Before anyone can start raising sheep, they first have to know for what purpose they would like to raise sheep. Would it be for wool? Meat? Milk? Most farmers settle on only one as specific breeds are often specialized in their uses. While there are breeds that are good for dual or cross purposes, they often don’t produce the best wool, meat, or milk of their kind. A beginning sheep farmer learning how to raise sheep must also be prepared for the many hardships he will go through. As a farmer grows in experience, raising sheep will get easier and more manageable.
5 Things to consider when learning how to raise sheep:
Land – how much land is available to you? As a general rule an acre is good for about 3-5 sheep or ewes.
Shelter – a barn that can house your flock to protect them from the cold in winter or extreme heat in dry season is needed. Farmers are advised to set aside an average of 15 square feet per ewe.
Market – how do you plan to sell your product? Do you have readily available buyers or do you plan to make use of cooperatives? It is important that you know your market and study how you can earn and increase your market’s potential.
Machinery, equipment, labor – these are things you need to maintain and raise your flock. For starters, you need fencing, cleaning, tagging and shearing equipment. You’ll need barn hands if your flock is larger than what you can manage. You also need guard or sheep dogs if you will be letting your flock graze on open land.
Capital – you cannot start raising sheep if you do not have the necessary capital to buy the equipment, and the sheep necessary to start a flock.
You also need to learn flock management styles if you want to learn how to raise sheep. There are 4 styles of flock management. Range band, farm flocks, specialized flocks, hobby flocks. Range band flocks are for those with a large number of sheep (usually 1,000-1,500 ewes) kept in pasture in either open or fenced land with a large acreage. Because of the large number of sheep, range band flocks subsist purely on pasture alone, as it is economically not feasible to spend for extra feed or hay to the sheep. Farm flocks are smaller bands of sheep kept on a smaller area than range band flocks. It is more manageable and feeding can be supplemented by hay and other grains. Hobby flocks are started by hobbyist or by farmers wanting to preserve breeds which are slowly dying out. Hobby flocks can also be started to provide for specialty products such as wool for hand spinners. Those starting out in learning how to raise sheep often start with a hobby flock before expanding to farm flock size.
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