Dwarf goats vs. miniature sheep
Mark and I have agreed
to table the issue of weed-eating livestock until spring or when we
half acre fenced in
(whichever comes last), so I've been contenting myself with
research. I contacted a few breeders of Miniature
Cheviot Sheep to
figure out a ballpark estimate of how much it would cost us to get
started with a ram and ewe (around $500), and in the process "met"
Terri Brown, who turns out to keep both Miniature Cheviot Sheep and
Nigerian Dwarf Goats. She kindly agreed to let me post her
experiences (and some of her beautiful photos) on the blog to share
with you all.
When we bought our property in 1987 we had two very hairy Bernese Mt. Dogs and wanted to keep sheep & ducks. After we cleared we realized we needed serious goat help. That led to the Nigerians, and we didn't have enough grass for sheep until now (maybe we still don't but I WANT them <G>). The ducks went away and now we have Silkie chickens, which are better for pet zoos. The pet zoos we do are mostly in Fauquier County although we have ventured out to Washington, DC, and Alexandria for birthday parties.
The sheep are complementary to our Nigerian Dwarf goats in cleaning up the field, as the sheep prefer the grass that the goats ignore as they clean up the vines on the fenceline.
We got our Nigerian Dwarfs in 1993 and have never regretted it. They have doggy personalities and become part of the family. Nigerians are perfect for attacking wild brush... honeysuckle, brambles, poison ivy (don't pet them afterwards!), and unwanted saplings. They don't prefer grass and low forbes, however, so you end up mowing that. We got the lambs last year for our pet zoos but find they are wonderful mowers.
The Nigerians are polyestrous and produce kids & milk in any season. The sheep only breed in the fall, and if you miss it, oh well maybe next year? They only have singles or twins, unlike our goats who have triplets, quads and more! So the herd grows slowly, especially when three quarters of the flock are rams (at least in MY flock....)
My hubby, Mark, and I both agree Miniature Cheviot Sheep are a delight! Their uncomplicated way of thinking is a respite in our busy lives. They hang out together in a simple, fluffy white, peaceful group, rarely putting on a show like the goats do. The mini sheep are a blast at the county fair, getting a lot of attention in addition to winning a bunch of cash because they have their own division. Each species has its charm, and they do complement each other.
They can be run together but I prefer to rotate them through. I don't like having more than four to six individuals per pen because of competition for food and my attention, and mixing the two species is more complicated. They have different ways of getting my attention, so it becomes a total mob scene when they are together. Plus, although they can get along sharing food, they each do better with their own special mixtures of grain & minerals.
Never keep rams & bucks together; the bucks rear up and the rams bust their gut or bash them low from behind. I don't think wethers practice that behavior, but I don't have any yet so we'll see.
Miniature animals of all types are the rage nowdays. Smaller families want a little taste of farmy life, and they find poultry and small sheep & goats fit into their lives. They want a small animal with less expensive shelter & fence & transport requirements, and something that is more like a pet. The Nigerian Dwarfs and Mini Cheviots win on both counts.
Being registered helps, too, which guarantees the buyer that their babies will also be small, and gives you credibility as a reputable breeder (which you honor by helping the buyer get started right and by not selling sick babies).
Our chicken waterer never spills or fills with POOP.
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