Why Keep Sheep?
I don’t know what animals you have on your homestead. We have had quite a few. If you are just meeting me,
Hi! I’m CJ and I have an animal problem. In addition to a homestead, DH and I own a pawnshop. As odd as this sounds, the Pawnshop has been the reason I have ended up with several unexpected farm critters (chickens, rabbits and potbelly pigs to name a few).
In addition to the chickens, rabbits and potbelly pigs, we’ve also kept ducks, cows (beef & dairy), broiler chickens and farm pigs.
In 2017 we got sheep. I’ve been wanting sheep for years.
I am new to the sheep business but thought I would share some of the reasons I REALLY wanted to have them on our farm.
Chickens cackle. Roosters crow. Donkeys Gee-Gonk. Cows bawl.
Sheep are quiet.
You will rarely hear a sheep make noise. There are 2 exceptions. 1. When the ewes have their lambs they will call to them and the lambs bleat back. It’s adorable and definitely not a sound you will hear your neighbors complaining about.
Napoleon is our most vocal sheep. He is our ram. He is also the funniest animal on our farm. Which is saying quite a thing since we have an unknown amount of animals (last count I got to 40). He makes this earthy, throaty grumbling noise which will scare you death if you didn’t know it’s him. He really just wants you to scratch behind his ears and tell him you love him.
I can wrangle a full-grown sheep to the ground. And I have. Just ask my kids It’s been said that I “wrestle sheep” which is not true. The point is that sheep are docile animals and easy to work with. We don’t have trouble taking care of their needs or working with them.
Another benefit of the size of sheep is that they don’t need much pasture. Here in Kentucky, it takes 1 acre of pasture to support a cow. Up to 10 sheep can be kept on that same slot of land.
THREE: Easy Birth
My friend who has been keeping goats and sheep for years is adamant about how easily sheep will give birth and care for their young. Her goats occasionally have problems with birth, they sometimes aren’t the best mothers and require much more intervention than her sheep do.
She also has Tunis sheep (this is what we have) and has loved having them on her farm.
Generally speaking, sheep do not have too many scary health concerns. They need good hoof care. You can’t feed them copper. And you need to take care of general maintenance (like shearing, vaccinating and tail issues).
FIVE: Not devastating if you lose one
We have a small herd of beef cattle that we keep on some land we lease. A good friend of ours lives across the street from the field the cows live in. This fall during deer season, while a couple of local teens were hunting they decided to shoot 2 of our cows.
2 cows. 2 FEMALE cows. Who were probably bred. Who we could have sold for $2000.
Both dead because of some punk teens.
It is upsetting to even talk about it. It simply disgusts me.
We lost another 2 cows during a birth. The heifer had trouble delivering and we lost the mom and the calf.
Losing a cow is devasting on the wallet.
Losing a lamb or a sheep is not nearly as detrimental. The lambs come free from the ewes. They are raised on milk and meadow – making them basically free to feed. When the lambs are harvested (about 6 months old) you don’t have much invested in them at all.
This makes them extremely profitable. This also makes it much easier to stomach if one dies.
Unlike cows, sheep usually have twins. I have been told that sometimes they only have a single birth the first time they freshen. After that first birth, you can expect twins or triplets.
Each time we lamb we triple the size of our flock. When you figure that most breeds of sheep will have lambs 2 times per year you’ll see that this equates to a whole bunch of sheep.
This multiplication is amazing! If you keep the ewes and sell the rams you will have an enormous herd in no time at all. Once your herd reaches your goal you can begin to sell all the lambs every time. The males for meat and the females can be sold to other farms or homesteads for breeding stock (or meat).
Lamb chops, rib chops, loin chops, leg of lamb, ground lamb – all of this deliciousness is going to be at its peak when the lambs are about 120 pounds. Some farms wait until the lambs are bigger. As long as the lambs are processed before they get their adult teeth the meat should be tender and mild. For some reason, the changes that happen when a lamb gets their ‘big teeth’ affects the flavor of the meat (making it mutton, not lamb). Mutton is an acquired taste. Many folks who can’t stand mutton, love the flavor of lamb.
It only takes about 6 months for a lamb to reach the 120-pound mark. This is pretty quick!
It takes 5 months for a chick to begin laying eggs. To think that you can raise a lamb to slaughter weight in this amount of time is impressive.
This makes a lamb a short time investment.
EIGHT: Pasture Raised
Lambs and pigs are 2 animals that will actually have a superior meat if they are raised on pasture. If they are fed grain or other feeds it will produce an inferior meat.
Pasture & milk is all it takes to produce the tenderest, most marbled lamb meat. Much of the cost of raising animals comes in the form of food. I know that our pigs produce some serious feed bills. We do feed our pigs hay and garden scraps, but pigs need grain. This gets expensive.
For the lamb producer if there is plenty of pasture available raising sheep is basically free.
Have you ever eaten lamb? So amazing.
A lamb is a sheep under a year old. Lamb meat is milder and more tender than mutton (sheep meat).
I must say, that I have only cooked lamb once in my kitchen (and once on the grill). The reason we don’t eat it often is because it is so dang expensive to buy. The few times we have eaten it we were given the meat from a friend who raises sheep. I loved it.
Lamb is a very healthy grass-fed meat. It is considered a red meat, but it is a HEALTHY red meat. It is high in iron and is a great source of protein. Lamb is loaded with B vitamins, contains immune-boosting zinc and is a rich source of Omega-3 fats and CLA (the cancer-fighting wonderful). More on the health of lamb meat here.
Sheep are big business As far as profitability per pound, it’s hard to beat a sheep.
First of all, the meat is better when the animal is raised on grass. AND, grass if free.
Second, lamb meat is just about the most expensive meat you can buy. Around here, grass-fed, organic lamb sells for over $17 per pound.
$17 per pound!!!!!
Even if you sold your lamb meat for half of this number you’d still be getting $8.50 per pound.
You can expect to get 30% of the live weight back as edible meat. If the animal weighs 100 pounds at slaughter this equates to just over 30 pounds of meat. If you sell the meat for $8 per pound, you have the potential to make $240. FROM ONE LAMB.
Let’s just imagine you have 5 lambs to process. That’s $1200 for 5 lambs! That ate grass! That you only owned for 6 months!
And your sheep will give you 4 new lambs every year (if you breed them 2 times per year).
This is not a bad business at all.
I LOVE SHEEP.
I am still very new to keeping sheep, so I’ll keep you posted as we walk this path.
As far as the farm is concerned, we are cautiously optimistic about keeping sheep. So far, they seem to be a great addition to the farm. We love having them and they are potentially going to be the most profitable animal as well.