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Cost to raise sheep  RSS feed

 
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What is a reasonable SWAG on the direct costs to raise sheep?  Obviously it will depend on how many sheep, quantity and quality of forage, etc.  But let's assume 4-6 sheep, lots of brush and plenty of grass of indeterminate quality.

I'd need to buy them in the first place, plus I'm assuming I'd need minerals, some amount of hay (but no idea how much), and some vaccines/worming treatment.  

Just because it's so variable and dependant on the land situation don't include things like fencing, shelters, etc.  Plus those can be reused/repurposed, so I consider it an indirect cost.

Assume a hair breed so shearing is unnecessary.  

If you can give me an estimate that assumes slaughtering (DIY) before they run out of forage in the winter, and one assuming keeping them over winter and breeding that would be great.
 
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I will try...

I will never pay more than $150 for a breeding stock ewe, or $300 for a breeding stock ram. Like everything, buying in bulk causes the price per sheep to go down. Buying (4) sheep will cost you considerably more of course. I have spent as little as $65 a sheep, but it was over 50 sheep that I bought too.

You will have to figure out the price of hay in your area, but a sheep consumes about 1-1/2 bales here for the winter season. In Maine that is 150 days. That is consuming 4x5 round bales, at which I figure around 30 square bales of hay per round bale. This is PER HEAD OF SHEEP.

Vacinations and deworming is pretty cheap on so few sheep, In fact no deworming needed if there are few sheep and plenty of land. Vacinations are very limited, an $8 bottle of CD and T at tractor supply will be all you need. 1cc for a lamb at birth, 1 more cc 6 weeks later as a booster, and 5-7 ccs for an adult sheep depending on the breed which is indictive of weight,

I would REALLY reconsider getting a hair breed, and stick with a wooled sheep for many reasons. My shearing costs are $5 per sheep, with a $30 farm call. For you that would be $50, and you are going to have to have the sheep on the ground anyway for hoof trimming (I do my own, but my sheep shearer charges me $1 per head if she does it), vacinations, etc anyway. But really a sheep shearer has a lot of advice, and at $5 per sheep, her advice is just as good most times as an expensive sheep nutritionist or veternarian. Then there is the longer loin which nets $40 more in meat then a hair sheep. It does not sound like a big deal, but even for your own consumption you need about 2 hair sheep for 1 wooled sheep. And all that says nothing about the constant embarrassment of trying to explain to some 9 year old, why the animal you have is NOT a goat, and that YES, some sheep don't have wool.  All that makes paying $5 for shearing cheaper then having hair sheep. (And you do get wool for that $5)

Sheep are not like beef. They are small so they are flat fee animals, $75 per head, $10 more if you take the pelt since it has to be salted to be preseved.
 
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Travis can give you the best answer for your area.

In my own situation.......
...purchase price per head = $35 to $150 depending upon breed and owner's idea of value. I bought my original dozen sheep for $50 each, and I've purchased a few replacements for $35 a head. Mine are mixbreed hair sheep. Woolies don't make much sense where I am because of the problem with flystrike.
...shearing, not much, since they aren't woolies. But I still need to remove any remaining "rugs" in order to prevent flystrike. So there is the initial cost of purchasing the shearing clipper. I bought mine 15 years ago and it still works fine. So it's an initial cost but over time it becomes insignificant.
...bander. And hoof trimmer. Not expensive and will last a long time. The cost of the bands is also insignificant over the span of several years.
...Vaccination and deworming is so cheap that it's not worth trying to figure out per head
...I do my own slaughter and butchering, so that's not a consideration.
...I have pasture year around, so that's a major cost I don't have to deal with.
...fencing is a major investment. I have well over $20,000 invested in fencing, which I had hoped would last 15 years but had to be replaced due to damage from acid rain and vog. So it only lasted half what I had hoped for. By the way, replacing the fencing was cheaper than the initial set up because I did the replacement myself.
...loses. Sheep die from various causes. Predation , stray hunting dogs, have been my worst problem. I get no compensation for dead sheep. So after wasting efforts and cost of extra fencing, a solar powered hotwire system, a perimeter alarm, I broke down and purchased a feral donkey. Dog problem solved.

So fencing costs are my major expense. Well over the value of the lamb sales and meat I get. So why do it?
1- Agricultural real estate taxes. I save a couple thousand a year on taxes.
2- clean, fresh, reliable meat source
3- I like having sheep
 
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The cost to raise one is mostly the cost that everyone is selling it for.
Well they did make a profit so it should actually be less.
But they are buying feed/etc in bulk so they have lower overhead.

But lets say they make 30% profit, then the cost to raise a sheep is 70% of what they are being sold for.  And if you plan on keeping it until old age. Then the cost goes up even more.

