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Rotational Grazing for Sheep, how do you manage shelters & fencing?

 
Nicole Alderman
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Every so often, my husband and I contemplate adding sheep to our homestead, but then we wonder if the investment probably wouldn't pay off, and it'd be too hard to keep them safe while rotating them around. Is anyone rotational grazing their sheep? How do you go about it? Is it economically feasible?

We have about 1.5 acres of slopped "pasture" (it's grass/weeds with some trees and blackberries interspersed, surrounded by forest). The slope ranges from almost level to about 35/40 degree angle. In the surrounding forest, we/our neighbors have spotted coyotes, bobcats and black bears in that surrounding forest. We'd like to have 4-6 sheep for lamb consumption and maybe sell the wool or tan the leather, to keep the grass "mowed," and maybe even milk the ewes. But, I just don't understand how to go about keeping them safe while rotating them. Do they need shelter? Are there mobile sheep shelters? How do you keep them watered? Would electric netting keep them safe from predators? And, if I get sheep, would I just be putting in a big investment to get little in return?

Thank you so much for your advice!

 
Nicole Alderman
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I don't have any recent pictures of the pasture, but these old ones are pretty accurate. The only real change is that we removed the small hemlock in the middle.

Here's the view looking up the hill (our property ends right after those trees at the top of the hill. There's not much grass under them, either. It's mostly moss, young trees, and huckleberry/Oregon grape/ferns/salmonberries):



And here's the view looking down the hill:

 
R Scott
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That would be tough. Portable shelter is easy, many options for calves also work for sheep. Water isn't too hard, sheep do not need much water either. Fencing and predators, those are challenging.

Electric netting works well, but is a royal pain to move around trees and is kinda expensive. You would probably need several nets just to get around those brush areas unless you are willing to go in and clear new paths to make smaller paddocks.

I hear mixed results with nets and predators--nothing seems to stop bobcats other than guard dogs. Locking them up at night might be prudent in your area.
 
Nicole Alderman
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We had ducks getting eaten at noon on a stormy day, most likely by a bobcat as those have been known (like domestic cats) to hunt during the day. If electric fencing won't keep them safe from bobcats, then it seems that a livestock guardian dog would likely be the only viable option. Sadly, I don't think we've got the time/money right now to buy and train a dog, so it looks like sheep will be quite a few years down the road.

Do you know how large of a flock I'd need to "pay for" the feed and care of a dog, as well as the fencing. It seems like sheep might not be cost-effective on the small scale...
 
Kelly Smith
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could geese work?

they are loud enough that [during the day] they are generally their own protection.

rabbits?
ive thought about doing it but dont like the processing part just yet.
 
R Scott
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Nicole Alderman wrote:
Do you know how large of a flock I'd need to "pay for" the feed and care of a dog, as well as the fencing. It seems like sheep might not be cost-effective on the small scale...


probably more than 6.

Round number guess, I would say you would be spending $1k for fencing and shelter, or more. Dogs are usually $20-50 a month on feed, if you are only feeding them and not the chickens or raccoons.

 
Tyler Ludens
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It's difficult to raise sheep for wool - buyers of small amounts of wool want very high quality, clean wool, which means you have to raise the right breeds of sheep, keep their paddocks clear of any trees, brambles and stickers, and (usually) have them wear protective jackets. Shearing sheep is a pain; you have to do it right or you compromise the quality of the wool. Washing wool is time-consuming, again you have to do it right or it is ruined.

I got a few sheep thinking I would like to work with the wool, and they have been kind of a pain in the butt.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Some shepherds keep 1-2 myotonic goats in their sheep flock as an additional solution to predation. The sheep flock get spooked and cause the goat to freeze up and that makes easy prey for the predator instead of the sheep that is your cash crop. Not sure this is a good idea if you have a lot of predators, but if you have 1-2 attacks a year, then it could be an additional protection.

You might reach out to Marie Gifford who runs a fiber farm in eastern Kansas. She uses electric netting with her Icelandic sheep and seems to have good luck moving her girls and boys around. She prowls these forums. Send her a PM.
 
