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Raising Sheep

Sheep being groomed for 4H fair. Raising sheep can be great for your backyard ranch. Some people rather raise sheep than cattle and some have both. Sheep are great for 4H, wool sales, meat and market. Sheep can be a two or three cash crop investment. 


Above is a sheep being groomed for a 4H Fair.
Sheep herd in a green pasture. Terms:
  • "sheep"- animal over 1 year.
  • "lamb" - animal under 1 year or meat from a young sheep.
  • "mutton" - meat from a sheep.
  • "ewe" - (sounds like 'you') is a female.
  • "ram" - is an intact male.
  • "wether" - is a neutered male.

Raising sheep provides a great return for your money. Normally bred ewes will have twins and sometimes more in each lambing. Sheep gestation is 145 days. Lambing generally once a year. Sheep can be grain fed or grass fed. If they are grain fed, they need some roughage along with the grain as they are a grazing animal.

Things to consider when adding sheep, just as any other animal, to your backyard ranch:

  • Available food source
  • Available water source
  • Available shelter or wind break depending on the climate
  • Which sheep breed(s) are best suited for your climate

Raising Sheep For Meat

Lamb meat is considered a delicacy by many cultures and can be a profitable meat source. Lamb is high in protein, vitamins and minerals. It is a strong source of iron and has zero carbohydrates. Lamb meat is very lean. Any fat is contained on the edges and can easily be trimmed off. The meat also contains antioxidants and is increasingly popular in the United States.

Raising Sheep For Wool

Raw wool value is based on grade of the fibers such as diameter and fiber length. Wool production varies from breed of sheep and animal to animal. One sheep can produce 2-30 pounds of wool, depending on breed, nutrition and shearing. Sheep are sheared in spring to keep heat stress and pest problems to a minimum.
Black sheep after shearing. White sheep after shearing.
Above is a black sheep that has been sheared. Above is a white sheep that has been sheared.
Wool is durable, flame resistant, water repellant, stain repellant and the fiber structure allows it to be resilient, soft and warm. Wool is used in a huge array of products in our everyday lives such as: clothing, bedding and carpet.

Sheep Facts

Sheep provide a great return for your money. Normally bred ewes will have twins and sometimes more in each lambing. Sheep gestation is 145 days. Lambing generally once a year. Sheep can live for 10-12 years.

Sheep are social and intelligent. It is said that a sheep can recognize a familiar human face in a crowd. They travel together in a herd, there is safety in numbers. Even though they can use their front feet to stamp and paw if necessary, a shepherd is often a must to keep away predators and keep the herd safe.

A sheep rolled onto its back or "cast" will normally not be able get up without assistance. The defense mechanism of the sheep is to flee away from predators. A shepherd of some type is a must. In some areas, a llama, donkey or even a dog stay with the herd to protect them from predators when a human is not feasible.

Sheep just like cattle can be different colors and be horned or "polled" (without horns).

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