I can only speak from my experience and others I know, we make money raising sheep. Is it easy to make money raising sheep? Every business requires planning and work to succeed. Making money with sheep is no different from any other type of business. A business plan is needed to make money with sheep.
How does a person make money with sheep?
There are two ways of making money with meat sheep. The first method of making money with sheep is to raise lambs for market. The second method of making money with sheep is to purchase light weight sheep, feed and keep them for two months and resale for market lambs. I use both methods to make money with sheep.
What is involved with raising sheep for market lambs?
Sheep need a place to live and have lambs. If a place has to be purchased just to raise sheep the initial investment cost goes up depending on the value of real estate. How much land is needed to raise sheep depends on the climate and growing seasons of the area the sheep farmer lives in. I live in North Central Texas, agriculture authorities say I can graze 4 sheep per acre. I have twelve acres so my property can graze 48 sheep. That does not mean I do not feed hay in the winter, as I do. I have learned by doing rotational grazing I feed more animals on the same acreage.
What is rotational grazing?
Rotational grazing is dividing the whole grazing area into smaller areas and allowing the animals to graze each area a specific amount of time. I have three grazing areas on my twelve acres. I monitor the grass height and move the sheep when the grass is short. The other two grazing areas have growth period without any grazing pressure.
Another benefit to rotational grazing in my area is internal parasite control. The sheep always have internal parasites. Deworming is used to control the number of internal parasites but the internal parasite are never not there. Rotational grazing breaks the life cycle of internal parasite. Sheep drop internal parasite eggs on the ground with their feces. The eggs hatch and become larva, larva climbs up the grass leaves and the sheep ingest the larva that becomes an adult and lays more eggs. With rotational grazing, the eggs are dropped and hatch, but the sheep do not stay on that area long enough to ingest all the larva hatched. Less larva ingested means less adults and eventually less eggs.
How much is the initial cost of purchasing sheep to raise?
How much a ewe or ram costs depends on the sheep market in your area. The cost of an unregistered commercial ewe in our area averages $200 to $400 each depending on quality of ewe. I recommend getting sheep from an individual or farm as you can learn the history of the ewe. To raise market lambs the ewes do not need to be registered.
A sheep farmer is ahead by purchasing a registered ram of good quality. A ram has a genetic influence of 50% of the lamb crop he sires. A good quality ram will cost $500 and upwards. Some sheep farms have EBVs or Estimated Breeding Values on their rams. These EBVs help a sheep farmer select a good quality ram with a higher probability of producing desired lambs. The National Sheep Improvement Program has the EBVs on flocks of various breeds for those wanting to purchase sheep.
A Business Plan is necessary to make a profit.
What is a business plan? A business plan is the steps during a year to make a profit and goals for the business. A simple but important tool for making a profit raising sheep is a calendar of the year. When developing a business plan, first establish a goal or goals.
The goals for my 2021 year business plan is to keep back 10% of ewe lambs for replacement ewes to increase my ewe flock to 30, increase the weight gain on post weaned lambs, and get three lambing in two years.
Using the important, least expensive tool, calendar I schedule when I will turn rams in with the ewes and calculate the lambing dates. Since Dorper sheep are non-seasonal breeders, I put rams in every eight months. I am a progressive sheep raiser because I do get three lammings from a ewe in two years. The only way to achieve this goal is to wean lambs at eight to nine weeks of age. The natural lactation of the ewe is her peak milk production is at eight weeks, after eight weeks the lactation starts to decrease. Once the lambs are weaned, I change the ewe supplement feed to get them ready for breeding in a month. After breeding I continue to supplement feed as the ewe needs to gain condition as well as grow lambs until the ewe lambs again.
Rams lose sperm count and do not want to breed in extreme heat. If the schedule for time to breed hits in the hottest months of my area, I will move the breeding time to a later date when temperatures are more favorable for breeding. This leaves my ewes open or not pregnant and moves the lamming dates to later. An advantage is the ewes are able to build themselves up by replacing stores of fat and giving their bodies a rest from constant pregnancy or lamming.
The payday or money comes when you sell the lambs.
Currently, I sell my lambs at the local livestock auction when the lambs weigh 65 pounds. The highest price for lambs is when they weigh 50 to 60 pounds. I have my lambs weigh 5 to 7 pounds above the weight for sale at the sale barn. All livestock looses weight when they are moved and change environment, this is called shrinkage. If I want a lamb to weigh 55 pounds at the sale, the lamb needs to weigh 62 pounds at the barn.
When I started raising sheep it was to produce market lambs only. As a reputation of having good quality lambs that received the highest price per pound at the sale, people started wanting some breeding stock. Currently I sale a limited number of replacement ewes and rams, but my main production of market lambs.
Producing high quality market lambs is more than just good breeding stock, good management is the main key. Having good feed, taking care of ewes and rams so they can produce their best lambs and taking care of the lambs.
Keeping expenses low and quality high is how to make money raising sheep.
We buy our feed in bulk from a feed mill. The nutrition value of the feed is important as the sheep have to be able to grow and perform at their best.
It takes the same amount of feed to feed a ewe that produces a single or twins or triplets. Twins are best as there are two lambs to pay for the feed of one ewe without the expense of milk replacer.
An illustration, my cost of feeding a ewe for eight months is $80.00. If the ewe has a single, the first $80.00 of the sale price goes to pay for the feed of the ewe. A ewe that has twins, the cost of feeding the ewe for eight months is split, each twin that sales pays $40.00 for the ewe’s feed. With triplets, one of the lambs has to be bottle fed on milk replacer adding to the expense of the lamb, and I usually break even on the third lamb.
With 24 ewes producing I make enough profit to pay for all the feed and care for the sheep and my five horses, plus have some extra money for fun. As I grow my ewe numbers the amount of extra money will increase.
My sheep raising business if a very hands on working business. I enjoy my job of raising sheep. I work at improving my flock genetics to produce faster growing lambs with an exceptional meat carcass. I do not have sheep in a pasture and only check on them once a week or once a month and they take care of themselves. I am there everyday to see the progress of the lambs, check the ewes for health issues and make sure predators are not present. The only way to make money raising sheep is to have healthy sheep producing healthy lambs.