Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Why should I keep sheep?  (Read 16302 times)

Birdie Wife

  • Joined Oct 2008
Why should I keep sheep?
« on: November 12, 2008, 11:43:28 am »
I was thinking quite seriously about keeping a few sheep but now having costed it out, it's not making that much sense to me.  I'm still open to persuasion though...

Basically I just want to be more responsible for the food that goes on our plates.  There's just me and OH at the moment though - and for the price of the grazing we could feed ourselves with locally produced lamb very easily, without the extra cost implications of buying stock and all the extras that go with keeping them. I could biuld up a small flock and sell off the spares but after visiting the local rare breed sale and noting the amazingly low prices sheep were going for (eg. a lovely purebred Gotland ram for 35... pure hebridean ewes 22 each... quality gotland x shetlands with gorgeous fleeces 18 each...) I'm thinking that it wouldn't even cover the cost of fuel to get them down there.

So if you think I should still be looking for grazing and getting some stock on it, please give me some reasons, because I'm on a bit of a downer on it at the moment!


  • Joined Nov 2008
Re: Why should I keep sheep?
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2008, 01:28:28 pm »
I kept Suffocks a few years ago, we have our own grazing so just the cost of winter feed etc. I loved looking after them and only gave them up when my back started giving me problems. Now going to go for a smaller breed. The thing is having your own if they are for your freezer you know just what they have been fed, how they have been kept. Prices for sheep seem to be low all over at the moment which I find very strange as lamb cost enough in the supermarkets. If you were looking at it as a way to make money then better to wait untill the prices get better but then it will cost you more to start your flock off.  Things have to get better at some point.  :)

Birdie Wife

  • Joined Oct 2008
Re: Why should I keep sheep?
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2008, 01:37:53 pm »
I don't really want to make money from it, I just wanted it to pay for itself and put some homegrown and responsible meat on the table. But at the moment it's looking like it's much cheaper to support my local farmers instead (which is also a good thing).


  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Clackmannanshire
  • Qui? Moi?
    • ABERDON GUNDOGS for work and show
    • Facebook
Re: Why should I keep sheep?
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2008, 01:57:50 pm »
Well, I have an acre, probably not enough for sheep anyway - admittedly presently all in garden, but having seen Rosemary and Dan's place, I could section it off into bits - plan to do that anyway if anyone wants to use a bit under a Landshare sgreement.  But even if I had more land I don't think I'd keep sheep.  A lot of hassle, worry, cost, getting feet done and shearing, worming, keeping bums clear of maggots, and heartbreak at the end when they go to slaughter.  I can't help having relationships with my animals, and it's bad enough when one of the chickens or ducks dies, not to mention the dogs and cats. So I'll stick to buying local produce instead and help keep the economy going.
Always have been, always will be, a WYSIWYG - black is black, white is white - no grey in my life! But I'm mellowing in my old age


  • Joined Jun 2008
    • golocal food
    • Facebook
Re: Why should I keep sheep?
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2008, 04:53:07 pm »
keeping small numbers of sheep isn't really cost effective but it IS a very nice hobby and you do get nice meat at the end of it all. However if you just want some nice well looked after Lamb and Mutton why not get in touch with some local smallholders and do a deal with them for a half lamb every so often? That way you'll pay less than supermarket and the smallholder will get more then Mart prices. We offer half lamb boxes every 6 weeks or so locally and i'm sure others will do the same. not every pedigree animal is worth thousands....except in my dreams


  • Joined Oct 2008
  • Aberdeen Shire
Re: Why should I keep sheep?
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2008, 01:13:10 pm »
I started my flock last year and there seems to be a lot more expenditure than income but hoping by the end of the year to start making some money.  I have to agree that there is no money to be made in small numbers of sheep, just fuel alone makes in efficient. If you have the space put as many as possible, there is very little difference work wise the more you have.

We have Lleyn sheep, very hardy and easy lambers and they went for about 55/60  a head fat, gimmers were about 85 to buy in and not sure about Rams lambs yet
Chasing sheep - keeps you young

Birdie Wife

  • Joined Oct 2008
Re: Why should I keep sheep?
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2008, 11:27:48 am »
Thanks for all replies, that's really useful and confirmed my thoughts.  As far as hobbies that pay for themselves go, I think I'll stick to chickens!  At the recent auction at Dingwall (rare/minority/native breeds), you could have bought at least 6 sheep for the price of one pair of chickens!! And prices for Scottish breeds (Scots dumpies, Scots Grey) were particularly buoyant (I keep scots dumpies but haven't built my flock up to the stage of selling surplus... yet  ;)).

Out of interest, how much time per week/day does it take to look after your flock?


  • Joined Feb 2008
  • Near Bodmin, Cornwall
    • Val Grainger
Re: Why should I keep sheep?
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2008, 01:13:54 pm »
OK I will put my oar in here!!!

Commercial sheep bought and raised the 'traditional way' will never make you money unless you are a large concern eg 600 ewes plus with superb breeding ewes and a good commercial tup..........and even then prices are about the same as in 1986..........with double the cost and hassle..........this is why so many are in the doldrums re sheep.

However as with everything inginuity(sp?) and diversification are what it takes!! a little thought about what people want rather than flooding markets!

I keep speciality sheep.................up until last year I had some commercials, a good pedigree flock of Dorset Downs and other breeding groups of Shetlands, Ouessants and the odd Wensleydale!

I made a profit, not large from direct marketing of meat, wool and skins...........but a profit all the same!

Now i have diversified further into more wool processing, making felt, knitting wool, skins, meat etc and have set up a plant for other small wool producers to use to make money from their wool.
I now keep Ouessants, Gotlands and Wensleydales and Wensley crosses and am using a Gotland ram on all large sheep.
Well coloured Wensleydale and Gotland skins are worth approx 70 each, often more!
The wool is highly sought after and usable in my wool business.....we can turn it into a product worth 60 a kg
The meat is good too!
I keep Ouessants for their wool and because they are very rare in GB but also because they are sought after and sell well (I have lambs booked for 09) are very friendly and easy to handle (I can pick them up and carry them!!)
They are all easy lambing hardy sheep and I spend approx 1-2 hours a week checking them etc as they are often down in the village and I drive past on my way somewhere and have a quick check every day. Occaisionally hours will rise for days when we are moving fields, doing feet, drenching etc but keeping on top of stock tasks means we are never spending unneccessary time. I only keep easy lambing sheep as I do not want to sleep with them for 8 weeks :D and we have a good lambing percentage and rarely lose a lamb.

Last year I had 100 sheep, this year I keep 25 as I am busy with the wool peocessing.
www.berry land

Overall winner of the Devon Environmental Business Awards 2009


  • Joined Oct 2008
  • Aberdeen Shire
Re: Why should I keep sheep?
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2008, 09:09:24 pm »
I reckon that I spend a whole 5 minutes a day on my sheep.  I just go up to the field and count the ewes to make sure they are all there with their legs pointing down and they aren't all lame.  Also looking to see how many the tup has covered at the moment.  I also probably spend at least 4 or 5 hours every 6 weeks/2months bringing them all in, looking over them, doing feet, drenching, vacs or what ever needs done at that time of year.
There is also 3 weeks (if your lucky, it can last a bit longer than that) of the year when it 90 hours plus per week for lambing.  My OHs cows seem to manage to get on with it fine, but sheep aren't content just to die themselves but usually prefer it if they can lamb into a ditch, a trough, against a wall. half under a fence, generally making it a difficult as poss for poor little lambys.
Chasing sheep - keeps you young


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