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Country Discussion Topics
To add your comments to this topic, click on one of the 'Reply' links below.

Sheep or Goats?
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Paula    Posted 07-15-2003 at 13:30:57       [Reply]  [Send Email]
So I have this 2acre lot (roughly 200x400ft), level
wooded mostly (the NW corner is more brushy than
wooded). The house is going about half way up the lot
on the East side, the septic field is in the northwest
corner with a raised sandmound septic (or what I call
the raised human shitpile). So naturally the septic and
the sandmound have to be kept clear of trees and
brush. I'd thought about planting the whole thing with
some kind of creeping ground cover like vinca but that's
alot of vinca.

Something made me reconsider ruminants. I'd
dismissed the idea before for a number of reasons

1. going wussy and not being able to slaughter the cute
goats or sheep when the time came.
2. having large sighthounds (rhodesian ridgebacks)
and livestock that look like deer only slower.

But I'm rethinking it. I mean I only have the two acres
but I could divide the lot into the north part for the goats
or sheep and the front part for the garden, dogs and
trees, etc.

So now the question is: Do I use sheep - grazers who
prefer grasses over under brush, or Goats - who prefer
under brush. I'm thinking that after the septic is installed
I'll get alot of low brush (grass height) that could
become underbrush and small trees if left unattended.
So do I get the sheep that would keep the low stuff in
check, would would goats eat mroe stuff period?

Did that question make ANY sense at all?

Further: The lot is in Orrtanna, PA; any suggestions as
to species of goat or sheep. With regards to sheep -
prefer haired to wool. With regards to size - prefer
small. Prefer meat to milk.

BTW fencing is 4ft woven wire with two electric wires
(one about 1' off the ground and the second near the

Oh, one last thing: Anybody have a good
recomendation on a book or publication for the not-
quite farmer?

Cheers, Paula.

screaminghollow    Posted 07-16-2003 at 05:48:19       [Reply]  [No Email]
I agree with others, a mix should do you. An acquaintance of mine has five acres he wants mowed but doesn't want to go through the physical effort to mow it. It is already fenced so he goes every April and buys some old sheep, very cheap, 20 bucks a piece and turns them out. In December he hauls the sheep back to the sale and sells them again. He figures it to be less time and effort, although he doesn't have a tractor or machinery to mow it. He also doesn't have to feed them through the winter or shear them.
Barbados sheep are becoming popular around here, they shed like dorpers. I also agree that pygmy goats are tuff to keep in. We have some Boers and they are about the easiest goats (laziest?)to keep in that I've ever seen. I've seen Dairy goats try to jump fences but never a Boer.

Amanda Honighausen    Posted 04-24-2004 at 22:26:27       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I was wondering if you could tell me more about the man
who buys old sheep in April and sells in December. I live on
10 acres. My husband got interested in nigerian dwarf
goats for their milk and he thought they'd be great as
"organic" lawn mowers. Well, we aren't really milking them
(that's another story) and they aren't eating the grass either.
They are really cute, smart and curious pets for us. The
only problem is that they are escape artists who are always
trying to come in the house. ALso, they are eating the bark
off of my trees. These are all problems I would have know
if I had checked out this website earlier.

What I'd like to do now is find some sheep "grass mowers",
but I don't want the commitment of more pets for the whole
year (feeding during winter). Where do you find old sheep?
Where are the sales mentioned in the email?


Paula    Posted 07-16-2003 at 06:00:14       [Reply]  [Send Email]
" An acquaintance of mine has five acres he wants
mowed but doesn't want to go through the physical
effort to mow it. It is already fenced so he goes every
April and buys some old sheep, very cheap, 20 bucks a
piece and turns them out. In December he hauls the
sheep back to the sale and sells them again. He figures
it to be less time and effort, although he doesn't have a
tractor or machinery to mow it. He also doesn't have to
feed them through the winter or shear them"

That's EXACTLY why I want them except I had hopes of
eating them not reselling them. Is that a reasonable
expectation? I don't want to winter over any livestock so
I'd planned on a few chickens(maybe a couple of capon
for christmas and thanksgivin), a couple of ducks and
some sheep and goats. While I keep them they would
keep the grass low and the brush in check, give me
eggs, etc. At the end of the season take em all to the
butchers and put away meat for me and meat meal and
bones for the dogs.

Is that an unreasonable plan? Buy young at the
beginning of the season (April) and have meat at the
end of the season (December?).


screaminghollow    Posted 07-16-2003 at 06:26:18       [Reply]  [No Email]
Paula, Young kids can be had pretty cheap, especially little billies. However, around easter, 30 to 40 lb kids go for $1.00 a pound for Easter dinner and the same size lambs for about $1.50 to $2.00 a pound. That's not cheap. If there's a goat dairy nearby, check with them about buying a few very young kids. You might have to bottle feed them for a month, but I've heard that some dairies give away newborn billies. Then the problem is whether you can eat something you have held and bottle fed as a baby and which may become as much a pet as your dog. We got a young sanaan doe at about a week old and raised her. She is definitely a pet, better behaved than our dogs and just as loving. Sheep aren't generally as sociable as goats, (although they can be) Sheep are easier to keep in an enclosure, but a little harder to physically handle than goats. (worming, attending wounds, checking feet, etc.) I've eaten both goat and lamb. All things considered, I'd rather eat a hot dog. If you like goat and lamb, have at it.
Is there a butcher who who do the deed for you and how much does he charge? Some in this area are reasonable to process sheep, but very expensive to process goats.

