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Sheep 101

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Part of six part Introduction to Small Ruminants webinar series. University of Maryland Extension

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Sheep 101

  1. 1. Sheep 101 SUSAN SCHOENIAN Sheep & Goat Specialist University of Maryland Extension sschoen@umd.edu | sheep101.info
  2. 2. Why raise sheep? Profit Tax advantages Lifestyle, hobby Project for youth Self sufficiency Pets Vegetation control More than one reason
  3. 3. Pros and cons of raising sheep
  4. 4. PROS • Less acreage required • Less investment • Ease of handling • Multi-purpose • Reproductive efficiency ~5-month gestation, prolificacy • Grazing behavior • Can finish lambs on grass • Niche demand for products Demographics and immigration • Can complement other enterprises
  5. 5. CONS • Small industry • Lack of infrastructure e.g., medicine, veterinarians • Lack of mainstream demand for products • Fencing needs • Labor needs • Predator risk The 3 P’s: parasites, predators, and profitability
  6. 6. Decide what you are going to raise them for? • Meat • Wool, skins • Dairy • Vegetation control • Show • 4-H, FFA project • More than one purpose
  7. 7. Meat production • Raise meat breeds • Ewes lamb every 6-12 months Annual lambing most common • Sell lambs at weaning or heavier weights. • Take to sale barn or direct market (meat). • Grow/finish on pasture or feed or combination. • Wool income negligible.
  8. 8. Wool production • Raise wool breeds • Ewe flock; meat important product • Annual shearing (sometimes more often) • Direct market fleeces to hand spinners and crafters. • Add value to wool before selling. • No longer a wool pool in Maryland, but in other states.
  9. 9. Dairy production • Raise dairy breeds/crosses • Lamb annually • Remove lambs at birth or begin milking after weaning lambs at 30 days or do hybrid system. • Sheep milk usually made into cheese. • Lots of regulations to follow in order to sell products (can make soap without license). • Few sheep dairies in US
  10. 10. Vegetation control • Get paid to graze • Control unwanted vegetation • Solar grazing getting popular • Any breed • Often dry ewes Image: American Solar Grazing Association (solargrazing.org)
  11. 11. Seedstock (breeding stock) • Any breed • Purebred or crossbred • Registered or commercial • Rams or ewes or both • Keep good records Only sell “best” rams and sound ewes • Set high health standards • Have high ethnical standards
  12. 12. US Sheep Breeds • About 60 recognized sheep breeds in the US. • No best breed(s) • Each breed (or type) has specific characteristics that make it suitable for certain production systems and/or markets. • Breeds usually excel in the production of meat, wool, or milk – seldom two or all three. • Sometimes there’s as much difference within breeds as between breeds. • Not all breeds are available in a geographic area.
  13. 13. Classify by type of coat or wool • Wooled • Fine wool • Crossbred wool • Medium wool • Long (coarse) wool • Carpet wool • Hair / shedding
  14. 14. Most popular Katahdin Dorper Dorset Suffolk Hampshire Rambouillet
  15. 15. Classify by purpose MEAT | WOOL | DAIRY | DUAL-PURPOSE
  16. 16. Most popular Katahdin Dorper Dorset Suffolk Hampshire Rambouillet
  17. 17. Breeds with unique characteristics • Prolificacy Finn, Romanov, Booroola Merino • Parasite resistance St. Croix, Barbados Black Belly Katahdin • Short, rat-tails Finn, East Friesian, Icelandic, Romanov • Heavy muscled Texel • Dairy East Friesian, Lacaune, Awassi
  18. 18. Rare and heritage breeds
  19. 19. What you need to raise sheep • Feed source, usually pasture (land) • Properly fenced pasture • Other feed sources • Housing • Shelter • Feeders: hay, grain, minerals • Watering system • Feed storage • A way to handle them • A veterinarian
  20. 20. Feed source: pasture + supplements
  21. 21. How much land do you need to raise sheep? • It depends on many factors • Geographic region / climate/ rainfall / season • How many months of the year sheep can/will graze • When lambs will be sold Weight lambs will be sold How lambs will be finished • Mid-Atlantic “rule of thumb”: 1 AU (1000 lbs) per two acres 2-3 sheep/acre
