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Oh, someone help me. I'm considering buying SHEEP

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On any given day if you saw me with my dog you'd assume that I was the dominant one, the one who called the shots, the one in CONTROL of the relationship. I mean, I pay the bills and I give the commands and the dog does what I say, so I'm the boss, right? Well, I'm beginning to wonder about that. You see, first there was the puppy class, then the brief stint at agility... then the dog "told" me (and ya know I'm not saying she talked, but she did communicate this) that she'd like to try herding. And then, THEN there were the herding lessons, and the clinics, and the countless hours practicing, and I should mention that trip to Scotland where I dragged my friends off to a sheepfarm so I could take lessons...

 

So now I'm considering buying sheep. It's crazy. I once "boarded" sheep for my now late sister's husband and didn't understand why anyone would want such things. But there's nothing quite like seeing a dog work stock well and now I'm a hopeless herding addict and the next step would be to purchase sheep, and I'm looking for advice on breeds and management, or for someone to talk me out of this all together.

 

My sheepkeeping situation would be:

Climate - Wet and mild, but grows grass VERY well, tends toward MUD

Acreage - approx. 5 - 15 depending on how fast I can get fencing together, some shared with horses. Got any advice for fencing for both species? I currently have barbed wire in most areas and extra grazing setup with electric fencing that wouldn't hold a dead sheep.

Housing - not sure yet, I'm looking at designs and wondering how many sheep I can fit into my garage or into a 8X10 stall at night

Predators - coyotes and dogs

Human supervision - none during the daytime in winter, I'm hoping to recruit a neighbor to put them up before dark

Stock available - I'm seeing mostly hair sheep, Suffolk and Romneys for sale. I hear hairs are very attractive to coyotes, is that right?

 

~sigh~

 

Advice or the name of a good therapist would be appreciated.

 

BC

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I'm right there with you Alice, my baby is 8 mo & 2 days, we go play with sheep once a month and seems like forever. I will be watching your thread for good advice on your questions. At this point we will be getting sheep in the spring and then getting rid of them during the winter, "maybe"!

Remy also told me what she wanted sheep more then anything else and add a frizbee too! :rolleyes:

Good Luck

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My dog told me the same thing. We have 4 sheep for her mostly. We never got the trip to Scotland though. Tell hubby we must go! Where are you in the northwest? We used to live in Crescent City. If we had stayed the sheep would have drowned by now. Narita in AZ

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I'm in the PNW, as well, in the north Puget Sound. I'm assuming you're on the west side of the Cascades, since you say it's wet.

 

If you don't want to have to pump feed into your sheep constantly, stay FAR FAR AWAY from the show-bred Suffolks (and anything else show-bred, for that matter). They've had the usefulness bred out of them, unless "useful" to you means winning show ribbons.

 

For reference, I run about a hundred head. 100% grass-fed- only supplement is some alfalfa for the bred ewes.

 

I raise purebred & half Cotswolds. The purebreds are not the best production sheep, but I love the wool, I love the breed preservation. The purebred lambs I've butchered have been pretty darn nice, though. They're hardy sheep, they eat anything, and they're easy to deal with. My half-Cotswold lambs look amazing in the freezer. Big frames, great finish. They pay the bills!

 

I also run a flock of cross-bred ewes. They were originally a Coopworth flock, but have had some East Friesian (not my favourite), Romney, North Country Cheviot (NCC) and Katahdin bred in. I love the NCC cross ewes & lambs. They're hardy, thrifty, get fat fast, and are great fun for the dog :rolleyes: The Romney was crossed in there to improve wool quality, and the Katahdin crosses only raise market lambs.

 

The hair sheep seem to do well around here. The carcasses are nice, but a little narrow for my taste. They put on enough fat, the carcass is just, well, thin.

 

The best ewes I have are the Coopworth x NCC. They're great mothers, have no health troubles, lamb easily, thrifty.

