to buy a sheep (or two).
sheep has a lot in common with buying a dog. You have your
pedigreed dogs from reputable breeders, your ok dogs from ok breeders,
and your mutts because a couple of dogs got together and guess what
Mind you the mutts might have a lot to recommend
them, which is why you'll see cross breeding in both dogs and sheep...
but let's talk a little about what you, as a buyer, have a right
to expect for your money.
A purebred dog or a purebred sheep is an investment.
It is also a relationship. Not between you and the dog
or sheep, but between you and the breeder of your dog
or sheep. Either in dogs or sheep, a purebred is going to run you
between $400 to stratospheric depending on the breed, and you have
a right, for that kind of money, to have certain expectations of
- You have a right to pre- and post-purchase
service. You have a right
to expect the seller to answer your questions (even the dumb ones)
thoroughly, and to point you in the direction of the resources
you need to care for your new animals well.
- You have a right to copies of
the papers, pedigree, and health records
of the stock you're buying before you make your final
payment. You have a right to expect that the stock has had regular
veterinary care, and is enrolled in the Volunteer Flock Scrapie
Certification Program (with appropriate ear tags to prove it).
- You have a right to ask for, and
receive, references. A farm
that is selling prime breeding stock has old customers who should
be happy to give them a good reference. And can be another valuable
source of information for a new shepherd.
- And you have the right, even as
a newcomer to be treated politely.
By the same token... the farm you
are buying from has certain expectations of you.
- They have the right to ask to
visit your farm. What you
are buying from them represents years of careful stock management
and breeding... they have a right to know where it is going.
- They have a right to ask questions.
They have every right to
ask about your plans for this animal. They don't want your business
plan, but they want to make sure their stock is going to be treated
humanely and sanely.
- And, as a note: They
can't, legally, sell you certain stock unless your farm is enrolled
in the VFSCP. (learn more)
You don't, of course, have to buy registered stock. In
one of our local freebie papers are classified ads for sheep all
the time. If you've decided to go with sheep from a less
reliable source, what should you look for?
- Visit the farm with cash not
in hand. This is an old
trick we learned when shopping for a puppy. All puppies
are cute. And I dare say, most lambs, when you want one, are desirable.
Visit the farm to get a feel for the lay of the land. Are the
sheep well cared for? The water fresh? The feed good? Are they
in clean surroundings, or is it filthy? Do the animals look healthy,
or are they run down?
- If there is some question of heath
pay to have a vet take a
look at the animals before you agree to take them. Rather like
you're supposed to have a mechanic check over a used
car before you buy it.
- And again... ask for references.
If the stock is healthy,
the farm a picture of good management, but the stock isn't registered,
the farm may have made a decision not to bother with the paperwork
and expense of certifying and registering their stock. It could
be they have very nice sheep at bargain prices... but check with
someone else to make sure.
Buying your sheep carefully, whether
from a farm with stock that is registered and certified disease
free, or from a well managed farm with a few head for sale that
aren't registered, will go a long way to making sure you start out
with healthy animals. The temptation, when you're just starting
out and aren't quite sure how much you'll like keeping sheep, is
to buy cheap, and hope for the best. Well, nothing is going to dampen
your enthusiasm for keeping sheep as much as having to treat your
new animals for foot rot. Or discovering they have Scrapie.
By choosing your seller carefully
you'll be assured of support
if you need it, enthusiasm when you succeed, and a continuing relationship
with another fine farm.
Go to The List:
What You Need To Keep Icelandic Sheep
Go to our Resources and Links section
on a Shoestring: Frelsi Farm's guide to building a fine flock
on a small budget.
to visit? We're in Mansfield, VT outside of Stowe.