  22. 22. Confinement “zero grazing” Sheep can be raised in total or partial confinement; there’s pros and cons
  23. 23. Fencing
  24. 24. Perimeter fence Fencing for sheep needs to control animals and deter predators High-Tensile Electric Woven wire
  25. 25. High-tensile electric fence • 4-6 strands of smooth galvanized wire • All electric or alternate hot and cold • Wires closer together at bottom • Strong corners • Good tension • Good charger/energizer • More of a phycological barrier • May need to train animals to respect
  26. 26. Woven wire American wire, field fence, box wire, mesh wire • Visual barrier • Horizontal wires with vertical stays (many configurations). • Use fence with holes small enough that sheep/lambs cannot get their heads stuck. • Common to add barbed wires to top and bottom of fence. • Electric off-set wires also common. • Cover board fences
  27. 27. Interior fences Control animals, subdivide pastures for rotational grazing
  28. 28. Interior fencing materials • High-tensile electric • Smooth electric wire • Poly wire or rope • Electric netting*** Sub-divide pastures for rotational grazing
  29. 29. Housing
  30. 30. Panels for making pens
  31. 31. Ram housing or paddock
  32. 32. Shelter
  33. 33. Feed storage
  34. 34. Watering system ½ to 4 gallons per day depending on animal, feed, and environment
  35. 35. Feeders • Hay – loose, square, round • Grain • Combination • Minerals
  36. 36. Make your own feeders
  37. 37. Feed, water, and space requirements Ewe Ewe with lambs Lambs Ram Limit feed, inches 16-20 16-20 9-12 12 Self feed, inches 4-6 4-6 1-2 6 Creep, inches 2 Bowl, no. head 40-50 40-50 40-50 10 Nipple, no head 40-50 40-50 40-50 10 Tank, no head 15-25 15-25 15-25 2 Dirt lot, sq. ft. 20 25 15-20 20 Open shed, sq. ft. 8 12 6 8 Confinement, sq. ft. 12-16 16-20 8-10 20-30 Slatted floors, sq. ft. 8-10 10-12 4-6 14-20 Source: Midwest Plan Service Feed Water Space
  38. 38. A way to handle and restrain sheep sort, weigh, trim feet, vaccinate, deworm, FAMACHA© score, body condition score, load
  39. 39. Labor Sheep can be labor intensive at times • Breeding • Lambing • Hoof trimming • Vaccinating • Monitoring for parasites and deworming • Rotating pastures • Feeding • Shearing/crutching • Bottle feeding
  40. 40. Livestock guardians • Common to sheep farms • Another line of defense against predators. • Dogs (specific breeds) Llamas Donkeys (standard size) • Pros and cons to each type of guardian
  41. 41. Getting started • Buy from reputable breeders or sales • Buy from as few sources as possible • Favor performance tested animals • Prices will vary • Put more emphasis on ram ($) • Biosecurity, biosecurity, biosecurity – beware of hidden diseases.
  42. 42. Regulations pertaining to sheep/goats • Scrapie • Nutrient Management • Zoning • Covenants • CAFO • Sale of meat and dairy • Regulations vary by state and locality.
  43. 43. US Scrapie regulations • Producers are required to follow federal and state regulations for officially identifying their sheep/goats. • Call 866-USDA-TAG to register you flock (get flock/premise ID) • Buy approved tags • Tag sheep before they leave your farm (some exceptions). • Keep records for five years. • Voluntary Scrapie Certification Program
  44. 44. Support $$$ for sheep/goat farmers • Take advantage of Extension: “free” education available in every county and state. • Participate in a grant project. • Apply for a grant, e.g., SARE • Apply for cost share with Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) – EQIP program
  45. 45. Sheep 201: A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Sheep 50 chapters 1) Getting started 2) Facilities and equipment 3) Reproduction and breeding 4) Health 5) Lambing 6) Management 7) Feeds and feeding 8) Predators 9) Environmental stewardship 10) Marketing 11) Economics www.sheep101.info/201/
  46. 46. Small Ruminant Q&A • 52 Q and A’s • Breeding and reproduction • Drug use • Facilities • Feeding and nutrition • Health • Internal parasites • Lambing and kidding • Management • Marketing • Pasture and forages www.sheep101/QandA/
  47. 47. SUSAN SCHOENIAN Sheep & Goat Specialist University of Maryland Extension sschoen@umd.edu sheepandgoat.com sheep101.info wormx.info Facebook @MD Small Ruminant

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