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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This spring I am moving to what land remains of the old family dairy farm. Located in a fairly remote part of the Great Lakes area, its about 35 acres of a roughly even mix of woods and field. There is an excellent supply of fresh water (ponds, small river, good well), and there are roughly 2 dozen apple trees and over an acre of wild raspberries this year. I want to produce enough food for 2 initially. We were thinking of starting off with chickens, sheep and maybe a 1/2 acre large garden. A couple acres next to the barn are still decent pasture and we are working on restoring another 5 acres from fallow.

I have many questions but I start off with the sheep. I was thinking of starting out with 1 ram and 5 ewes. Is this a good initial flock size? I want them for meat production and a couple for dairy. I was thinking of getting one or two east frisian crossbreds for milking and rest of the ewes of good meat producer. Would one ram be sufficient genetically and what breed of rams should I look into? How much should I be expecting to pay for rams and ewes of particular breeds?
 

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Why Sheep?

I would think that you could find a better fit then that unless, you have prior experience.

It has been my experience that sheep yield very little meat, for the imput. But a good by product is the wool.

Small cattle might provide a better return.

Sounds like a great set up. Best of luck
 

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Hi! We raise sheep, and we started out small, as you are describing. 5 or 6 ewes and 1 ram is good to start out with, however, you don't want to inbreed or linebreed too closely, so depending on what you want to do with your lambs will suggest how long this arrangment is good for. If you intend to keep all your ewe lambs and increase your flock, you won't want to breed them back to their daddy. You'll probably want to consider having more than one ram. But if you want to keep your flock to the half a dozen ewes you started with and sell off your lambs (or whatever you don't eat) then just the one ram would be perfectly fine.
You just want to be careful getting new stock to replace your older stock. Parasites like Haemonchus (baber pole worms) are very destructive and are becoming more and more resistant to medical wormers. Just be sure you get your stock from a reputable place.
And if you're going to sell your ewe lambs for anything but meat, you'll have to join your state's scrapie eradication program.
Have you considered a dual purpose sheep, like the dorset? They are excellent milkers (great for cheese), produce decent wool, and have nice meat carcass too.
I've written a book series called Today's Homestead that deals with all aspects of starting and running a homestead, that might just interest you. It's available at amazon.com.

~Dona
 

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Good choice on the livestock.

I run a ram with nine ewes and he doesn't seem to mind it. I think sheep are very hardy if you buy an old breed that is adapted to your climate. They're a good choice if you're getting started in livestock. They're gentle, produce meat, wool, and milk, and can't kill you if they're having a bad day.

I have cattle, sheep, and hogs. The sheep are the easiest to keep of the three.

 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the replies so far. I want to start off with sheep for a number of reasons. I've heard that sheep are somewhat easier to raise then other animals and they seem to be perfect for the size of farm I want to run. Lamb is one of my favorite foods. Also I would have a much easier time slaughtering and butchering a lamb then cattle.

I've have read a little on the Dorset. They look like a great breed. Like I said earlier I am look for good meat and milk producers first and foremost. In state there are a couple farms offering East Frisian x Lacaune crosses. I'd like to get one or two ewes because they are legendary milk producers. The rest though I'd like to get a good dual purpose breed. Winters can be a little rough up here so I need something that can handle them.

Great pic, you got yourself some nice looking sheep there stoneunhenged! What bred are those?

Anyone want to try to convince me why I should try goats instead? Open to opinions.
 

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Well - sheep need nicer land and food than goats do. I spent a week on a farm near Brisbane where there was long draught. The creeks were down to a few isolated pools, reservoirs were at low levels, Gold Coast in flames. The goats were fat and happy, while the sheep were abandoning the lambs out in the scrub.
 

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I have raise goat (for a few years), not a lot of meat on them either. But if it si two of you then it might be bad.
The problem i had with goats was keeping them in, it took a 5 foot fence, and then they tried it. Goat will not anything, but will survive on a lot poorer pasture or lesser quaility hay then sheep.

I would concur with Stoneunhedged, i would not fool with mixes persay. I would go for one of the endangered breeds they have stood the test of time and you don't have to worry about the right buck/doe combo.
 

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We are in transit, from cattle to sheep, because they are better in drought circumstances.
the farmers here who have changed are not buying in the tonnes of grain, pellets,and hay.
For years we have just had a ram and around ten killers.
We had one ram who thought he was a horse and ate slept and drank with the horses,we still got babies,but I dont know how.
 

