After much research and consideration, you want to add sheep to your farm. The barn is ready, you have feed on hand and you’re excited to find your sheep… now what?
There are a number of places and ways you can find sheep to buy:
- Kijiji and online ads – ah yes, Kijiji sheep. Nearly everyone has bought some with a range of success. It is important to ask lots of questions as well as view the sheep in person before buying.
- The sales barn – while you can easily go to your local sales barn and bid on sheep, this option should never be done unless it is a breeder sale. The risk of disease is very high from a sales barn and you will only have limited information available to you.
- Direct from a breeder – this is your best bet. You can find breeders through a variety of ways, there is the Canadian Livestock Records Corporation, provincial sheep organizations and GenOvis.
Once you have located a source for the sheep you want, you should find out information about their health, genetics and performance.
- Look for sheep that are disease-free and that have not been exposed to footrot. You can check online to see if the farm is participating in any health monitoring programs such as Maedi-Visna, Scrapie or the Ontario Sheep Health Program.
- Ask about the vaccination schedules that have been used as well as the products. Tasvax 8 and Glanvac 6 are fairly standard vaccines being used across Canada.
- Check if the farm has GenOvis records. This is a performance tool used by producers to track weight gain and productivity in their sheep. GenOvis has indexes to help you select the best sheep for your goals.
- Enquire about the overall performance of the flock. Ask how many lambs get weaned, what age and weight are they weaned at? What is the mortality rate?
- Ask about the feed and breeding schedules to gain an understanding of the dietary needs and the out-of-season breeding ability.
Overall, regardless of the breed, you want to find healthy sheep with good conformation and multi-generation performance records so that you can get the best start possible. While buying the cheapest sheep available can work once, it is not a good idea to buy sheep without further research once you have an established flock. If you are unsure, take someone with you to look at your first sheep.
Look for a large successful farm that has been in the business for over a decade. Find one that raises sheep the way you intend to (accelerated/indoor or pasture based, easy care vs. Many multiples, small sheep vs. Heavy, etc. ). There are as many different sheep farm styles as there are sheep farmers and each farms genetics will be best suited to their system.
Unless it’s just a hobby, I wouldn’t recommend kijiji or sales barns. Attend a local Ontario sheep district meeting, make some connections, and go from there.
Excellent points! Ontario is fortunate to have district meetings. Attending any sheep event is a great way to make connections.
[…] Sheep do not necessarily require a full barn, as long they have some kind of shelter meeting the Code of Practice for the care and raising of sheep. Sheep do have a wide range of marketing options with the most commonly discussed being direct to consumer (farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture shares “CSA”) and live auction sales. The most important consideration when buying sheep is to source them from a healthy flock using the production methods you want to use. There are multiple posts about raising sheep throughout the blog including Marketing Sheep through Auctions, and Purchasing Sheep. […]