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sheep to clean up grasses in a garden

 
Judith Browning
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We have a fifty by fifty foot garden that is well fenced....high enough to keep out deer and tight enough to keep out rabbits and smaller critters. I've let the grasses get out of hand and am considering buying two sheep to help with that. I think I can protect the perennials that are there...a few peach trees, strawberries, etc.

The grasses include bermuda, orchard, johnson, crab and other many other plants that I don't mind them eating if it won't hurt them (the sheep) that include chicory, lambs quarters, cosmos, marigolds, arugula, poke.....and more.

Are there things that they shouldn't eat? Are they smart enough to know what to eat? (we've only had goats and never worried about their forage choices.

Do they only eat new growth or will they eat five foot high going to seed grasses?

We have everything we need to build a nice shelter with in the garden...advice on size? height? it will have a floor, I think and be skiddable (inspired by Paul )

Would they get along better with any particular kind of poultry? I'd like six or so chickens that love to scratch in there also.

I'd like to do this fairly soon, maybe the first of August...we have folks in the area who raise a variety of sheep for wool....and some who raise meat sheep so I have a lot of choices. I don't know breeds at all....my grandma had a couple sheep for years to 'mow' her lawn, while living in a small Illinois town.

At first I thought we could get two meat sheep and when they are done in the garden put them in our sons freezer. I also like the idea of two fancy hair sheep and those I would take with us when we move to town....I'm planning to never mow again....picket fence with roses...sheep

Another question....does anyone tether sheep for short periods? Is it even possible without a harness of some sort? I don't like the idea really, but wondered if that is possible with sheep, where they are slower moving than goats and maybe not as likely to get tangles? If so I could use them for more of the mowing in the open areas around our house and they would be in view all of the time.

Thanks, for any information

 
Ben Plummer
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I'm no expert, and it wouldn't surprise me if my sheep were a bit odd in their habits. We have a variety of barriers to keep the sheep away from plants, young trees and shrubs; chicken wire around stakes, pallets, rings of fencing, etc. It doesn't seem to take much to discourage them so long as there is plenty of other food around.

They seem to avoid what is poisonous, we have a lot of nightshade in a few areas and they don't bother with it. Mine love one thing that is supposed to be toxic to them, acorns.

As for shelter, my sheep's favorite is a tarp lashed to some poles to make a low "cave" about 3' tall. We bring them in to a barn at night but really don't need to, they'd probably be just as happy staying out on pasture under their tarp. Ventilation is important, a three sided run-in style is great, I built one for our ram and wether. It is 8x8, 7' tall sloping to 5' with a shed roof. I wanted it tall enough for me to get in and muck it out easily. The run-in doesn't have a floor, the barn does and is easier to clean.

Our sheep have lived with ducks and chickens just fine. The sheep will occasionally swing their head at a chicken but the chickens are too fast. We have Jacob sheep at the moment for their fiber and eventually meat. I'd like to get Katahdins for our meat breed when we have more land.

I've never tethered our sheep, but our ram came trained on a collar and leash. Makes it much easier to move him around, unless he gets bored and wants to fight.
 
Adam Klaus
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Sheep will really effectively mow down any forage into a putting green, given enough time. They prefer the young tender shoots, but will not hesitate to eat down big, coarse grasses going to seed.

I have never heard good things about tethering sheep. Like goats, they will tangle and strangle.

Sheep would cooperate fine with any poultry. Whichever you like.

I have never given sheep a shelter. So long as the breed is adapted for your area, one of the great things about sheep is how hardy they are to the elements.

Great idea, using animals instead of machinery or sweat equity. Let us know how it goes! good luck!
 
Judith Browning
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Thanks to both of you! I knew I could count on this site for some good information. I guess I'm down to deciding on breeds then and building the shelter....even though they will be in a well fenced enclosure, we are still worried about large predators in the night scaring them if nothing else and would like to be able to shut them in overnight.

I'm looking at my 'weedy' garden differently already...instead of feeling guilty at how I've neglected it, I can see it as potential food for livestock.
 
neil mock
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we tether ours when we want specific areas mowed (along the roadsides, drainage ditches, ect). so far, no issues with them getting tangled up in the line, and overall much easier than getting the weed whacker out.

when tethered, we usually check on them a couple times a day, and always put them in a corral at night.
 