I would says that every year you keep it, will run you about 50% of the avg buying/selling price.
 
Travis Johnson
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The cost or raising sheep really depends on ewe (just kidding, I could not help myself) you!

If you are willing to give shots, trim hooves, and even shear, it will be greatly diminished. All that stuff is easy, and yes I had only 4 sheep to start with so I do know. Fencing is your biggest expense as woven wire is best. BUT that same fence, even if you dislike sheep, can contain other animals as well if you decide to change later.

I grew up on a dairy farm primarily, with a few sheep too, but I prefer the sheep. I love their size, their demeanor, just how they act. They are also incredibly easy to raise. From April to November they are just white wolly things on green pasture. The white dog watches over them, and other then giving her some dog food everyday, and water in the stock tank, they get fat and happy.

It gets tough during lambing season, but you won't have a problem with only 4 sheep.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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We plan on perimeter fencing anyway so we can get a dog.  Been 4.5 years since we had to put down the last one (3/4 shepherd, 1/4 chow) when she got old and sick.  I'll likely use Premier 1 net type fencing for interior partitions.  And I'd want more of that anyway for the chickens, so I think I have a good handle on that.

One thing to decide is whether to get "good" breeding stock and have say 3-5 ewe's and 1 ram that I keep for several years and slaughter/sell their lambs, or get a half dozen wethers/butcher ewes and just slaughter them when they've done their job (and depending on how things go do it again the following year).  Leaning towards the latter, at least for the first go even though it probably is more expensive long term.
 
S Bengi
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According to these guys it cost $51/sheep, or $88 if you include labor. For a herd of sheep with around 60 sheep.
http://sfp.ucdavis.edu/pubs/brochures/sheep/
 
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You are going to have more worm and parasite problems in your area than Travis does in his colder climate.  Check with local sheep raisers, a large animal vet, or the agricultural extension agent for your area to get some idea of what kind of worming schedule you will need.  

You could probably graze them year-round in your area most of the time, but the winter rains wash most of the nutrition out of the grass so you should plan on feeding some hay in the winter.  They'll need a little bit of grain during the last few weeks of their pregnancy and the first couple of months of their lactation.  You may want to grain them a bit for a few weeks just prior to breeding, too, as you will probably get more lambs if you do that (it's called flushing).  

If you do get wool sheep, go with coarse-wooled breeds in your climate.  Romney's are often favored in wet climates, as they originated in the Romney Marsh area in England so have been somewhat bred for it.  Or you could go with one of the island breeds like the Shetlands, though they are quite small (but have luscious fleece).  (Shetlands are also great fence jumpers.)

A livestock guardian dog will earn it's keep.  Get one of the LGD breeds; don't try to put another type of dog to this use.  Doesn't work out well in most cases.

Kathleen

 
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Andrew,
I think you've received good advice on costs.  Travis gives good reasons why he likes wool sheep.  I have a different perspective.  I ran a band of sheep for a few years.  The day I liked the sheep the best was the morning after the shearers left.  Mine were fine wool ewes and the wool was valuable.  However the stress of finding someone to shear them did not out weigh the profit of the wool to me.  If you have 200-500 head it is easier to find someone than if you have 100 or 30 or less.  If I went back in it'd be with hair sheep.  If you are buying lambs and running them through the growing season and then butchering or selling them, then you can't go wrong with what you choose.
 
Bryan Elliott
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Kathleen mentioned a LGD.  If you have one of these dogs, you'll probably never be without one for the rest of your life whether you keep sheep or not.  
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Bryan Elliott wrote:Kathleen mentioned a LGD.  If you have one of these dogs, you'll probably never be without one for the rest of your life whether you keep sheep or not.  



Yeah.  Mine (half Maremma and half Ahkbash) protects my yard, my goats, and my chickens.  Also her food, LOL!  But even if I didn't have the chickens or goats, I would still want to have a livestock guardian dog.  With the caveat that a lot of them bark all night long (it's their way of marking their territory).  Mine doesn't do that, for which I love her dearly, and I will be looking for another one who is quiet at night when it's time to get my next LGD.  Mine also stays home, and a lot of them don't do that, either.  Select carefully.  The only downside mine has is her coat mats easily, and now that we live where there are burdocks, she is collecting burs in her coat.  I hope my next dog will have a smooth coat.

Kathleen
Cameo-and-Mac-2014-December-on-the-way-up-to-the-rimrock-cropped.jpg
[Thumbnail for Cameo-and-Mac-2014-December-on-the-way-up-to-the-rimrock-cropped.jpg]
Cameo when we still lived in Oregon.
 
