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Author Topic: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?  (Read 1807 times)

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #15 on: July 31, 2021, 02:00:04 pm »
Actually I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect to acquire sheep for a sanctuary through donation, even from "hard-nosed" farmers.  Hands up anyone who hasn't ever wished to keep on (or kept on) an old favourite, even though his or her working days are over...  :hugsheep:

I agree that some farmers wouldn't part with any animals for less than their market value, but in my experience (admittedly, mainly of hill farmers), they are not in the majority.  Lots of farmers would happily give up spare pet lambs - especially ones who aren't doing so well, or didn't have the best start so might have to stay on through winter, making them unprofitable anyway, etc; many prefer to know where old ewes are going and are anxious that cull ewes sometimes get bought "for one more crop", might be happy to send a few just weaned thinnies to the local sanctuary rather than have the bother of fittening them for market, etc. 


Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #16 on: July 31, 2021, 02:13:04 pm »
One thing you could look at that would keep the killing off your own fields is to buy weaned ewe lambs which are suitable for breeding, run them on for a year and then sell them ready for the tup in their second summer.  Repeat every year.

When I was on the moorland farm, we had a buyer with an estate in Bedfordshire who would buy our best mule ewe lambs (about 700 of them) every year, and sell them for breeding the following year.  He described the benefits as being that he had nice sheep to look at, they kept his ground tidy, and he usually made a small profit. 

If you wanted to try your hand at breeding, you could keep a few on and breed them yourself, then sell them with lambs at foot the following spring.  Again, keeps the killing off your own fields, although in this case you would know that the male lambs at least were destined for meat.

And/or you could offer "keep" for farmers who like to overwinter their own replacement ewe lambs on good ground, then bring them home the following summer.  If you learn about caring for the sheep, you could offer keep-with-care, which pays you for your time and care as well, and widens your catchment to farmers who are too far away to visit daily, or even at all.

You could do a similar thing (or both things) with beef or dairy heifers.  You would probably keep the ground in better heart and have healthier sheep if you alternated cattle and sheep on each field.  Let the grass grow to 4-6", cattle on, eat a third and trample a third, then sheep on to do the same, then rest and repeat.  Make hay occasionally, and sell that, if you have too much grass one year.   If you let the sward become more varied (ie., not pure rye grass), it is better for the health of the livestock and the hay would sell to horsey folk (who will pay more than sheep farmers for hay and haylage that's suitable for horses.) 
« Last Edit: July 31, 2021, 02:20:23 pm by SallyintNorth »
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2021, 02:54:33 pm »
Actually I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect to acquire sheep for a sanctuary through donation, even from "hard-nosed" farmers.  Hands up anyone who hasn't ever wished to keep on (or kept on) an old favourite, even though his or her working days are over...  :hugsheep:

I agree that some farmers wouldn't part with any animals for less than their market value, but in my experience (admittedly, mainly of hill farmers), they are not in the majority.  Lots of farmers would happily give up spare pet lambs - especially ones who aren't doing so well, or didn't have the best start so might have to stay on through winter, making them unprofitable anyway, etc; many prefer to know where old ewes are going and are anxious that cull ewes sometimes get bought "for one more crop", might be happy to send a few just weaned thinnies to the local sanctuary rather than have the bother of fittening them for market, etc.


I certainly have older ewes I am fond of but would rather take them direct to the abattoir where they will be dealt with quickly and humanely, than gift to a sanctuary that may not know quite how to look after them. Old thin ewes either need a lot of because they have no teeth left, [size=78%] or have an underlying health problem, and the OP could inadvertently buy in mv, johnes or other iceberg diseases without realising. And that opens up a whole world of pain and expensive vet bills! (Speaking from experience here). [/size]
[/size]
[/size]Running ewe lambs is a good idea- but they are often expensive to buy in the autumn, and you do need a degree of handling facilities and husbandry knowledge. Look at Jeremy Clarkson when he bought his sheep- he had no idea, but did have sound guidance from people in the industry. For someone with no animal knowledge suggesting running cattle on is a big no no. You need decent facilities, and not to mention TB is obviously a big issue in parts of the country, and if god forbid the OP bought cattle and subsequently went down with TB, they would go into the food chain. And thereís no  say in this decision unless the animal is under meat withdrawal or heavily in calf. If you want cattle, rent the ground to a farmer.[size=78%]

[/size]It still boils down to if the OP is that against farming animals for meat, that most of these enterprises do in fact involve the meat industry, apart from running a sanctuary. [size=78%]

PipKelpy

  • Joined Mar 2019
  • North Shropshire
  • Dreamer with docile cattle and sheep!
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #18 on: July 31, 2021, 03:10:01 pm »
157 acres is alot. I say my land is 10, actually a bit more but 10 is a nice number. Can you have farm land without using it for meat? Yes, BUT you HAVE to be aware of NOT using the land for animals. Even though I had 4 acres mowed and baled, I'm still over-run with grass, yet earlier this year, the place was bare. I've let the neighbour run on 20 cattle just to tidy up the place as my cattle (all 3 of them) and few sheep are struggling. Once bare, (give the mob a week) they'll depart and the grass will grow again. No meat? When Larry dies, what do you plan to do with his body? Years ago we buried, foot & mouth stopped that!

I understand pets, mine are pets. I have a never lambed Ewe, she's a pet and 7 in December. She has a hairy wether to keep her company. I reared both of them! My cattle are docile monsters that I love, BUT if there is a problem, I am well aware that they will go either into the food chain or into the incinerator.

I do have a tup on the place doing his duty, hopefully I'll get some lambs, if I don't get too attached I'll eat them, if the Wiltshires throw a nice ewe lamb and it sheds, I'll give it a chance (tup is Dorset Down) boys will depart for auction.

