Barking Rock Farm

Sheep Management 101

We are so often asked about basic sheep care via email, that we've put together this brief treatise on basic management. Please bear in mind that we are shepherds; not health care professionals. No animal care program is complete without the assistance and direct advice of a trained veterinary doctor.



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SHELTER

BREEDING

HEALTH

WEANING

MARKETING

PASTURE

BEDDING

DEWORMING

HORNS

SHEARING

FEED & FEEDING

LIFE EXPECTANCY

BOTTLE BABIES

SHEEP AS PETS

AGGRESSIVE RAMS

COMPANION ANIMALS

If there are other questions/answers or comments which readers would like to share, please feel free to post a message at our blog at http://barkingrock.blogspot.com/

 

Q. What do sheep eat? Can they get by just eating the lawn? Do they need grain?

A. Sheep are pretty easy-care critters for a farm animal. They are basically a grazing animal, and pasture or hay should make up the bulk of their diet. That doesn't mean they can survive on burned-out brown lawn grass! We've found that sheep don't care very much for bluegrass or fescue, which are typical lawn grasses. They seem to prefer coarser, pasture-type grasses such as canarygrass or timothy. And they do eat some weeds.

Sheep will eat grain, but it's not essential if they have access to real good quality pasture and/or hay. A young, lactating, or elderly animal will especially benefit from a grain supplement. You can use a basic mixed corn/soy/oats, or you can buy specially formulated sheep/goat chow at your local feed mill. If at all possible, try to avoid a steady diet of horse formula as it usually contains more copper than is healthy for sheep. Sheep are ruminants, and feeds formulated for goats or cattle are more appropriate than those formulated for horses. DON'T OVERDO THE GRAIN! You CAN kill a lamb by overfeeding grain.

 

Q. I feel it is necessary to feed my sheep a grain supplement of some sort because our pasture is poor. What sort of grain mix should I use?

A. If you are just raising a very few sheep, your best bet is probably a pre-packaged grain feed formulated for sheep. Generally, you won't want to store feed for more than a month (especially in hot weather) as it will start to mold and such molds can be VERY toxic.

For a larger flock, if you have access to a feed mill, you may want to consider having a special mixture made up just for you. Explain to the mill operator that you want to have your own feed mixed, and ask if they have a recommendation. Mills in our area usually carry some sort of pre-mix, which is manufactured by a large company which will furnish formulation recommendations. Such mixes can often be customized to complement your forage type and quality.

A word of caution about pre-mixed "generic" feeds: We've seen "all-purpose" animal feeds, comprised of various grains and feed additives. We don't advise using such feeds for sheep, as they usually contain too much copper. While copper is an essential nutrient, sheep are particularly sensitive to an excess. To avoid problems with copper toxicity, use only feed specifically formulated for sheep.

Corn usually makes up a good portion of the mix. Sheep like it, it's relatively inexpensive, and they do fatten well on it. (Corn does NOT need to be cracked or ground for sheep.) Soybeans or meal are often added for protein. Other possible supplements in our area include (but are certainly not limited to) spent distillers' and brewers' grains, oats, peanuts or peanut skins, and alfalfa pellets. In other areas of the world, different grains are probably used quite successfully.




Q. Help! There's so many different types of baled feeds. What is forage? What's the difference between straw and hay? Between first and second cutting hay? Between alfalfa and grass hay?

A. Forage is plant material that animals consume as food; ergo, hay is a stored forage.

Straw is the stem and leaf residue left from the harvest of small grains, typically oats, wheat, and rice. Although sheep will consume some of it, it's generally used as a bedding material. It's very absorbent, and it looks nice.

Hay is a cut, dried, and (usually) baled forage. Typically, it's a grass or legume such as alfalfa or clover. First and second cutting hays are just that...the first and second cutting taken from a given field in the same year. (Third, fourth, and more cutting are possible in some areas.) Generally, the later the cutting the better the feed quality of the hay.

Alfalfa and clover hays are generally more nutritious and greatly relished by most animals. They're also more expensive, and not necessarily imperative for sheep. Some clovers are reputed to contain an estrogen-like substance, which effectively works as a birth-control pill in sheep. That's not exactly what you'd want to feed if you're trying to get your ewes bred!

The best quality hays are a wonderful feed for lactating ewes in the depth of a cold winter, though!

 

Q. Can sheep eat the hay put up in big, round bales?

A. Yes. If you are using the very large bales and allowing the sheep to eat directly from the bale, you will have a lot of waste.

