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Life With the Woolies: Raising Sheep

The author describes her experience raising sheep and offers recommendations for maintaining a small flock in good health.

| September/October 1973

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    A flock in their pasture in early spring.
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    A ewe with her two newborn lambs.
  • 023-030-01-Woolie-winter-feed
    The flock huddling around their winter feeder.

  • 023-030-01-Sheep-Fencing
  • 023-030-01-Sheep-Housing
  • 023-030-01-Woolie-winter-feed

If you're thinking of raising sheep, I envy you the adventure ... and maybe I can help you to avoid some of the misadventures.

My own life with the woolies began 25 years ago when I brought five sheep home to the farm in a station wagon. The road ran through a hilly town, and—as the car followed the ups and downs of the terrain—my introduction to the creatures was the sight in the rear-vision mirror of horns sliding toward the back of my head.

The next few days brought both joy and sorrow. One of the ewes suddenly gave birth to a lamb out of season, and all the other sheep sickened. I leaned on the fence rails and wept while my flock died.

Then I did what I should have done in the first place: I visited the county agent and did some research on my own. Although I had lived in the country all my life I didn't know a thing about sheep, and now I admitted it. (Lesson One: Never buy animals out of a strange flock unless you check them first for internal parasites.)

My second little flock of four were Suffolks: long-legged, strong, and springy. I watched while they leaped 46-inch fences, sold them to someone else the next day, and bought half a dozen clean Hampshires ... the breed I've raised to this day.

Why Sheep? 

I'm not writing this for people who want to go into show sheep, or any other kind of sheep business. My suggestions are for the contemporary homesteader who just wants to raise a few of the animals.

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