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Q. What time of year should we shear our sheep? A. Sheep can be shorn at any time whatsoever that is convenient for the shepherd! While it is probably best to avoid the coldest weather, even that can be overcome in most climates if the sheep have good shelter. Some breeds of sheep - longwools such as Lincolns and Leicesters - are often shorn twice per year, by the way.

Q. We are looking into the different types of animals to raise for profit. Sheep seem like a good one, since we can just raise them for their wool and don't have to kill them for it. Can you make any recommendations on which kind of sheep are good to raise for this? A. Sadly, we must say that there are some misconceptions and - unfortunately - completely unrealistic expectations here!

With the plethora of synthetic fibers in the world, the commercial prices commanded for fleece wool are lower now than they were 100 years ago...and that's without adjusting for inflation! Specialty markets, such as handspinners, can yield a much better price; but such markets must be developed by the individual shepherd and generally require a good working knowledge of handspinning and fleeces. And even the most generous fleece price does NOT begin to offset the feed bill! Today's market reality is that money to be made with livestock is via the sale of the offspring, either for breeding or meat. It's a painful error to hope every animal born might be saleable for breeding. Some simply aren't up to that quality. Which means that the remaining animals are culls. You can't sell the culls as breeding animals and expect to maintain a good reputation; you can't keep them all on your farm and expect to maintain any quality in the next generation. And so the culls go to the meat market.

It's no secret that farming of ANY sort in today's world means either HUGE capital outlays, or very hard work; or both! Frankly, we believe that keeping livestock is an enterprise best entered as a way of life because one enjoys outdoors and animals rather than planning on a "profit." Start out small, and see if you really like keeping sheep. If you really, really cannot raise an animal for slaughter, you should consider yourself a pet owner and not a breeder. There's nothing wrong with keeping a few pets; but don't delude yourself into thinking it could possibly be "profitable" in terms of dollars and cents. Today's market reality is that money to be made with livestock is via the sale of the offspring, either for breeding or meat. It's a painful error to hope every animal born might be saleable for breeding. Some simply aren't up to that quality. Which means that the remaining animals are culls. You can't sell the culls as breeding animals and expect to maintain a good reputation; you can't keep them all on your farm and expect to maintain any quality in the next generation. And so the culls go to the meat market.

Q. How do I find a good market for my wool and lambs? To get the best prices, you must first build a good reputation; which means you must produce a superior product . That means selecting the very best lambs - (especially true for rams) - and offering those for sale. You'll need to advertise - a lot - by any means you can imagine: magazines, newspapers, shows, website, etc. Resign yourself to the fact that you'll be butchering and eating the lesser quality individuals, or finding someone who will. We sell our best wool exclusively to handspinners; the poorer quality is composted. It takes a lot of time and effort to build up a clientele, and the best thing one can do is learn to identify a good fleece. (Often it helps if one is a handspinner oneself!) Then the fleeces must be kept as clean as possible, and skirted VERY rigorously.