I will now list everything we knew about raising sheep before we began contemplating this Homestead project; —- ……… hmmm, I guess we didn’t (don’t) know anything.
With the knowledge that we know absolutely nothing about raising livestock it is apparent that we need to get animals that are easy to handle, feed, keep healthy, groom, and reproduce. After a lot of research Chai Chai has advised us that Soay sheep are the way to go.
The number one pressing need for our prospective sheep is that they can survive on the grass that will be grown on our “hopefully to be cleared” woodlands. The yard will serve as an emergency food source if the woodland clearing project is less than successful. It seems that Soay are great at creating pasture, and they can live on the mix of grass and underbrush that will be available on our land for the foreseeable future.
Soay are small, growing to about 60 lbs and should max out at a knee high height. They have beautiful horns that could also double as handles – if we are careful. Their small size should be a plus and will give us a safe animal to gain livestock care experience with.
Soay are very resistant to parasites and are excellent mothers. From what we have read they can be counted on to be almost completely self sufficient during the lambing process, reducing the chance that we can introduce errors due to our inexperience.
Sheep normally need to be sheared, this costs money and/or requires skill. We have neither, but fortunately Soay shed their wool every spring! This means that we can either “roo” the wool directly off from them (basically pull it off by hand grooming/combing) or just pick it up off fences (that still need to be built), trees, or just loose off the ground. There even appears to be a small market for the wool – we’ll see.
Finally, their small size will make them easier to feed and house during the brutal Minnesota winters. The fact that we don’t have a barn as of yet (in the planning stage) makes this a very important consideration and a positive characteristic.