Many hobby farmers, or acreage owners, have found that sheep or goats are great for pasture control. These small animals are much easier to handle than cattle, and require less space. They can be kept as pets, raised for meat, or as companions when only one horse is owned. There are a few differences between sheep and goats, the most concerning being diet (sheep cannot have copper but goats need it). With many breeds of each there is most certainly something for everyone.
If you are interested in keeping sheep or goats, this article is to provide basic information as well as to suggest other articles for further reading.
Sheep and Goat Diseases
You should speak to your veterinarian in regards to what sheep, or goat, diseases are common in your areas. Two of the most concerning are scrapie, and footrot. As well there are concerns about parasites so you will want to worm them yearly. If you plan on breeding sheep or goats you will also want to be aware of mastitis, or an infection of the udder.
Breeds of Sheep and Goats
There are hundreds of different sheep and goat breeds, some suited more for dairy, others for meat, and others for fiber. Two of the most popular goats for fiber are the Cashmere goats and a Angora goats.
For sheep there are many hair sheep breeds which are less maintenance for people who do not want to worry about shearing. There are also some novelty sheep such as the Jacob sheep (often having 4 horns) and the rarer breeds such as the Icelandic Sheep.
With the wool sheep shearing is a concern as they can over heat if left with their wool on. Tail docking is usually often done in wool sheep.
|Katahdin hair sheep ewe and lambs|
If you are interested in breeding sheep or goats, both have a similar 5 month gestation so the billy, or ram, is put with the flock usually in the fall for spring kids, or lambs.
You need to be prepared to bottle feed kids or bottle feed lambs as sometime doe or ewe is unable to do so for all her offspring.
Fencing is also a concern in that goats can climb (or sneak under) many types of fence. Proper fencing is needed as well to keep predators out. A 3-strand barbed wire fence will not contain sheep or goats.
In areas where coyotes, or other predators (even stray dogs) are a concern, many people keep a guard animal with their sheep or goats. There are many dog breeds for this purpose as well as a donkey or llama.