We are in the very beginning stages of considering maybe thinking about perhaps pondering the purchase of a couple of sheep.
I grew up with sheep, the horrible kind. HORRIBLE! I used to stagger out of the sheep pen, dripping in water and manure, cursing the day that sheep had ever entered the world.
But we never really did them “right”; for my mom the small farm I grew up on was a sort of happy “back to basics” let’s-handspin-our-clothes type of operation, until my sister and I grew up enough to realize that there were ways to do it better and we took over certain animals. So the little bunch of backyard no-brand-Nubian goats became a herd of 14 registered Saanens with top milk production and butterfat content (me) and the horses suddenly started going to shows and the pony gave way to a Thoroughbred who could jump four feet (her). Neither of us ever got really involved in the sheep, though, because they were just these terrible stubborn stupid creatures who knocked you down all the time.
I have a LOT of sheep aversion to overcome.
Anyway, since we lost Cinnamon (and oh, gosh, I just went back to read that post and now am sitting here with snot running down my face because it still makes me cry so hard) there’s a barn sitting empty and I am eyeing it thoughtfully for when we’re back in the house. The “barn” is actually a really nice run-in with a big area that could be made into stalls; plenty big for two or three jug-sized stalls.
We’ve pretty much totally decided that no matter which way we twist, we can’t afford another horse. I want goats, desperately, but I am not sure I can keep it under control (I will want to build up a herd again) and I have very little daughters still. Milking four or five does every day is pretty hard when you’ve got a one-year-old, and kiss easy travel to weekend dog shows goodbye.
So we are now researching sheep. And I know very little about breeds or pedigrees; the sheep we had growing up were Dorset/Corriedale, which were considered handspinning sheep, but back then I didn’t know anyone actually doing micron counts or showing fleeces or whatever. If we do this, I would want to do all that stuff.
Here is what we are hoping to do; please let me know if it’s even remotely possible and if there’s a breed of sheep that fits.
1) It must be GENTLE. We’re savvy, but we’re not suicidal. I need to be able to have the older kids handle the sheep and get into and out of the pen without losing fingers. I don’t care of they’re polled or not, just don’t want constant aggression.
2) It must have a very high-quality fleece that I can SELL. Honestly, one fleece will pay for about five weeks of hay, so it’s not like they’d pay for themselves, but I strongly believe that a production animal should produce, and that feeding a good animal is just as expensive as feeding a bad one. So why not get the good one.
3) It must be quiet, or at least as quiet as possible. The neighbors have never minded the horse or the dogs, but I don’t want to push the envelope too much. We’re zoned for sheep; the neighbors are 200′ away from the barn. So it’s not like we’re trying to keep a lamb in an urban setting. But we don’t know anyone else on our road who has any other large animals besides horses.
4) It must be happy in a small flock, probably just two to three sheep.
5) If we have ewes the lambs should be easily saleable for decent money (see item 2); I don’t mind traveling 3-4 hours to get to good rams and I don’t mind doing AI, but the lamb prices need to be able to make the effort worthwhile.
6) It must be at least somewhat able to deal with dogs. I’m not going to start herding lessons with them or anything, but there’s no question that one of the reasons to do sheep would be to get the dogs used to them and to sort out who has enough instinct to get serious about training. So something that’s adaptable and isn’t going to have a heart attack and hurtle from one side of the pen to the other just because a Cardi is beside me while I’m filling the water buckets would be very good.
My ten-year-old is in LOVE with Bluefaced Leicesters – any possibilities there? Or should I go in a different direction?
Thank you SO MUCH – I hope this works and we can add another couple of warm bodies to the ever-growing menagerie around here.