What to know before getting sheep?
Great question! What to know before getting sheep? We are building our homestead from the ground up, not having any prior knowledge, so I’ve had to do a lot of research and learn the hard way on some things. Below are my top 4 things to know.
What is your purpose for wanting sheep? Common reasons are pets, meat/milk, breeding, and wool. The breed you choose is going to depend on what your main purpose is. You can read why we chose babydoll sheep in my blog.
After you figure out your main purpose, depending on what it is, you may want to think about registries. Are you wanting to breed and sell your sheep? In order to be the most profitable, you’ll want to have your sheep registered. If your just wanting pets, meat or wool, it’s not necessarily important to get registered sheep, unless you want to make sure you are getting purebred sheep. You can usually save money buying them unregistered.
If you want to breed and sell, you will want them registered. Some buyers are specific to a registry and will only purchase from there, others just want the papers. Be sure to look into each registry’s pros and cons and decide for yourself.
With babydoll sheep, there are 3 registries.
- Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep Registry or OE. This is the oldest registry and the “original” If you sheep are registered here, you can register them with the other 2 registries. It is also the most expensive
- North American Babydoll southdown sheep association & registry or NABSSAR. This is the second registry created. They will accept registrations from OE but not from BSSBA.
- Babydoll southdown sheep breeders association and registry or BSSBA. This is the newest registry and will accept registrations from both OE and NABSSAR
The health of your sheep is most important for success. Some breeds are more prone to illness. We choose Babydolls because of their breed standard to be more resistant to health issues. None the less, there are still things you want to consider. Will you vaccinate you sheep? Do you know the standards for detecting worms without testing? Has the flock been tested and shown negative for OPP? The Merck veterinary guide has helpful answers to these questions.
Nutrients is also very important. Do you have pasture year round or will you need to purchase food? Unlike other farm animals, sheep do require a certain diet and likely won’t eat just anything, unlike our garbage disposal chickens. Their diet will also change based on age and if they are pregnant. It is important to know their nutritional standards prior to obtaining sheep.
4. Fencing and shelter
Sheep have wool that helps regulate body temperature. Most sheep don’t require much more than a 3 sided pen that will protect them from the elements, rain, snow and wind. Unless they are lambing, of course. We repurposed IBC totes into shelters for our sheep and they have worked great! You will also want to make sure they have some type of shade area so they don’t bask in the sun all day. Fencing is also important. Sheep are less likely to bust through a gate or jump over and don’t require as secure fencing as other animals, however, you will want to have a fully fenced in pasture for them to not escape but also to keep predators, like coyotes, out. We have a decorative wood fencing on one side of our fence but use this fixed knot fencing for the rest.