Agri Vehicles Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Getting started  (Read 2795 times)


  • Joined Apr 2013
Getting started
« on: April 23, 2013, 04:39:05 pm »
Hi all  :wave:

After two years contemplating I have decided to give keeping sheep a try. Or rather starting a proper flock for slaughter.

We have two, year old ewes our kids whinned about getting some orphan lambs to bottle feed and we gave in and got two last easter hols, as expected the kids lost interest after a week and I took over the feeds, they are now well grown and its been very enjoyable having them, so it got me thinking about taking it up a level and getting a small flock together but..although there seems to be no shortage of advice for a orphan lamb pet, getting advice on starting a flock doesnt seem to bring much help from the local farmers.

So.. Heres where im at, I have a holding number etc, there is 10 acres of decent grazing, an outbuilding for keeping them in winter time, a good local vet. What I need is advice on how to actually go about it.

Should I wait till tupping time and ask a local farmer for a go of his ram? Tup my two and all going well I would have a couple of lambs next spring? This seems like a lenghty process to get a flock together?

Or should I try to get hold of some orphans now and fatten them up for slaughter instead of breeding? Or get lambs and keep them till they can be bred from next year and sell their lambs after grown and rebreed the original mums?
Not sure if there are many lambs available this year as so many were lost in the snow.

Also what do you do with the male lambs you get? Taking one or two boy lambs to the abbatoir which is a 30min drive wouldnt make financial sense and I want to run this as a profitable venture not a costly hobby!

Does anyone take half a dozen well grown lambs at a time to slaughter and make a profit? I dont want to call the slaughter house and ask for prices because I have no idea if thats "the done thing" and im scared I wont understand the terms, sadly I dont spik farmer and am not down with the lingo. :-[
Do you ask to open an account?  Or ask to book them in? Do I pay them then and there or do they subtract their fee from the carcass price?

Any advice would be great, Thank you

Looking forward to hearing  ;)


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Getting started
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2013, 05:43:28 pm »
For taking lambs for slaughter, we approach a butcher first, he then says when he will be able to chop them up, so we work backwards to when to book them in for slaughter, allowing a few days to hang them (this tenderises and relaxes the meat).  Not all abattoirs will do small batches of lambs, so it could well be worth your while to go along and ask at the office (mornings, as they knock off in the early afternoon, to be back at crack of sparrows the next day).  Many abattoirs only kill sheep on certain days, or pigs or whatever.  You could also ask to see round the facility and check for yourself that they kill in a humane way that you are satisfied with for your animals.
Don't try to pull the wool over their eyes by making out that you know what you are talking about - they are far more likely to be helpful if they know you are a beginner, so they would use more understandable language and explain things more carefully.
It is well worth your while getting to know the staff at your abattoir and showing them that you care how your animals are treated.  The staff are unexpectedly caring people and like the sheep breeders to be likewise.
The butcher pays the bill when he collects the carcases then adds the slaughter charge to your bill. 
There are many rules and regulations about taking sheep for slaughter which you really do have to stick to.  In particular following your question, if you slaughter your lambs yourself then you are the only person who can consume it.  So slaughter charges are something you have to allow for in your accounting.  Half an hour to the abattoir is relatively close !!
For starting a flock, think carefully before you dive in.  There are two types of sheep rearing - one for purely meat and one for raising breeding stock to sell on to other breeders, and those that don't make the grade go in the freezer.
There are all sorts of breeds of sheep available, so have a look around and find out which ones appeal to you, which ones are most suitable for the type of enterprise you want, which breeds have fewest problems, which would provide a good pelt to get tanned to add a bit extra to your margins and which you can afford.  There is quite some controversy about whether to breed from orphan lambs, and some birthing and mothering problems are hereditary, so your lambs may be carrying an unsuitable gene - and if you are picking up orphan lambs from a mart you won't know their history or how they have been cared for before appearing in the mart.  I must admit I wouldn't deliberately buy in orphans from a mart ever, but then my enterprise is breeding pedigree breeding stock.
Just looking through the posts on TAS there seem to be a disproportionate number of problems with orphan lambs which have been bought in, with accompanying vet and knacker bills
In the autumn, when lambs have been weaned, there are a number of sales of breeding sheep, where you could pick up a bargain.  To make any enterprise profitable it really is worth investing initially in good stock, of whatever breed you choose.
Making a quick profit from a few sheep will never make you rich and may lead you to try and cut corners at the expense of the animals' welfare, but in the long run the more attention you pay to their welfare the better they will perform.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 05:58:59 pm by Fleecewife »
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

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


  • Joined Feb 2012
  • Ludlow,Shropshire
Re: Getting started
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2013, 06:49:07 pm »
I have been trying to find a tanner for AGES, do you know one who will do one or two fleeces?

