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What breed of Sheep?


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While we haven't got our puppy yet, we have been doing research on herding and have decided to purchase a small flock of sheep for when Nitro will be ready to work. What breed(s) of sheep would you recommend? With our beef background, we were thinking about Rideau Arcotts, Hampshires or Suffolks, something with good feed conversion and carcass type that could also be profitable. Do dogs prefer white or black faced sheep? Is there a breed that is easier to start with? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Of higher priority than the breed of sheep is to find heavily dog-broke sheep to start your pup on.


Once that issue is out of the way, then you must decide if it is more important to you how the sheep work or how the sheep will provide income. The different breeds of sheep work differently; some are heavy and some are light. The market you choose for your sheep (meat, breading stock, wool, Biomedical research, and grazing to name a few or any combination of these) can influence the choice of breed as well as the expenses your willing to incur. We have only 6 acres and therefore only keep about 20 sheep. Our market is primarily the freezer market and our customers like mild flavor lamb. Since we only keep a few sheep we decided that instead of doing our own shearing or finding and paying for someone to come out to shear so few sheep, we?d keep hair sheep. Hair sheep are generally lighter than wool sheep (generally); we modify this some by culling runners from our flock.


Also your facilities and location could influence your choice; I would think some breeds would better in long cold winters than other breeds.


Ahhh so many decisions.



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Here are a couple of things you might find interesting:






The latter link has an article on getting a small flock of sheep, but I can't get it to work. Maybe you will have better luck.


I often hear that Suffolks are a little too challenging for starting dogs.


As Mark says, though, "dog broke" is most important early on.



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Maybe a good alternative would be a whiteface commercial cross (dogbroke ewes) and keep a Suffolk or other blackface ram to bring up carcass weight. Straight Suffolks ARE tough for a dog just starting out, though a good mature dog can handle them.


I'd also contact my local agricultural agent (or your equivalent) to find out what kind of sheep people in my area were raising. Also what kind of problems to look out for.


Finally, the best place to go "talk sheep" is at a sheepdog trial. Talk to some of the Open handlers and find out if anybody has suitable sheep for sale. These sheep will be accustomed to dogs and hopefully well handled.


Good luck!

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The various flavors of Arcotts are wonderful sheep. I have seen one dog trial run on Outtawais (sp?) Arcotts, and they worked very nicely.


They might be a bit challenging for a beginner, since they can be quite prolific. When I was starting out, one good bit of advice I got was to get ewes with a history of 1.5 to 1.75 lambs per year, and who had always raised them all. I believe Rideau Arcotts will generally run pretty close to 200 percent, and perhaps a bit higher. There's a much better chance of having lambing or mothering or milk supply problems with this kind of sheep, particularly if you're paying your sheep school tuition by learning with them. Less room for error than with them less prolific sheep.


I have yet to see a decent suffolk sheep on this side ofthe Atlantic ocean. I wouldn't even keep one as a terminal sire if I were you. They may convert grain to meat well, but that's about all they're good for. I would presume that grain is expensive in Quebec -- I know it was in New Hampshire and is in Massachusetts -- so you would want to be looking for a sire that is good at converting grass to meat.


Look for Texel or Charollais rams.

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