Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Raising Sheep for Food: How the experiment went

From August 2010 to September 2011 we raised two lambs for food: one ewe one wether (castrated). My original intent was raising them to feed our family, but they were also really wonderful pets.

I decided to raise sheep rather than goats or a calf for several reasons.

Goats climb. And goats eat almost anything. It would have been impossible to keep goats from eating shingles or siding off the house or church. As it was, the winter snow prevented us from keeping the sheep in a pen. Goats would have been impossible.

A calf would have taken much more food than sheep needed, plus liquid water through the winter. Sheep, like goats, don't need water. They can use snow and ice very well.

We bought 2 large round bales of hay and 1 of straw for the winter.



The sheep stayed by the house near their hay through the whole winter. In the spring we had to catch them a few times and tether them to keep them from eating the buds of hay from our neighbor's field. That provided some exercize for Mary and me. But they weren't bad for wandering off.

Based on what we learned, if we could regulate their feeding better we probably could have gotten by with only one bale of hay.


The sheep stand on their food and so quite a bit went to waste.

In the spring we needed to sheer them. I borrowed a clippers but found out that I couldn't do it. I either because I lacked the skill or because the sheers wasn't sharp enough. But a neighbor helped us out.


So, here's the economics.

2 lambs at $40 each.
2 Hay bales and 1 straw, total $70.
3 wormings, total $20
sheering $20
Antibiotics $10

Grand total $160.

Counting fence or tethers because these are used for chickens as well as future sheep (around $100)

That would make it $260.

The wether at dressed hanging weight was just over 70 lbs.
The ewe was almost 80 lbs.


That's $0.93 per pound dressed weight and $1.79 per dressed weight including the fencing and tethers.

All around a very good investment for the price of meat.

One great advantage with sheep, we didn't have to mow the lawn as much, and that cut down on the cost of gasoline for lawn mowing. I'm not sure how to calculate this into the cost of the meat. But it was a good benefit.

We enjoyed having Rammy and Ewey as pets. I served a bit of Ewey to our Bible Study group. We were studying the book of Exodus, and none of the Bible Study students had tasted lamb before. I think they all liked it.

Thanks to Mr. Malwitz and Podocheck for sheering and sheers. Thanks to the Sippers for help with dressing the lambs. Thanks to Sara and Betsy for the lambs. And thanks to Glenn Vettleson for the fencer, and Darrow Lundeen for the fence posts.

Thanks also to Drs. Hagan and Bovee for their vetrenary help in my ignorance. I've read Alfred Wight's books (James Herriot's series "All Creatures") but that's not a substitute for real experience.

Now, due to my inexperience I burned out the fencer using improper grounding techniques and copper conductors. We'll get a replacement this spring. Hopefully for under $50. Sarah and Betsy have three more lambs for us coming this spring.

If we get those lambs, we'll have them just for the spring through fall.

All in all, I enjoyed having the lambs. And I'm very glad that we could grow our own food inexpensively. Now I know more about shepherding. That's not an insignificant thing for a Pastor.
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