Selecting Sheep for milk or meat

Comments:DISQUS_COMMENTS

Selection of Sheep – General Strategy

A common mistake of inexperienced farmers is that they often start raising just one sheep. The sheep is a very social animal, with a very strong herding instinct, and very closely connected to its partners. Consequently, it is good to start our sheep raising activity by purchasing at least 3 sheep (preferably females). The average sheep lives 11-13 years, but can reproduce from 7-9 months old until 6-8 years old. There are -of course- striking exceptions to these age limits.

There are different breeds and different strategies for different needs and levels of experience. First of all, you have to decide if you will raise sheep for milk and/or for meat. East Friesian, Laucane and Assaf are popular dairy breeds, while Dorset and Suffolk are considered among the best meat breeds.

Inexperienced farmers are advised to start by raising only female sheep for milk, because male sheep are often aggressive, smelly and generally need special handling and their own space. In this case, new farmers often purchase 3-4 female sheep -of different ages but close to 5 months old- and start raising them. When the sheep reach the reproductive age of 7-9 months old, they mate them with outsourced partners (you may have to pay a fee).

Each sheep usually gives birth to 1-3 baby sheep. When a sheep (after the 5 months pregnancy period) gives birth to a female sheep, most farmers keep the baby in order to extend their female farm, and collect the milk from the mother sheep (the average sheep produces milk for 5-8 months after giving birth). When a sheep gives birth to a male sheep (50:50 probability), they sell the baby male, raise it naturally or castrate it and raise it just for meat or as a pet. It is for sure that -at that time- farmers will definitely have enough experience (more than 1 year) in managing sheep, so each farmer will choose the operating model he/she can support.

To sum up, most farmers start by raising female sheep only for milk and -after some time- they naturally have the choice of extending their livestock and their activities into meat production as well. 

Raising Sheep 101

Housing Sheep

Selecting Sheep for Milk or Meat

How to feed Sheep

Sheep Milking and Dairy Sheep Management

Sheep Care Health & Well-being

Sheep Manure Production and Waste Management

Is Sheep Farming Profitable?

Q&As Sheep

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