When we decided to put sheep on our land, our friends and family asked, “Why sheep?” “Aren’t sheep stupid?”
Why sheep? The primary consideration was our soil, which is poor and rocky. So, trying to keep cattle was probably not worthwhile. Many people in our area have goats, but goats have some drawbacks. Goats are great if you want to clear land, but we wanted to keep our mature trees. Goats are notoriously difficult to keep in, and climb on things (such as cars).
Sheep are quiet, docile and don’t bite. They won’t kick, gore or trample you. Although our adult sheep weigh more than I do, I can still handle them (it helps to have someone experienced teach you how). Most of our sheep like to be petted and all will happily eat out of your hand. They are easily motivated with food — people have clicker trained sheep, and this is something I look forward to trying with our lambs. With the exception of rams, sheep are probably the safest of all large livestock. So, they are great for children.
Sheep will mow your grass and keep your land from being overgrown without denuding it. If you choose a breed that can live on grass, and have something that will grow in the winter for them to eat, you may not have to buy feed (other than minerals) for non-breeding sheep. Lambs need additional protection from cold, but adults basically need to just get into shade and out of the wind and rain. Most people in our area use a simple, 3-sided shed.
Health and diet requirements are less complicated than for many other animals, unless you are breeding. Hoof-trimming is much easier than trimming dogs’ nails. Their teeth don’t need to be floated. Annual vaccinations and regular worming is inexpensive if you do it yourself. If you are not saving the fleece for spinning, shearing is relatively simple and is done before summer. Those who have used clippers on other livestock should not find it too difficult.
Sheep don’t have an odor, and their poop is pretty clean (for poop, anyway). It looks like coffee beans and dries out in the sun quickly. You can use it directly on your garden as it does not burn or stink.
There are many marketing opportunities for meat, skins, wool and of course just as pets and attractive lawn ornaments.
Are sheep stupid? Well, try to catch one and see!