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Anyone raise hair sheep?

 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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we are getting a few katahdin hair sheep this weekend and i was wondering if anyone else here raises hair sheep?

hair sheep, unlike wool sheep, do not need to be sheared - their wooly winter coat sheds in the spring/summer.
hair sheep are raised for meat only, the fiber is of no value.
hair sheep are prolific - twins are normal and triplets arent all that rare.
extreme climate tolerance - can handle heat, cold and humidity
parasite resistant - we havent met 1 hair sheep owner that deworms the whole flock - at most we have heard up to 10% (flock of 180) may need dewormed. the people we are getting ours sheep from dont deworm ever.
no tail docking

i hear the meat is really mild. no/low wool = no/low lanolin = no "muttoning" flavor even as they get older (we will put this to the test)

the katahdin sheep should be ~100-120lbs by ~8 months. that should yield ~50lbs of meat after processing.
there are some large hair sheep (royal whites and dorpers) but dont seem to be as common.

more info: http://www.katahdins.org/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katahdin_sheep







anyone know anything about these critters?



fun fact - all sheep were originally hair sheep. - wool sheep have been breed so the wooly undercoat is exaggerated
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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I just got two weaned American Blackbelly lambs a couple of months ago and I love them! I'm used to raising goats, and in comparison these critters are so quiet and mellow I can sometimes forget they're even out there! Like any animal they have their favorite things to eat but if you let them get a bit hungry it's pretty amazing what they'll put away.....I've seen mine so far dine on star-thistle and every other thistle out there, poplar leaves and twigs, rose and forsythia prunings, at least one kind of artemisia, bermuda grass, purslane, plantain, bindweed....on and on! They don't seem too interested in the hay I've stockpiled up for them, but they do like the bag silage.....Like you, the people we got them from never de-worm, and recommend not starting since it will develop a dependency. When the pasture is actively growing and it's raining (fall into winter here), I'll divide up the area and rotate them.
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 699
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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we looked at some Barbados blackbelly sheep, but they were a bit to slow maturing for what we are trying to do. the american version has horns, right?

we plan to rotate our along with our dairy cow. i have heard reports some hair sheep eat more like a goat then a sheep.

we dont plan to deworm - we plan to cull the ones that ever need it.
we plan to breed for size, shedding and twining.



do you use any kind of electric sheep netting by chance?
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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Yes the American blackbelly is a cross of Barbados and something else and the rams have horms usually and the ewes occasionally.....the coat is just like a Barbados. Mostly they were the ones that were available at the right size, price, and distance from us, but from what I read they are well adapted to our climate. We have them mostly to keep the grass down and the meat is a side yield, so slow growth is fine and i don't intend to supplement with off-site feed at all, except a handful of corn now and then just so they will come to me if I shake a can. (though now they come to me just fine when I wave a handful of weeds!) I've got some ordinary electric fence around some young trees out there, as well as physical fence, though we're not running it now in the extreme fire season. I will try using 2-4 strands of wire in the winter to subdivide the pastures, simply because it's what I've got. I might try the netting if that won't work. A friend up the road has several sheep of various breeds and is having good results with the netting.....
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 309
Location: Upstate SC
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Currently have 104 hair sheep, mostly Katahdin/Dorper crosses, but some with a bit of St.Croix and Gulf Coast Native sheep blood in them a few generations back. I initially crossed Katahdin with St. Croix and Gulf Coast to combine their different strains of worm resistance and then selected away from the wool that the Gulf Coast added to the mix. More recently I crossed to the Dorper to get a stockier, meatier body type, but they also brought with them a reduced worm resistance that I am currently culling for. I breed mostly for calm attitude (hair sheep tend to be flightier than wool sheep), worm resistance, and good keeping. Lambing is mostly twins, occasional triples, and a few singles. Birth complications are almost nonexistent (its been many years since I had to assist a delivery).
 
Su Ba
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I raise hair sheep, a mix of St Croix, Black Bellied Barbardos, plus a little Dorper in some of them., not all. Why a mix? Because that's what available around me. And I've been successful so far, so I do not see the need to import purebreds nor drive 3 hours to get pure Dorpers.

I like my St Croix-BBBs better for three reasons. One, they have much better worm resistance. Two, they shed out better and thus have less incidence of flystrike. Three, they taste better. The more BBB they have in them, the better they taste to us. If I ever see a purebred BBB ram for sale on my island, I plan to add him to my flock for sure.

The Dorper crosses are indeed meatier. And they are wonderfully colorful. But I have to watch them closer for anemia due to increasing parasite load. Plus I have to shear their backs to remove the non-shed mat if we start getting regular rains. Leaving a wet mat on draws in flies.