Kelly Smith
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Tyler Ludens wrote:It's difficult to raise sheep for wool - buyers of small amounts of wool want very high quality, clean wool, which means you have to raise the right breeds of sheep, keep their paddocks clear of any trees, brambles and stickers, and (usually) have them wear protective jackets. Shearing sheep is a pain; you have to do it right or you compromise the quality of the wool. Washing wool is time-consuming, again you have to do it right or it is ruined.

I got a few sheep thinking I would like to work with the wool, and they have been kind of a pain in the butt.


for these reasons, i would recommend hair sheep
 
Dillon Nichols
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I spent summer of 2014 on a farm with a few sheep. It was an epic pain, and in no way worthwhile in my opinion. I would characterize the sheep as the portion of the farm that provided the greatest negative return on investment.

A lot of this was down to poorly laid out pastures/fencing; moving the sheep around, especially the 4(!!) rams, was a major hassle because they had to be taken through areas that were completely unfenced to reach their next pasture. The fences were legacy from the original homesteader, and beyond our means to amend at the time...

Some of it was down to mortality; the damn things just up and died on a regular basis. I got to bury several. The prevailing theory was we had the wrong sort of sheep for the slightly marshy pasture; I don't know if things improved with a different breed, as this shift was starting to happen around my departure.

Some more was down to their sheer stupidity and general cussedness. We used a fence-panel sheep-tractor to graze them outside the fenced pastures, and they were not happy about this. They would do their best to bash through or slip under the tractor. Failing that, they would knock over the water and attempt to die of thirst. They would complain loudly and constantly all the time, so this was no indicator of something amiss. They would do their best to get caught in fences or blackberry vines and die from that, too. They needed checking on fairly frequently.

Since we had 2 pairs of rams plus the eyes, we always had sheep in at least 3 different areas; often 4, as some of the ewes would be in the tractor.

We paid for them to be shorn by a pro. He made it look easy... but it was an out of pocket expense with no upside, as in several years no buyer had been found for such a small qty of mixed quality fleeces.

We also had to buy hay for the winter; we hadn't enough land to put any aside. We probably had at least 2.5 acres of sheep-worthy area between the pastures and the areas grazed by sheep-tractor.


I ended up with the belief that sheep are worth having if you happen to like sheep, and you have plenty of the right sort of land, so you can raise a useful number of them. Outside of lambing season, I don't see that the hassle factor would have been so different for 50 sheep than for 10; I'm sure with the right site and design, one could keep 50 sheep with less effort than we spent on 10!

I don't think your 1.5 acres is enough space to bother with them, or to do well financially if you do; my experience was limited to that one site, but we definitely had more graze-able area than that, counting only the actual grass portions, and while it was a mixed bag it averaged out to richer grass than I'd expect from your pictures. Plus, we experienced no predator issues, which might well not be the case for you.

Caveat; we did not have milking sheep, or any on site use for the fleece; this could change the value equation, especially if it provided a measure of independence that was important to you.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Another drawback to sheep is that rams can be dangerous. I didn't know it at the time but a ram raised as a pet is especially dangerous because he's more likely to ram you as a sign of playful affection. Our ram Harold had been raised as a pet by the breeder I bought him from and eventually we had to put him down because he became too dangerous, injuring us both. There's no way to train them to stop ramming once they start, and they can kill you.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Thank you all soooooo much for your input! I had no idea about the rams, well, ramming so dangerously, or that the the fleece had to be protected so much, or that they were that prone to disease (or predators). I liked the idea of having them mow (and make use of) the grass, and having the milk and meat so we would be self-sufficient on meat & dairy. It was fun dreaming about--since we have ducks for eggs--no longer needing to buy eggs, meat and milk and having a sustainable source of down and fiber/leather. But, you all have really shown a light on all the difficulties of raising sheep. I really appreciate that. In various places, I'd seen other people suggesting sheep for the reasons I'd mentioned, and also because they're dumber than goats... I'm kind of thinking those that suggested sheep hadn't actually had them themselves!

So, I think if we do ever get sheep, it will be a small, less fuzzy, sheep for dairy (though I hear milking them isn't easy). But, that will definitely be years down the road! Do you have any suggestions of more disease resistant, smaller sheep?