You know, back in 2006, I had lots of sheep that I put in lamb to a frisky little lad, Harry, then I sent him off and we ate him. Now, I can't do that, nothing to do with Veganism etc, just that I get more emotionally attached. I DONT feel guilt eating the little blighters its just that I have to have it in my head, 'I'm going to eat you!' Think like that for a few months, when the time comes, you can do it!

There HAS to be a balance between the land and the animals and cost. My objects MUST cover their own feed/bedding costs, I'm a mug so my time is free!

If you are going to rent your land to a farmer then you have to accept that the farmer is feeding the people one way or another BUT if you take your land out of production, it's not just grass that grows, weeds do to and they multiply! Something needs to eat the grass whether it's horses, sheep, cattle, goats etc. But with that amount of land it makes me wonder what the arrangements were before if a farmer were to rent it, did they have it before?

If it is your land then it is your choice BUT unless you have a bottomless pot of money you have to look at what is best for you AND the land.
Halter train the cattle to keep them quiet but watch your back when they come a'bulling! Give them all names even those you plan to eat. Always be calm. Most importantly, invest in wellies with steel toe caps and be prepared for the clever cow who knows where the toe caps end!!

Scarlet.Dragon

  • Joined May 2015
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #19 on: July 31, 2021, 05:48:20 pm »
but in truth I remain sceptical about all male lambs truly finding breeding homes. 
Maybe they don't; maybe she castrates the ones that shouldn't breed and uses them as fibre animals?

Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #20 on: July 31, 2021, 07:05:22 pm »
but in truth I remain sceptical about all male lambs truly finding breeding homes. 
Maybe they don't; maybe she castrates the ones that shouldn't breed and uses them as fibre animals?

That's not what she says she does, and all the fleeces are sold with names and stories, most usually of shearling tups whose lambs we then get to hear about.  As she breeds, I think she has enough trouble managing the ewes, lambs, breeding boys and replacement ewes, without taking on running wethers as well.  Her main objective is supporting the breed, I think, so she breeds to help keep the numbers up - but it's one of the things that has always puzzled me, because to me, supporting a rare breed means breeding yes, but also not breeding from substandard stock, and exploring all avenues for outlets for breeders.  The RBST had as its tagline for a while something along the lines of "Want to help a rare breed?  Eat one!"  (But more catchy, though I can't recall the exact phrase just at the moment.)

Anyway yes, if someone were dedicated to managing a no-kill flock for fleece and fibre, then wethers would be an important element, probably the majority of the flock.  But in Ellie"s case she is also wanting to help keep the breed numbers up, and hence she breeds.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #21 on: July 31, 2021, 07:13:36 pm »
I have talked about 2 of the no-kill sheep farms I know and have not yet mentioned a third.  A very dear veggie friend lives off grid in Weardale, on a smallholding where she makes felted items from her own flock.  Two of her sheep originated west of her, on a farm on Hadrian's Wall...  yes, I took her two of my sheep when I moved down south.  I didn't really want to part with Sadie, her black, grey and white fleece was so wonderful, but Ellie refused to take Buddy (Sadie's son, who had a nice multitonal grey fleece, but not in Sadie's league...) unless I let her have Sadie too. 

And you may have spotted that of the 3 no-kill flocks I've talked about, two of them are owned by someone named Ellie.  Weirdly, the volunteer webmaster for the Woolly Patchwork Sheep Sanctuary is also an Ellie...  (theme of the Twilight Zone, for those old enough to remember it...) 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #22 on: July 31, 2021, 07:14:49 pm »
I guess you could always turn the rams that donít make the grade into teasers. I reckon thereís a market for mv acc teaser tups  :thinking:

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #23 on: July 31, 2021, 09:15:47 pm »
The numbers will still never work, will they.  I presume teasers work on similar proportions to entire tups - 1 male per 50 females.  And a teaser will never be coming onto his own daughters, so can work for more than a couple of years.  There is just never enough work for all the male lambs that get born! 

But I agree, for a smallish "no kill" breeding flock, creating teaser tups may give an additional non-meat (at least, for a while) outlet for the male lambs.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #24 on: August 01, 2021, 12:35:53 am »
There's a farm in the Falklands run for fleece using wethers.  I don't know the full mechanics of the place but I do know that when the sheep reach 7 years old they are slaughtered and their bodies thrown into the sea for the marine wildlife to feast on. The reason given for that is that the fleece deteriorates after 7 years.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #25 on: August 01, 2021, 12:39:38 am »
@rach9  you have inspired a good discussion here, but where are you?  Several people have taken a lot of time and thought to come up with ideas to help you explore the possibilities of your position, but we need your input to know if our ideas are helpful or way off the mark.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

rach9

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Can I be a sheep farmer NOT for meat?
« Reply #26 on: August 01, 2021, 04:00:07 am »
Thank you for all your comments I really do appreciate, I am certainly not winding anybody up I genuinely as stated do not have a clue in the farming world what is achievable  with farm land (mainly all grass land) other than meat, they have always been farmed with cows, I will be advertising the land out to rent once I take over now you have confirmed there is no such thing as farming NOT for meat, I will always have have lots of pets including Larry who will be coming with us, but I certainly do not want any financial commitments for a flock of sheep just pets to why I asked if other ways (wool etc) I would love a petting zoo or rescue but this is not something I could do at this stage of my life, maybe for the future I would love nothing more,  the land comes with holiday cottages which will certainly keep me busy along with my other holiday lodges close by, I will be doing what originally planned and thank you for all your advice and comments x

 

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