An important part of our practice is devoted to the health of large animals. Central Maine has many wonderful farms and prospective pasture to raise farm animals. If you are considering raising sheep here are some initial questions and thoughts to get you moving in the right direction.
Wool, Meat or Stock
Do you want to produce wool or do you want to augment your freezer or produce pedigree stock? The breed or crossbreed of sheep that is best for wool production is not necessarily the best for meat, or for raising pedigree stock. There are over 200 breeds of sheep to choose from. Understanding what you want out of your sheep will help you focus on the right breed or crossbreed for you.
Acreage Needed for Sheep
It depends. What is the quality of the soil? What is the average rainfall and distribution of rain in your area? Do you have enough acreage to rotate pastures? At a minimum, you might consider 3-4 ewes per acre and up to six ewes on rich, lush pasture. Larger breeds would require fewer sheep per acre, while smaller breeds can handle more.
Shelter, Fencing and Predators
There are many possibilities for housing your sheep. The housing site should be well drained, accessible for manure removal. Openings should face south, away from prevailing winds. Barns, pole sheds and hoop houses are the most popular. Do not heat enclosed areas and keep ventilation in mind. You want your sheep to avoid getting bronchitis and pneumonia.
You’ll need lots of fencing to manage pasture use and keep out predators. Electric fences are recommended. You should consider keeping dogs with your sheep as they will deter predators but we recommend you research this in more detail for appropriate breeds and training.
Common Health Issues
Sheep are by nature herd animals. They may be about to keel over but they will keep up with the flock until they do. So, a shepherd needs to keep a sharp eye out and be diligent about checking their herd’s health. Before you go ahead, be sure to talk with us about the ways to keep your herd healthy and well.
Start Small and Learn Fast
We encourage you to start small and learn how to raise healthy sheep. Then, add to your herd as you gain knowledge and better understand the life cycle of your sheep. We look forward to being of service to you and your flock.