We mention the following only because we know it HAS happened:. Be cautious about letting sheep nibble a huge round bale set out in a pasture. They can easily turn it into a top-heavy "mushroom" shape, which then can topple over and kill them.

 
Q. Should sheep have access to salt or minerals? What else do they need?

A. Yes. Provide them with a salt block or a loose mineral salt. And ALWAYS, provide plenty of fresh, clean drinking water!

 

Q. Can sheep live year round on graze only (and, of course, water?)

Yes, they can...if you live in an area that provides adequate grazing year 'round. In many climates, there are times of the year when it's too hot and dry for grass to grow OR there are times of the year when it's too cold and snowy. If you're fortunate enough to live in an area where neither is a problem, grass can sustain your sheep all year.

It's a good idea to provide mineral salt in addition to the graze.

 

Q. How many acres per sheep is needed to keep them healthy without much supplemental food (if that's possible)?

We hear this questions a lot. Unfortunately, it's an impossible question to answer, as pastures vary so very much by locale, climate, pasture maintenance, type of planting, and rainfall! A basic rule of thumb is that a pasture that will support one large grazing animal, such as a cow, should support 6 or 7 commercial sheep; maybe a few more of a smaller breed such as Barbados or Jacobs. But again, the size of that pasture will vary widely!

 

Q. I'm worried about poisonous weeds in our pasture. What should I do?

A. This is something that a lot of new shepherds fixate on. We did, too, at one time.

But you can probably stop worrying unless your pasture is way too small or sparse! We've found that, at least here in the Eastern US, our sheep avoid most toxic plants if there's anything else available. Talk to your local ag extension agent if you're concerned about specific local plants, as it's possible there is some sort of weird palatable toxic plant unique to your area. Many non-native ornamentals are reputedly toxic, so don't let your livestock nibble on those pretty shrubs you've planted around your foundation. The random pruning isn't going to improve your landscaping anyway. And, of course, don't feed shrubbery prunings to your animals.

Either we or friends have had sheep eat milkweed, sorghum, kale, and even rhododendron without any apparent damage; but not a lot of it, and not for any length of time. We have a number of supposedly toxic plants in our field, including bracken fern, mayapple, and wild cherry. Nothing has ever eaten them. That's not to say that nothing ever will, of course.

Be forewarned that one thing that IS very toxic is weedkilling chemicals, and sheep DO often like the taste of these products. Please don't trade an imagined problem for a very real one!

 

Q. We have planted some fruit trees in the pasture and wouldn't like for the sheep to eat them, but they are enclosed in 5' high wire mesh fence. Is that enough?

A. Probably. Sheep love fruit trees. They will strip the bark from young trees and kill them, and prune the lower growth off of older trees. But unless your pasture is a barren sandlot, I can't imagine any sheep being motivated to hop over a 5' fence just to pull some leaves off a tree! Young agile sheep will stand on wire fences, though, and moosh them into the ground if there's something on the other side they're trying to reach. Hardware cloth, cyclone fencing, or similar fencing with mesh too small for sheeps' hooves is best. Electric fencing works well, too, but the sheep must be trained to respect it.

 

Q. Barbados sheep were recommended to me because they don't climb like goats and shed out on their own. Is this true?

A. Barbados Blackbelly sheep are a little more agile than typical commercial breeds, but you're right; they don't climb like goats. Their wool, which has no value, is shed naturally. They can be combed, if desired, to speed up the process; but this is more of an emotional benefit for some owners than a necessity or desire of the sheep!

 

Q. Will I have to use a bedding for my sheep? Can I use sawdust or wood chips?

A. That depends on where they spend most of their time. We're in a cold temperate climate here, and it's not uncommon for us to have 4 feet of snow on the ground. Our sheep spend a good deal of time indoors in the winter, and a straw bedding helps keep them clean and dry.

Avoid using sawdust as bedding for wool sheep, or it will absolutely ruin their fleece! Wood chips really aren't appropriate as they're not absorbent. It's really hard to beat a good straw. Lacking that, waste hay will fill the bill.

 

Q. Will we have to deworm our sheep? If so, how often? Barbados or other tropical sheep don't need deworming, right?

A. You deworm a sheep when it's wormy. We're not trying to be flip about this, but it will vary depending upon your climate, your pasture's worm load, the sheep's general health and stress level, and the breed. The surest way to know is to have your vet do a worm check on a fecal sample.

