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    15 Best Sheep Breeds for Homesteaders

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    15 Best Sheep Breeds for Homesteaders

    I love the thought of raising sheep, watching them quietly grazing on the hillside, and giving birth to sweet little lambs. But this scenario doesn’t just have to happen in storybooks – sheep are great livestock for your homestead.

    You’ll need to find the breed that works for you, though, and there are a lot of different breeds of sheep to choose from. So let’s take a look at the best sheep breeds for homesteads. 

    In this article, we’ll talk about 15 breeds of sheep to raise on your homestead. Then, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of each breed and why we chose them. But first, let’s just take a quick look at a few reasons to raise sheep on your homestead

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    Why Raise Sheep on Your Homestead 

    If you are new to homesteading, you might be looking for a type of livestock that is easy to raise. Sheep might just be the livestock for your small farm! Sheep tend to be easy to handle because they are docile, gentle, and trainable. 

    Sheep don’t need a lot of space, either. In fact, you can probably raise 6 to 10 sheep per acre. But, again, this is because they require much less space than larger livestock such as cattle, and they are much easier to contain than goats. 

    Sheep are multi-purpose, too. Sheep are raised for their fiber, meat, and milk. Depending on what your needs are, you may be looking for sheep that are raised for one specific purpose or several. 

    When you’re choosing a breed of sheep for your homestead, you’ll need to look at why you are raising sheep. For example, do you want milk, meat, wool, or all three? You also need to consider if they are docile or more difficult to handle. Are they hardy and adaptable, and are they good grazers? 

    Once you can answer some of those questions, you can start to think about which specific breed is best for your homestead

    Fiber Sheep for Your Homestead 

    Merino

    Merino Sheep on the Hills

    Merinos might be the most well-known wool producer. They are very adaptable and can forage well, so you won’t have to work hard to supplement their feed if they have land to graze.

    However, merino sheep must be shorn at least once per year because their wool does not stop growing. If their coat gets too long, they may have trouble with motility and vision, and they might overheat. 

    They are an excellent choice if you are looking for a good wool producer. They have long lifespans, too, and will produce well for most of their lives. 

    Lincoln Longwool 

    Lincoln Longwool Sheep

    Lincoln Longwool Sheep are docile sheep with beautiful fleece. They graze well and are easy to keep. Lincolns can also be grown for meat.

    Unfortunately, they are prone to health problems if raised in wet areas, so Lincoln sheep are a better choice for people living in drier areas. Also, Lincoln Longwools are slow breeders, so that they won’t raise as many lambs per year as other breeds. 

    Rambouillet

    Rambouillet Sheep
    Image via Cgoodwin / CC BY 3.0

    These wool sheep produce fine wool. They are very gentle and calm, which makes them easy to raise and handle. Rambouillet sheep have long lifespans. However, they tend to have wrinkled skin, which can make shearing more complicated. 

    Since they are larger sheep, they can also be raised for meat.

    Shetland 

    Image via Richard New Forest / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Shetland Sheep have very fine wool, which is excellent for hand spinning. These sheep lamb easily and are healthy. They are playful but still relatively calm. Shetland sheep will graze well. They can be raised for milk and meat as well, but they are a slow-growing breed of sheep. 

    These sheep are good for homesteaders whose primary focus is on raising wool for hand spinning. 

    Leicester

    Bluefaced Leicester Sheep

    Leicesters are a heritage breed of sheep. They are much larger than other breeds, which can make handling them a little more difficult, so these might be a better breed for more experienced homesteaders. However, they are very hardy, and their wool is well-suited to hand spinning. 

    Romney 

    Romney Sheep Grazing

    Romney sheep are great for your homestead because their wool is an excellent choice for hand spinning. Romney sheep are also well-suited to wetter conditions and won’t develop related health conditions like other breeds of sheep might. Therefore, these are a great choice if you live in a wet climate. 

    However, Romney sheep are a slower-growing but larger-sized breed. Therefore, they will require more space than other breeds of sheep. They can be raised for meat, but they need extra feed to maintain their muscle mass, so take this into consideration if you are interested in Romney sheep. 