Thanks again!
 
Dillon Nichols
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There is one upside to sheep nobody mentioned, though; the joy/fulfillment that herding a flock of sheep brings to a herding dog is a beautiful thing!

The rams are no joke, I took a glancing hit to the hip from one, right through the fencing of the tractor; no damage, but it's a serious impact, and easy to see how people could be badly hurt, especially if they were hit from behind.

Doing anything in a field with rams in it was not fun. You can't let them out of your field of view, and they will try come up behind you. Maybe they only want to see if you have food, but then again they could just as well ram you in the small of the back.


As far as self-sufficiency on meat/milk, this is very much on my wishlist, but IMO there are many better options on the meat side. I think a combination of pigs, rabbits, ducks, and dual-purpose chickens could suffice for most homesteads meat needs. The pigs(bought yearly as weaners and slaughtered late fall) had some hassle factors associated with them, but I didn't come away from the experience disliking them. We had a lot of trouble keeping them inside the electric fence. They also need feeding, to a varying extent depending on your land, so that will take time and money, probably 2x daily. However, we had no mortality issues, they performed some very valuable land clearing services for us, and I am pretty confident that even with feeding them partially on commercial organic pellets that they were well in the green, though I didn't have access to the books for confirmation.

Doesn't exactly help for milk, and I haven't any advice there.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Nicole Alderman wrote: they're dumber than goats


Mine are Jacob Sheep, which is considered a "primitive, goat-like" breed. They are far from dumb, and can be very destructive as this is more of a browsing (goat like) rather than a grazing breed. They love to eat trees! And they enjoy smashing their shed. They are fairly small and quite disease resistant in my experience with our little herd (5 ). But they are very woolly with coarse wool really only suited to outer garments, and of no value in the small wool market. They are extremely cool-looking sheep, though, with their multi-horns. And that's another maintenance problem with some breeds - you may have to trim the horns if they grow toward the face. Some breeds of sheep can jump very high and leap over fences. I think the Cheviot is one of the jumping kind. Other than the jumping problem, the Cheviot seems like a good choice for the small sheep raiser who wants both meat and wool. http://www.cheviots.org/breedinformation.html

I think the "dumb sheep" thing is largely a myth - I've read of a herd of sheep who learned how to roll over a cattle guard to escape. If one sheep learns how to do something, they all learn from that one.
 
R Scott
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With all the pain that they are, they can be worth it for your soil health. I had them, then got rid of them because of the PITA factor, but my pastures started to get weed problems (I still had goats and cattle), so I got sheep again. The second time, I got hair sheep that were nearly feral and bought them for minimal cost instead of trying to make money on them. I did lose a lot to predators but my pastures are better for it.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Most people who raise meat sheep here raise hair sheep, and they are raised in a feral manner - only water is supplied.

 
Dana Jones
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I just bought 4 hair sheep, bred ewes. They have 2 pastures, one with a shelter in it. At first I lured them to the 2nd pasture with feed and lured them back in the evening. Now I just call SHEEP! SHEEP! SHEEP! and they run to me. I open the gate and they follow me to the other pasture. Today they ran past me to the other pasture. I close them up at night. I have 2 Great Pyrenees, neither of which have ever seen a sheep and they want to play with them. I have a lot of "dog" work to do...... LOL As far as being stupid, I have found them to be rather smart. If they are flighty, maybe it's because they are meat and every other animal out there wants to eat them, me included. (but we won't tell them that) They are Dorper/Katahdin crosses, bred to a Katahdin ram.
 
Mike Turner
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Regarding rams, we castrate all of our male bottle lambs because of their potential danger when grown up. Male bottle lamb, kids, and calves are very dangerous because they have no fear of you, consider you a member of their own species, and a rival when their dominance instincts kick in as they mature. As far as our ewe-raised rams go, any ram that shows aggression towards us goes in the freezer and over a number of generations have successfully selected for rams that are non-aggressive even during the breeding season. But still I will never fully trust a ram, especially in the breeding season, and never turn my back to them when in an enclosure with them. Hair sheep are much hardier than wool sheep since they are closer to their primitive wild sheep ancestors, aren't continually using calories growing wool and don't have the problems (fly strike, casting, bramble entanglement, etc,) associated with carrying thick, bulky coats of wools.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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I don't shelter my sheep in this climate. There's a place I bring them during lambing time, but generally speaking they 'shelter' under conifers just fine in our mild winters.

