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Regularly Transporting Sheep?


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Hello all,


This is my first post. My husband and I have a smallish hobby farm property right now in B.C., Canada. We have loved it thus far, and I have been excited to add sheep. This may seem like a strange situation/question:


In addition to our property here, we also own acreage in Florida. While it was originally investment property, hubby and I are really liking the idea of spending 6 winter months (maybe November - April) in Florida, and the rest of the year here in Canada. It allows us to spend time with both "sets" of family, as well as allows us to avoid Canadian winter.


Thing is, I really REALLY want sheep. And not random sheep to quick-buy and quick-sell every 6 months, but a real flock I can develop and enjoy. Maybe California Reds or something... Our current livestock is mostly birds, which we have no problem making seasonal. Also, we can transport our horses and dogs between countries quite easily. So, short of buying auction sheep and selling them 6 months later, what are my options for sheep?


CAN live sheep (not intended for slaughter) be transported between countries? Are there services for this? Assuming money was no barrier, could my husband and I conceivably have a small flock (under 100 sheep at any given time) that spend winters in Florida, and the rest of the year in Canada?


Thanks in advance!



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The problem you're going to have is getting them back and forth across the border. The last I knew, which was about a year ago, the border was closed for Canadian sheep coming into the US. US sheep could move into Canada under certain circumstances. Sheep coming from Florida would have to be quarantined somewhere in the northern US for some period of weeks to ensure that they were free of bluetounge, an endemic disease of subtropical climates. I'm not sure what other veterinary clearances you'd need.


You should be aware that sheep are generally included in all the politics that swirl around the import and export of cattle. When the US authorities decide that there's BSE in Canada and close the border to cattle, the ban also applies to all ruminants including sheep. Similarly when Canada decides there's BSE in the US and closes its border, sheep are included in the order. You could very easily be stuck on either side of the border with sheep that you can't move with you.


Assuming that the rules and veterinary clearances are all worked out, the next hurdle would be logistics. Moving 100 sheep would require either one semi-trailer or a decked gooseneck with a GVW high enough that you'd need a commercial drivers license to operate it. As such, the driver would be limited to 11 hours on the road each day. How many days of travel would that mean -- five or six? Another option would be multiple drivers.


The final hurdle would be that of husbandry. Asking sheep to move from high latitudes to the subtropics would mean adapting to entirely different feeds, a sudden change in photoperiod (which would interfere with breeding), and general stress of travel. I think it would be safe to assume that reproductive failure and mortality rates would be high.


When all is said and done, you might be better off and dollars ahead to pay someone to care for your sheep one place or the other while you're away. Or have a flock in each place and pay a shepherd to look after the one you're not with.

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Thanks Bill,


I had rather thought this would be the case. It is unfortunate, but it makes sense. So then, here are my options as I see it:


A ) Have two separate flocks, maintained by shepherds when we are away for half the year. First of all, I didn't even know there were still actually commercial shepherds I could contact for such a thing. What are the risks involved with such a thing? Theft? Suffering of my breeding program integrity? Expense? I had priced "sheep boarding" out at about $2 per sheep per day, as a single example. The pros, of course, I get to have MY sheep - breed carefully chosen, individuals conscientiously maintained to further productivity in the breed's wool/meat market(s)... I feel good about that. It's what I had wanted. In fact, given I'd have to have separate flocks anyway, I could concentrate on two breeds or crosses. That could be nice.


B ) Buy/sell stock every 6 months. Logistically, I suppose this is the easiest way to have sheep to work with. But then I am probably looking at auction stock that I don't feel saddened (for my efforts, cost, and breeding program) every time I have to sell off and start from scratch. Maybe a couple dozen mixed breed sheep of varying ages and temperaments - sort of a "mixed bag" to work with at any given time. But in this case, what is involved in dog breaking sheep enough that I'd have a good pick-up point? And what if I don't have a dog suitable for such a task (just learning pups)? Is it unrealistic to think of this situation as being positive - a chance to work with a mixed bag, preparing my dog and I to handle trial stock better than perhaps working with more predictable sheep?


All these thoughts are going through my head as I contemplate what to do with the "back 40" as we head into fall...

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The sale barn sheep will be a mixed bag. No way around it, because you don't know anything about them when you buy them. Perhaps there's someone around you who can supply you with a small group of dog broke sheep each season? Once your dogs are more experienced you should be able to break sale barn sheep pretty quickly, but in the meantime you might want something more settled.

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Jennifer, I have absolutely no experience with sheep, but I love logisitical challenges of any type. Something you might consider is having a permanent sheep herd in whichever location, BC or Florida, is better/cheaper/easier on sheep, and a sell off group in the other location. That way, you'd only be paying sheepsitting charges for 6 months of the year, and you could have your breeding program.


At the same time, you'd have the flexibility of learning about different breeds of sheep in the 'off' location.


Hope this idea is helpful.



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For reference, I am paid $18 (US) per hour to manage a flock of 50-70 sheep. Some months, it's not many hours- in the winter, say, when it's just checking on the flock & putting out new bales. Other months, it's a lot of hours- around lambing, and in the spring & summer when the flock gets rotated to new pastures often. This is an entirely grass-fed flock. Because I have to drive by them pretty much everyday anyway, I don't charge for every 10 min it takes me do a quick once-over & make sure everyone is okay. I tack on 1/2 hour or so a week for that. It certainly doesn't make me a living, but it gets me several thousand dollars a year, and I enjoy it, so it's certainly worth it. Because we sell custom-cut lamb & have a market for cull ewes, last I checked the flock makes enough to pay my wages, plus some. The folks who own the flock mostly enjoy the sheep, and don't need the income from it, but if they were losing a lot, I know they'd sell off the sheep.

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A small group of dog-broke sheep each season would be a lovely idea. Especially if it could be on a buy-back arrangement. I think the main reason I stayed away from thinking in a RENTAL direction is that, like borrowing someone else's expensive electronic equipment or tools, we would be completely responsible. If something happened to a sheep, even if it wasn't our "fault", I would feel terrible. But in a buy-back arrangement, the sheep were owned by us during the time they live here, and the loss is entirely ours. I do like the prospect of being able to dog break sale barn sheep quickly in the future. Thank you for your responses.




This is an excellent idea! I would think sheep would be easier kept in Florida, what with year-round grazing. However, there might be other challenges that make keeping the flock in Canada cheaper for us. I will explore this option as well in the future... One key factor may be where we have better access to dog broke (and eventually GOOD sale barn) sheep to buy. The auctions up here do not look that great for sheep. Maybe wintering sheep up here in Canada is simpler (and thus cheaper) to hand off to someone else for the winter months. Anyway, thank you for bringing this simple idea to attention - it had escaped me prior. My personality tends to be an all or nothing type. LOL




Thank you for your information. By the sound of it, winter in Canada would be cheapest to have someone else care for the flock, as there is limited work involved. I suppose it is convenient that my husband and I would plan to be here through the busy spring and summer seasons. If Florida proves to have better access to dog-broke sheep and better sale barn stock, then I could see us having the permanent flock up here in Canada. If I decide to go this route, your guidelines have been incredibly helpful.

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