The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Livestock => Sheep => Topic started by: Gornoeth on June 15, 2019, 08:05:42 pm

Title: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: Gornoeth on June 15, 2019, 08:05:42 pm
Hi all - we bought our smallholding in September (South Wales, Llandovery area) and having given ourselves a few months to settle into the relocation and get the place somewhat sorted we're now ready to get some livestock (have chickens already but they don't really count).

Given where we live sheep are the obvious first addition, our goal is to keep them for meat and ideally look to produce slower grown meat, possibly hogget.

Are there any breeds that lend themselves in particular to this? Also any advice in keeping the lambs slightly longer before sending for slaughter? We have 5 acres split across 3 fields currently one of which we're about to get cut for hay.

My wife has taken a shine with Zwartbles but as first timers the size worries me a little bit. I'm also considering Ryelands to have an easier start and then think about hogget in the future?
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheepual
Post by: SallyintNorth on June 17, 2019, 09:36:29 am
The ideal breeds for hogget are the primitives and the hill and mountain types. Ryelands will get too fat, I suspect, and Zwartbles also are fairly huge if kept on into a second summer.   You might get away with sending them off at about one year old, if that works for you. 

I’d suggest looking at Shetland, Hebridean, Castlemilk Moorit, Swaledale, Herdwick, for a few.  There will be some Welsh breeds that would suit the spec but I’m not au fait with those so much.  Maybe Beulah, Badger-faced?

If you’re not fixated on breeding pure, what about keeping sheep you like and using a Shetland tup?  Gives the girls an easy time of it, the Shetland will overcome any of the faults in your chosen breed (easy lambings, active lambs, great feet, lovely fleeces etc), and you’d be able to keep some or all on for hogget if that’s what you want.

We love helping people choose their sheep :) :excited:
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: SallyintNorth on June 17, 2019, 09:39:38 am
I would also strongly advise that you do this to begin with.  Buy a few store lambs of the sort of sheep you fancy (ie, ones which will fatten in their second summer - doesn’t have to be the exact breed or cross you have chosen) and keep them over winter.  You may find that the ground gets so muddy, the sheep are miserable and or have to be brought in over winter, and you would be better choosing sheep where most of the lambs will be away by November ;).
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: Buttermilk on June 17, 2019, 10:14:08 am
Get sheep you like the look of.  It helps when you get frustrated with them as there is something you like about them :)  Do not let the size of Zwartbles put you off, they may be big but it also means that you do not have to up end them for treating them.  They tend to be a docile breed and can be very food orientated for ease of handling.
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: Anke on June 17, 2019, 10:57:31 am
As Sally says - most of the modern breeds were developed to have a product  (lamb) to sell by then end of summer. If kept on till their second summer thy just put on fat... I would definitely look out for the more traditional hill breeds - Shetlands are ideal - no lambing issues (if bred pure), no need to feed additional concentrates (which the the Zwartbles definitely require) for most of the year (the lambs go through the winter on hay), the ewes are happy to lamb outdoors (from April onwards), and they do produce a nice fleece as well. The meat improves with age, and we had spectacular mutton from 3 and 4 year old wethers (our tup always has friends with him during the summer). Also Shetlands are reasonably priced, but you do need your fencing to be good. (That said my homebred ewes are not escape artists, but I do have still one bough-in ewe that has been known to jump a hurdle from standing three weeks before lambing...).
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: Maysie on June 17, 2019, 11:56:39 am
Get sheep you like the look of.  It helps when you get frustrated with them as there is something you like about them :) 
I agree.  When it is wet and windy and you have to go out there to deal with something, it helps if you also WANT to go out there!

We have Hill Radnors.  I am obviously biased, but they are the best.   ;)
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: Gornoeth on June 17, 2019, 02:35:25 pm
Thanks all, some good points to think about.
The land is sloping and pretty well draining, plus the previous owners kept sheep on with no real issues with mud so I think likely ok but probably worth testing before considering.

The intention was to get 3-4 ewes to give meat for us plus potentially some to sell on to friends if desired in small quantities. Any advice regarding having a ram also or hiring in one? Assume if you have your own you'd need to change periodically if you kept any ewe lambs?
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: SallyintNorth on June 17, 2019, 02:54:16 pm
Yes, as soon as you decide to keep a daughter then you get a max of one more year out of any ram (unless you go in for complex logistics and even then you probably only get another 2 years.)

However, if you establish a flock of 3-4 young ewes, you won’t be needing any replacements for some years, so one option is to buy a tup and keep him going until you need replacements.  Be strong with yourselves and don’t keep daughters as you don’t need them yet.  (And frankly, son on mom or dad on daughter is fine so long as you’re only eating the outcome.  Don’t breed on again from an inbred.)

Another option is to buy a tup lamb every other year, use him twice then sell or eat him.

And yes, hiring or loaning is probably an option.  You might find a local breeder who’s happy to have a tup lamb do his first season with you; keeps him out of the way of their ewe lambs, and they can sell him next year as proven. 