By 'our' I am of course referring to western PNW winters [I'm pretty sure Nicole is on the west side of the cascades as I am?]

Breed selection is important, a Middle-Eastern or African sheep would probably not do well with this method.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:
By 'our' I am of course referring to western PNW winters [I'm pretty sure Nicole is on the west side of the cascades as I am?]


I am!

Mike Turner wrote: Hair sheep are much hardier than wool sheep since they are closer to their primitive wild sheep ancestors, aren't continually using calories growing wool and don't have the problems (fly strike, casting, bramble entanglement, etc,) associated with carrying thick, bulky coats of wools.


If hair sheep are hardier, does that refer to their ability to weather the elements (living without a shelter like Kyrt mentioned), or just to their disease resistance, etc?

All this information about males ramming is really good to know, too. I guess they're called rams for a reason!
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Nicole Alderman wrote:If hair sheep are hardier, does that refer to their ability to weather the elements (living without a shelter like Kyrt mentioned), or just to their disease resistance, etc?

This is primarily about parasites, a big problem in southeast where not only do they have mild winters like us, but they also have hot humid summers that make excellent breeding conditions for the buggers that want a free ride at the Sheep's expense. [Make no mistake parasite management is important everywhere, but it's a bigger deal there than anywhere else in the country.]

Again breed selection is critical. Some of the less intensively bred wool breeds [Icelandic (which is what I have) and Soay in particular, I've heard Shetland is similar but a bit more 'bred'] are incredibly hardy, don't produce overly heavy and cumbersome wool coats and are a bit smarter than your average idiot sheep.

I like them having wool because wool is the most amazing natural insulation material in the world and works great for the animals [helping them get through winter on fewer calories] and for whatever projects people might want to put it to [personally I'm looking to insulate a future tiny house with the stuff, it's amazing.]

All this information about males ramming is really good to know, too. I guess they're called rams for a reason!
That was primarily in reference to bottle rams [which have zero fear of people.] I've been through two breeding seasons with my sheep and the worst a ram has ever done is gently butt the back of my leg to try to get me to bring their hay faster [breeding season for Icelandics happens late fall/early winter and my pastures are a work in progress.]

BUT the advice to exercise caution is very good. All farm animals should be treated with respect and caution. Even a little 100 pound ewe could cause some damage under the right circumstances [such as getting scared and jerking her head in such a manner that her sharp horn is jammed into soft-tissue. That, and I have a ridiculously friendly AGH boar who is prone to stepping on my foot with his tiny hoof and over 100 pounds of pressure from his (approaching) 300 pound body >_<]
 
Mike Turner
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Hair sheep can also be better at weathering the elements (heat, cold, snow, rain) than wool sheep. Tropical hair sheep breeds (St. Croix) have a short coat and are more resistant to overheating than a sheep with a thick wool coat. They will go out and graze on hot days that will keep a wool sheep standing in the shade and are easier to herd in the heat without them panting. Temperate hair sheep breeds (Soay, Wiltshire horn, Katahdin) have a longer coat thick enough to withstand the cold in the regions where they were developed. A hair sheep's coat is better at shedding snow than the broad flat top of a wool sheep which can collect enough wet snow and ice to weigh down the sheep and in bad cases can even immobilize the sheep by freezing it to the snow pack. Hair sheep are also quicker to dry out after a rainy spell (less prone to fleece rot after long periods of rain) than a sheep with a thick wool coat.