Paula    Posted 07-16-2003 at 06:43:43       [Reply]  [Send Email]
More and more information to digest.

There's a local butcher in Thurmont that everybody
uses. I'll check with him. Regarding the meat: I'm from
the caribbean - we curry goat all the time. I wonder if
their ribs are worth keeping......

Just called the zoning office to make sure its okay to do
this. Told them I wanted to keep a couple of goats to
keep the grass on the septic low. We'll see what they


Paula    Posted 07-16-2003 at 05:20:06       [Reply]  [Send Email]
You guys are great. Thanks for all the information.
Tom I printed out your message to keep the book lists. I
also looked at the sheep breeds you all mentioned.
Don't worry, I'll take my time and ask way more
questions before I get started. I have a lot of
experience taking care of horses so I'm not a total rube,
but I've never had to deal with sheep or goats so I'm not
going to assume anything either.


one last thing!!!    Posted 07-16-2003 at 06:32:06       [Reply]  [No Email]
If you're planning to buy young and then eat them at the end of the season, it is best to castrate the males young. It's easy, we use an "elastrator" and it doesn't hurt us or the animal if it is done young.

Uncastrated males, I'm told, taste really they are harder to deal with while you're taking care of them.

tom a

Fawteen    Posted 07-15-2003 at 15:28:44       [Reply]  [No Email]
Tom gave you excellent advice, and an outstanding reading list.

I think a mix of a couple of goats and a couple of sheep would work. I had a goat (a mixed breed mongrel, given to me) in South Carolina that did an EXCELLENT job of clearing an inpenetrable mess of vines, trees, thorny growth and general trash.

On the other hand, I purposely bought two pygmy goats to do the same thing here in Maine, and it was the worst nightmare of my life. The goats did nothing but get out, get into the neighbor's garden, and eat the chicken's feed. My sheep actually cleared the brushy area. I got rid of the goats ASAP! I think the problem there was the breed, not goats in general.

My sheep are Shetlands, which are small (70-100 pounds) docile, very VERY rugged and independent. They do need to be sheared, but the wool is quite popular with hand spinners.

If you're set on a hair sheep, look into Katahdins. See the link

Ana    Posted 07-15-2003 at 16:49:27       [Reply]  [No Email]
Gee, I have pygmies and never have had trouble with them wanting out. I don't keep billies though. My girls are quite tame and are more pets than anything else. But they are the easiest animals that I've ever had, plus they do clear out the brush, now I need something for the grass so I don't have to brush-hog.

Tom A    Posted 07-15-2003 at 14:41:53       [Reply]  [No Email]

Lots of good questions there. We got some goats several years ago to clear brush in some ravines that I couldn't mow with the tractor. Got a pair of sheep a year later. They're a nice mix, and between them they take care of a lot of land and get both the grass and brush.

Breed is probably less important than who raised them. A bottle-raised animal that is socialized to humans is infinitely easier to take care of. We have several alpines, a saanen, and a nubian dwarf goat. Our 2 sheep are neutered Finn-Dorsett crosses, and so are pretty small (maybe 100 lbs) but they do have wool and need annual shearing. All have great personalities, and would do the job you're looking for.

Be aware, though, that goats will kill even relatively sizable trees. They gnaw on the bark and eventually eat it all the way around, killing the tree. So if there are trees you want to keep, you must fence them off.

Four foot fence with electric will work fine if you have socialized fence is much less than that in places and they don't wander. If you keep a billy goat, though, you ain't got enough fence...20 foot, 8 or 10 strands electric might just about keep him home, except during breeding season. You don't need a billy, though.

As far as books go, here is a list of my favorites:

“Raising Milk Goats the Modern Way” by Jerry Belanger. Great source of information on raising goats of all kinds. Includes information on breeds, selecting a goat, breeding, milking, slaughtering culls. A very good starter book, this is the only one we had for the first year we got goats and it saw us through.

“The Contrary Farmer” by Gene Logsdon. 1995, Chelsea Green publishing. Lots of good small farm info, examples of different enterprises and how others are successful finding or building a niche market for their small farm products.

“Buying and Setting Up Your Small Farm or Ranch” by Lynn R. Miller. 1997, Small Farm Journal inc, Publishing. Good book covers finding and buying a place, basic coverage on implements and how to decide what to do. Emphasis is on horse and mule farming, but lots of good info even if you use a tractor.

“10 Acres Enough” by Edmund Morris. Reprinted 1996 by Small Farm Journal inc, Publishing. Originally published in 1864, but could have been last year. Original book was found in a flea market and publisher wanted to get it back out into the public. City guy turns in green eyeshades after stock market crash to farm a small place in the country. Builds from almost nothing, develops markets and successful small-fruit farm.

“5 Acres and Independence” by Dr. Haynes if memory serves. Can’t lay my hands on it right now. Lots and lots of “how to” information. Originally written in the 1930s, updated in the 1940s. Reprinted recently and still available. In my opinion one of the best general small farm books around. First read it before we got the farm, reread it every year or two since moving here and always find something ‘newly important.’

If I can help, let me know and I'll answer what I can, research what I don't know, and make up what I can't find!

take care,

Stretch    Posted 07-15-2003 at 14:33:23       [Reply]  [No Email]
My experience says sheep. Goats will climb that type of fence. Sure, the electric will help, but they seem to be able to sense if it's off and take advantage of it. And they'll(sheep) eat what's there. Our two do a pretty good job of keeping the trash out of the horse pasture.

I also have a pair of donkeys that I like a lot more than either sheep or goats. And they will eat brush pretty good too. They're a lot nicer to talk too...;o)

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