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Silvopasture and Grazing Feeds Communities – Epi-3509 — 5 Comments

  1. Great episode. As a sheep enthusiast I’ll add a couple of points in favor of sheep. First of all, while they may require a bit more when it comes to electric fencing than cows, the required infrastructure needed in general is much smaller. If you have a cow that needs some sort of treatment there’s not much that you can do other than use a head gate, which can be complicated or expensive, while a sheep can easily be tossed on it’s rump and handled that way. Also, hauling a cow requires at minimum a large pickup with racks while sheep can be hauled in the back of a minivan even (if you put down a sheet or something to keep it clean of course). Also, corrals, shade structures, and the like can also be much lighter and simpler than what is needed for a cow.

    Another advantage is that while they are a bit harder to fence sometimes, if sheep do get out they tend to not go too far, in my experience, while cows may roam a lot farther. Maybe it’s due to the fact that sheep are more vulnerable so they want to stay where things are familiar, but whatever the case, there seems to be less risk if they do get out.

    A third advantage for sheep is that they have much lower water requirements than cattle for their bodyweight, which makes the need for watering infrastructure a little bit less of an issue than cows. I water my flock of about 7 ewes by carrying 5 gallon buckets and that works well.

    Of course, sheep are more vulnerable to predators and, in most areas of the country, to parasites, but with good management these can be dealt with. In my experience sheep are not always looking to die, as long as they have a diligent shepherd.

    I’ll also make a case for wool sheep. While there isn’t much of a market for wool on the commodity level, the hand spinning market can be quite profitable if you take care of the wool and know where to sell it. And, homestead size flocks are perfect for selling to this type of market. Also, wool has all kinds of valuable benefits to the homesteader including as a mulch. It does take work to shear them, and it’s not for everyone, but wool is an amazing and sustainable product that can be beneficial to many farmers and homesteaders. Also, most hair sheep do not have the frame and muscling quality of your meat breeds of wool sheep, so you’ll probably get more meat from lambs of wool breeds. But, as was discussed there may be benefits to starting with hair sheep and adding wool sheep later, especially if hair sheep are readily available in your area.

    All in all I think there is a good reason for why sheep have historically been one of the number one species of domesticated animals in all parts of the world. There is a learning curve to be sure, but if you can get past that the rewards are great.

    Hope that adds to the discussion.

  2. Excellent episode. Lots of ideas and I have two pages of notes. Bring on the cows, chickens and pecan trees surrounded by fodder trees that will be gone when the pecans shade them out.

  3. I’ve heard multiple times that water is life. I think that is wrong in that water is a vehicle for life. Life can exist within it but water doesn’t need life to exist.

    However, carbon is life. It’s the primary building block of all life and where ever there is carbon, either life is present or evidence for life was left behind.

    We are the carbon they want to reduce.

  4. On the cow vs sheep question, does the calculation change when comparing sheep to miniture cows?
    Second question: Tractoring larger animals, if moved regularly, could you tractor a 16’x16′ cage of goats or sheep or miniture cows?
    Would you still need dogs? If it matters, this would be in PA.
    I am looking to limit the need for fencing.

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