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Sustainable Goat and Sheep Ranching, Getting Started

Written by: Christine
August 11, 2011


We recently received a request for information on sustainable goat and sheep ranching. Here are the tips that Bobbie put together for a couple starting a new ranch in California.

Contact your local County Extension Agent and find out what seminars or groups are available. In Florida we have associations for sheep and goat. You can do a search for your area. Are you thinking fiber, dairy, meat? There are serious federal and state regulations about selling meat and dairy. Your own county may have restrictions also.

Marketing? Do you know outlets for whatever product (meat, fiber, dairy) you want to have? This is really a first step in deciding which species will best suit your needs and lifestyle.

Food Requirements: Sheep and goat need to be kept separate because of food requirements. Sheep cannot have copper in their diet and goat need copper. Also adult rams and bucks will fight and can kill each other.

Male sheep (rams) and goats (bucks) need to be kept separate from females unless they are breeding. Males of both species can become mean and dangerous. It doesn’t matter if they are pets or have been bottle fed, etc. Once they become sexually mature they can unexpectedly become aggressive.

Shelter: Goats require shelter from rain and cold. Sheep need shade but generally don’t need more than a lean-to. We get the best use from our portable, EZ Hutch shelters.

Acreage: 10 acres doesn’t provide enough grazing area for 2 species. It might not be sustainable if you have to provide feed and hay all the time. To control parasites it is necessary to rotate animals between paddocks on a regular basis. That means you would need to do a lot of fencing.

It is imperative that you have a quarantine area with shelter and water. All new animals brought onto a farm should be kept separate from existing herds or flocks for a minimum or 30 days. Also you need a place for sick animals.

We learned a lot from Fias Co Farm. This is a link geared toward goats but the information is often applicable to both.