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Raising Sheep

I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

If you have a few hectares of land, it might be a good place to raise sheep. Some years ago, the magazine Organic Gardening, from the Rodale Institute research center, offered several reasons to consider.

Sheep can be raised for their meat. They produce milk which can be made into excellent cheese. Sheep have wool which can be made into weaving material. The wool is cut off once a year in the spring.

Sheep eat grass. They are good, natural grass cutters. And, sheep provide a good supply of waste that can be used to fertilize the vegetable and flower garden. In fact, sheep manure contains more nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium than horse or cow manure.

The report in Organic Gardening offered some advice from a field crop expert in New York State named Carl Bannon. He said it is possible to raise as many as eighteen sheep on one hectare. And, he said it is not necessary that the land be completely covered with grass. A mixture of grass and trees will do.

Mister Bannon said the sheep will keep the grass cut low. They will even eat weeds and the remains of crops harvested from your garden. The waste they leave behind will add nutrients to the soil. The manure can be collected and spread in the garden.

Sheep manure is not like that of cows. It does not have a bad smell. It is like waste produced by rabbits, only there is more of it.

You should not plan to become rich selling the wool of your sheep. But, you may be able to sell the wool to people in your area who weave clothes or other things. Or, you can send it to a company that will clean it and prepare it for you to use.

There are many different kinds of sheep. Your choice of which kind to raise should depend on your plans for them. For example, Dorset sheep are good milk producers. Suffolk sheep are raised for their meat. Rambouillet sheep produce fine wool that is prized by cloth makers.

If you decide to begin raising sheep, you need to choose the right kind for the weather in your area. But you do not need to provide much shelter from the weather for adult sheep. Just be sure to provide a secure fence to keep dogs from attacking the sheep.

And there are other considerations before you go out and buy a sheep. For one thing, it might be a good idea to make sure that the local laws permit people in your area to have farm animals.

This VOA Agriculture Report was written by Bob Bowen. I'm Gwen Outen.