Sheep are lovely small animals that offer many benefits to humans, from their precious wool to meat and even milk. To some people, these animals are beloved pets that live on their farms, while others rear them for profit. Before rearing sheep on your farm for profit, you ought to ask, are sheep profitable?
This question will help answer whether getting into the sheep-rearing business is worthwhile. A lot goes into establishing a sheep farm, especially for profit.
Let’s examine whether you should start a sheep farm for profit.
Is Sheep Farming Profitable?
Yes, sheep farming is a highly profitable venture. Most sheep farmers in the US make their money by selling their lambs. However, large or medium scale sheep farming makes the most money for farmers. In fact, many farmers globally make sizeable incomes and earn a living from rearing sheep.
Apart from selling lambs, sheep farmers can make money through selling wool and products made from sheep milk such as soap, lotion and yoghurt. You can set up an online store and sell these products.
You must adopt excellent husbandry practices and keep costs down to profit from sheep.
It is worth remembering that, like almost all livestock and crop-making, income during the novel years ( 1 to 2) isn’t expected, and you’ll need to put in a lot of work. You can begin sheep farming with 3 to 4 ewes for milk, then outsource rams to mate with them.
After several years, you will have many sheep on your farm as the ewes deliver lambs, thus increasing your livestock population.
This period will also give you ample time to learn how to manage sheep, control costs, and find suitable markets for sheep products like wool, milk, and meat.
How Many Sheep Do You Need To Be Profitable?
Do not get into sheep farming if you are looking for a get-rich-quick project because this kind of farming has narrow profit margins. You will require a few hundred ewes, perhaps over 500, on your farm to profit from sheep farming.
Typically, sheep farming is done by farmers as a secondary or part-time enterprise, although some earn most of their livelihood from sheep farming. However, it is often done as a 4-H project, retirement activity, or hobby.
Besides the size of your flock, you must also consider local regulations, veterinary costs, food prices, and the market prices for sheep milk, wool, and meat.
How Much Will It Cost To Start A Sheep Farm?
On average, it will cost you about $19 267 to start sheep farming, with a minimum of $3 141 and a maximum of $35 923. Below are the things you’ll need to get to start sheep farming.
You cannot start rearing sheep without the actual animals. When choosing rams and ewes for your sheep farm, always go for quality, but if the budget is tight, select an excellent ram and average ewes. Your flock’s overall genetics will improve faster with great rams. Also, buy younger ewes (2 to 3 years old) in excellent shape.
The ewes will cost anything from 300 to $500 each, while a good ram costs $600 to $800. However, the best rams start from $1000 to $1200.
Your biggest annual expense will be feeding your sheep, with the highest cost during non-growing seasons like winter and the lowest when pasture is available.
The price of hay will vary based on your flock size, quality, time, and where you buy it. Setting aside extra money is best just in case the cost exceeds what you planned for.
Additionally, include the cost of renting grazing land if you plan to do so.
Every ewe will require around 15 sq. ft of housing to protect them from harsh weather like winter and predators.
Therefore, if you have 100 ewes on your farm, you’ll need about 1500 sq. ft. You must also account for lambs and rams when constructing sheep buildings.
Remember that sheep need open, dry, cold barns instead of warm, humid, tight ones.
If your farm is already fenced, that’s great; if not, you must erect a fence to keep your flock inside.
Putting up a fence for sheep is much easier than for goats since sheep do not tend to jump over fences or wander away from their flock. You can install a fully functional fence with electric netting or woven wire.
Your sheep must stay healthy if you hope to make money from them. Some routine healthcare practices include shearing and deworming.
You can decide to shear your sheep yourself or hire a professional. You must set aside some money to buy dewormers when it comes to deworming.
Furthermore, veterinary services are necessary should your flock get sick.
6. Equipment and Machinery
You may require machinery and equipment to clip pastures, harvest hay, and clean barns. Alternatively, you can work a plan with your neighbors(if they are farmers) instead of purchasing the machinery.
Furthermore, buying hay instead of making it may be more affordable, especially if you only need about 100 tons.
Sheep need attention and proper care, and for their well-being, ensure your flock gets quality labor and time.
If you are going to care for your sheep yourself, ensure you have sufficient time to observe them, notice their needs, and perform tasks when needed instead of postponing them.
Doing all the work yourself during certain times, like the lambing season, can be daunting, so hiring help would be best. Skilled labor is also needed for tail docking, ear tagging, shearing, and foot trimming.
How Do Farmers Make Money From Sheep?
Sheep farmers get most of their income from selling lambs for their meat. Other income sources include selling wool and other products, leasing their sheep for grazing, and bio-medical reasons like blood and research.
The potential for making profits from selling wool is limited, but you can earn considerable profits from some niche markets like hand spinners.
Quality fleeces can earn you $15 to $20 per pound in a niche market, while the same fleece fetches around 75 cents in a commercial market. (Read this article to learn how to sell your wool online and make good profits)
You can also make more money by spinning fine wool into yarn and selling it to crafters and cooperative ventures that make handmade products like scarves.
When it comes to selling lambs, the prices vary based on regions, lamb size, and time of year. For instance, a quality lamb weighing 80 pounds costs around $150 average. Your profit margins will increase tremendously if your ewes produce twins.
Selling your lambs directly to consumers offers more stable pricing than auctions because a massive chunk of the work done to get the animals to the customers lies on you.
NOTE: Selling lambs when the grazing season ends (off-season) fetches less money, so timing is key!
You will earn more if you sell during peak season, with each lamb making you about $200. Severe weather like drought also affects prices as people look to reduce their flock by selling some of them to a manageable size. Sheep sold during these periods fetch low prices.
Severe weather also affects other regions that are not experiencing the same because the situation floods the sheep markets with lambs.
Sheep farming can be profitable, but you must plan for it, study the market, and practice patience, especially when starting. Also, you must keep your sheep productive and healthy to earn more from selling them.