The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Livestock => Sheep => Topic started by: Buffy the eggs layer on June 19, 2010, 08:04:51 pm

Title: starting with sheep
Post by: Buffy the eggs layer on June 19, 2010, 08:04:51 pm
We are hoping to purchase some sheep next year (possibly rare breed) Can anyone let me know what time of year is best to purchase stock and which breeds you would recomend for starters.

 ???
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: old dad on June 19, 2010, 08:46:44 pm
hi the best time to purchase sheep is in the autumn ready for breeding. I would recommend a breed local to your area. pick one that you like and not what people tell you as you have to look after them day after day .most sheep behave similary and you get good and bad in everything. please keep us updated on your progress. good luck
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: jacob and Georgina on June 19, 2010, 10:02:08 pm
hi i am also thinking of getting some sheep some time soon so will be interested to hear what people have to say, i also would like to keep a rare breed, as i am in devon not far from dartmoor i would like to get some whiteface dartmoor, alothough i dont think they are classed as a rare breed there are not many flocks around from what i hear.  i have done quite a bit of research as i am sure you have, another breed i have taken a liking to is the balwen. a small welsh mountain sheep, these are classified as a vunerable breed. I would definatley advice you to go to any local shows and if possible some farms to see what sheep are around. There are two small books on amazon called know your sheep and know more sheep, they contain pictures of around 100 breeds and give a brief description and also state if they are a rare breed or not. Hope this is of use to you!! ???
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Cairnhill on June 19, 2010, 10:06:01 pm
Hi

all depends what you are looking to do with your sheep.   Are you wanting to breed lambs for the market or to eat yourselves.  Are you wanting to keep simply for land management or for fine fleeces.  Im sure all the people on here who keep sheep will recommend the breeds they keep.  Also certain breeds are easier to keep than others and choice would depend on your expertise and level of fitness,  how much land you have, and even where abouts in the country you live.

There are a lot of breeds to choose from and they all have their merits.  I keep Hebridean sheep because I think they look wonderful, they are easy to care for, they can survive NE Scotlands worst weather, they don't eat as much as commercial sheep (as I have limited land) and I am told they are delicious, though I do not breed for meat myself.  

Best wishes with your sheep quest

Anna :sheep:
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Buffy the eggs layer on June 20, 2010, 09:37:44 pm
Thanks for your helpful replies. There are a number of breeds that I like but Im not sure wether to go for a rare breed or a more comercially viable one.  I intend to keep them for meat but I'm not sure wether to buy them in as lambs and fatten them up for selling on so that I avoid having to shear them.
 :) 
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Daisys Mum on June 20, 2010, 09:48:53 pm

The way I feel tonight I would gladly give my Shetlands away. They are quite a challenging breed, I think perhaps most rare breeds are, perhaps that is why they are rare. Mine are easy enough to shear it's catching them thats the problem, There is one ewe still running around with her fleece on as she will not come within 200yds.
The meat is amazing so much better than commercial sheep but then they are a lot older when they are killed, this year I have waited until they were a year old, partly due to the hard winter as they seem to prefer to hunt for grass than to eat hay so took a bit longer to get to a decent weight.
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: egglady on June 20, 2010, 10:07:26 pm

The way I feel tonight I would gladly give my Shetlands away. They are quite a challenging breed, I think perhaps most rare breeds are, perhaps that is why they are rare. Mine are easy enough to shear it's catching them thats the problem, There is one ewe still running around with her fleece on as she will not come within 200yds.
The meat is amazing so much better than commercial sheep but then they are a lot older when they are killed, this year I have waited until they were a year old, partly due to the hard winter as they seem to prefer to hunt for grass than to eat hay so took a bit longer to get to a decent weight.

we have shetlands and dont find them "challenging" - am i just lucky?  girls are fine o catch at feeding time and i've deliberately spent time with the lambs since they were born earlier this year and they are so tame i can do anything, well nearly anything, with them.

i love them
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Castle Farm on June 21, 2010, 08:54:14 am
Get yourself a commercial breed and forget going down the rare breed road, they are more trouble than they are worth,thats why they are rare.

I was offerered a flock of Soay for nothing if I could catch them,mad as park hares.

I keep Lleyns which are about as good as you will get for easy lambing and fast growth.
I had 200% off mine this year and except for some hard feed I never had to help them at all.

Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: woollyval on June 21, 2010, 10:39:12 am
Get yourself a commercial breed and forget going down the rare breed road, they are more trouble than they are worth,thats why they are rare.

I was offerered a flock of Soay for nothing if I could catch them,mad as park hares.

I keep Lleyns which are about as good as you will get for easy lambing and fast growth.
I had 200% off mine this year and except for some hard feed I never had to help them at all.



