Monday, May 4, 2009

5 Best Books if you are Serious about Sheep

If you are serious about your sheep--- whether you have 5 or 500--- you will want some good information about them. There are a lot of sheep books out there. Here are a few with actual information you can use.

1. Sheep Raiser's Manual by William K. Kruesi
This 1985 book is one of the first two I bought about sheep raising, and it has been in constant use as a reference ever since. It is aimed at the producer of commercial sheep (for meat), perhaps in flocks of 100 or less.

This book contains a wealth of sheep wisdom. There is a section on methods of grazing, from continuous grazing to intensive rotational grazing and strip grazing. The pasture improvement section tells how to improve your pastureland through methods such as frost-seeding. A chapter on line breeding tells how to improve your flock through linebreeding while avoiding the hazards of closer inbreeding.

There is a section on accelerated lambing methods, particularly the Cornell STAR system. This system was very popular when the book was written; now people are more likely to favor a system of annual spring lambing on pasture. However, it is good to know both methods!

There is also a very good section on farm business management that all sheep raisers should take a look at. Your sheep should be supporting you, not you supporting your sheep.

2. Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep: Breeds, Care, Facilities by Paula Simmons and Carol Ekarius I bought the earlier edition of this book, Raising Sheep the Modern Way . Updated and Revised Edition about the time I bought the Kruesi book, and both books were my first sheep raising guides. The breeds section in this book was where I first got the idea of getting Shetland sheep, which at the time were very rare and quite expensive. The book has a great deal to offer in the way of sheep facility plans, suggestions for sheep related income, particularly from wool, and vital information on sheep health in lambing. Above all, it introduced me to the charming rhyme 'Ewes yearly by twinning/Rich masters do make/The lambs from such twinners/For breeders do take.' (Youatt, 1837)

The twinning rhyme is sadly absent from the newer edition, but it is updated and now includes a number of profiles of successful sheep farms. It has enough new information that I don't for a moment regret buying the new edition even though I still had the old.

3. A Conservation Breeding Handbook by D. Phillip Sponenberg is useful for the breeder of any rare breed of livestock including sheep. The most important thing I got from reading this book is detailed instructions for how to divide your flock into 3 separate bloodlines for the purposes of reducing inbreeding. It also details 'rescue breeding', which is when you start with a very small flock, perhaps with only one ram.

These breeding methods are not only of use with the very rare breeds, it's also good for preserving rare bloodlines within more numerous breeds, or for those who want to minimize their purchase of outside stock.

4. More Sheep, More Grass, More Money by Peter Schroedter is not written by an 'expert' but by a boots-on-the-ground, manure-on-the-boots sheep farmer who tells how he makes money by grazing sheep in Canada. Grazing is the emphasis here. Schroedter recommends pasture lambing in the spring rather than winter lambing in sheds and tells how to do it. He tells how to pick strong grazing replacement ewes, and how and when to add grain feeding to the mix.

Much of this book is quite amusing and it is a great and useful read, but remember this is one man's experience. He dismisses the prolific breeds such as Finnsheep, Romanov and Booroola as being too expensive to feed for his system, yet I know of one Booroola breeder who also practices pasture lambing. As always with farming books, try things out and keep what works for you, in your situation.

5. The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable is another book I bought early on which has proved its worth over time. The book recommends using garlic as a wormer; recently there have been scientific studies which confirm this method's usefulness. This book is a very complete account for the use of herbs with different classes of livestock, including many that the flockmaster can grow for himself.

Do you have favorite farming books not included on the list? Tell me about them in a comment!

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