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Author Topic: 7 acres- how many sheep?  (Read 13401 times)


  • Joined Feb 2011
7 acres- how many sheep?
« on: February 20, 2011, 09:39:29 pm »
Hi all- I'm really liking this sheep  :sheep: game- they are great fun! So... if I have 7 acres of average/good pasture. How many breeding ewes (of a small native breed, hebridean or Manx type/size) could I comfortably house outside all year round with minimal feed inputs and not to completely destroy the grazing? Assuming that I would need to house and feed the young to fatten up until just before the next lambing? How many paddocks would I ideally split it into? (during growing season I would borrrow some cows  :cow: to eat off most of the grass growth).



  • Joined Feb 2008
  • Near Bodmin, Cornwall
    • Val Grainger
Re: 7 acres- how many sheep?
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2011, 11:06:01 pm »
Depends on the grazing quality but allow no more than 4 small sheep to the acre if you want to avoid poaching and encourage a bit of biodiversity! If poor or moorland grazing to be honest 2 per acre can be enough....this is based on winter stocking numbers.
It really is very hard to comment without knowing a lot more...

Divide pasture up and rotate so each paddock has at least 3 weeks rest.

Primitive type sheep will happily tackle any length grass so keeping it short with cattle could be counter productive....unless you happen to have your own cattle anyway.

This is just my opinion and I tend to be very extensive low input where my sheep are concerned and mine live out all year and now I just have primitives (Ouessants) I don't even bring them in forlambing or anything....they prefer it that way!
www.berry land

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  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: 7 acres- how many sheep?
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2011, 01:29:58 am »
If you have excess grass in the summer, crop it as hay for winter feeding, rather than letting it benefit someone else's animals. Primitive sheep love old pasture hay as it is full of a variety of herbs (weeds !) rather than one-species hay grown with fertiliser, so you can grow perfect hay for them on your own land.
We have more per acre than woolly shepherd, but as she says, it depends on such considerations as the system and grass quality.  You are best to find out for yourself by starting small and building up.  That way you can find out the exact capacity of your land.  We started with about 10 ewes on about 5 acres, although some were large breeds.  At our most overstocked - just after F&M when we couldn't move anything off - we had probably as many as 35 ewes, again many large breeds.  Now we have 24 breeding ewes - Hebrideans and Soay - on about 8 acres of grass, plus odd bits of woodland, orchard etc.  We cut our hay from someone else's land so don't need to shut up pasture for that.  As well as the ewes, we have the stock tups plus a few of last years male lambs finishing.  Our current rate is perfect for our land, which is free draining and fertile, but we have a high rainfall and are at 1000'.  During F&M we became seriously overstocked but there was of course nothing we could do about it.  The sheep then did not do nearly as well as at lower stocking densities.
Why would you need to house the lambs? Primitive sheep don't put on any condition at all over winter, no matter how much hard feeding you give them, so you can't 'fatten' them as such.  The best way is to get them through the winter on grass, with ad lib good hay plus some browsing, such as cut willow branches, plus a mineral bucket, with a little dry feed in severe weather, then fatten them on spring and summer grass and send them for slaughter in August, or at 16 months.  They are well-grown by then and are gone in time for the next lot being weaned.
Going by our stocking rates, you could possibly run 20 ewes, but bear in mind that we keep back only about half a dozen lambs for meat, just those which don't make the grade for breeding stock, so if you are intending to use all your lambs for meat, you would not be able to have as many ewes.  And you will need every bit of that excess grass you are thinking of feeding to someone else's cows for your hoggs (young sheep)
We have divided up our grazing areas into 7 paddocks, plus some smaller bits, and this is governed by how many tups we use in Autumn to increase the diversity within our stock ie each tup needs a paddock with his handful of ewes for a month in November. Last year we used 5 Heb and 2 Soay tups.  If you are using only one tup, this won't apply.  Perhaps just 4 paddocks would work.  I find that the time spent in each one when rotating depends on the time of year, as obviously grass grows quicker in some seasons than others. At the moment while there is no grass growth, the gates are open so each group of ewes has more than one paddock to graze.
But as I suggested at first - start small then expand to fit your land as you learn what your sheep will need.
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