Can I put my oar in here please!

There is rather a difference between rare and primitive!

Dorset Downs are on the rare breed register and yet are as commercial in type and behaviour as they come ::)
Soays and the like, usually from Scottish islands and part of what are generally known as the Northern short tailed group are primitive, which means they are largely unimproved!......ie have tendency to live on poor land and are a bit wild in their attitude.

Rare breed is due to declining numbers and fashion not the type of sheep......The Dorset Down is an ideal beginners rare breed sheep. It is easy to catch, easy to handle, are good mothers, easy lambers if not too fat ::) and lambs finish at 25kg at 20 weeks off grass and milk. Added to that good fleece and a commercial shape what could be better if you want to combine keeping a breed that needs a bit of support with a good commercial carcass shape!......oh and they taste amazing!
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Fleecewife on June 21, 2010, 12:18:12 pm
Well put, Woolly Shepherd.  I would add though, as I've said before elsewhere, that primitives don't have to be 'mad as March hares' - it all depends on their handling.  Soays left wild will be wild but they tame up very well.  Mine are as tame as you could want.  The Hebrideans too are quiet and glorious to keep with the addition of being stunning to look at - and lets face it, if you are keeping sheep you might as well love them.
For the best of all worlds I would suggest Shetlands.  They come in all colours with wonderful spinning fleeces, they produce tasty meat in joint sizes ideal for most families, they are very easy to handle (they can be readily trained to walk on a halter so hardly wild) and they are very individual little characters.  The Shetland Sheep Soc is very supportive and stock is readily available at modest prices. If you are into showing sheep then there are classes at just about every show from tiny local to the biggies. Shetlands are not a rare breed (nor are Hebrideans any more as there are more than 3000 breeding ewes) but they are unusual and different.
The down side of keeping commercial sheep is that returns are likely to be poor on a small scale and you are unlikely to become a top breeder whereas with the less numerous breeds you can get to the top if that is what you want.
I suggest that you both take your time choosing the breed and talk to as many breeders of as many different breeds as you can find, at shows or wherever.  Yes of course they will all promote their own favourites but you will get the chance to see examples of the breed and you will probably fall in love with one of them  :love:
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Fleecewife on June 21, 2010, 02:25:35 pm
Another suggestion Egg Slayer is to choose a breed which you love, to breed and provide you with top quality meat, but also buy in a few commercial lambs for meat in the early days.  Breeding your own takes a while before you get any old enough for meat.  Commercials though go fairly soon after they are weaned so you wouldn't have them for long - not like fattening weaners. So in a way you wouldn't have to make the choice between one or the other.
If you do go for a rare or traditional breed, I would suggest that you go for the best registered stock you can afford.  That way, when you realise you want to do this for more than just the meat (you will  :) ) you will have a good sound foundation flock to grow from.
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Shnoowie on June 21, 2010, 05:48:40 pm
We chose Ryelands as they are smaller than your average sheep and do not seem to want to escape.  They make good mums and have wonderful personalities :) They were classed as a rare breed up until recently when they were moved to a class 5 or 6.  There are still a smaller number of them than there could be.  With regards to uses, they have very good meat and their wool is popular with hand spinners...though shearers are not always too keen on them due to the amount of wool they have, and it is ALL over!  Also with the Ryelands a good pedigree sheep can be worth as much live as dead, so it gives you more leeway if you don't feel like putting them in the freezer!
Jacob; I'm not far off Dartmoor either, try popping to some local shows - the Okehampton show has a good variety of breeds, traditional, rare, commercial - that's how we found out about Ryelands.
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Buffy the eggs layer on June 21, 2010, 10:43:00 pm
Oops! I seem to have started the battle of the breeds here!

Thanks for all your suggestions, there are certainly a number of breeds there that I like the look of. I was recently concidering Wiltshires as they dont need shearing. How do you manage regarding fleeces? Do you shear yourselves?
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Fleecewife on June 21, 2010, 11:54:28 pm
Wiltshire Horns are SOO beautiful, amazing presence, especially the tups. :love:  They don't need shearing as they don't have woolly fleece but they produce the most horrible kemp in vast quantities - it sticks to your clothes and gets up your nose.
We shear our flock of about 50 by hand ie with old fashioned shears such as the Romans used.  The British Wool Marketing Board runs shearing courses, mainly for machine shearing, but they will arrange hand shearing courses if there is demand. People are terrified of hand shears as they look so big and sharp, but in fact you can feel with them far better than with machine clippers so you are  unlikely to cut the skin.  There are several travelling shearers, some of them on this group, who will come to your property to shear your flock.  Wool is not just a by-product of keeping sheep but has so many uses and can provide a bit of extra income.
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: jacob and Georgina on June 22, 2010, 05:44:34 pm
thanks for that advice shnoowie. Would love to go to the oakhampton show to see whats there, Do yoy know what the dates are?? :farmer:
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Buffy the eggs layer on June 22, 2010, 06:03:45 pm
Making an income from a hobby sounds great but I only have 6 acres of pasture so I'm not sure if I would have enough stock to make it viable. If shearing is not as much of an issue as others have had me believe then my sheep choosing criteria would be a breed that are calm and friendly (all;owing for the fact that they are sheep after all) I have spent the last few months turning my skittish bantams into chilled out chickens so a less flighty breed would be good. I think a trip to a local show is a good place to start. Thanks for all your posts, I'l let you know how I get on.
 
