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Getting Started Raising Sheep

Good planning can help avoid a baaaad experience.

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Two different people -- one in Russia, the other in California -- recently asked us about raising sheep. So today we offer advice from some experts.


Researchers at Ohio State University say sheep probably respond more to good care than any other animal. So the first thing people should ask themselves is whether they have enough time to give sheep the attention they need.

If the answer is yes, then a question is how many sheep to buy. Specialists at Oklahoma State University suggest starting with a small flock -- twenty to fifty females.

Consider your budget. Do you have enough money for supplies? Do you have the things you need to take care of barns and pasture lands?

What about keeping your sheep healthy? You need to know about measures like how to control parasites. And will you have money to pay for treatment if animals get sick or injured?

There are other basic questions to answer when getting started.

What kind of sheep do you want to raise? There are wool breeds and meat sheep and dual-purpose sheep which can be used for wool or food.

Find out what products people in your area want to buy. Is there greater demand for fresh lamb than warm woolen sweaters? What about demand for sheep's milk for making cheese? Research what kinds of markets are available.

If pasture lands are limited, sometimes two ewes and a cow can be placed together. Susan Schoenian at the University of Maryland says sheep will eat weeds that cows reject. But she says that sheep should not have to walk too far to get food and water.

Sheep may need hay and grains, but pastures with enough good grasses and weeds can often supply much of their diet. Sheep are good for the land when they feed on grasses. It helps renew pastures and it can keep land from returning to forest.

Sheep need a structure that will keep them dry. A barn where newborn lambs are housed should be well protected from the wind. Also, fences should be strong enough to hold energetic little lambs.

Dogs can be a help in raising sheep. Big dogs like the Anatolian shepherd or Great Pyrenees can guard them from hostile animals. And, of course, border collies are famous for their ability to direct sheep and keep a flock together.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. I'm Bob Doughty.