As for deworming.........lucky them who don't have to deworm! But here in the tropics, most lambs die if not dewormed a few times, assuming that is that they are not grazing virgin pasture. While adults develop fairly good parasite resistance, they too need deworming if we get into a wet cycle. I've seen entire small flocks die due to parasites. We'll have 2-3 dry years then switch into two wet years......bingo, the "back-to-earthers" lose their lambs, and often their entire flocks. No, DE does not do the job here. This spring I watched a flock of a dozen die one after the other because the hippie owner refused to use an effective chemical dewormer. He tried all sorts of herbal combos with DE and lost every one of his ewes.

A nice benefit of hair sheep in the tropics is that I can get three lamb crops every two years. I see singles, twins, and a few triplets. Occasionally I've gotten quads but that's not a good thing. All my lambing disasters have been with quads, so I breed away from that trait. I definitely prefer singles and twins.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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NO SHEARING!!!

That alone makes it worth it. Especially if your herd is almost feral like mine. I will have to send my son to "hunt" for meat as I cannot round them up.

Mine have been zero maintenance, even in this crazy wet (for us) spring. I have lost 3/4 of my herd to dogs, but not to worms.

 
steve a smith
Posts: 1
Location: olympia wa
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[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/user/growyoufood/videos[/youtube]i raise katahadin dorper cross sheep. great sheep
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14 month old ram
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14 month old ewe
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 699
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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cool to hear about others raising these type of sheep.

what are people doing to contain them? electric fence? permanent pastures?

anyone using a guard animal other than a dog? we dont have a ton of predator pressure and have a smaller property, so we were thinking a llama or donkey. anyone with experience here?

anyone rotating their sheep with other animals? (Cows or goats?)



we ended up getting 8 ewes/lambs yesterday.
we are on the hunt for a ram now - though he wont be needed until later this year.
how are people keeping records? this is our first time really breeding and selecting animals, so any help is appreciated.

 
Joseph Fields
Posts: 170
Location: Berea, Kentucky
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I'm 4 years in. I have flock of 11 ewes a ram as of now. 9 of the 11 ewes where born on my farm. I just took 5 off to the butcher today. I have sold all the males and culled/ donated a few ewes/ ewe lambs. I think I'm at the max number I want to deal with. I have high tensile fence with 6 joules, and two mini donkeys. I also have a pyrenees, chickens and a ever changing number of quail. Sheep are great, for land management, but for actually making money,I think anyone's time is better spent with chickens, or quail. I think you would need a few hundred to make a living, but not spending every weekend cutting grass is priceless.
 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Joseph Fields wrote:I'm 4 years in. I have flock of 11 ewes a ram as of now. 9 of the 11 ewes where born on my farm. I just took 5 off to the butcher today. I have sold all the males and culled/ donated a few ewes/ ewe lambs. I think I'm at the max number I want to deal with. I have high tensile fence with 6 joules, and two mini donkeys. I also have a pyrenees, chickens and a ever changing number of quail. Sheep are great, for land management, but for actually making money,I think anyone's time is better spent with chickens, or quail. I think you would need a few hundred to make a living, but not spending every weekend cutting grass is priceless.


what kinda sheep do you have
are you selling the sheep as meat? Mind if i ask how much you are getting per sheep (or price pre lb hanging weight)?

i agree on the making a living part - when you are getting ~40-50lbs of meat per animal, you really have to scale it up to make it a sole income provider.


we just have sheep as a part of what we do. we hope to be able to barter with the meat as well. eventually we hope to develop a market specific to hair sheep meat - might have to do some wool meat and hair meat testing to convert people over.

a few weeks ago we picked up 7 more "royal white" sheep. they are a breed developed privately in texas. we bought them from a guy that runs ~180 royal whites and 100 or so shetlans.
we opted for a llama as a guardian - as a LDG needs more space than we have and because our predator pressure isnt that high.

so far we are still liking our sheep. they are able to move our pasture down to a similar height to what it looks like after hay is cut - they do it without messing up the furrows in the field too (great for a irrigated place like ours)
so far we have 8 katahdin ewes, 7 royal white ewes and 1 katahdin ram.
 
Joseph Fields
Posts: 170
Location: Berea, Kentucky
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Mostly Katahdin. I sale lambs to friends and family for 100$ for 6-7 month old lambs. Most are around 65-75 lbs. My goal is to put people out the door with a under 5$ a pound total price. 100$ for me and 65$ for the butcher. I got a year to year list and some people want two. Moving them has not been a issue. I like to hook people up, and I love the view from my Mt top. The sheep are fundamental part of having a view via and not having pay someone to cut my front hillside with a tractor.
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 309
Location: Upstate SC
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Hair sheep are a great way to eliminate invasive woody plants on your property. On mine, they have totally eliminated poison ivy, multiflora rose, Chinese privet, and japanese honeysuckle from the fields and woods that they frequent and even made a good dent on Japanese stilt grass, which a lot of grazers won't touch. I had to saw through the stems at ground level of the 20 foot high multiflora, tall privets, and the tree top poison ivy, but then the sheep ate all of the plant's attempts to regrow from the roots and any seedlings that appeared.