Barbados Blackbelly Sheep are pretty darn parasite resistant - for a sheep. We deworm here about once every 3 months or so here. If you want your sheep to live long, productive lives, don't neglect this basic management chore, even with the more parasite resistant hair breeds.

 

Q. So what do I use to deworm my sheep? And how do I get the sheep to swallow the stuff?

Unfortunately, we have found that some dewormers on the market have become relatively ineffective. Apparently internal parasitic creatures develop a resistance to deworming products just as bacteria develop a resistance to certain antibiotics. Currently, we rotate ivermectin with fenbendazole or albendazole and have been well satisfied with the results. But no one product will necessarily destroy all types of parasites, and parasite problems vary from one locale and climate to another. Many types of dewormers, although very safe and effective, are not labelled for use in sheep. You should seek your veterinarian's advice as to which product(s) are appropriate for your area and flock. He/she can legally recommend extra-label use of products packaged for other species.

Dewormers come in a variety of forms: bolus (large pill), paste, liquid, pour on, and injectable. Most products come with directions and/or applicators for administering the dewormer. We personally have found the paste or liquid forms to be the easiest to use, but "best" is a matter of opinion.

 

Q. Can sheep live outdoors year 'round, or do they need a shelter? I'm worried that they'll be too hot/cold in the summer/winter.

A. Are the sheep living in British Columbia or Mexico? We use those extremes to illustrate that again no one answer fits every case. But regardless, any sheep will benefit greatly from some sort of protection from driving wind/snow/rain and shade from the hot sun. It doesn't need to be elaborate, and it should NOT be heated! It definitely needs adequate ventilation!! A run-in type shelter, as is used commonly for horses, or something similar for the sheep will work just fine. And, of course, no sheep will object to the fanciest of barns!

Again, we stress the need for ventilation. It's very common for first-time shepherds to worry that their sheep are too cold, especially after shearing or during cold winter weather. Often the impulse is to close all the doors and windows in the barn to eliminate "drafts". Then the new shepherd frets because he/she didn't do an adequate job because the sheep got sick. Next the shepherd redoubles efforts to exclude all fresh air, and even installs a heat lamp. This ends up being a very self-defeating effort as what the animals needed was fresh air, not warm air.

If you find this hard to believe, try this: get down at sheep level and try breathing there. If you have a barn or shed that's enclosed livestock for more than a few days or weeks - especially a small barn or a smallish pen - your eyes will probably start to water from the ammonia buildup from the urine. Now imagine what it's like living - eating, drinking, sleeping - in that environment for an extended time, and you'll understand why the ventilation is so important! Added to the ammonia buildup is the moisture accumulation in a tightly closed barn from the sheep's breath and bodies. It's the perfect conditions for breeding pneumonia germs! Open the windows and leave them that way.



Q. Can my sheep live with my horses/cattle/goats/dogs/etc.?

A. The answer here is a definite maybe.

We've found that most species seem to do better in confinement with other members of their own species only, but every case is different. We were never able to keep sheep and goats together in a harmonious group, for example. The feisty goats kept picking on the more docile sheep.

Pasturing is a bit different, and different species can coexist more readily in a larger outdoor area. You'll be the best judge of whether or not the sheep can be pastured with your other stock. A lot of people get away with mixed species in a pasture. It shouldn't be a health concern, unless the species are mismatched physically and tend to fight! (If your dog won't stop chasing the sheep, for example; or if your horse is intent on breeding ewes to death. Don't laugh...it happens!) Try it on a supervised basis at first, and see how things go.



Q. We've got a bottle baby that we just love! Is there anything special we should be doing for it other than feeding it store-bought milk?

Cow's milk isn't really the best food for a bottle lamb, although some people do get away with it. It's certainly better than nothing! But a better substitute is milk replacer formulated for sheep.  It will contain the higher fat and other nutrients that lambs really need. (Calf milk replacer is NOT the same thing, by the way.)  Second choice would be goat milk.

Having said that, we must admit we have heard of a few instances where bottle lambs did NOT do well on sheep milk replacer. Apparently some baby lambs develop an allergy or problem with milk products, just as some human babies do. If the lamb replacer flat does not seem to be working (the lamb does very poorly on it, or seems to have a reaction to it), you can always try cow's milk. Try to avoid switching back and forth, though. There have been cases where cow's milk or even soy milk worked out, but be aware these cases are definitely very unusual!

