Why We Got a Sheep
Four months ago, Hubs and I bought a sheep at the county fair. I sold animals in 4-H for many years, and so was happy to give back by supporting another 4-Her. Originally I had hoped to find a female goat, to be a companion to my doe, Adi. We couldn't find any female dairy goats for sale, so I decided to get a sheep instead.
A sheep seemed like a good idea. She would eat the grass close to the ground, the goats would eat the weeds, and everyone would be happy. Goats and sheep kind of eat the same thing, so I would feed them all the same grain. Sheep are used as meat, but they also give wool- something my two goats couldn't provide me with.
Pasture Bursting At the Seams
That was before we tripled the size of our hobby farm. Within a week or two, we went from three large(ish) animals and ten birds to NINE larger animals and 30-40 birds.
A Buck Makes Ten
When I called to arrange a breeding date for Adi and some of our new goats, I was in for a surprise. The owner of the buck had listed him on Craigslist and wondered if I was interested in buying him for $150. To board and service a doe costs around $50, so to breed our four does would already exceed the cost of the buck. In addition, it would be a hassle for us to pack up all four animals and take them to a breeder every year. The owner of this buck offered to drop him off at our house, and I was sold!
There was only one piece that didn't fit with my new goat expansion plan: our sheep.
Breeding our sheep turned out to be more problematic than we had thought. We contacted two breeders. One gave us a price of $100 for boarding and service, and another didn't give a price ("whatever you think it is worth") but wanted us to bring the ram to our house. In my internet studies on breeding sheep and goats, I discovered that sometimes they will service each other and produce hybrids- most of which abort early on. This would mean that our sheep and goats would have to be separated during breeding season. Separating would also be required to keep the sheep from eating the goats' grain.
Apart from breeding, there were other problems.
A month or so ago, I noticed that our sheep was gnawing on the goats' mineral block- literally chewing it away. Mineral blocks are supposed to be licked, not chewed. I also noticed that she peed all the time! I wondered if this was some mineral/feeding deficiency that I would have to deal with later on.
There was another problem I noticed with our sheep- she was ruining our new fencing. She had a tendency to climb up and pull down our orchard/type fencing. You would think that the goats would be the climbers, but ours are not tall enough or large enough to do any harm. The sheep, however, would stand on her hind legs, leaning her front legs up on the fence, and push on it so the top and bottom of the fence curled in. This was ruining our fence and causing the goats to get out all the time. Just when we thought the fence was fixed, they found another curled spot and crawled under.
She would also do this same climbing thing on the barn door. One day I went to open the door, only to find a full grown sheep "standing" in front of me. I screamed and slammed the door shut! After that, I would always have to wait for her to climb and then get all four feet back on the floor before attempting to open the door. This was a nuisance, but I dealt with it.
The last straw was when she literally knocked the wind out of me. I was busy pouring grain into five different bowls, bent over, when all of a sudden she came out of nowhere and butted me so hard that I fell over. After I got up and brushed myself off, it still took a few minutes to catch my breath. The grain was dumped all over and she was busying herself trying to eat it all. Sheep aren't even supposed to need grain, but here she was getting fat on it, just because she was big enough to push all of the goats out of the way. I decided it was time for her to go.
It was such a relief for me to get rid of our sheep. Not only was she a bad fit for our hobby farm, but I don't have the skill set required to keep sheep and I'm busy learning about goats right now. In the future I would like to try sheep again, but maybe after we have the proper infrastructure (fencing!) in place and when I have the extra time and money to invest in it.
Like many people, there are a lot more things I would like to do here on our hobby farm. However, I need to know what we are NOT going to do on this hobby farm. Too many irons in the fire is not a good thing, especially if one animal is causing 90% of the problems.
I need my animals to support themselves. The only thing I could sell from my sheep would be wool ($17) and her offspring ($50 each), if they survive. This would barely cover the cost of breeding and shearing, let alone hay during the winter, vitamins and other sheep-specific purchases.
Buying the sheep wasn't a total loss. We got to support a 4-Her, and also got some meat. While we were butchering an old cow of my parents', we decided to do our sheep as well. In the end, we still got about 35 lbs. of meat. Because she was such a grain hog, our sheep had a lot of fat. I've been careful to save this fat to use for soap.
Do you have a hobby farm? Did you ever buy an animal that was a bad fit?