Agri Vehicles Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: How to start  (Read 598 times)

Startingout

  • Joined Dec 2021
How to start
« on: December 27, 2021, 09:22:45 pm »
We're near the South coast of England and have the opportunity to keep sheep on around 4 acres. I know from reading the forum that everyone has their favourites but wondered if anyone could advise a good breed to start with for novices? The land owner has kept sheep before and we know a sheep farmer, so not totally alone but it's not like Devon/Yorkshire/Wales where there are sheep everywhere, either.

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: How to start
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2021, 07:57:33 am »
Most sheep breeds require the same day to day care. If you want to lamb them then avoid the continental breeds for the minute like beltex, probably texel.


If the land owner has had sheep before see what they suggest. Maybe a commercial crossbred would be a good place to start rather than pedigree, mules are very good mothers, milky etc.


The more important thing to think about is where you buy the sheep from. If you buy from a big commercial farm you may struggle to handle them esp without a dog. If you buy from a smallholder they should come to a bucket rattling and would probably be a bit quieter to handle. I started with Lleyns, good sheep that arenít too expensive to get into pedigrees, exemplary mothers. I bought my foundation ewes from a couple of different farmers; 1 group of ewes have proven to be that good that most of my ewes are related to them now, the other were that bad that only 1 remains and her lambs go fat every year  :roflanim:

Richmond

  • Joined Sep 2020
  • Norfolk
Re: How to start
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2021, 08:54:52 am »
You may want to consider what you want the sheep for - pets, meat, grass cutters or a combination of all. When we started out we knew we didnt want to have the cost/hassle of shearing, so chose shedding breeds - Wiltshire Horn and Soay. We also wanted something that would do well on our very poor grazing, would be hardy with good feet and would be good milky mums, and also pretty to look at. WH and Soay tick all the boxes for us.
On the downside shedding sheep rub the hell out of fences so they need to be super strong!
Everyone has their favourites - I'm sure you'll get loads of replies  :)

Startingout

  • Joined Dec 2021
Re: How to start
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2021, 09:16:09 am »
I think we'd like to maybe get some store lambs to start with, so that we can learn how to care for them. The owner already has 2 sheep that have never been bred from. We're happy to start small.

The local farmer has mules, so we could buy some from him. Or I was wondering if Shetlands would be good, as 4 acres isn't a huge amount of land?

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: How to start
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2021, 11:19:00 am »
With only 4 acres you will start to run out of land soon - not enough land to run a breeding flock.


I would only raise lambs for the freezer or have a non-breeding flock of fibre breeds (they can be mixed and wethers are best for that), but you would need to learn how to shear or make sure you have ready access to a shearer.




Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: How to start
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2021, 01:58:45 pm »
You ask about Shetlands.  They are an ideal starter breed as they are fairly small and hardy, good mothers usually, very full of character and have the advantage that they can be roo'd (where the fleece is not shorn but carefully pulled off, separating old growth from the new season's growth - takes a bit longer than shearing but with a small flock that doesn't matter)
As Richmond points out, you need to know why you want sheep. Shetlands are good eating, great as rather over friendly pets and lawn mowers, there is a good showing interest around and their fleece is great for spinning, felting and selling to crafters - all possible income sources, except the pet one! And of course if you decide you don't like them after all, then eat them.
Anke's point about 4 acres not being very big for a flock is a good one.  You have to be sure that if you choose to breed from your ewes, that you have an end point in mind for the lambs - sell them on or send them for slaughter.  Keeping too many sheep on an acreage leads to overstocking, poor grazing quality, worm burdens and poor stock health.
"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.

Startingout

  • Joined Dec 2021
Re: How to start
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2021, 02:08:16 pm »
Fleece, meat and friendly lawn mowers are all great. There are a few nice fields next to the land but I don't yet know who owns them or what they do with them.


SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: How to start
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2021, 02:38:07 pm »
4 acres of south coast land will comfortably carry quite a few sheep over summer, so breeding isn't impossible.  But there would be quite a lot to factor in, so it's definitely best not to rush into getting breeding stock.  It's a great idea to start with store sheep, so you get used to the routine care without the longterm commitment and before adding lambing to the mix  :thumbsup:

Once you have the basics down, you will know more about what you like and dislike about the sheep and the various jobs, and that can help inform your choice of breed, if you decide to go that route.  Sticking with buying in store lambs each year is a completely viable option, and there are other non-breeding options too, if you decide to keep it simple. 

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: How to start
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2021, 02:56:47 pm »
Just for example, here are two viable schemes for breeding on your 4 acres.

1.  Buy Mule ewes and produce fat and store lambs. 

You say there are mules in the area.  A Mule to a Texel type commercial tup will produce good fat lambs, many of whom will fatten before their first winter.  So you could have a flock of say 6 mule ewes, tup them for approx 12 lambs between them, and sell all 12 lambs (fat or store according to how they do) in or by October.  18 mouths in summer - no problem on your good ground, and just the 6 ewes to overwinter, so no probs on your 4 acres with that.  You could even hold a few of the smaller lambs back to fatten and sell after New Year.

2.  Plump for a small breed, eg Shetlands, and produce meat.

(What you would struggle to do on your 4 acres is produce the numbers you would need in order to build a reputation as a producer of pedigree breeding sheep.  So if you do decide to choose a breed and breed pure, it would be for pleasure and meat.)

4 breeding ewes to produce approx 7 lambs each year.  Some of the lambs may be ready by end October, but many will need to overwinter and fitten in spring, so you would either be carrying some hoggs through winter, or would have to find an outlet for store lambs.  If there are other smallholders about, the latter may be easy to do, but they won't be of interest to "proper" farmers. 

