Many homesteaders learn how to raise sheep because they are considered a cheap investment, have a docile temperament, reproduce quickly, and are fairly fuss-free animals. Of course, like all livestock, you’ll need to research what to feed sheep and which illnesses to anticipate. Spotting illnesses can be difficult since the flock instinct is strong among the herd. Some common health issues you may encounter include sheep blot, foot rot and white muscle disease.
Deciding which sheep breeds (or crossbreeds) to pursue depends on why you want to raise a herd of your own. Do you want to raise a herd for meat, wool, 4-H projects or simply to gobble up weeds other livestock won’t touch? Dual-purpose breeds are great for the flockmaster who has limited space and wants to make the most money from the small flock. Some popular breeds you are likely to encounter are Dorper sheep, Dorset sheep and Suffolk sheep, to name a few. There are also dairy sheep breeds like East Friesian sheep.
When it’s time to purchase your animals, experienced flockmasters recommend locating a trusted local breeder (vs. a sale barn or auction). Before purchasing any livestock, consider performing a general health check on the animals.
Back at the homestead, make sure you have strong fencing to keep predators at bay. Electric fencing is a wise option. A guard dog can be added for security. Divide your pastures so animals can be rotated every 3-4 weeks to control parasites. As for your indoor facilities, consider using existing farm buildings on your homestead. Sheep do not require fancy accommodations.
Depending upon the amount of grass you have and how harsh your winters are, you will need to have hay and grain available for inclement weather. Your herd should always have unlimited access to clean, fresh water and loose minerals.
Raising a herd for profit or pleasure can be an enjoyable experience. Good luck with your farmstead flock!
By Tim King
“Parasite resistance in Katahdin hair sheep can be improved by selective breeding. That improved resistance in Katahdins may be able to be passed on to wool sheep breeds … Read More