When brought in regularly to spend the nights in pastures that chickens and guineas forage during the day, can be very effective at collecting ticks and delivering them to the poultry to eat (engorged ticks drop off at night when the host is sleeping). We have almost totally eliminated ticks on our property after 4 years of deploying this sheep/chicken combo.
 
Travis Johnson
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I had Katadins for awhile but last year I sold all that I have because they just do not make fiscal sense.

People are pretty adamant about the fact that they do not have to be sheared, but it is a not a valid point. In fact if you do the calculations, the money loss of Katadins is staggering. Because of their small size, and the fact that all the traits they are supposed to be so great in, are also traits wooly sheep are great in as well; having twins and triplets, good mothering, easy birthing, resistance to worms, etc; they all have that too.

But here is where the carcass meats (pun intended) the slaughterhouse. A Suffolk or Hampshire will have twice the carcass weight of a Katadin...yeah no big deal right? Well the real money lies in the length of the loin. With wooled sheep that is a lot longer. The difference is about $45 in expensive lamb. Since shearing a sheep is $6 per head, let me put it this way: wouldn't you rather pay $6 and make an extra $45 in sales for an extra $39 in your pocket PER HEAD OF SHEEP?

But it does not stop there.

No matter what you have for sheep there is some care that must be involved, like trimming hooves, yearly inoculations, deworming, and that sort of thing. For me that is done on shearing day whether it was a wooled sheep or Katadin. So the time spent per head of sheep is the same.

But it does not stop there either.

Right now the Muslims are driving the lamb market, and it does not matter if you are talking about Flames, New Holland, Chicago or Iowa; they do not consider Katadins sheep, or even hair sheep; they are goats to them (no joke) and not even good ones at that. They will buy them...when nothing else is available. Naturally they prefer intact male ram-lambs without docked tails that are wooled. They command the best price and I never have had an issue selling them. It was not that way with Katadins.

In the end I ended up culling my Katadins and keeping/purchasing more woolies. Even if none of the above things were true, paying $6 per sheep to have them sheared is better than trying to explain to a ten year why a sheep is a sheep without wool.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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It seems like your problem is slaughter-houses with a flat fee per head right?

Are you using USDA slaughter-houses? Those seem to be the worst and least flexible of them all.

Worming seems like a matter of arranging the right conditions for the sheep, thus far I haven't wormed mine and they seem to be thriving [I am keeping a very close monitor on their health.]

Granted, I AM using woolly sheep, but they're a lower mid-sized breed a bit smaller than Katahdin even.


All that aside though, you do still have to sell to your market. If your market wants woolly's you've gotta give them what they'll pay best for.
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 309
Location: Upstate SC
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A problem with raising wool sheep in this part of the Southeast is that it is practically impossible to find a professional shearers so you have to do it yourself. Also in the heat and humidity of the Southeast, the large-sized wool breeds like the Suffolk are more prone to overheating on a hot day than the smaller-sized Katahdins or the Gulf coast Native or Tunis wool breeds popular in the Southeast. This translates into more time spent lounging in the shade rather than going out and grazing on hot summer days, resulting in reduced weight gain.

I don't know why the muslims in your part of the country don't consider a Katahdin a sheep. Part of this sheep's ancestry comes from west Africa and they are very similar in appearance to Black Headed Persians and other hair sheep breeds native to muslim areas. The local muslim market around here has no problems buying Katahdin lambs as long as they are un-mutilated (intact and undocked).
 
patrick canidae
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Travis Johnson wrote:I had Katadins for awhile but last year I sold all that I have because they just do not make fiscal sense.


I didn't want to tie up space by quoting your whole comment.

I won't doubt that you may make more money with wool sheep in your scenario.

However, you are conflating production per animal with profit. I run a few hundred head of katahdins as a small hobby flock/sideline. In the past I have run several thousand head of carpet wool/meat sheep. Measuring dollars per animal unit is inaccurate. It is dollars per acre/labor cost/and animal cost. I can wean and sell more pounds of hair sheep per acre/manhour/cost of input than wool lambs every time, with very few outside inputs. If you had a market for big racks, and had to spread a fixed price per head slaughter fee over a larger animal, you may have more profitability with a large animal. Everyone has to measure their total cost/versus their total revenues.