 

As far as horse & sheep compatible fencing goes, you have several choices. Woven field fence works, but is pricey. Use it for a perimeter. Four-and-five strand hotwire will work. I use electro-net for the sheep, but NEVER around the horses! Horses and electro-net are a disaster waiting to happen. I always run an offset hotwire or three between the horses and e-net. Granted, I have two very curious Arabs who love to rearrange (BCs of the horse world), but better safe than vet bills.

 

We have no predators here, save for the occasional stray dog (the perks of living on an island), but if you're going to have any significant number of shep, get an LGD. That way, you don't have to worry about putting them up at night. The number of sheep tou can put in an 8 x 10 stall depends on how much you want to feed... and how often you want to clean the stall. An LGD means your sheep can stay out all the time.

 

My sheep have no housing. The ewes come in the barn or shed right after lambing, but that's mostly for me- it's a lot easier to catch lambs for docking & castrating when they're in a pen! Otherwise, my sheep rely on trees & hedgerows for shelter. They've been out in this rain & wind happily grazing away. I figure they've got a pile of wool on them- they take their house with them. I've never had any trouble from exposure.

 

If you want, and depending on where you are, I can put you in touch with a number of folks who run sheep in different settings up here. Send me a PM, or e-mail me at Northfield.Sheep (at) gmail (dot) com.

 

Obviously, I'm no help! LOL

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All sheep are tasty to predators, not just hair sheep (although they may be MORE tasty).

 

Unless you are a wool addict, please consider a nice hair breed like the Katahdin, which does have some flocking instinct. There are a number of good breeders in your part of the country.

 

And good luck with your new flock.

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Thank you all for your responses. I live out between Eatonville and McKenna which is east of Olympia and south of Tacoma. I know I will eventually wind up with sheep, unless the dog suddenly vanishes. I've done a lot of reading recently about sheep diseases, etc. and I'm getting the idea that the "great deal on 10 sheep down the road at $70/each" might not be such a great deal. Frankly, I can tell a ram from a ewe from a wether, but I'm not so sure I could tell a healthy sheep from one that wasn't. I also know that I'd better get a good perimeter fence up before making a purchase. I'd love to talk to people about their setups and what they'd recommend for the first time sheep owner. :rolleyes:

 

BC

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We have hair sheep. They are Katahdin/St. Croix/Painted Desert/Barb crosses. They are fairly good at flocking together (one ewe is a bit of a loner). They were purchased for $75 each about 3 yrs ago. They were healthy; the guy just had too many and needed to find good homes for them. Good luck finding sheep. We love ours and look forward to lambing season in January. Narita

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If you build a good fence you shouldn't need to put them up at night. If you do need to house them, an adult ewe needs about 20 square feet of floor space, so an 8 X 10 stall would be adequate for four sheep. You could pack 10 times that many into the space, but they would not be healthy for long.

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Just a note: $70 for a sheep doesn't necessarily mean the sheep isn't healthy or is a bad buy. I bought my very healthy hair sheep for less than $100 each, with breeding ages ewes being at the upper end, and wether lambs being the cheapest. At times if I need to get my numbers down and I know I won't make anything at the market, I would sell a perfectly healthy sheep for $75-100. So don't discount sheep just on price. Whatever you do, don't go to auctions--that's where you're most likely to bring home diseases or problem sheep. The only sheep I've paid a lot of money for were show quality registered breeding sheep, and then the most I've paid is $250. I got some middle aged sheep, registered, of the same breed for $75 because the owner had no pasture and really wanted them to go to a good home. They were nice sheep, still had 5-6 years of breeding left in them, so it was a real bargain for me. Look at how the sheep you're looking at are kept. If the property is clean and neat and the sheep appear healthy and the owner is willing to share their feeding and maintenance (vaccines, worming schedule, breeding records) with you, you're probably okay. You can always ask for health certificates, which would mean that a veterinarian has at least clapped eyes on them.

