Starting a Sheep Breeding Project
The arrival of fall usually means our market animals are gone and only chickens and ducks remain through the winter. We are starting a sheep breeding project this year on the farm.
This past spring the kids purchased lambs for their yearly 4H projects. Summer events were uncertain at the time, but we were hopeful. Not being completely naive, we encouraged the kids toward ewe lambs. During a normal year, they each would raise, show, and sell a market lamb.
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Jacob has been wanting to start a breeding project. This was the year he felt ready. We began the summer with six lambs and expected to have two ewes remaining at the end.
Six lambs felt like a lot for the small fenced area we had used in years past. We spent early spring and summer clearing, seeding, and fencing a different field. As we were only keeping two ewe lambs, we hoped the larger pasture would be established enough by the end of summer.
Our local county fair was canceled. As the breeding project jumped to four ewe’s, animal husbandry has been officially added to our homeschool lesson plan.
Much of our education about sheep breeding has come from Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep. It’s a very thorough guide to care and breeding for beginner and experienced shepherds.
We have amazing local breeders that have become an appreciated resource. They have been very gracious to answer questions and even invited Jacob to help with some of their herd care. He was excited to learn how to administer medication. We will be taking our ewe’s to them for breeding soon. Upon return, we’ll add a fifth ewe that is a few years older and has previously lambed.
How to handle health issues is a concern for me. I prefer to avoid anything medical. Our breeder loaned me a copy of A Practical Guide to Sheep Disease Management, and I decided to purchase my own copy. I’ve been following a sheep group on social media and am becoming more aware of common health issues and how to address them.
It’s exciting to see the progress of reviving our little farm. Having our children work alongside us is an incredible bonus. They are learning and growing so much through raising livestock animals. We are all looking forward to spring lambing. I’m trying to think more about the cute little lambs and less about the process of their birth.