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Goats are the best reclaiming tool for grown up pastures and woods in my opinion. Sheep are grazers while goats are grazers. The meat yield depends on the type of goat but its a trade off because most of the time your meat breeds are not as hardy.
 

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patriarch
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Before livestock, with any type of land, a good fence around your property is a must. A good fence makes good neighbors!
Since you mentioned sheep, some people do great raising sheep for wool/duel purpose. Then again, if that is not your thing, a meat sheep is the alternative. Do you eat sheep? I personally will not raise an animal that does not have a purpose or provides food on the table. Research the market in your area. Decide your purpose before investing. Good luck.
 

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I'm a couple states strait west of you. we have a large ranch and we run both livestock and sheep. The cows are herefords, the sheep are a Rambouillet/ Targee cross that do very well in these cold climates and have very good quality wool.. running sheep with cows has it's perks. cows like to eat grass, sheep are more like goats and like to eat leafy plants, weeds and most stuff that cows won't touch. they compliment each other very nicely.

Expect to pay a couple hundred dollars at current prices for a good ewe lamb, up to about $600 for a good buck.

As someone else mentioned, you should try to avoid breeding offspring to their father. it's not gaurenteed that you'll have problems, but it's not a good deal. you could keep a buck lamb out of the first bunch of lambs you get, and by the time those lambs are old enough to breed, you could slaughter the old buck, and the new buck lamb's mother and you'd most likely be ok for another year or two. eventually you'll need a new bloodline of buck, or maybe you could do some trading with the neighbors for a buck to service you ewes and not need to buy bucks at all. The problem with bucks is they need to be penned separate all year when they're not "needed" . I can be a pain.

Best of luck.
 

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M.R. Ducks
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I'm casting another vote for adding some goats. They will help reclaim the overgrown pasture. I suggest some larger diary goats like LaManchas or Nubians. They are less of a flight risk. I've met some Nubians aggressive enough to keep foxes and coyotes away, too. YMMV.

If they're bred regularly and fed properly Nubians will produce a good bit of milk.. If you like goat milk. I don't.

As for the garden. Unless you're going to get a tractor and some machinery, I suggest growing veggies in raised beds. In your area they will extend your growing season. The soil will warm up sooner and you can use row covers at each end of the season to protect your stuff from frost. Compost your fall leaves with your sheep poop and you can grow a lot of veggies for two folks in a half dozen 4x8 raised beds.
 

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Goats are a better source of milk and meat. no need to know how to sheer. breed makes a big difference. boer, Kiko and some of the well bred or registered nubians are nice but the high quality boers are growthy and mature quickly. I did some line breeding nubian into my boer then breeding back to the boer with some nice results. goats are nice because I was able to get a decent size herd locked them up in a building for a few weeks then turned them out and they stayed near by without fencing (but fence was required to keep them out of garden and other areas). they put themselves away each night. when scared they would run to the building. they kept brush very low. get chickens. im in michigan so its really cold and tons of snow where I live so found the best breeds of chickens to be whyndottes as they are dedicated sitters, they dress out nice for dinner and will out lay most other breeds in the winter. an lastly rabbits are a great cheap source of meat especially if you have pets. do not get roped into the flemish giants as they are a waste of space and time, same with Californians, checker giants, florida whites and other usual 'meat' breeds. the silver fox rabbit is an awesome breed. heavy milkers, great moms and fast growers. with patience, time and a light familiarity with genetics and i had my herd maturing at 8 pounds at 4-5 months old. with 10 does and 4 bucks you could genetically maintain safe healthy lines with no outside influence. you breed 1 doe a week for a litter each week of 8-10 babies being average. thats one rabbit a day for food.
 

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Just my own experience, but goats are evil.

I'd never pick goats over sheep, unless it was for the milk, only. that is their only advantage. Shearing as a downside? I would think having the wool to use or trade would be seen as an advantage not a hindrance. especially in a cold climate. Get yourself a pair of hand shears, and you've got time to practice. You might even be able to trade a sheerer something to come sheer your flock a couple weeks before lambing time. If you end up doing it yourself and it doesn't look the best, no worries, in about a month and a half, you can't tell.

Goats are like making a deal with the devil.
 
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