Ever wonder why you see sheep all over the place in some areas, then in other places, no sheep!
What is so useful about sheep that has people choosing to raise a flock of sheep instead of other livestock like cattle or goats?
Along with meat, wool and milk sheep also provide vegetation control, income and production from otherwise non productive areas.
Sheep For Profit goes over raising sheep as a business.
Lamb is a healthy meat
Lamb is one of the healthier meats to eat, in that it usually comes from a grass based raising system.
Is Raising Lambs For Meat Worth It? shows you how to make a budget to see if raising your own lambs will save you money!
This means sheep are not normally confinement farm animals. What is the difference between mutton and lamb meat?
Click here for a link to another article I wrote to get a more in depth explanation.
Since sheep are very sensitive to stress, they can not be crammed into smelly, tight quarters and do well.
Sheep can be raised inside a barn, but they require space and fresh air to grow well. Sheep also do not need hormones or antibiotics to grow well.
Some sheep are raised for wool
Fiber enthusiasts love wool! From spinning to felting to tapestry making, there’s a wool for that!
Wool is a versatile fiber that can be made into nearly anything cloth wise and is known for the ability to still provide insulation value when wet.
Wool comes in a huge variety of textures, lengths and colors all having properties that combine into a natural fiber that will excel at a certain application.
For instance, some wools are incredibly durable and make amazing rugs, while other wools are ideal for soft, cuddly sweaters.
Many wools although not all will felt as well giving even more options to make useful everyday wear items.
What Is A Sheep And Wool Festival? is an article I wrote about a local festival, The Great Lakes Sheep And Wool Festival, that is held yearly in Wooster, Ohio.
This is a hugely popular even that brings in folks from all over the country who are interested in wool, mostly for handcrafting, like knitting, crochet, spinning, felting and making rugs.
Sheep milk makes superior cheese
Sheep’s milk is very rich. It can be used in any way that you would use cow milk, even ice cream!
The most common use of sheep’s milk is to make cheese, since the milk is so high in components (fat and protein) that you get more cheese per gallon of milk used.
The most popular cheeses that are traditionally made from sheep milk are Feta from Greece, Roquefort of France, Manchego from Spain, and the Pecorino Romano and Ricotta of Italy.
Be sure to check the label on your cheese lists sheep milk, since cow’s milk is much less expensive to use it will frequently be substituted for the more expensive sheep milk.
If you want authentic taste get the cheese made from sheep milk.
Want to see some sheep being milked? Check out the website Peasant Art Craft , which has shows some of the traditional craftspeople of Romania.
This site has a super YouTube channel as well called Peasant Art Craft. One of their videos is Milking Sheep by Hand in Transylvania, very interesting to watch!
Sheep milk is easy to digest
Sheep milk also naturally has smaller fat globules which make it easier to digest.
Sheep milk stays homogenized, meaning the cream stays evenly suspended in the liquid milk rather than rising to the top, as with milk fresh from a cow.
While all ewes have the ability to milk once they give birth, only certain dairy breeds of sheep are used commercially, since they produce more milk.
The most common dairy sheep in the U.S. are East Friesian and Lacaune.
Grazing for vegetation control
Sheep are being used to control vegetation growth in areas that are not ideal to mow with a tractor and because sheep are just more pleasant for the community.
This is especially true in the western parts of the U.S. Normally the vegetation control is targeted towards removing the dried grasses that would otherwise provide plenty of fuel for a wildfire to spread rapidly.
Grazing these public areas also gives people who would not normally see much livestock the chance get a first hand look at the animals and make the connection between the food they are eating and how it is produced.
Check out the Cud Crew website, for an example of a sheep grazing for hire operation providing organic weed control.
Sheep competitions are popular
Showing sheep is a popular hobby, for kids and adults alike.
Every year the county and state fairs have competitions for the best market lamb and best of breed for mature sheep.
The shows are well attended by competitors and popular for spectators.
In addition to shows for the sheep, there are also shows for the fleeces, yarns, hand made items like hats and mittens, and contests of skill, like fastest sheep shearing and sheep to shawl contest.
The fastest shearing is for one person using electric clippers shearing an individual sheep or a set number in a group of sheep.
Sheep to shawl is a team contest starting with the fleece, which is then carded (fibers pulled apart with special combs), spun and then knitted.
Sheep can be kept as pets
Some people looking to have sheep in their lives but not interested selling lambs like to have a few pet sheep.
This is really no different than pet goats or any other farm animal that doesn’t have to earn it’s keep.
Pet sheep are a great choice for someone who wants her own flock of a few wool breed sheep specifically selected for handspinning or crafts.
Sheep are quiet backyard animals
Another area where sheep really shine is for backyard livestock raisers.
Sheep do not take up much space and are quiet most of the time.
Unless your backyard is really large like a pasture then most livestock is going to be hard for you to keep in your limited space.
However, keeping multiple sheep to the acre (5 adult sheep with lambs in my area) is a normal stocking rate.
Not many other hobbies are going to allow you to cut down on your bills (mowing) and raise meat for your family at the same time!
Interested in backyard sheep? Read my article Backyard Sheep.
Some gatherings are sheep based
Throughout the year there are many festivals and gatherings that revolve around sheep and wool.
Homesteading or small farm conferences and field days are great places to go to connect with others and talk sheep.
Wool festivals are for sheep enthusiasts
Wool festivals are all over the U.S. and fun to attend.
