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 How to buy a sheep (or two).

One of Frelsi Farm's badgerfaced ewes.Buying 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 happened?

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 the seller.

  • 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

Flock on a Shoestring: Frelsi Farm's guide to building a fine flock on a small budget.

 Want to visit? We're in Mansfield, VT outside of Stowe.

   


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