Although the horns make good handles when handling the sheep, we got rid of all of our horned sheep in favor of naturally polled sheep after our horned rams bent a tube gate and flattened the tubing on their side of the gate in their efforts to get to the ewes. Also, if you keep more than one breeding flock of ram plus ewes, keep at least two fence lines between the groups. If you quarter two rams, with at least one of them having ewes, in adjacent fields sharing a fence line, they will coordinate their charges so they both meet at the fence line at the same time, and with even polled rams this activity will tear up a field fence in less time than you can imagine. For our adjacent fields with breeding flocks we will run a second fence parallel to and about 6 feet back from the first fence, keeping the sheep blocked out of the area between the two fence during the breeding season.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Soay is a wool sheep last I checked.

EDIT: on the 'drying out after rain' comment, this is wool we're talking about. It's naturally laced with water-repelling oils.
 
Mike Turner
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If its coat grows to a predetermined length, then stops growing, sheds its coat naturally, and doesn't need to be sheared, its a hair sheep in my book. If its coat grows continuously, doesn't shed, and needs to be sheared, its a wool sheep. Hair sheep breeds in colder climates grow a thick coat that can be rooed (hand picked) in the spring when they shed and this hair can be used for spinning and other traditional uses for wool. Tropical hair sheep grow a shorter coat whose hairs are too short to be easily spun, but can rooed and used for applications that don't require spinning. Soay sheep naturally sheds its coat in the spring and its hair (wool) is collected by rooing so in my book its a hair sheep.

Look up "fleece rot". If a sheep's wool remains continuously wet for a week or more, its skin can develop lesions and bacterial infections. This can be a problem in cool, rainy climates where it rains often enough that the fleece never gets a chance to totally dry out.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Mike Turner wrote:Look up "fleece rot". If a sheep's wool remains continuously wet for a week or more, its skin can develop lesions and bacterial infections. This can be a problem in cool, rainy climates where it rains often enough that the fleece never gets a chance to totally dry out.
Hasn't been a problem for my Icelandics, nor the Jacob sheep of an acquaintance. Where I live from when the rains start in September until they slow down in May we usually get rain at least twice a week, if not far more often than that.

Might be a climate thing, when we're really rainy we're quite cool.
 
jessi latiolais
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We have a young pair of mixed hair sheep and they are very low maintenance. They are friendly and sweet but nerves. I rotate them on 4.5 acres with 2 horses, 2 hogs and many many chickens. The hair sheds and I help them along by simply pulling on big chunks that are stuck. It doesn't make as much mess as you would think. it seems to biodegrade as a fast rate or maybe the hogs are eating some. Their poop is good too. small and naturally spread into the soil so not mucking after them. Also they are very happy to stay put unlike goats. As long as they have food they aren't temped to escape. If using electric fence they do need to be trained to it. I have enjoyed them
 
Hans Quistorff
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I will chip in my experience from the 1950's when we had our mixed 4-H flock. We raised all breeds of goats and I would recommend a saanen for calm disposition willingness to eat grass and balanced milk production. The sheep we had were Suffolks with black hair on faces and legs and hornless. There legs were the same length as the goats but they did not try to jump over the fence but would bulldoze under the fence that the goats would jump over. The suffolks had a very dense fleece and we never experienced them getting the fleece tangled or trapped in fence or brush. The only parasite problem we ever had was large sheep lice that they picked up at one of the fairs. Working rotenone powder into the fleece stopped that before they laid eggs.

If I was in the original posters position with my experience, I would get one bread saanen doe and  one bread suffolk ewe and a sheltie or border collie and a large dogloo for shelter. The saanen that my sister had on this farm loved her dogloo for shelter wen it would rain heavy or the ground was wet or cold. It was nearly indestructible it has only a few teeth marks in the top of the door arch. It is easy to pull or roll to a new location.
 
Dan Ohmann
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I just completed setting up my rotational grazing system for my lambs.  I'm using a laneway/paddock model.  I have a corral area where there is a fixed shelter (made out of a single cattle panel and a tarp) under which is their water.  The laneway is attached to the corral which leads the lambs out to pasture.  The laneway bisects a large rectangle with 80'x20' paddocks on either side of the laneway.  When the sheep need shelter or water they walk from the paddock back to the corral.  They get more exercise this way.  The other advantage is I'm not having to move water and shelter to a new paddock all the time.  The disadvantage is the corral doesn't get enough rest to disrupt the parasite lifecycle.  I'm working toward a mobile shelter/water system for next year. 