It is great to see all of the creativity and talent gathered in one area, all there for you to talk to and learn from.
The closest sheep and wool festival to our farm is the Great Lakes Sheep and Wool Festival in Wooster, Ohio. It is held the of Memorial Day every year and I love going to it.
Sincerely, if you are looking for inspiration, or just want to talk sheep and learn from enthusiastic crafters head out to a wool festival.
Spinning and weaving guilds are for wool lovers
If you are hoping for a smaller gathering to attend find your local spinning and weaving guild.
This is a group of wool enthusiasts that love to spin and weave and get together once a month or so.
Groups like these will be able to give you hands on help with figuring out how to get started and be friendly faces to contact when you need a bit of help.
Wondering what spinning wheel to buy? Can’t figure out how to card the fleece you purchased off the internet?
Go and attend one of the meetings, these folk love to share and have tons of experience.
Sheep provide income for small farmers
Sheep have the ability to provide an income for a small farmer. It does not take a lot of land to raise some ewes and their lambs.
For many people in the world the extra income from a few sheep would be a huge boost to their financial and food security.
An added benefit to any livestock is that if you have to leave your home, think of all the refugees, the animals can come with you. Vegetables and trees stay behind but the sheep can come with you.
Even if you are not leaving permanently, just moving seasonally to more grass, like nomadic shepherds and herders, the sheep allow you to take your job with you as needed.
Sheep can produce income from non productive lands
Some areas of the world are not productive enough to support crop farming, like corn or wheat, but can still be productive, and hopefully regenerated, using sheep.
Land that does not have the soil fertility it should needs tended in a way that maximizes the growth of the grass and forages that are currently growing there.
Plants growing, then being eaten off by livestock and growing again is a natural cycle that builds organic matter (a component of soil fertility) but does not expose the soil, since tillage will cause loss of organic matter.
Areas that need rebuilt can be healed with well managed sheep grazing while making an income from the land as the fertility and soil health increases.
Grazing Sheep On Marginal Land is a study done in Norway focusing on using sheep to harvest forage off of otherwise unproductive land.
Lanolin from wool is great for your skin
Lanolin is a natural fat found on wool.
If you have ever felt a raw (unwashed) fleece or a sheep before shearing you fingers will be a bit greasy, this is lanolin.
Lanolin is a topical skin treatment for dry or irritated skin.
Nearly any one can benefit from putting lanolin on their skin but it is especially helpful to individuals with diaper rash, radiation therapy skin burns, rough or peeling skin and scaly patches of skin.
Lanolin is an emollient that will soften and heal dry skin while forming an oily layer on top of the skin to prevent moisture loss.
Lanolin is famous among mothers as a treatment for breast feeding moms to help heal sore or cracked skin.
Raising sheep provides employment
Sheep as a business or a hobby provide employment opportunities for a variety of people.
Jobs closely related to the sheep specifically are shepherding and shearing, but there are also indirectly related jobs in local farm stores, at supply businesses and for fencing and equipment dealers.
That is just for the livestock management aspect of sheep. Once you move into the meat aspect you get many more people earning their living off of sheep.
This includes auctioneers, livestock haulers, slaughter houses and retail meat sellers.
Sheep turn roughage into food for people
One of the main advantages to sheep, and other ruminants, is that they can eat roughages, like grass, and turn it into food for people.
This is especially important in areas where the choices of plants to grow successfully is limited, usually due to harsh conditions or lack of fertility.
If you live in an area where food is abundant and lawns are easily kept beautiful and green, then this might be hard to see as important.
If however, in your local area the vegetation is sparse, sheep can be used to improve the land.
In a few years sheep, managed correctly, can be used to increase the fertility of the land and therefore your food security over time.
Sheep can eat foods people can not eat
Sheep grow and thrive eating plants that you can not eat.
This is an important distinction between sheep and other popular small farm animals like pigs or chickens.
Pigs and chickens both like roaming about and can eat roughages like grass but they can not live on roughages alone.
In order to get enough energy to grow animals with a simple stomach, like pigs, chickens and people, all need at least some higher calorie foods to eat.
We can not live on grass alone and neither can pigs or chickens, which means they are competing for a food source that people could eat.
Once again, in an area of abundant food and fertility this is not a pressing problem.
But in areas that are restricted in food production ability, no matter the reason, having livestock that competes with people for food is a poor decision.
Utilizing grass eaters like sheep would be a solution.
Sheep are adaptable
Sheep are actually quite adaptable to many situations.
There are breeds that thrive in small areas right in your backyard, to hill or range sheep that are mostly on their own as far as their daily care goes.
There are even sheep breeds that live completely on their own on uninhabited islands!
This is impressive when you consider most livestock need help from people when weather turns rough or the grass doesn’t grow as normal.
If these fend for themselves sheep don’t have the usual sources of food available they have to figure it out. That’s adaptability.
Sheep can be raised in basic shelters
Sheep can be kept in very modest accommodations, they are not picky. They just need a place to relax and get out of the wind and heat.
A very basic shed will suit them just fine.
Having a new barn to keep your sheep in would be great as far as being more convenient for you to feed and water them.
As long as the needs of the sheep are met, they really don’t care about looks.
What are the top sheep producing states?
The states with the most sheep are Texas and California, followed by Colorado.
Which country has the most sheep?
The country with the most sheep is China, followed by Australia, then India.