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: lindy on June 22, 2010, 09:41:15 pm
Feel I must say I wish people would not put certain breeds down. It is down to the individual sheep and how you treat them. All breeds can be easy or difficult.  I have kept four breeds and have never had any trouble with any of them. We recently downsized to Shetlands and they are  lovely sheep. Very friendly and easy to manage. The lambs are just adorable, far too nice to eat though. I have just been sitting with mine and some of them won't leave me alone. They are all over me wanting to be petted (alright I do encourage them). If you want friendly sheep buy from a friendly bucket trained flock, feed them and spend time with them.
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: egglady on June 23, 2010, 08:02:45 pm
Feel I must say I wish people would not put certain breeds down. It is down to the individual sheep and how you treat them. All breeds can be easy or difficult.  I have kept four breeds and have never had any trouble with any of them. We recently downsized to Shetlands and they are  lovely sheep. Very friendly and easy to manage. The lambs are just adorable, far too nice to eat though. I have just been sitting with mine and some of them won't leave me alone. They are all over me wanting to be petted (alright I do encourage them). If you want friendly sheep buy from a friendly bucket trained flock, feed them and spend time with them.


TOTALLY agree.  we have shetlands too and they are so tame, they practically follow me back up to the house and when i am riding in the arena which is attached to their current field, they lambs come up to be petted!  not easy when i am riding i have to say!
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Hellybee on June 23, 2010, 08:24:04 pm
we have a right mixed bunch, been trained to the bucket since Feb, great tool, cheaper than a sheepdog lol  I wanted to check them last night, didnt have a bucket of food in the quad, just a bucket of staples to shake , and boy did they come running, felt ever so guilty when they all stood there, calling out in chorus lol

go to local agri shows and talk to local breeders, research what is best for your terrain and environment, i like the sound of the shetlands, trouble is, i would nt want baz to sell the ram lambs  :love: lol

Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Daisys Mum on June 23, 2010, 08:46:01 pm

Please don't get me wrong I actually love my Shetlands and would not change them for anything, none of the ewes are very young and when they came to me they came from a very large flock living on a large moor so were not really used to people, for the first few weeks they were constantly escaping until we got the fences Shetland proof.
They all have names and most of them come quite happily in when they are called but I have 1 mother and daughter who just treat all humans with great suspicion, the 1 that prove difficult to catch on Sunday was her son from last year. I did not intend to breed with her this year but she was miserable away from the other ewes
Given half a chance the others come into the garden and have even been known to come through the patio doors into the house to get a bit of bread
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Buffy the eggs layer on June 23, 2010, 09:11:19 pm
Thanks again everyone for your wisdom. I think buying bucket fed sheep sounds like a really good idea. I shall have a look for breeders in the yorkshire area and see what is available. I may be comming back to you all for more of your helpful advice prior to a purchase.
 :wave:
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: TheCaptain on June 25, 2010, 08:52:13 am
Just to add my tuppence worth - do plenty of research and speak to people about the various breeds you're interested in.  I've had a few issues registering my Portlands, but to be honest with you, other than the paperwork side of life, they've been absolutley cracking. Come to the bucket, eat out of your hand except for one who's a bit flighty - to the extent that she crashed through some elec fencing tape at full speed. Saying that, they were shorn (sheared?) yesterday and seem to have been replaced with miniture goats! Poor girls!   ;D
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: Cairnhill on June 25, 2010, 08:22:10 pm
Saw some Shetlands at the Highland Show today and they were lovely and quite chilled out.  If I had more space I would definitely have some of those.
Title: Re: starting with sheep
Post by: humphreymctush on July 25, 2010, 07:29:36 pm
I recomend buying sheep in the winter so that you can get pregnant ewes. That way you can keep all the ewe lambs. It also means you can delay getting a ram until next year. Choosing a breed the most important thing is that you like them. If its a breed you like then you will naturally put more effort in. Also a good guide is what suits your climate. If you lookaround at neighbors farms you can see what does well. The other advantage of a local breed is that they are easy to sell locally