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Every time Travis talks about sheep it seems that I get one step closer to taking the plunge & getting a few. Can put them in with the cows & guard donkey. Almost too easy. I wouldn't mind the wool & lanolin. Definitely wouldn't mind the meat. That's good eats!
 
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Mike Barkley wrote:Every time Travis talks about sheep it seems that I get one step closer to taking the plunge & getting a few. Can put them in with the cows & guard donkey. Almost too easy. I wouldn't mind the wool & lanolin. Definitely wouldn't mind the meat. That's good eats!



The same thing happens to me! And, there's quite a few people on my local homsteaders group that have shetlands, and often have them up for sale. But, unlike you, I don't have the infrastructure at ALL yet to get them, so I have to keep telling my self no
 
Travis Johnson
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Mike Barkley wrote:Every time Travis talks about sheep it seems that I get one step closer to taking the plunge & getting a few. Can put them in with the cows & guard donkey. Almost too easy. I wouldn't mind the wool & lanolin. Definitely wouldn't mind the meat. That's good eats!



I would tell you if they were difficult to raise, but I can't. I talked to a beef producer once who said he got out of beef and exclusively into sheep because they were so much easier to raise. I thought he was full of crap because as a dairy farmer, a person cannot get much easier then raising beef. Nope, he was right, sheep are easy.

There are a few myths about sheep, like hay. They are looked down upon as an inferior species so many think they can get crappy hay just because "they are sheep", but they need good hay because typically they are with lambs in the winter and needs lots of nutrition since their bellies are full of lambs instead. And they are easy keepers except during lambing season that can get intense, but they are so darned cute it is easy to overlook that!


 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

Mike Barkley wrote:Every time Travis talks about sheep it seems that I get one step closer to taking the plunge & getting a few. Can put them in with the cows & guard donkey. Almost too easy. I wouldn't mind the wool & lanolin. Definitely wouldn't mind the meat. That's good eats!



The same thing happens to me! And, there's quite a few people on my local homsteaders group that have shetlands, and often have them up for sale. But, unlike you, I don't have the infrastructure at ALL yet to get them, so I have to keep telling my self no



Nicole, some neighbors of ours used to raise both registered Merino sheep, and Shetlands.  The Shetland rams would clear any fence when a ewe was in heat; crossbred lambs were nearly worthless because the fleece was bad.  Thankfully, you can tell the crossbreeds easily even at birth.  You probably wouldn't have any trouble with them jumping fences normally - a ewe in heat is a tremendous incentive!
 
Andrew Mayflower
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S Bengi wrote:According to these guys it cost $51/sheep, or $88 if you include labor. For a herd of sheep with around 60 sheep.
http://sfp.ucdavis.edu/pubs/brochures/sheep/



That dates back to 1993.  Double the costs they mention to account for an assumed 3% annual inflation over the intervening 25 years.  
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:

Bryan Elliott wrote:Kathleen mentioned a LGD.  If you have one of these dogs, you'll probably never be without one for the rest of your life whether you keep sheep or not.  



Yeah.  Mine (half Maremma and half Ahkbash) protects my yard, my goats, and my chickens.  Also her food, LOL!  But even if I didn't have the chickens or goats, I would still want to have a livestock guardian dog.  With the caveat that a lot of them bark all night long (it's their way of marking their territory).  Mine doesn't do that, for which I love her dearly, and I will be looking for another one who is quiet at night when it's time to get my next LGD.  Mine also stays home, and a lot of them don't do that, either.  Select carefully.  The only downside mine has is her coat mats easily, and now that we live where there are burdocks, she is collecting burs in her coat.  I hope my next dog will have a smooth coat.

Kathleen



Regards a dog: DW really wants a German Shepherd.  I want an Anatolian, or other LGD.  That said, other than $$, no reason necessarily not to get both.  As long as the Shepherd doesn't try to eat the sheep or chickens.

 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:

Kathleen Sanderson wrote:

Bryan Elliott wrote:Kathleen mentioned a LGD.  If you have one of these dogs, you'll probably never be without one for the rest of your life whether you keep sheep or not.  



Yeah.  Mine (half Maremma and half Ahkbash) protects my yard, my goats, and my chickens.  Also her food, LOL!  But even if I didn't have the chickens or goats, I would still want to have a livestock guardian dog.  With the caveat that a lot of them bark all night long (it's their way of marking their territory).  Mine doesn't do that, for which I love her dearly, and I will be looking for another one who is quiet at night when it's time to get my next LGD.  Mine also stays home, and a lot of them don't do that, either.  Select carefully.  The only downside mine has is her coat mats easily, and now that we live where there are burdocks, she is collecting burs in her coat.  I hope my next dog will have a smooth coat.

