Shuffling Sheep

In my last post, I discussed how we want to be as efficient as possible with our choices for our small-acre homestead.  Our goal is to produce as much food for our family of 7 as possible.  With 3 acres of mountain terrain to work with, only about 1/2-1 acre that is use-able for livestock and housing it is important that we keep focused on our goals in order to be as productive as we can be.

Our current sheep flock is a wool flock and we aim at having a good variety of colors and textures.  We are cross breeding shorter/finer wool ewes to a longer wool ram with an aim to have fiber that has good length (4-6 inches) but is still soft.

We have long had a goal of adding dairy lines into our sheep flock.  Back in 2015, our ewe Stella had a lamb that sadly died at day 3 of life.  So we decided to milk her.  It was a very fun experience, she was excellent at it, and we all loved the milk.  Thus the start of our dream to have dairy sheep.  Unfortunately, Stella failed to successfully lamb for us after that and was traded back to the breeder for a different ewe.

We really aim to not have overcrowded living space with our livestock.  It is not good for the livestock, it damages the property and housing faster, and it makes a lot more cleaning work for us.  Because of this we are very careful how many sheep and goats we keep.  It is so easy to keep adding to the flock over and over again and keep offspring and all of sudden the farm is way overcrowded.  We have decided that we can keep 5 (6 at very most) breeding stock animals (goats and sheep).  This means for half the year we have the 5 animals, and the other half the year we have them, plus their young offspring, which can mean potentially up to 13 or so animals during the baby season.

We would like to breed our wool sheep into dairy lines to end up with sheep that have nice fleece and are pretty good milkers as well.  This can be tricky with our limited number of animals.  When trying to selectively breed animals the more animals the easier it is to achieve your goal.  With space for 5, one of which is a goat, we are going to have to be creative as we go to try to avoid inbreeding and still make progress towards our goal.

This year we planned to butcher the ram lambs for meat this winter, and sell the ewe lamb, or potentially trade her for a wool ewe that we like.  But things have changed and we have someone who wants to buy both the ram lambs and Rose as well to bring her flock of Rambouillet ewes to a smaller size and longer wool.  This could be our opportunity to make some space and have the money to add in some dairy sheep.

So we are doing research, talking it through, contacting sheep breeders and trying to decide what to do.  We want to make good choices for our 4 sheep slots to give us the best breeding outcomes and fiber variety.

It looks like this will all happen in the next 6 weeks or so.  I will keep you posted on what happens as we shuffle our flock of sheep.


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