 
Andrew Bennett
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Hey all, new to permies.com so I thought I hunt around for the topics I know best. I've been herding goats/sheep for six years in a mountain town in BC using portable shelters and electric netting. I use land I lease from landowners for free in exchange for the tax break I get them. That means everything I do has to be lightweight and efficient to move. We also do veg, chicken, bees, etc. in what I call "periurban" farming, edge of town. Check us out, rad little place, Rossland BC.

Fencing: Permanet 10-48-6 single spike from Premier1supplies.com. I have a stash of 50', 100', and 150' fences. A bit of an expense up front, but my first fences from 6 years ago are still going strong. I can throw up 600' of fenceline in less than 30 minutes in a clear pasture, 1 to 1.5 hrs in thick, steep bush. This year I treated myself to a brush cutter, but for years I just smashed and crashed. It takes a week of working with someone to pass on the many helpful tips and tricks that I learned the hard way, but stick with the netting, it's worth it in the end.

Predators: We are full of bears and coyotes here. Rarely a day goes by we don't see a bear, and dung around the fences always. Every other night coyotes are yipping and yowling literally outside our window and around our goats. A cougar killed a deer not 100' from where I type. Our town is "on the edge." And in all that time, I've never had a loss to predators (knocking wood). In the spring I make sure the fence is cracking at least 5000 volts. The wildlife is soon trained (bear dung tells the story) and so later in the season I don't mind if the fence drops even as low as 2000 volts, but I aim to stay above 3. Buy a good voltmeter and use it all the time.

Shelters: I make mine 12' long by 4' wide and can easily move them by myself, through thick bush. Here are instructions for an 8' shelter, all you need for 4 animals:  Get two 3x8' sheets of metal roof. Access (metal roofing) screws attach 2x2 purlins into every other rib on the metal roofing (assuming there are five ribs on each piece). I use my hoop bender (Johnny's Selected Seeds) to make 4' diameter hoops with 3/4" steel conduit (EMT), and then set 4 hoops set in 1" holes drilled into the edge of 2x4 “skids”. I lay the roof on the hoops and use steel straps to secure the purlins to the hoops. I put the roof on assymetrically so there is a low side and a high side...the animals dig it.

Addendum: If you're doing goat kids, I also add a funny electric-fence contraption on top to keep the kids from playing on the roof. When they get bigger, they'll punch a hole through the roof and lacerate their shin, requiring super glue and TLC to repair. Ask me how I know...

Water: Big ol' cheap plastic tub with a Little Giant float valve. I run water for 100's of feet from wherever the source is using 3/4" poly pipes with quick connect fittings at either end. Unroll what I need and plug into the tub.

Parasite and Pasture Strategy: If it's a big pile of bush, just fence the perimeter and let them have it for a while. So long as they're not feeding near the ground and it's not soggy, don't worry too much. Normally for pasture, however, I give them a fresh chunk of graze every day, and here's the big one... completely move them to new ground after four days to avoid closing the parasite loop. Pasture loves the intense hit of grazing for a short time, and animals love it too. So stoked when they move into new green every day.

Hope that helps... I'll see if I can upload a couple photos to give the idea...


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Here's the kind of bush that's no problem to fence...
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Here's an early shelter design, since improved a bit.
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We'll graze anywhere...
 
Dan Ohmann
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I really like that shelter Andrew!  I might have to give that a try!
 
Maria Brown
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I've enjoyed our Icelandic sheep immensely over the last 5 years. I am a rug weaver and I tried out many other types of wool for my work pretty thoroughly for years before deciding on Icelandics as being what I liked to work with best.

I invested in good breedstock so that selling lambs to breeders would be a possibility. I have to use portable fencing, as my perimeter fence is just 3-strand barbed wire and the sheep go right through it. But I have not had losses to predators, even though our "neighborhood" in the forest here in Colorado has healthy populations of bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions and bears.

