The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Livestock => Sheep => Topic started by: Stereo on August 27, 2014, 05:12:25 pm

Title: Cheap sheep
Post by: Stereo on August 27, 2014, 05:12:25 pm
I've got a 5 acre field where we keep chickens and next year I need to get some sheep to mow is our grazier has moved on. The plan is to paddock it up. I have moveable chicken housing and about 6 small flocks in 50 meter nets. Big problem with nets is in spring / summer, the grass grows up an shorts them. Also the grass gets long in the pen and there is worm burden etc. Int he winter the hens decimate the grass. So I plan a series of paddocks slightly larger than a net which the sheep will clear down tight and then the chickens go in. Each paddock has 4 corner posts which has 2 strands of polywire for the sheep and then are used to tighten the net for the hens.

So, being in the South West on old permanent pasture, how many ewes am I looking at? I will have extra land and woodland Nov-Feb where I can winter them so that's not an issue.

Secondly, as they are only mowers, how much am I looking at paying? An idea I had was to buy old ewes (quite like Shropshires as it will be planted to orchard too) who maybe have a lamb left in them and put them to a pure ram to get some replacements for the next season. Are old ewes cheaper than younguns? If so, how much cheaper.
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: twizzel on August 27, 2014, 05:51:38 pm
Problem with older ewes is they can often come with their own problems- poor feet, only 1 udder working, poor teeth, possible lambing issues such as miss mothering, prolapse, behavioural/over protectiveness. so if you did go down that route I would pay particular attention to those areas mentioned above. If grass is your issue during the summer months what about some store lambs? That way they would chew the excess grass down but be gone for winter.
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: Stereo on August 27, 2014, 06:03:07 pm
I looked at stores early this year but a neighbour wanted 60 quid for them which seemed steep to me. I know they will be doing a job but I can't see much margin in there, especially with a few vets bills thrown in if required.  I kind of wanted something I could pick up cheapish and use the to start my own flock. It's the way we did chickens. Picked up a few old welsummers and a free cockerel and now up to nearly 50 hens and lots of meat in the freezer just from those original 4 old hens.

What sort of age do pure breed sheep start having problems like you mention? I should be able to keep them on decent dry ground with good grass for most of the year.
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: Yeoman on August 27, 2014, 06:12:15 pm
I can't help thinking that, unless you're specifically interested in keeping sheep, you'd be better off finding someone to make hay off your five acres.  That will be straight profit for you.

Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: mowhaugh on August 27, 2014, 06:23:59 pm
I wouldn't necessarily agree with older ewes coming with problems, they should have been kept in their flock until that point as they have been successful sheep, not those with problems.  I don't know about in the area you live in, I would imagine it is the same for some farms, but because our farm is pretty rough going, we only lamb our sheep four times, then sell them as drafts.  They are probably the easiest thing we sell, there is good demand for those warranted sound in mouth (we would consider this to be at least six teeth left including the front two) and udder. Some buyers lamb them once more, some twice, some until they die.  You'd probably need to lamb your first lot twice until your first lambs you bred were ready to lamb themselves.  Up here you would be able to buy good serviceable draft ewes, without being anything special, for 55 - 60.  Is going to be more for a pure breed is they are rarer, though I don't know anything about Shropshires specifically.
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: Me on August 27, 2014, 06:30:18 pm
You can pay 60 for a cull for zero useful years left or 60 for a fat ewe lamb with six years left in it. The lamb seems like better value to me!
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: Stereo on August 27, 2014, 07:36:54 pm
I can't help thinking that, unless you're specifically interested in keeping sheep, you'd be better off finding someone to make hay off your five acres.  That will be straight profit for you.

No chance of making hay. It's steep and rough. The only thing we have been successful with is a self propelled 4' flail mover which we have attacked the thistles and brambles with but that's a lot of fuel over a year. Excellent machine mind you for clearing scrub.

The pasture has been poorly grazed for many years, by which I mean it's had sheep on it 35 days a year so the grass is hammered and the weeds are taking over. I want to get a proper grazing program on it to regenerate the sward. Chicken muck will help.

So I need some mowers but would like to get in cheap with a longer term plan to develop. I'm thinking pure breeds but thought maybe older ewes could be got more cheaply. 
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: Beeducked on August 27, 2014, 07:50:06 pm

Secondly, as they are only mowers, how much am I looking at paying? An idea I had was to buy old ewes (quite like Shropshires as it will be planted to orchard too) who maybe have a lamb left in them and put them to a pure ram to get some replacements for the next season. Are old ewes cheaper than younguns? If so, how much cheaper.