It's a guess without seeing the land but I would anticipate that 4 acres of southern land would happily manage something like 4 primitive ewes and 4 overwintering hoggs, with a peak population after lambing of 20 (4 ewes. 4 fittening hoggs and the 7 or 8 new lambs.)   If you find an outlet for your store lambs, you could go up to say 8 ewes, as you would have only them over winter, and 4 acres which hasn't been trashed over winter should  easily feed 8 small ewes with their 14-16 lambs in summer.
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

Startingout

  • Joined Dec 2021
Re: How to start
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2021, 03:12:25 pm »
Just for example, here are two viable schemes for breeding on your 4 acres.

1.  Buy Mule ewes and produce fat and store lambs. 

You say there are mules in the area.  A Mule to a Texel type commercial tup will produce good fat lambs, many of whom will fatten before their first winter.  So you could have a flock of say 6 mule ewes, tup them for approx 12 lambs between them, and sell all 12 lambs (fat or store according to how they do) in or by October.  18 mouths in summer - no problem on your good ground, and just the 6 ewes to overwinter, so no probs on your 4 acres with that.  You could even hold a few of the smaller lambs back to fatten and sell after New Year.

2.  Plump for a small breed, eg Shetlands, and produce meat.

(What you would struggle to do on your 4 acres is produce the numbers you would need in order to build a reputation as a producer of pedigree breeding sheep.  So if you do decide to choose a breed and breed pure, it would be for pleasure and meat.)

4 breeding ewes to produce approx 7 lambs each year.  Some of the lambs may be ready by end October, but many will need to overwinter and fitten in spring, so you would either be carrying some hoggs through winter, or would have to find an outlet for store lambs.  If there are other smallholders about, the latter may be easy to do, but they won't be of interest to "proper" farmers. 

It's a guess without seeing the land but I would anticipate that 4 acres of southern land would happily manage something like 4 primitive ewes and 4 overwintering hoggs, with a peak population after lambing of 20 (4 ewes. 4 fittening hoggs and the 7 or 8 new lambs.)   If you find an outlet for your store lambs, you could go up to say 8 ewes, as you would have only them over winter, and 4 acres which hasn't been trashed over winter should  easily feed 8 small ewes with their 14-16 lambs in summer.

Wow, thanks. You're all amazing. I'll give it a good read. We're not looking to start yet - fencing is the first priority.

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: How to start
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2021, 03:42:49 pm »
If you have the low numbers others suggest - you will need to mow in the summer (or make hay from part of the field). 4 ewes and their lambs will never eat down 4 acres in summer.


Are you buying the land or renting? If the latter, are you paying for the fencing or the owner?


If you buy the land I would be very tempted to subdivide the field right away to allow for rotational grazing. Depends on your finances though.

Startingout

  • Joined Dec 2021
Re: How to start
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2021, 03:57:37 pm »
If you have the low numbers others suggest - you will need to mow in the summer (or make hay from part of the field). 4 ewes and their lambs will never eat down 4 acres in summer.


Are you buying the land or renting? If the latter, are you paying for the fencing or the owner?


If you buy the land I would be very tempted to subdivide the field right away to allow for rotational grazing. Depends on your finances though.

Renting would be the closest way of describing the arrangement. We're doing a barter style arrangement. The land owner will meet costs. The land is already subdivided roughly into acres.

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: How to start
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2021, 04:10:46 pm »
Just be careful the land owner doesnít overcharge your. For 4 acres I wouldnít pay much at all of anything, but give them some lamb each year and a bottle of something at Christmas. Donít pay horse rents !

Startingout

  • Joined Dec 2021
Re: How to start
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2021, 05:35:41 pm »
Just be careful the land owner doesnít overcharge your. For 4 acres I wouldnít pay much at all of anything, but give them some lamb each year and a bottle of something at Christmas. Donít pay horse rents !

No rent, just a fair share of lamb, is the agreement.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: How to start
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2021, 08:29:59 pm »
Just be careful the land owner doesnít overcharge your. For 4 acres I wouldnít pay much at all of anything, but give them some lamb each year and a bottle of something at Christmas. Donít pay horse rents !

No rent, just a fair share of lamb, is the agreement.

Just a hint of a warning:  friendly agreements with neighbours are lovely to start off with, but you have no security.  You need to have a Plan B for if the neighbour suddenly decides you can't have the land again or any more, as of now, so what can you do with your flock?  Such an arrangement can work for some people, but do keep that in the back of your mind when buying sheep, or any livestock
"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.

 

A bad start

Started by Emmam (5.76)

Replies: 4
Views: 2141
Last post May 01, 2012, 11:26:10 pm
by Emmam
What a start!

Started by colliewoman (5.76)

Replies: 13
Views: 4699
Last post April 05, 2013, 05:25:30 pm
by Anke
Where to start with worming etc

Started by Declan (5.7)

Replies: 3
Views: 2339
Last post October 16, 2009, 11:19:09 pm
by Declan
BEST BREED TO START WITH

Started by karmahill (5.7)

Replies: 16
Views: 5863
Last post March 02, 2010, 03:29:04 pm
by Red Kite
Bad start- help needed

Started by Declan (5.7)

Replies: 1
Views: 1433
Last post March 04, 2012, 11:41:29 am
by feldar

Forum sponsors

FibreHut Energy Helpline Thomson & Morgan Time for Paws Scottish Smallholder & Grower Festival Ark Farm Livestock Movement Service

© The Accidental Smallholder Ltd 2003-2022. All rights reserved.

Design by Furness Internet

Site developed by Champion IS