    Milk Sheep for Your Homestead 

    East Friesians

    East Friesian Sheep

    East Friesians originated in East Frisia, Germany, giving them their name. They are heavy produces of milk, making them one of the best breeds of dairy sheep. They are very docile and need to be closely connected to their owners. East Friesians may even enjoying cuddling and learning tricks like a dog. 

    These sheep do not do well in commercial flocks but are best for smaller homesteads with just a few sheep in the flock. These might not be the best choice if you are going to raise large numbers of sheep, but if you are looking for a small herd for personal milk purposes, they make a great choice. Their connection to their owners will make them easy to milk and easy to keep as pets. 

    Lacaune 

    Lacaune Sheep

    Lacuane sheep are initially from France and are one of the most popular breeds of sheep. Their milk is very high in butterfat, and they produce large amounts of it. Lacaune sheep do produce beautiful wool, but they are more likely to shed it throughout the year than have enough left over to sell. 

    They won’t make a great choice if you want both milk and wool, but they are excellent dairy sheep. 

    Awassi

    Awassi Sheep Relaxing

    Although hard to find in the United States, Awassi is a prolific breed of dairy sheep. They’re available in many colors and originally came from the Middle East. They are hardy and very good grazers. These sheep are also docile and easy to milk. 

    Meat Sheep for Your Homestead 

    Katahdins

    Katahdin Sheep Grazing

    If you want to raise sheep for meat, you might consider Katahdins. These are very hardy and easy to care for sheep. They are adaptable and sturdy. Katahdins are considered a hair sheep. They don’t produce a fleece, so they don’t need to be sheared. However, they do produce a lean, high-quality meat. 

    Katahdins have a very docile personality and make great mothers. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to shear these sheep for their wool, but they do make excellent meat producers. 

    Dorpers 

    Dorper Sheep Grazing

    Dorpers are another hair-sheep breed. They are primarily raised for mutton. Dorpers are very adaptable and can thrive in extreme conditions that other sheep cannot. They are strong grazers and can breed year-round. Don’t choose these sheep if you are looking for wool, but they do make great meat sheep. 

    Mouflon 

    Mouflon Sheep in Field

    Mouflon are raised for their meat. These sheep are very athletic and are more likely to run and jump fences than other breeds of sheep. However, they are very susceptible to coccidiosis, and the lambs take longer to wean than other meat breeds. 

    Mouflons are probably best suited to homesteaders with more experience (and larger fences). 

    Barbados Blackbelly 

    Barbados Blackbelly Sheep

    Barbados Blackbelly sheep are hardy sheep that can be raised in a variety of conditions. They don’t grow wool and are considered to be a hair sheep, which means they shed their coat and don’t need to be sheared.

    Don’t raise these sheep if you are looking for wool to spin. However, they can thrive on a less-than-ideal diet and are very efficient breeders. They are thought to resemble antelope. 

    Multi-Purpose Sheep for Your Homestead 

    Icelandic

    Icelandic Sheep Up Close

    Icelandic sheep are an excellent choice for beginners because they don’t need as much care and are very hardy. They can be raised as multi-purpose sheep for meat, dairy, and wool, especially for homestead or family use. They do well in harsh winters, although they don’t produce large amounts of milk. 

    Hampshire 

    Hampshire Sheep in Field

    Another popular dual-purpose sheep breed is the Hampshire. They are bred for their fine wool and for their meat. They have black legs with white faces. They are fast-growing, calm, and good foragers. They are easy to take care of, making them a great dual-purpose homestead breed. 

    Final Thoughts on the Best Sheep Breeds for Your Homestead

    There are plenty of breeds of sheep that you can choose from for your homestead. If you are new to raising livestock, you’ll want to consider a breed that is docile and hardy and that are good foragers.  On the other hand, you may be looking for a sheep that provides great wool for hand spinning or a sheep that is raised primarily for meat. 

    If you don’t like any specific breed, you might look for a cross-breed of two of your ideal sheep breeds. Then, for the best sheep-raising experience, find a great breeder who can help you pick out the best sheep breed for your homestead and give you advice as you raise your flock. 

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