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Tractor Talk Discussion Forum

Re: How about sheep?

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Fawteen

04-28-2013 02:49:37
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I have been keeping sheep for...lessee here...it'll be 20 years next Fall.

Started out with Shetlands, which are a primitive breed prized for the quality of their wool. "Primitive" in this context means they haven't been bred to the point where they're too dependent on humans. Eat about anything, no problems with lambing. Locally, folks put them out on an unoccupied island for the winter and they subsist on what browse they can find and eat snow for moisture. They're relatively small (a big ewe might go 100 or 125) docile, friendly and easy to handle.

Two years ago, I switched to Katahdins, as finding someone to shear was getting difficult and the wool wasn't worth spit unless you knew a home spinner or hobby knitter.

Katahdins are MUCH bigger (my ram goes about 300 pounds), but otherwise share most of the Shetlands attributes.

I've cut back now due to loss of customers for the lambs and the price of hay, but at the peak of things, I kept up to 20 critters on 3.5 acres of grass pasture and still had to mow to keep ahead of it.

Lambs raised on grass and Momma's Milk are excellent eating.

In that time I've lost exactly two adults to unexplained illness, and none to "stupidity". Perhaps that's due to the breeds I selected. I will say they are prone to panic and will herd up and run when they're startled, but that's a prey survival thing. They're nowhere near as smart as a dog, but I've never had occasion to call them stupid. They can read a clock and know when dinnertime is :) They also know that when I go up that ladder in the barn, hay is going to magically fall from the sky and land right over...THERE!

Chickens, now THEY are stupid.

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Fawteen

04-28-2013 02:50:51
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 Re: How about sheep? in reply to Fawteen, 04-28-2013 02:49:37  
Forgot to mention, Katahdins are a "hair sheep" that don't need to be sheared. They shed in the Spring like a dog.



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Fawteen

04-28-2013 03:04:18
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 Re: How about sheep? in reply to Fawteen, 04-28-2013 02:50:51  
Dang, getting old sucks...

Also forgot to mention that it takes at most 20 minutes a day to care for a small flock. Make sure they have water and make sure they have hay in the winter. At my population density worms are not an issue but I worm the adults once a year when I have them penned up to sort out the lambs and take them to market. I check their hooves at the same time and trim if necessary.

All they need for shelter is a wind break. Trying to keep them indoors in the winter is actually bad for them, leads to pneumonia. Not unusual for me to wander down on a winter morning and have a pile of snow sprout legs and turn into a sheep. They'll wander into a three-sided shelter to get out of the hot sun or a driving rain, but that's about it.

I feed mine a bit of grain twice a day. NOT necessary for their health, but acts as a training aid as they LOVE grain and will follow you anywhere to get it. Including into a catch pen...

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