The easiest part of raising sheep is buying them, after that, the work begins. Sheep shopping can be fun, don’t get me wrong, but doing your homework beforehand and having a few things in place helps ensure you get off to a good start and your animals are provided with the greatest likelihood of success.
First off, picking the right breed for your endeavor is important. Each breed of sheep was developed in a slightly different environment, and many, for slightly different purposes. We love what Katahdins can do, and we hope you do too, but we also deeply respect other breeds like North Country Cheviots and Blue-faced Leicesters. But, look deeper than breed alone. Know what you want your sheep to do. Set a goal, identify a couple of objectives to accomplish that goal, then pick a breed that’s well suited to helping do that. Our experience in the northeast is that if you do your homework and you are not interested in fiber, most folks choose Katahdin Hair Sheep.
Katahdins are an “easy-care“ breed meaning owners can avoid some tasks like shearing and can minimize others like deworming and hoof trimming. Easy care, however, doesn’t mean no care. They are still sheep and still need the basics of food, water, and shelter. These things do not need to be elaborate, and fortunately there are lots of resources available to help in starting a new sheep venture.
Don’t overlook the health of your animals, but try not to be paralyzed by it. In our opinion, books on raising sheep overemphasize things that can go wrong and spend too little attention on the joys and rewards of raising sheep. Everyone should have a book or online resource for sheep health and management, but occasionally you need a professional, an actual veterinarian. We can’t stress enough the need for a trusting veterinarian/client relationship. Like it or not, you’ll eventually need someone that you can call to confirm a diagnosis, ask advice on basic treatment, or provide access to a prescription drug. If you get in over your head, it helps to have someone that will come to the farm to help. We all want to give our animals the best of care, but occasionally the cost of treatment far exceeds the value of the animal. A trusted veterinarian can help guide you through treatment options, often over the phone.