Saturday, November 14, 2009

Notes on sheep, and status of my sheep

One thing that I do on this blog is to write about those things that take the time.  So I write a bunch about the pigs, because I'm carrying a large number of pigs, and they take a bit of time to care for.   Same with the turkeys when I have them, and not so much about the ducks, geese and chickens because as a crop, they're pretty much painless. 

In another discussion we talked a lot about supplemental feed for animals in the comments.  Sheep are a meat animal that can subsist primarily on grass and pasture, and do quite well.   That's one reason that I like sheep as a crop, particularly in the river bottom.  They stand a good chance of having as close to zero input cost (farmer talk for stuff you gotta buy from someone else or something additional you have to add, like labor) as any animal raised for meat, and I've got to say that's pretty attractive to me. 

I haven't written much about the sheep because they're about as much work as the chickens.  If you've got a good fence and an automatic waterer, and you've got enough grass, my experience has been that you don't have to do much for most of the year.  Lambing might be a different story, but right now they're pretty painless.

The paddock they're in is 3 acres, and has good grass.  What I'll do in the next few days is move them into a smaller area, a sacrifice paddock, so that the main pasture grass can recover.  I'll do the same with the cows.  I've pretty much switched over to the local grass hay I put up in late may/early june, which i use both as fodder for the sheep and cows, and for bedding and fodder for the pigs.  I've also been constructing a sheep shed, into which I'll build a hay feeder so that less of it gets wasted, and some storage space for bales.  I'd like to be able to reduce my trips with the tractor to once every two or three weeks, so I'll build in shelves so that I can store as much hay as I can inside the shelter, but out of reach of the critters.  So feeding them becomes flipping a bale from here to there inside the shed. 

I purchased these ewes and a ram as breeding stock, and I'm hoping for a decent lamb crop next year.  Three of the ewes got bred sometime in May or June because I left a gate open and the ram got to them, but the rest of them were bred in november.  I'd like the lambs to be out when it's a little warmer and maybe a little less rainy. 

I chose this particular breed of sheep because they shed their wool in the spring and summer, and don't need to be sheared of their old wool.  Sheep wool as a fibre has basically no market that I can find in the USA for the small sheep herd -- and shearing is a nuisance if you're raising the animals primarily for meat.  These sheep are Katahdin hair sheep.  Other breeds of sheep are also hair sheep, and one in particular has been shown to be pretty good for a grass-based operation, at least in the opinion of researchers at the USDA Meat Animal Research Center (MARC).

1 comment:

sheila said...

That looks like a lot of Shepherds Pie to me. Tasty! We had that for dinner tonight. Local lamb. Purchased it whole and took it to the butcher myself. Never knew I liked lamb until last year when I started buying lambs this way. Tastes completely different than lamb from the supermarket.

I think the only way to market a fleece and make any money of it would be to find hand spinners that would pay a premium for a nice fleece.