To be frank the depreciation cost of good dogs and dog food is about the same as my mineral and vaccine cost. In a climate with 36+ inches of rain a year, and 5 months of winter, I can produce around 9 saleable 90 pound lambs per acre with no grain. I can't do that with any of the black face carpet wool breeds. I lamb outside, unassisted, no jugs, no BS. My ewes lamb, get them up, get them nursed and if I don't get them tagged, weighed and recorded within twelve hours I need the border collie and a fishing net to get it done. I haven't hand pulled a lamb in over 3000 lambings. The black face were a lambing ease nightmare. If I need to worm, fix a hoof, or do any single animal extra husbandry, its a dangle bob'ed ear and to market after the lambs are off. I line breed from inside my flock, and select for grazing ability, fecundity, lamb survival, worm resistance, and ewe body weight/lamb weaning weight ratio. I suspect many hair sheep failures are from a lack of identifying crucial sustainable profitability traits and then closing up the flock and locking those traits in place.

I sell direct to muslims for a premium. I put them in the backs of Mercedes SUVS hog tied. I occasionally sell to a Muslim buyer in Chicago for halal slaughter. Also for a premium. I also sell 100% grass finished lambs to rich suburbanite barbies for a very large premium. I send the bottom enders to be made into whole lamb grass-fed sausage. I get 3 or 4 times the value of pork sausage. It's a nice hobby.

I had some old women of English decent that wanted large, greasy muttony wool lambs they could drown in mint jelly. I couldn't give them a hair sheep for free.
 
Travis Johnson
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Probably a lot of the difference is in the way we market. I do not direct market, but deal with livestock dealers and sell to Flames and New Holland only because they are on the Atlantic Side of the US tree. You could hardly push a hair sheep through those two places, but this is New England where wooled sheep rule. Muslims around here do not like hair sheep, and really do consider them goats. In the deep south where it is hot and humid, the hair sheep would be a different story because they are everywhere there.

We would probably disagree on this all day, but the problem with direct marketing is the hidden costs involved that no one accounts for. It is true that you make more money direct selling, but you also have to do all the work that the middleman takes for a commission; for me that is the livestock dealers that hauls them down to Flames or New Holland. No calling, scheduling appointments with people, having them say they will meet me somewhere and all that and failing to do so. That is time and money that is not easily calculated and when I tried to do it, was left frustrated and unprofitable. I prefer to do what I do well...raise sheep as quickly and inexpensively as I can and call the livestock dealer when they are ready for the most lucrative markets.

Part of that is the Easter Market. The price per pound is really high naturally and I could sell far more than I can raise, however it requires winter lambing. There is no way to hit that holiday with lambs by pasture lambing in New England. That requires barns, but like fencing it is a one time cost, easily depreciated tax wise, and here in the Northeast, gives you lambs when no one else has them. If you look at the USDA data regarding New Holland, every year you will see a trend when the pasture lambs hit maturity in October and the price bottoms out. It is the law of supply and demand, but I get around that by marketing mine a few months early. I'm putting really good looking lambs before buyers just before the big Muslim Holiday that I cannot spell! I call in Ramainah, but that is probably not right! Feed is a non-issue because it does not matter if you pasture lamb or not; in New England there is no such thing as winter grazing; you must provide winter feed. I do summer graze from April to November, but even that I am reconsidering. All my pastures are tillable (I crop rotate) so I could easily go to zero-grazing. Even the Europeans are starting to realize for small scale farming you get more pounds per acre, however my wife does not like the idea, and there is something about watching sheep graze. There is also something about keeping the wife happy too!

My biggest problem is that I grew up on a dairy farm, but dislike the size of the cows. Sheep I love, but whereas dairy farming is High Tech/High Cash Flow, Sheep Farming is Low Tech/Low Cash Flow and it is hard for me to integrate the two differences sometimes.

I do congratulate you though Mr. Canidae, I have considered going to a no-touch lambing season like the New Zealander's do, but don't have the heart for it. I know self-culling would improve my flock, however I like a more hands on approach. I just pulled a lamb this morning and have one warming up in the house as I type this. I actually miss the hands on farming when they are on pasture in the summer.








 
Ed Sitko
Posts: 44
Location: Bitterroot
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We don't at the moment but have in the past run barbados black belly sheep. I highly recommend them for temperament, hardiness, low maintenance and good tasting meat.

The girls were kept on one paddock:



And the boys were kept on another paddock:



We've found llamas to be very effect guard animals. This docile looking fellow will literally kick the crap out of any K9 that wanders into the field. He bonded incredibly well with the young lambs:


They all pretty much ignore hot wire. We had to insure a solid perimeter fence of woven wire.

One more pic of King Poquito. The King abides.
 
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