Jess Rupprecht
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Judging by the intelligence of my sheep, I wouldn't tether sheep. I could see them tangling themselves in it. When we want to put our sheep out in the field we keep them in electric netting with a solar powered charger. However, if the sheep are used to being in a halter tethering them could work fine. Although if there are two of them, would they share a tether?...would they get tangled in each others lines? I would definitely keep an eye on them if they were tethered.

Sheep are a great idea to mow your garden and to never mow your lawn again!
 
neil mock
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we use these stakes to tether animals. the eyelet is on a collar that can swivel 360 degrees. only one animal per stake and far enough away from each other so that lines dont get tangled.
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Katy Whitby-last
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One thing to bear in mind if you are planning to put poultry in with them is keeping them away from the poultry feed. Pelleted feed often contains ingredients of animal origin which could be the source of foot and mouth disease in ruminants.
 
Ann Torrence
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I've been planning for a while to get 4 livestock panels and 8 or 12 swivel clips to make a portable grazing pen. I can move a panel at a time myself, drag them to new location and clip the corners together. I know it will contain our Nigerian Dwarf goats, might work for a couple sheep just as well.

 
Judith Browning
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Thanks again everyone....we now have two young wethers 'reserved' until the garden is mostly done...probably late august or early september. I think we'll hold off butchering until January or so if we can. Now got to build the shed and beef up the garden gate...it's the only weak spot in the fence, where a dog could nose it's way in.
 
Kelly Smith
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what type of sheep are you getting?


we are looking at starting a flock of "hair sheep"
 
Judith Browning
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Kelly Smith wrote:what type of sheep are you getting?


we are looking at starting a flock of "hair sheep"


Jacob sheep....but I know just about nothing. Fortunately they are locally raised and we are friends with the owners....... https://www.facebook.com/pages/Havencroft-Farm/134912473223953?pnref=story so that besides here at permies I can get advice and help pretty quickly within a few miles from home.
If all goes well with these two who are destined for a freezer, I would like to get a couple hair sheep next.
We won't go back to having a lot of animals though...

The folks who raise these spin and make spinning tools, raise llamas and a variety of goats and sheep mostly for the fiber I think...and for meat. I think Jeanette would be willing to advise on starting a herd...you could ask her in a message on fb...mention me and permies if you like.
 
Judith Browning
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We brought them home this morning in our car.....mellow so far but they are just weaned as of this trip so we expect them to be a little put out by dark and maybe for a few days. They are Jacob sheep, a brother (wethered) and sister.

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Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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one more.....
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Kelly Smith
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cool!

we have someone near us with jacob sheep. the 4 horns are weird to me
keep us updated on how they do and how they taste !
 
Judith Browning
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Kelly Smith wrote:cool!

we have someone near us with jacob sheep. the 4 horns are weird to me
keep us updated on how they do and how they taste !


the horns are odd....the female we have has a fifth one coming in and the male had to have the ones that are growing down trimmed.

They didn't seem at all bothered by weaning and are doing just fine and even better than I had hoped cleaning up the garden. They are doing a good job on the bermuda and crab grasses and also the seed heads. They seem to be working their way in from the outer path and have eaten the chicory, cosmos, lambsquarters, a bit of poison ivy, woad (a dye plant that is in the mustard family), whole immature pumpkins (but not the vines yet), a few sweet potato vines, strawberry leaves.....and I think either bark or lichen on a some dead hickory logs that fell into the garden from a tree outside the fence. The chicory, cosmos and lambs quarters were going to seed and they just worked their way up the plant until it was stripped. They are also cleaning up a lot of smart weed and an unidentified plant that a couple years ago I thought was the seseme I had planted...it came back every year in a 'weedy' way....it's gone now.

I notice them browsing different things different times of day. They are out early and late and in the middle of the day in under the shade cloth or in their shed.
This is the first manure this garden has had so I love seeing all of those piles of poop everywhere........

I'm already eyeing their wool for future spinning or felting


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working on a pumpkin skin
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finishing the pumpkin
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eating cosmos
 
Judith Browning
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a couple more pictures.......
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they play on these logs a lot and eat some of the bark and lichen
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Judith Browning
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These two sheep did a wonderful job of eating back the garden....at the same time it was really dry so in the end there was a lot of bare soil over much of it. They ate everything except the bermuda grass and a few zinnias and the poke.

