Tonight’s #VermontShepherdess moment is inspired by my daily count. I count the turkey poults as they zip about their brooder. I count the Boy Band as I walk out to see them. I count All The Single Ladies as I take hay out to them. I count the chicks. I count the hens to see if there are a few extra to sell to the latest inquirer. I count the Muppets and the alpacas…
People often ask, “How many sheep do you have?” and I have to pause. It changes more often than you’d think. For many years we had just 4 sheep. Then for many years we had just 12 sheep. We were at 55 sheep and that just changed as little Miriam was born. So now, 56.
There was the year that our flock doubled at lambing-time. That was probably the most significant change in numbers for me to digest. When we went from 6 to 12. But since that year, it is, none of it, a bit overwhelming. I think that gradual growth has been a natural adjustment. My experience and knowledge-base have increased at an even rate and when things are great, they’re as wonderful with my heart and my head as when I had just four sheep. When things are terrible, they’re as hard on my heart and my head as when I had just four sheep.
When a person is thinking of adding sheep to their lives, their farm, their property, a new venture, it is good to consider starting small and growing in accordance to experience and resource availability. You learn so much in the first years of shepherding that can contribute to successful flock-raising. I often recommend to apprentice where possible and definitely to read, visit farms and find a mentor or two.
Practically speaking, where you are and the productivity of your land will determine how many sheep you are able to sustain. Additionally, if you are seeking to make a profit from the sheep, you will need to factor in the market prices and the likely returns. Though it may be hard to make a profit from raising sheep on a small scale, it becomes even more difficult when the environment includes a harsh winter and additional feed and shelter must be provided for the sheep or you are learning the hard way about management practices.