It’s pretty common to meet preppers that are raising chickens, rabbits, and even goats. However, a lot of homesteaders avoid raising sheep. Most of the time, it’s just a matter of fear! There’s just not as much information out there about taking care of sheep, which is unfortunate because they are a great choice for preppers who want to push towards an off-grid lifestyle. If you have a small piece of land and you’re brave enough to try something new, you really can’t go wrong with a small flock of sheep. They’re a relatively inexpensive way to fill your need for wool, meat, milk, and skins.
Benefits of Raising Sheep
Sheep provide some of life’s most basic necessities for homesteaders. You have an instant source of meat, easy access to milk, and the wool is an excellent backup plan if you need to barter. Sheep can also help with grass and weed management. If you have kids, the sheep not only teach them about responsibility and the cycle of life, but studies also indicate that living around livestock reduces the chances of them developing asthma and allergies.
If you’re considering adding some livestock to your homestead, sheep are a smart choice because they are low maintenance, require little space, and are more affordable than cattle. The short gestation period of ewes makes it easy for you to take a few sheep and turn it into a large flock in just a few short years.
If you’re worried that eating food purchased from the grocery store could be full of growth hormones and other things that may potentially jeopardize your health, having a flock of sheep is a great, affordable way for you to make sure you always have a ready supply of organic meat on hand.
Believe it or not, having a flock of sheep on your property allows you take advantage of certain tax advantages. Talk to your accountant and find out if you’re land and sheep entitle you to declare your property a farm, which makes it exempt from some taxes.
Choosing the Best Breed for You
The breed you choose depends largely on what you want to do with your flock of sheep. Certain breeds are more suitable for certain purposes than others. If you’re interested in producing wool that’s great for hand spinning, you should stick to breeds that produce a fine quality wool, such as:
If you have small kids, you should stick to rambouillet or Jacob, which tend to be laid back and good family sheep.
If you’re interested in producing both wool and meat, you should stick to medium wool breeds. The wool quality isn’t as high and they’re harder to sheer, but the dual purpose of these sheep makes them a great choice for beginners.
Good medium wool breeds include:
Suffolk are a popular choice for anyone who is hoping to raise their sheep as 4-H or FFA projects. Just keep in mind that Suffolks tend to escape more often then other breeds which means you’ll need to invest in a really good fence.
If you’re not interested in producing any wool, but look forward to raising sheep for meet, you want to stick to hair varieties of sheep. These are very low maintenance breeds. Great choices for beginners includes:
- American Blackbelly
- California Red
- Royal White
- Wiltshire Horn
- Barbados Blackbelly
Although it isn’t as popular as using goats, there are some breeds of sheep that are a great choice for producing milk and cheese. These include:
- East Friesian
Get Your Land Ready for Sheep
Before you purchase your sheep, you need to make sure you have the right facilities for them. You’ll need a good fence. Electric works best. Sheep can jump, so your fence should be at least three feet high, and four might be better, with a strand of fence every foot.
You will also need a shelter that is covered and points away from the wind. It needs to be large enough for your entire flock to fit into it at once. At some point you’ll need to create a separate shelter where you can keep ewes that are about to lamb.
Ultimately, sheep are a smart choice for preppers that are just beginning the adventure of raising livestock. Talk to local farmers in your area to learn more about what’s involved in caring for sheep and then decide if they would be a good fit for your family.