The new owners are going to put in some chickens to try to finish off the bermuda before planting a garden there.

We have since moved to our small town home with enough room for the sheep and some chickens. The sheep moved well, once again in the car...a lot harder to catch this time, though. They have tall fescue in their pasture and a few other assorted plants. We have been cutting bamboo that is walking distance from the house and letting them have the green leaves as we strip the canes....and some privet foliage prunings. We are relying on them to pick and choose what is good for them.

Any thoughts on feeding bamboo/river cane leaves and privet?
 
wayne fajkus
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You're not having problems with the male? We got a baby and slaughtered it at probably 8 months. In that short time it was a handfull. Mainly headbutting you in the knee.
 
Judith Browning
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wayne fajkus wrote:You're not having problems with the male? We got a baby and slaughtered it at probably 8 months. In that short time it was a handfull. Mainly headbutting you in the knee.


He's wethered and hasn't been a problem...neither of them had been handled much so they are still kind of skitish around us. They play butt and jump at each other but hardly let us touch them...that made for a difficult time catching them, of course. They're just now approaching eight months old. We plan to butcher the first of the year.
I'd like to have the next pair a little friendlier...someone here said never pet their face, I think, as that could cause them to butt you...I'm guessing the more they are bonded with humans the more they might treat us as one of their own. I'm pretty sure you always want at least two also...maybe one on it's own is more aggressive to humans.
 
wayne fajkus
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We had 5 total. 3 adult female and 2 babies- 1 male 1 female.

But yeah, put your hand on its head and he brought it. I need to borrow a male to breed the others. Not looking forward to it being here.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Judith Browning wrote:TThey ate everything except the bermuda grass


My Jacob Sheep prefer browse to grass. They will grudgingly graze if there's nothing else to eat.

 
Katy Whitby-last
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Bamboo is fine to feed them, however privet is poisonous (as are most evergreens)
 
Judith Browning
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Judith Browning wrote:TThey ate everything except the bermuda grass


My Jacob Sheep prefer browse to grass. They will grudgingly graze if there's nothing else to eat.



thanks, Tyler....They did eat a lot of different things in that garden and I hoped they would eat it eventually, but no...we ended up feeding hay and pellets just before we moved and left the bermuda in place for the new owners


Katy Whitby-last wrote: Bamboo is fine to feed them, however privet is poisonous (as are most evergreens)


thank you...they did nibble a bit of the young privet leaves and seem OK a couple days later....I won't give them any more though. The river cane/bamboo leaves they seem to like green and then go back to nibble after it has dried a bit. Now I'm not sure I can trust their choices though after they ate privet. I didn't know about most evergreens being poisonous
 
Judith Browning
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We had beautiful weather for sheep shearing sunday. Our friends, who we got these two Jacob sheep from, came out to shear for us.
They sheared 11 over that weekend (including our two), all with heavy scissors, their preference.
Now, I have two beautiful fleeces to spin and felt. I haven't done any spinning in probably 30 years......it's time again
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Judith Browning
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and some more..................

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Shawn Harper
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I am thinking the the skulls (cleaned up of course) after butchering them might fetch top dollar to the right crowd.
 
Judith Browning
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Shawn Harper wrote:I am thinking the the skulls (cleaned up of course) after butchering them might fetch top dollar to the right crowd.


We had 'requests' for them....but because we took them live to a butcher shop this time (see this thread http://www.permies.com/t/54070/goats/request-Lamb-recipes ), we didn't try to get any of those things back. It's the first time we haven't been the ones both slaughtering and butchering...not our ideal but we needed to keep it simple this time. We're not asking for the hides back either and they would have been beautiful...shearing was just the day before butchering though so no time for the wool to even out a bit anyway. I'm still a little uncomfortable with how we ended up doing this...just the best we could manage this year.

As far as the sculls go though, the horns tend to be loose and broken....'She' had five still attached though which may not be such an oddity for this breed of sheep.
 
Mike Turner
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My sheep can eat privet, at least in small amounts, with no problems. They keep the invasive privet seedlings from appearing on all of the parts of the property that they have access to.
 
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