Try to expose the critter to grain and/or hay as early as possible, as this is the food they'll be consuming for the rest of their life. We've seen young lambs munching on hay at just a few days of age.

By the way, you didn't mention if the lamb is a ram or a ewe. If it is a ram, we'd very much recommend that you neuter him before you try to turn him into a pet. An intact ram that is handled a lot can be quite dangerous when mature. A wethered (sheepish term) male will make a much tamer and safer pet, and won't be so hard on your equipment either.

 
Q. Ok, now we've neutered this cute little bottle ram and he's growing really well. In fact, he's growing almost too well! How do we wean him off this bottle, and what will happen when we turn him out into a pasture?

A. You can just abruptly stop feeding milk once the lamb has reached about 8 weeks of age. But for your own sanity's sake, it'll be easier to wean a "pet" sheep by cutting down the milk once s/he's reached weaning age. Try watering the milk down, a little more each, day, until s/he's getting almost pure warm water. You'll find s/he loses interest in it, especially if s/he has access to grain and good hay or pasture.

Don't ever just thrust a hungry sheep - lamb or adult - abruptly on an extraordinarily lush pasture. Sheep can and will gorge themselves on such feed, which can create a condition called "bloat". Treatment for bloat is possible and often (not always!) effective. But why chance it? Sheep can die from it. It's far easier and healthier to feed sheep some dry hay and grain BEFORE turning them into a lush pasture. And then, if at all possible, limit their exposure for the first few days.

To sum it all up, always try to introduce new feeds gradually. Avoid abrupt changes in diet whenever possible.

 

Q. I recently purchased 5 blackbelly ewes. They are a bit wild, and appear to be afraid of humans. Can I expect them to tame down, and if so what can we do to hasten the process?

A. We are often asked this type of question, usually by very well-intentioned pet owners. It's a difficult one to answer as the response is not what anyone really wants to hear.

Sheep do not usually make wonderfully responsive pets like a kitten or puppy. It's simply not their nature to be cuddly and affectionate. Barbados Blackbellies are somewhat more nervous and aloof than many wool breeds, which exacerbates the problem. They are afraid of you; that's how sheep have survived for millennia. They have no other defense against predators, and nature has given them the sense and ability to run when threatened.

By far the best way to make a lamb really tame is to bottle feed it from birth. The lamb will then imprint on you, and become quite accepting of humans. Obviously you're beyond that phase, so what to do now? If you really are determined to make your lambs tamer, it will simply require that you handle them - a lot, and every day. Hand feed them, move slowly, talk quietly, and spend time near them. After a while, some of the braver individuals will actually approach you. Although there are very unusual exceptions, it's highly unlikely that the typical sheep (of any breed) will seek to be petted. You can catch the lambs and teach them to walk on a lead. This does require work and patience, though.

If it is any consolation, sheep will become somewhat more docile as they mature. Typically, lambs and yearlings are the most hyperactive. Older ewes seem to learn that humans are not a pack of hungry wolves! Whether it's experience or simply maturity that makes the difference, they at least do calm down a bit.

 

Q. Our kids were given a lamb last summer to raise as a pet. We love the little guy, and he's matured to a beautiful big ram; but we have a problem. He's starting to chase the kids, and he's even hit me a couple of times. As he gets larger, I'm afraid he'll really hurt someone. We don't want to him to be butchered. Can you help us find a breeder who will take him for free?

We are asked this question at least once per week! And we are sorry; but there's only one bit of advice we can offer...and we suspect you won't like it. But here goes any way.

If this creature is anything like the plethora of "pet rams" we've ever met, we can understand full well why your family cannot keep their "pet." Intact rams that grow up without a fear of humans can become extremely dangerous creatures. It's simply their nature.

Sadly, that's not anyone's definition of a "pet." So what now becomes of him? Well, you can try to pawn him off on someone as a "breeding ram"; but no sensible breeder will tolerate a battering ram for very long! Then we'll get a call 2 months from now from the new owner trying to place him again. The ram is bounced from flock to flock - usually without the routine health care he should receive - until he ends up as a "shooter" or as meat.

Or you can sell him directly to a shooting ranch. If he's lucky, he'll receive adequate food, attention, and space; but don't count on it, especially if you know nothing about the business. Realistically, he won't live long there, as he'll be hunted and shot as "wild". Considering his background, he's anything but; and he won't have any notion of "running away".