Between breedstock sales, the abundant fleece (for my own work and to sell raw to hand spinners), the very mild meat and now, just this year, beginning to use their milk in the summer time to make easy, soft cheeses (which I then freeze for winter use), I am managing to cover hay costs plus a little extra...and we have grass-fed meat and milk that we enjoy much more than what we could buy.

My nephew, who also now has a small Icelandic flock, recently told me he is divesting himself of his cows, as he enjoys working with the sheep more and their family likes the meat better than beef.
 
Alder Burns
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I'm pretty new to sheep, but I started with a pair of American Blackbellies and have found them mostly easy, at least compared to goats which I've kept for years.  The ram lamb eventually did get aggressive once he was mature enough to breed.  Finally I penned him separately and feed him hay, silage, weeds, and coppice. But before I was able to set up a pen I found by trial and error that a squirt bottle filled with urine, beefed up with a dash of ammonia, would make him keep his distance for hours at a time.  The nasty sludge that drains from the bottom of my black soldier fly bin, flung in his face, would work even better....
 
Corky Love
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Location: Tacoma, WA [8B-7B]
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Hey- thought to mention Babydoll sheep. They're small, edible, and are described as having divine wool.

Looking into getting 2-3 myself.
 
Maria Brown
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Alder Burns wrote:The ram lamb eventually did get aggressive once he was mature enough to breed.  Finally I penned him separately and feed him hay, silage, weeds, and coppice. But before I was able to set up a pen I found by trial and error that a squirt bottle filled with urine, beefed up with a dash of ammonia, would make him keep his distance for hours at a time.  The nasty sludge that drains from the bottom of my black soldier fly bin, flung in his face, would work even better....


IMHO, this is not a ram to keep nor to breed from.
 
Daniel Bowman
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Location: Sandy Mush, NC
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There is some good advice in here, mixed with some questionable opinions. We have had sheep for several years and have come to really appreciate them. They are not stupid. They are just different than you. One advantage to sheep (especially over goats and even more especially over Nubian goats) is they are *quiet*! If you are keeping noisy sheep, they likely have nutrient deficiencies and this should be addressed before it gets worse. Another thing to consider, which I don't think anyone has mentioned yet, is in the PNW (where I used to live when I had a goat dairy CSA) or other areas with high rainfall and leached soils (also where I live now in WNC, with sheep and cows and only occasionally goats)-- the soils are deficient in the trace mineral selenium and this can be a major concern for reproductive complications in goats and sheep. It is easy to resolve, though-- just give them free access to a mineral high in selenium and keep injectible selenium on hand in case of a weak lamb or kid.
 
Dan Ohmann
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Yes, here in the INW we are selenium deficient also.  I supplement with Redmonds Natural trace mineral salt and kelp meal (which is not a good source of selenium, but does contain some).
 
Peter Ellis
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For such a small grazing area, perhaps you might want to consider geese rather than sheep.  Just a thought.
 
Maureen Atsali
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We keep meat goats and hair sheep here.  I definitely prefer the goats over the sheep.  We don't have a predator problem, but we do have a problem with thieves of the two-legged variety.  Thus we can't leave any animals out at pasture at night.  This makes grazing kind of labor intensive, since we have to move the animals each morning and evening.  They are fairly smart, and do know that evening means go-to-the-barn... but we can't just let them loose to go for themselves, because they'll stop for a snack on the way - usually in my mother-in-law's maize crop.  And if you delay to bring them to shelter in the evening, they start to complain, loudly.  The nice thing about keeping both the goats and the sheep, is that the goats browse and eat the brush, while the sheep graze in the grass and weeds.  The hair sheep are quite ugly, imho, but they are hardy and much easier to keep than a wool variety.  They are not very tame, but are otherwise easy to handle.  I haven't had a problem with the rams.  The big rule of thumb for both goats and sheep is don't play with their horns, especially when they are babies.  I have been poked by the goats, and they left some nasty bruises.  I've never tried to milk hair sheep, we just sell them or slaughter them as meat animals.  Would love to hear from someone who milks them.  Do you get enough milk to make it worth the effort?  Do you have to keep the rams separate, as you do with goats to avoid the yucky taint in the milk?

Maureen Atsali
ASF Farm - Kenya
 
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