Hiring a tup who is hired out to all and sundry obviously increases the risks of bringing disease on.
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: twizzel on June 17, 2019, 03:44:26 pm
If you go down the route of hiring in a ram make sure at the very minimum it is quarantine wormed with Zolvix and housed for 48 hours before turning out with your ewes. If you decide to buy and keep a ram be aware that they still need company- either another ram or a castrated male.


If it’s your first time keeping sheep I’d buy some store lambs and run them on over the winter to kill next spring. Maybe buy a few ewe lambs of the breed you eventually want to breed from as well. Run them all on over winter, kill the store lambs in spring and keep the ewe lambs, shear them and run on over summer before tupping in autumn 2020. Learn the basics of looking after sheep before throwing breeding into the equation.
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: Bramham Wiltshire Horns on June 17, 2019, 03:56:43 pm
Wiltshire Horn

good size sheep, self sheading, lambs grow at a decent rate

had three sets of triplets this year and 2 of them reared triplets the other rejected 1 but maintained twins that was weighed avg 36kg at 90 day just off grass and milk no cake,
one group of triplet avg weight at 90 days was 35kg and biggest 40 kg

they are versitile sheep and have had good crosses with hampshire and charolias

they also taste amazing


Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: Womble on June 17, 2019, 06:48:00 pm
My wife has taken a shine with Zwartbles but as first timers the size worries me a little bit. I'm also considering Ryelands to have an easier start and then think about hogget in the future?


Yes, I was initially worried about the size of Zwartbles, but actually because they're so docile, it really isn't a problem. We can walk right up to most of ours and catch them, and as long as you stop them from moving before they build up momentum, it's really not difficult. Also, a few weeks ago, I vaccinated all of our lambs. Very easy - penned the lambs, caught each one and stuck its head between my legs to keep it still whilst I did the injection, whilst Mrs Womble walked behind me, marking their heads with a crayon to show who had been done. Then I had to do our neighbour's three Shetlands. Even though they were also tame, they panicked the moment they realised we were about to do something to them. Cue lots of bleating, wriggling, jumping, swearing a bent needle and very nearly an accidental self-injection!


That said, it's unusual to see Zwartbles hoggett - most go to slaughter the same year they're born. However, if your wife likes the look of Zwartbles, AND you're in Wales, what about keeping Balwen Welsh Mountains? Just a thought!
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: SallyintNorth on June 17, 2019, 07:28:43 pm
Yes Zwartbles are pretty tame, and very greedy, and not difficult to catch therefore.  We three ladies who look after the sheep here do find them too tall to turn over, however, and although they do allow us to lift their feet like a horse would do, you can’t get at the foot all round as well that way as if you sit them on their bottom.   It’s not a showstopper though, if they’re the sheep that float your boat.  Just make sure to get ones from a flock with a) good feet and b) the same lambing regime you want to use, especially if you want to lamb outdoors in April rather than do the indoors, individual pen thing.  ;)
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: Backinwellies on June 18, 2019, 09:28:53 am
Llanwenog is the local breed and on rare breeds list   (and look like Shaun the Sheep!) …. easy to keep,  smaller for handling, and local guys to you will hire out a ram and support you.   Look up breed soc webpage for contacts.  You are welcome to visit me (in Talley)  but there will be breeders closer.
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: Gornoeth on June 18, 2019, 09:46:06 am
Thanks @SallyintNorth good to know, with no sheep dog the characteristics of the Zwartbles definitely appeal.

@Womble our neighbour has Balwen's, nice looking but definitely wild! Have seen them trying to catch them and you could make a carry on film from it :) Always escaping too which put us off.

@Backinwellies thanks will have a look.
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: Jukes Mum on June 18, 2019, 11:11:36 am
I run my Ryeland lambs on to hogget and it is really tasty. They are really easy to 'do' as they are very lazy sheep. They can't be bothered with that escaping malarky. The shearer is no so keen though!
Title: Re: First time smallholder about to buy some sheep
Post by: Nelson International on June 19, 2019, 11:28:04 am
I would also strongly advise that you do this to begin with.  Buy a few store lambs of the sort of sheep you fancy (ie, ones which will fatten in their second summer - doesn’t have to be the exact breed or cross you have chosen) and keep them over winter.  You may find that the ground gets so muddy, the sheep are miserable and or have to be brought in over winter, and you would be better choosing sheep where most of the lambs will be away by November ;).

I think this is a really good idea - this way you get to build some experience without being committed to a breed/specific sheep and can make a more serious plunge in due course. We're in our third year, and I wish we'd done it. The only down sides I can think of are that you don't get to lamb for an extra year (plusses and minuses to that) and depending on your personality, you might be more likely to bond with your first sheep and having some ewes you know are in for the long haul might offset that a bit. .

As for breeds, Welsh Mountain and Black Welsh Mountain are both on the smaller side, and should be easy to find. The other breed you see on the hills in the Beacons a lot are the Brecon Cheviots - they're a really good looking sheep, but bigger. We have south welsh mountains, and I think you become accustomed to what you farm - I think anything smaller looks tiny, and anything bigger looks hard to handle.

Finally, we're not a million miles south of you and had decent luck looking for our first sheep via facebook groups/word of mouth/SellMyLivestock, rather than looking to go to auction (which is an experience worth checking out, but going in at the deep end a bit).