Kathleen



Regards a dog: DW really wants a German Shepherd.  I want an Anatolian, or other LGD.  That said, other than $$, no reason necessarily not to get both.  As long as the Shepherd doesn't try to eat the sheep or chickens.



If you do get two dogs, try to get one of each sex, rather than two males or two females.  Less chance of fighting as they get older.

Kathleen
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:

Andrew Mayflower wrote:

Kathleen Sanderson wrote:

Bryan Elliott wrote:Kathleen mentioned a LGD.  If you have one of these dogs, you'll probably never be without one for the rest of your life whether you keep sheep or not.  



Yeah.  Mine (half Maremma and half Ahkbash) protects my yard, my goats, and my chickens.  Also her food, LOL!  But even if I didn't have the chickens or goats, I would still want to have a livestock guardian dog.  With the caveat that a lot of them bark all night long (it's their way of marking their territory).  Mine doesn't do that, for which I love her dearly, and I will be looking for another one who is quiet at night when it's time to get my next LGD.  Mine also stays home, and a lot of them don't do that, either.  Select carefully.  The only downside mine has is her coat mats easily, and now that we live where there are burdocks, she is collecting burs in her coat.  I hope my next dog will have a smooth coat.

Kathleen



Regards a dog: DW really wants a German Shepherd.  I want an Anatolian, or other LGD.  That said, other than $$, no reason necessarily not to get both.  As long as the Shepherd doesn't try to eat the sheep or chickens.



If you do get two dogs, try to get one of each sex, rather than two males or two females.  Less chance of fighting as they get older.

Kathleen



Yep, learned that one the last time.  Not only were they both females, they were litter mates.  One we had to put down at 3 years old because she got Valley Fever and didn't respond to the medication after a while.  After that we resolved to have opposite gender and non-litter mates in the future.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:

Kathleen Sanderson wrote:

Andrew Mayflower wrote:

Kathleen Sanderson wrote:

Bryan Elliott wrote:Kathleen mentioned a LGD.  If you have one of these dogs, you'll probably never be without one for the rest of your life whether you keep sheep or not.  



Yeah.  Mine (half Maremma and half Ahkbash) protects my yard, my goats, and my chickens.  Also her food, LOL!  But even if I didn't have the chickens or goats, I would still want to have a livestock guardian dog.  With the caveat that a lot of them bark all night long (it's their way of marking their territory).  Mine doesn't do that, for which I love her dearly, and I will be looking for another one who is quiet at night when it's time to get my next LGD.  Mine also stays home, and a lot of them don't do that, either.  Select carefully.  The only downside mine has is her coat mats easily, and now that we live where there are burdocks, she is collecting burs in her coat.  I hope my next dog will have a smooth coat.

Kathleen



Regards a dog: DW really wants a German Shepherd.  I want an Anatolian, or other LGD.  That said, other than $$, no reason necessarily not to get both.  As long as the Shepherd doesn't try to eat the sheep or chickens.



If you do get two dogs, try to get one of each sex, rather than two males or two females.  Less chance of fighting as they get older.

Kathleen



Theoretically litter mates of opposite sexes would be fine, except that...it's a total pain to try to raise and train two puppies at once.  They are more focused on each other and on playing than on paying attention to you.  Might not be so much of an issue with a LGD, because they don't normally get much training (mine will come and sit, and that's about it).  But you'd probably want to get your German Shepherd trained better than that.  

Yep, learned that one the last time.  Not only were they both females, they were litter mates.  One we had to put down at 3 years old because she got Valley Fever and didn't respond to the medication after a while.  After that we resolved to have opposite gender and non-litter mates in the future.

 
S Bengi
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:

S Bengi wrote:According to these guys it cost $51/sheep, or $88 if you include labor. For a herd of sheep with around 60 sheep.
http://sfp.ucdavis.edu/pubs/brochures/sheep/



That dates back to 1993.  Double the costs they mention to account for an assumed 3% annual inflation over the intervening 25 years.  



I didn't even see the date, you are very right that number needs to be revised upward.

I don't think that sheep farmers are making huge profit, not 30% they are making 15% or so. So whatever the selling price is for a sheep directly from a farmer just minus 15% and you get the actual price to.

S Bengi wrote:The cost to raise one is mostly the cost that everyone is selling it for.
Well they did make a profit so it should actually be less.
But they are buying feed/etc in bulk so they have lower overhead.

But lets say they make 30% profit, then the cost to raise a sheep is 70% of what they are being sold for.  And if you plan on keeping it until old age. Then the cost goes up even more.

I would says that every year you keep it, will run you about 50% of the avg buying/selling price.

 
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