 

The advantage of sheep just down the road is that if they are a healthy flock then you know ahead of time that they are well adapted to the climate and vegetation in your area.

 

I'm not pushing you to buy the sheep down the road, but really, if you're just looking for something to start out with and to work your dog on, I wouldn't discount such sheep either.

 

I started out with a dorper bottle lamb, added a tunis bottle lamb (both free), then a cheviot bottle lamb (also free), and a breeding age cheviot ewe that had been badly hurt (broken hip or pelvis) by a horse but had recovered (free, because the owner was afraid of possible internal scarring from teh injury that could cause problems if the ewe was bred by her ram, who ran with the flock all the time). To those I added three cheviot lambs, all for less than $75 each. That was my starter flock. Not long after (a few months), I also added to registered Scottish blackface ewe lambs, for $185 each. The bottle lambs were raised with other sheep and fed from bottles hanging on the fence, so they didn't act like bottle babies but like regular sheep. Granted, all of these sheep (except for the Scotties) came from people I knew well, but the point is that cheap doesn't always = bad.

 

For someone who has never raised sheep, it makes sense not to go out and spend a fortune on your first animals, because face it, you're going to learn how to be a good shepherd on them as well. If things go wrong (and they inevitably will), it's better to lose a sheep you didn't pay a whole lot for than the $300 sheep. They are all susceptible to the same ills (and in the case of many breeds of show sheep could require significant input in the form of feed, etc.), so why not start with something that won't hurt so much if you lose it?

 

As for fencing and shelter. I do have a barn, but the sheep seldom use it unless I put feed inside a stall to encourage them to go in. What they need more than anything is a good windbreak. Even in PNW. My main use for shelter is to keep feed dry.

 

J.

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A couple of things to add to what has already been said:

 

Will the sheep be at your place or a rented field without supervision? If you predator load is pretty low and they will be kept in the same pasture as horses, then the horses should help keep them safe. Ditto if someone is around during the hours of dawn and dusk when most predators are active. Depending on where you live, that could be between 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Also, make sure the horses and sheep will tolerate each other. We had a problem goat (with horns) that we had to worry about either the horses getting a let stuck between horns when bucking or goat rearing up to butt the horses. Sheep on the other hand get a running start to ram, but it might still cause problems. If you have horses, you know they are injuries waiting to happen. :D My personal preference is for polled animals --- I've already had enough with horn related bruises from the goats.

 

We only get health certificates when our animals will be shipped inter-state. The person selling the sheep down the road may not have them or any that are current. You can ask if you can have a vet inspection before purchase. We allow this for any stock we sell, but it is at purchaser's expense - usually farm call fee and $35 for the certificate.

 

Electric tape or rope is a pretty good option for horses with other critters. It even kept our goats in; however, we have recently discovered that woolie sheep have ways of getting past/through electric. :D This might not be an issue for hair sheep, something to consider.

 

I have also recently learned that sheep already "dog-broke" are a definite advantage, unless your dog is already well trained, tough enough for stubborn sheep and/or ready for more advanced herding on such sheep. Hoping to save you some aggravation here. :rolleyes:

 

Good luck!

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HSNRS - Where did you get your sheep? I'm looking for sheep in the Michigan, Indiana, Ohio area. I'd like some wool sheep, but for now isn't neccesary. I know people with goats, but they are hand raised and not afraid of dogs.

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A friend in Phoenix raises them. There is also a well known Dorper breeder who lives in Willcox. My neighbor raises Barbs. She has lots of lambs coming on and is having trouble selling them. We are in AZ. N

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. I live out between Eatonville and McKenna which is east of Olympia and south of Tacoma.

 

Howdy neighbor! I live on Hwy 702 @ Mt. Hiway on two acres in the tanwax heights area - - All forest so no sheep - I train down @ Fido's Farm - Roz would love to stop by and visit - - once you have sheep that is!!! LOL! :rolleyes:

 

I have no sheep of my own and have never owned them so sorry but no help in that dept.

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