Or you can shuffle him through a livestock auction, where you will probably receive very little for the animal and he will almost certainly be resold at a substantial profit as a "shooter" anyway.

Or...you can do the really humane thing, and have him slaughtered by a decent butcher who will make the end quick and painless. If you don't want the meat, consider donating it to a local homeless shelter, food pantry, or soup kitchen. They will be most grateful for it.

 

Q. But isn't there anything that can be done to modify a nasty ram's behaviour?

A. We wish we could say there was, but once a ram has lost ALL fear and respect for humans we've found there's not a whole lot that can be done to change his attitude.

If the ram has attacked a family member but once or twice, a tactic such as a bucket of cold water dashed in his face the very instant he tries it again MIGHT help; but frankly the prognosis is not good. If he's been bad and steadily getting worse, nothing humans do seems to matter. Don't consider for a moment that a sound whack on the head with a 2 x 4 might be useful, because it most definitely it NOT. It will only serve to encourage the bad behaviour, whilst ruining a perfectly good piece of lumber.

A last-ditch effort might be to try castrating the adult ram; but unlike a young lamb, it's a fairly touchy operation for a fully-developed male. There's a chance - but no guarantee - that the behaviour will moderate. Castration of an adult male is a somewhat risky procedure, but with good supportive care it can be done.

If the ram in question is considered valuable for breeding, about the only thing that can be done is to keep him in a safe enclosure or pasture with his ewes, and figure out a way to feed and water the flock without entering "his space." But even in this situation, it might be wise to ponder whether those genes are the sort you want to see in the next generation. Not all "bad rams" are the result of too much handling; some simply are just naturally agressive.

 

Q. Do sheep need routine vaccinations? If so, for what? Do sheep carry any diseases that are transmissible to other species and/or to humans?

A. Appropriate health care always should involve the supervision of a licensed veterinary doctor. All lambs should probably be vaccinated for tetanus and enterotoxemia. It's also wise to administer routine annual boosters. Follow the instructions on the bottle and/or your veterinarian's advice. The vaccine is very inexpensive and effective, and the diseases are difficult or impossible to cure. . If either caseous lymphandenitis or soremouth has ever been a problem in your barn, you should also vaccinate for these diseases. There may be other endemic diseases in your area - possibly dangerous ones - that would indicate the need for other vaccinations.

Generally, most diseases are species specific. But there are some diseases that can affect any warm-blooded animal, including humans, such as rabies and anthrax. If you happen to live in an area that is currently in the throes of a major rabies outbreak, consider vaccinating your sheep especially if they're pets that are handled a lot. We do know one family that had a rabid sheep, and the entire family had to undergo the subsequent shot routine! And no...the sheep didn't go "mad" and attack everyone. It simply became very quiet and refused to eat. That led to the family handling the animal in an attempt to diagnose the problem.

 

Q. The news has been full of stories about foot and mouth disease. I'm worried that it may become a problem here and that my family is in danger. What should I do?

A. First of all, stop worrying about your human family! Here is information from recently published USDA and APHIS fact sheets, pointing out that foot and mouth disease is not a human health hazard. (If you are in a country OTHER than the United States, we urge you to contact your country's agricultural agencies for information which pertains specifically to your area.)

  "Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a severe, highly communicable viral disease of cattle and swine. It also affects sheep, goats, deer, and other cloven-hooved ruminants.

  "<The United States> has been free of FMD since 1929, when the last of nine outbreaks was eradicated.

  "The disease is characterized by fever and blister-like lesions followed by erosions on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats, and between the hooves. Many affected animals recover, but the disease leaves them debilitated. It causes severe losses in the production of meat and milk.

  "Because it spreads widely and rapidly and because it has grave economic as well as clinical consequences, FMD is one of the animal diseases that livestock owners dread most."

  "FMD is not considered a human health risk, but humans can carry the virus on their clothing, shoes, body (particularly in the throat and nasal passages) and personal items. The disease is extremely contagious and spreads easily among cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and deer."

  Current information on animal diseases and suspected outbreaks is available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov

 

Q. Do I need to give my lambs a selenium shot or supplement?

A. Possibly, and possibly not. Many feeds have selenium added now, and many areas of the country have adequate selenium in the forage. Too much selenium is toxic, and presents a danger as well as too little! Talk to your veterinarian. You'd need to obtain the injectable from him/her in any event, as it's a prescription item.