I have no personal experience of Shropshires but was talking to a friend who keeps them as we had been looking at them too and he said that his decimated their trees so be careful on that front.
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: moony on August 27, 2014, 08:17:31 pm
We used to go down the cull/draft ewe route but found that for every one that is a bargain and lambs fine and does its lambs well there is another that has issues that cost you. You can guarantee anything running on one cylinder will have twins and ones that do have twins that are correct below will need stuffing with feed to support them and their lambs. Buy fat ewe lambs and use them or pay more and get good hoggs. A fraction more initial outlay but it will pay dividends in the long run.
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: Blacksheep on August 27, 2014, 10:07:58 pm
Have a look on the Shropshire Sheep Breeders Association website, there should be details of flocks in your area and you can contact them to see if they have any older ewes available.  Also they have a contact person for advice on buying sheep, as well as advice on the web site for grazing in trees, which I think you need to consider for this to work.   
We started last year and bought a 1 crop and a 2 crop ewe which had been run with the ram, they produced one lamb between them.  Also bought a shearling ewe from the pedigree sale who the breeder took home to run with their ram, and she had twin. Paid around 220 for each ewe.  150ea for ewe lambs.
There is a pedigree sale soon in Melton Mowbray, and non MV accredited sheep will probably sell more cheaply.   


I would also want to check that the ground would be safe for grazing sheep, I am not sure if the copper levels would become too elevated to be safe on land used for chickens also?
 
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: ShaunP on August 27, 2014, 10:13:55 pm
I have Shropshires in my Xmas trees and they don't eat them!!! Can't say about any other trees.


I have 3 ewe lambs that didn't get registered as I hadn't joined the club. If you are interested then I would be looking for around 80 each or they will go in meat boxes in a months time.
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: Blacksheep on August 27, 2014, 10:26:53 pm
And we have a ram lamb offered for sale fairly cheap.  :)
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: mowhaugh on August 27, 2014, 10:56:41 pm
Banging on a bit here, but if you are buying for a reputable source, there should be a big difference between a cull ewe and a draft - a draft is being sold as a reliable breeding sheep completely fit for purpose (i.e. both sides of udder OK at time of sale etc. etc), just in need of milder climes in middle age, a cull ewe is cull for a reason.

When we were lambing our own drafts at an earlier stage in developing our business, as we were trying to increase sheep numbers, they did cost us more per head as they took more feeding and were housed some of the time, but always gave us the highest tupping to weaning percentage and the fewest problems at lambing time - old hands who knew the score.  Of course I am not saying you'd never get a problem with a draft, they are sheep after all, but I think it is important to distinguish between a ewe being sold on as a proper draft, and a ewe which no longer has a useful purpose.
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: SallyintNorth on August 28, 2014, 08:26:15 am
Well explained, mowhaugh  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: Anke on August 28, 2014, 09:05:22 am
Sheep, and especially lambs and electric netting don't work. Adult ewes can be well kept behind electric tape (as long as there is reasonable grass in their paddock area), but lambs are a different story.

Sheep will also do anything (including mowing down your electric netting with possible disastrous consequences for said sheep) to get to layers pellets - something in there makes them irresistible to all other livestock... and they are not meant for sheep after all.

Just something to think about.
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: Marches Farmer on August 28, 2014, 09:23:28 am
If you have rough ground are you prepared to buy in hay and feed for them over a bad Winter?  Do you have some housing for when the going gets really tough or if one of the sheep has a problem?  We normally only house for lambing but last Winter the ground was so wet (though not flooded) we got the pregnant ewes in in January for 6 weeks and only turned them out briefly so we could clean out the shed ready for them to come back in for lambing. It was hard work, and they romped through the hay stock for the first fortnight, but we didn't lose a single ewe, which is more than could be said for our neigbours who didn't house theirs.

Any breed of sheep will eat trees if they're hungry enough!
Title: Re: Cheap sheep
Post by: Stereo on August 28, 2014, 10:08:37 am
I've got about 40 more acres Nov- Feb with some good high ground which stays dry. Also about 5 acres of woodland.  With the sort of numbers I am looking at, I imagine a temporary shelter could be knocked up with straw bales, 4x2 and some roof panels.