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A Flock of Your Own Icelandic Sheep
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Business Is An Attitude... and not necessarily a profitable one (at least at first!)

So... let's talk turkey.  Or in this case, Icelandic Sheep.  Are you buying your sheep to start up a small farm business... or is this your hobby? From the IRS's point of view, business is an attitude... which should, at some point, show some income.

The temptation, in the beginning, is to think like a hobby.  After all, 3, 6, 8, or even 12 sheep don't throw enough fleece to make it worthwhile to really try and market the wool.  A small flock might throw enough lamb for your freezer, and some to sell to a few close friends, but certainly not enough to justify trying to market it to the public.

However... by year three of keeping sheep you are probably going to have to start thinking like a farming business.  The simple laws of reproduction are going to see to it that you do unless you are disciplined enough to cull your little flock ruthlessly. And few of us are!

By the time you have upwards of 8 sheep you'll find there are real costs associated with keeping sheep. The average sheep goes through 1 bale of hay a week.  Actually, depending on the weight of the bales, how stemmy they are, it may be closer to two.  8 sheep x 2 bales/week x 30 weeks on hay =  480 bales of hay... we'll make it an even 500 bales x $3 /bale on average = $1500 in feed costs. You'll have another $200 in medications... add another $300 to process the wool into yarn or other expenses, and your little flock is costing you $2000/year in overhead.

And we haven't even accounted for the fencing, gates, feeders, and sheep shed!

Now, let's see what those sheep might produce for you.  Our 8 sheep include 2 rams for breeding who throw utterly useless fleeces... so they're a waste until we decide to turn them into ramburger.

Our 6 ewes will average 3 sets of twins and 3 singles... 9 lambs in the spring.  On average 50% should be ram lambs, which we intend to put in the freezer come fall (before we're feeding them hay)... so let's call it 5 rams for the freezer or roughly 150 pounds of meat, conservatively.

Our lambs and ewes will produce a substantial amount of fleece by fall.. 9 lamb fleeces and 6 from the ewes... that's a lot of wool.

And we still have our 4 ewe lambs. We could sell our ewe lambs to another farm, use them to increase our own stock, or eat them. In other words... we should be able to break even on our $2000 in overhead.

If you're breaking even... are you a business?

It depends entirely on you and your attitude. Additional information is available through The New England Icelandic Sheep Breeders' Association website, and the following links will take you there:

Being a Business: Branding Your Farm

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Buying Sheep: a quick primer

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

 

 


The Farm at Morrison Corner raises Icelandic Sheep on the last hill farm in Mansfield, VT.  Learn about Raising Icelandic Sheep, Raising Chickens, Moving to Vermont and Living in Vermont on this and our other sites.

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