and summer. Only for the winter.
Amazing Taste & Quality Meat
Grass-fed lamb is in a league of its own. The taste is lovely and a little less gamey. And you know you’re getting the finest quality since they are being raised organically and on pasture.
You’ll Have a Fridge Full of FoodWith one lamb in the freezer, you will have many, many meals. It’s a perfect way to save money and stock up on food.
They’ll Mow Your Grass
Yes, we’ve all heard this debate. But it’s true – they’ll eat your grass right down getting rid of the need for a mower. How great is that? Just watch out for those dark pebbles…
You Can Get Dairy
This is an exciting one for me. I want to milk my girls, for sheep milk and to make cheese with! But again, once you have your ewe, the milk and all the beautiful products made from milk are practically free.
Things to Consider Before Raising Sheep
– Get A Soil Test
– Research what type of breed is best for your climate, land, and needs
– See if you have enough land for the amount of sheep you want to get
– Check for poisonous plants
– Make sure you have a livestock trailer or a friend with one to go pick up your new sheep
– Get your sheep from a reputable source
– Get Everything Ready! Check out this guide I put together for getting started with sheep! Download below.