The grass at the new Rolling Bay Farm is already starting to get tall. I need to get some sheep out there ASAP or else we’ll either be doing a lot of mowing or when we do get a flock on the pasture the grass will be too tall and the sheep won’t be able to eat it.
I’ve been wrestling with what breed of sheep to get. And I’ve already thought so much about it I think I’ve gone in complete circles. In past years I’ve gotten feeder lambs and grown them to market weight.
I’ve raised Katahdins and also Suffolk crosses. I like the Katahdins for the fact they are a hair sheep (they shed like a dog) and I don’t have to fuss with shearing. Their meat was good, but the carcasses a bit small at about 44lbs hanging wieght at about 9 months of age. The Suffolk crosses hung out at about 50 lbs.
So, here are the variables that I’m playing around with in trying to figure out what type of sheep to get. 1) carcass hanging wieght 2) reproduction rate 3) wool (maybe).
Wool is kind of a wild card for me. I think it is more of a nuisance then another revenue stream. I used to have these images of me spinning my own wool from my quaint handspinners flock and knitting away. My first dose of reality came when I realized I CAN’T KNIT! I took a knitting class AND bought “Knitting for Dummies“ Nada. I figured that’s OK. I’m into tactial stuff – I’ll just spin. Took a spinning class. Which was great because I learned how to card wool and also what handspinners look for in fleece. But, ummm, spinning is really HARD. That is one skill set I just don’t think I’ll master.
So, the importance of wool is a “maybe” for me. If we have a cute farm stand it could work out as another item to stock. We’d have to have someone shear and then send it out for processing. For my calculations I’ll assume wool is a zero sum game.
There are a number of things you can do to get higher reproduction rates for your flock. The most common one is to breed twice a year. This is more overhead then I think I want. I like to do all of our slaughtering in the fall and have any easier winter. The other thing is to get a breed or line that has a lot of twinning or multiple births.
To that end the Finnsheep has caught my eye. They are known to have “litters of lambs” – three to four being quiet common. They are known to have nice wool. The lambs should hang at a smaller size of 44 lbs. They are a bit hard to find and it would not be the least expensive option to purchase as a starter flock. Upside is that with all those babies it would be quick to build up your flock!
Here is my number crunching to help me decide on a breed with wool or no wool and lots of lambs that are light versus less that are heavier.
- Flock is one ram and 6 ewes
- Cost to butcher is $45/lamb
- Shearing costs $15/sheep
Six ewes would produce 1.5 lambs each = 9 lambs per year. They hang at 44 lbs each = 396 lbs. Meat sells for $4/lb = $1,584. slaughtering 9 lambs costs $405. Locker lamb profit = $1,179
Six ewes would produce 3 lambs each = 18 lambs per year. They hang at 44 lbs each = 792 lbs. Meat sells for $4/lb = $3,168. slaughtering 18 lambs costs $810. Supplemental milk costs would be $75/year. Shearing of adults = $105 Locker lamb profit = $2,179
Six ewes would produce 1.5 lambs each = 9 lambs per year. They hang at 50 lbs each = 450 lbs. Meat sells for $4/lb = $1800. slaughtering 9 lambs costs $405. Shearing adult flock = $105 Locker lamb profit = $1,290
Guess I’m getting Finnsheep!