 

Q. I have a problem with the way my ram's horns are growing...
Q. My lamb recently broken a horn...

A. For more details on horns, Click here!

 

Q. How long do sheep live?

Good question. We've had sheep live well into their teens! This astonishes our veterinarian, as many common commercial wool breeds seldom live past 8. Longevity is based on feed and management, as well as the breed and the individual's genetic makeup. We do know shepherds who have had sheep live into their early 20's.

 

Q. At what age can I first breed a ewe lamb?

A. We're asked this question a lot, and it's difficult to answer. It's more appropriate to think in terms of size than in term of age. We have routinely exposed well-developed spring lambs the following fall, and most (not all) of them catch; but it's usually the case of a February-born ewe breeding successfully for June lambs. That's later than we personally prefer lambs to be born, but the situation on every farm is different.

Breeds such as Barbados which breed year round seem to be fertile a little younger.  But we think that although it's possible for a ewe to lamb before she's 14 months old, that's pushing it a bit. And please keep in mind that we're talking about healthy, well-fed and well-developed lambs even at this age!

 

Q. I have been told that if we skip a season in breeding, we should not breed our ewes again due to health reasons. Is there any truth to this or is it just a myth?

A. That is a complete myth. A ewe that hasn't been bred for several years may well become sterile, possibly as a result of being obese. But there's certainly no reason not to try. Skipping one season shouldn't make much difference one way or the other.

 

Q. What time of year should we shear our sheep?

A. Sheep can be shorn at any time whatsoever that is convenient for the shepherd! While it is probably best to avoid the coldest weather, even that can be overcome in most climates if the sheep have good shelter. Some breeds of sheep - longwools such as Lincolns and Leicesters - are often shorn twice per year, by the way.

 

Q. We are looking into the different types of animals to raise for profit. Sheep seem like a good one, since we can just raise them for their wool and don't have to kill them for it. Can you make any recommendations on which kind of sheep are good to raise for this?

A. Sadly, we must say that there are some misconceptions and - unfortunately - completely unrealistic expectations here!

With the plethora of synthetic fibers in the world, the commercial prices commanded for fleece wool are lower now than they were 100 years ago...and that's without adjusting for inflation! Specialty markets, such as handspinners, can yield a much better price; but such markets must be developed by the individual shepherd and generally require a good working knowledge of handspinning and fleeces. And even the most generous fleece price does NOT begin to offset the feed bill!

Today's market reality is that money to be made with livestock is via the sale of the offspring, either for breeding or meat. It's a painful error to hope every animal born might be saleable for breeding. Some simply aren't up to that quality. Which means that the remaining animals are culls. You can't sell the culls as breeding animals and expect to maintain a good reputation; you can't keep them all on your farm and expect to maintain any quality in the next generation. And so the culls go to the meat market.

It's no secret that farming of ANY sort in today's world means either HUGE capital outlays, or very hard work; or both! Frankly, we believe that keeping livestock is an enterprise best entered as a way of life because one enjoys outdoors and animals rather than planning on a "profit." Start out small, and see if you really like keeping sheep. If you really, really cannot raise an animal for slaughter, you should consider yourself a pet owner and not a breeder. There's nothing wrong with keeping a few pets; but don't delude yourself into thinking it could possibly be "profitable" in terms of dollars and cents.

 

Q. How do I find a good market for my wool and lambs?

To get the best prices, you must first build a good reputation; which means you must produce a superior product . That means selecting the very best lambs - (especially true for rams) - and offering those for sale. You'll need to advertise - a lot - by any means you can imagine: magazines, newspapers, shows, website, etc. Resign yourself to the fact that you'll be butchering and eating the lesser quality individuals, or finding someone who will.

We sell our best wool exclusively to handspinners; the poorer quality is composted. It takes a lot of time and effort to build up a clientele, and the best thing one can do is learn to identify a good fleece. (Often it helps if one is a handspinner oneself!) Then the fleeces must be kept as clean as possible, and skirted VERY rigorously. The WORST thing one can do is sell (or give away) coarse, hairy fleeces with a lot of kemp, dirt, and/or second cuts to any handspinners. You'll ruin your market that way faster than you can blink!


This page is published as an aid to the new shepherd, and is not meant to be all-inclusive. If there are other questions/answers which readers thinks should be part of the information found here, please send email them to us...or post a message at our blog at http://barkingrock.blogspot.com/

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This page updated 3/31/14.