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: Getting started
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2013, 07:12:59 pm »
Suggest you first read Tim Tyne's sheep book cover-to-cover as it will give you a clear idea of what you're letting yourself in for.  If you wanted to try the easy route you could make hay on your 10 acres this summer and perhaps consider buying a few 3 or 4 year old in-lamb mules ewes in the Autumn and sell them with lambs at foot the following Spring. 


  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: Getting started
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2013, 08:08:45 pm »
If its all sheep, 10 ac should do you 15 sheep in the winter and 30 (with lambs) in the summer. So; what I'd do is get 10-15 to begin with and shut half your fields up in summer to make hay on (or graze cattle or whatever else you like). You could do them all on grass at that stocking density (assuming decentish pasture).

you could put the finished lambs in the mart, but you'll make more money if you find private customers for them, and that should be easily doable with the numbers of lambs you'll produce. It wont make you much per annum, but it'll be a nice little revenue stream.


  • Joined Apr 2013
Re: Getting started
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2013, 08:24:58 pm »
Thanks for posting.

To clarify when I say orphan lambs its just one the many terms used round here like sicky lambs,poddy lambs etc
they are both from triplets - from a large healthy flock - no worries on quality/health of these sheep.

Also when I say slaughter I mean take them to the abbatoir not do it personally.

Great advice about the visiting them, I will do this and hopefully they will be as helpfull as what yours are  :)
I wont make any effort to pretend to know things I dont to them - hence this post!
I suppose half an hour is a relativley close, im just thinking of towing the trailer with a disco and wondering if its economical - I guess I need to know what kind of prices the lamb would acheive.

On that note are lamb prices fairly consistent or are there seasonal highs and lows?

Two years isnt really "diving in" so carefull thought - tick, just need the know how on increasing flock.

What im thinking is rearing purely for meat. When you say you approach the butcher first does that mean you take them from the abattoir to the butcher? Im thinking more of me - abbotoir, a one stop shop type arrangement?

There is no expectation of "getting rich" just not costing me and making some and cutting corners isnt an option and like the cats,dogs,horses and hens they will have my 24/7 attention so no concern on the welfare!
 its not animal husbandry advice Im looking for, its increasing sheep numbers effectively and economically!

I cant comment on your advice about the mart as i have never been to one.

Marches Farmer, thanks, I already cut my own hay.

Anyone have any advice on whats the best option for any ram lambs I may get? That would be great  ;D


  • Joined Nov 2008
Re: Getting started
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2013, 08:37:11 pm »
I would suggest you go for cross bred ewes that will produce good meat lambs. Any male lambs can be sold for meat and if born early enough you may get them ready for sale when lamb prices are high, Do this by researching your area. Up our way high prices seem to be end of June into July. Buy the best ewes you can and ask around to see if anyone could lease or lend you a good pure bred Tup.


  • Joined Apr 2013
Re: Getting started
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2013, 08:41:41 pm »
Thank you Steve and Sabrina

Thats great. Also will they thrive on any hay type? Ours is a meadow type its clean (never had the content checked)

Do they have a prefrence on hay type that I could look into having sown?

Thanks  :thumbsup:


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Getting started
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2013, 03:26:55 pm »
<<< When you say you approach the butcher first does that mean you take them from the abattoir to the butcher? Im thinking more of me - abbotoir, a one stop shop type arrangement? >>>
No, you choose a butcher unless the abattoir has one attached.  Our local abattoir does, but it's not the best butcher we've ever used, so we go elsewhere.  Presentation is part of the trick of selling.
Once you have identified a butcher who is happy to cut your carcases, charges a reasonable rate, does a good job and already collects from your abattoir, then go to see him - on your own, no sheep in tow  ;D  Discuss with him when he could cut your animals as close to their ideal weight date as possible.  He will be familiar with the way that abattoir works, so might suggest that you book the animals in for a particular day and date. You then phone the abattoir to book them in, checking what time they want them in by, and if you can take them the afternoon before if that suits you (gives them time to dry out and empty their guts if you have nowhere to keep them in overnight at home). You then take them to the abattoir.  The sheep are killed and hung in their cold store for the chosen time.  The butcher then goes with his refrigerated van to pick them up and takes them back to his shop to chop them up.  You then collect from his shop when they are ready.  We also go in on the day he collects them so we can see how each animal has grown, as a double check of our husbandry, before he chops them up.  Sometimes we can identify individual animals at this stage which is good for assessing their quality.
If you mean that you want to sell the sheep to the butcher or to the abattoir, then I have no idea how to do that, but I'm sure someone else will know.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2013, 03:29:53 pm by Fleecewife »
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

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


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