My parents raised sheep for several years when I was a kid. They were my favorite of the animals we experimented raising on our hobby farm.
Watching the sheep give birth was absolutely amazing and the baby lambs made the most adorable pets! My siblings, friends, and myself also got a lot of entertainment attempting to ride the sheep like horses—we never were very successful.
My Dad was the main one involved with the caring of the sheep, and I can recall him shearing the sheep himself. It always was hilarious watching him struggle to hold the sheep in place as he cursed and the sheep bleated.
There came a day when he announced that he was ready to sell the sheep. They were too much work for him. He worked a full-time job, cared for many large vegetable gardens, and had 5 kids!
Not wanting to see the sheep go, I volunteered to be their caretaker. This meant hauling five-gallon buckets of water from our house to the shed every day in the winter, not to mention feeding them their corn and hay.
Summer was easier, except for dealing with all of the barn spiders that would appear in the shed (especially for a girl with major arachnophobia). My dad eventually sold the sheep and gave me part of the profit, which was completely unexpected and very rewarding for me.
Now that I am an adult with children of my own I would love nothing more than to raise some sheep. Unfortunately, we’ll need to buy more land before we can have sheep. When that time comes, I’ll be likely raising sheep for some or all of the following reasons.
1) Sheep Wool Is Warm And Sought-After
In today’s world of synthetic materials, you’d be surprised to learn just how much wool is still used, and is, in fact making a comeback! Wool is used for clothing, bedding, furniture, even insulation for houses.
According to Good Shepherd Wool, a provider and installer of wool insulation, wool is a superior fiber for insulating. It is naturally flame-resistant, non-carcinogenic, it helps absorb toxins from your home, it is recyclable, sustainable, is a natural sound blocker, and has many other benefits.
Here in Minnesota, you can sell your wool to a local mill for about $1 per pound or $10 per fleece. You can plan on shearing for sure, once in the spring. It is important to keep the wool very clean if you plan on selling it. You can also sell your raw wool for money on Etsy or to local customers that have a use for it.
2) Sheep Meat Is Underrated
As much as I love sheep, you may be surprised that I have eaten their meat! Their meat is delicious and definitely underrated.
Some sheep raisers sell certified meat directly to local customers via local farmers markets, online, or to restaurants. Sellers may also go to a slaughterhouse or retail market.
Lamb sells for more than mutton. I purchased a pound of lamb stew meat for about $8 at our farmer’s market. It was amazing in a homemade stew. Raising sheep for your own table is a smart way to have economic, organic, super local, meat.
3) Sheep Provide Nutritious Milk
Among sheep milk’s many nutritional benefits: Double the calcium of cow milk, and high levels of vitamins, particularly, vitamin C, B, thiamin, riboflavin, and B-12. These vitamins help the body’s immune system and nervous system.
Sheep milk is a staple in other parts of the world. It is used to make cheeses, such as ricotta, feta, and Roquefort. Sheep milk has more solids in it than cow milk and thus its milk yields more cheese per fluid ounce. Yogurt can also be produced from the milk.
If you are considering raising sheep for their milk then you will need to get one of the dairy breeds. They produce twice as much milk as the nondairy breeds. Some of the dairy breeds include East Friesian and the Lacaune. They can produce up to 1,000 lbs of milk annually!
4) Sheep Breeding Can Be Lucrative
Perhaps you just want to raise and sell sheep for their genetics. This can actually be quite profitable. The main factor you must focus on when selling sheep for this purpose is health. Traits such as milk production, fertility, feed efficiency, and mothering ability are also important.
Your sheep must be very healthy especially if you want to export them to other countries. This is a growing market. Each country has different standards for sheep health. Certain diseases are deal breakers such as scrapie.
There may be a demand for certain types of sheep where you live, ask around!
5) Sheep Are Natural Lawn Mowers
Tired of mowing your lawn all the time? Let sheep do it for you! You will save time and money!
You can even rent your sheep out to individuals or companies that want to have their lawn mowed the eco-friendly way. Not only will they keep your grass short, they will fertilize it as well. Some golf courses have actually done this!
You can hire people to bring goats to your home or business to clear unwanted brush and vegetation. It’s only a matter of time I’m sure, before sheep are offered as well for their grazing abilities—which are superior to goats when it comes to grasses.
6) Sheep Make Friendly Pets
If you aren’t a dog or cat person, you might be a sheep person! They are friendly, adorable, low-maintenance pets. A miniature sheep would help a child learn responsibility, and they could even get involved with 4-H.
When it comes to raising sheep, there are so many possibilities. I can’t wait to start raising sheep. In the meantime, I dream of homemade sheep milk cheese and yogurt!
Melissa Hartner of blacksheepandhoneybees.com lives with her family in Minnesota on a half-acre homestead.