Wondering if you can make a living sheep ranching? or how much capital is needed? or how many head of sheep?
I have been asked on a few occasions to comment on this. Truth is, there are so many considerations that the answer is near impossible for me to discern for you, but not impossible for you to figure out for yourself.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help iron out this business of sheep farming and determine how it fits your situation.
What is the roughed out vision in your head?What is your desire?
"If you don't know where you are going any road will get you there." - Chesire Cat in Alice in Wonderland
scale farming, hobby farming, simple, self sufficient living with the
sheep earning their keep, or full scale, sustainable sheep ranching? What direction would you like to take? If
you don't have a rough vision, take some time to think about it before you go further.
What will you raise sheep for? Do you have an idea of your end market?
Lambs raised for meat and a commodity market. Sheep raised for fiber and/or dairy. Purebred animals or commercial. Selling to a local direct market. This can greatly alter how many head will support you, especially if you are creative with keeping your costs of production low.
What are you starting with?
Are you starting with land already purchased and paid for, or will you have to buy land and make land payments? Are you adding sheep to an existing farm or ranch? Will you have to take on a loan to purchase animals?
Small land holders often feel they don't have enough acreage to make a decent profit with sheep. Yet bigger is not always better and debt load to aquire large pieces of land is one of the biggest set backs to overcome in the business of agriculture.
What income level do you seek and how many ways you can efficiently manage the land and farm in order to reach it?
One can raise a variety of animals that will compliment one another on either a small or large land base. This lessens the responsibility of one sheep ranching enterprise paying for all and maximizes the potential of land and profit.
Take a look at related enterprises such as butchering. Small on farm butcher shops are dearly needed and can often be started with lower capital than buying land. This may enable one to keep a few head of sheep on a few acres and make a living at home at the same time.
There are also niche markets such as raising heritage breeds and selling starter flocks. This allows one to keep a smaller number of animals that would demand a greater price and keep the needed land base and overhead costs small.
What is your ideal management style?
Consider that grass and sunlight are still the cheapest means of raising livestock. Each time you seek to improve what nature already expertly does you add a cost and therefore subtract a piece of your sheep ranching profit. Make sure the numbers play out and let them guide you.
And lastly, everyone has the potential. If you are driven by the dream and creative with ways to make it work, then so it shall.