What are the best sheep for Hobby Farms Australia?

There are so many different sorts of sheep available in the Australian livestock market – each with pros and cons attached to them. There is also no right or wrong answer to this question. So how do you know what is the best sheep breed for you and your farm?

Why do you want sheep?

The best sheep for hobby farms in Australia aren’t going to be the same for everyone. What is right for your neighbour isn’t necessarily going to be right for you. It is important to make sure you think very carefully about WHY you want sheep to ensure you get the right breed for you. Different breeds have different attributes and qualities that make them suited to different purposes. Let’s have a look at some of those.

Meat sheep

If you are looking to keep sheep either to put in the freezer yourself or to sell for meat purposes, the best breeds would include;

  • Dorper – are shedding which means they lose their wool over the warmer months, which can be an advantage to time-poor farmers.
  • Suffolk – grow big and rangy quite quickly, reaching a good age for slaughter just under the 12 month mark. They reach this maturity earlier than some other breeds.
  • Poll Dorset – are able to breed more than once a year and have excellent muscle distribution leading to good cuts of meat.
  • Wiltipoll – large poll sheep that also shed their wool.
  • Border Leicester – often used over Merino sheep to produce excellent cross-bred lambs for meat purposes.

Wool Sheep

Sheep kept for the purposes of shearing and collection of wool in Australia are predominantly Merino. Their wool is fine, soft and has a high level of crimping. There are four different sub-breeds of Merino, each with slightly different wool qualities and adaptations to climate.

Milk Sheep

East Fresian sheep are the best milking sheep as they tend to lactate for the longest period of time post lambing. Other breeds may produce similar volumes of milk at the start of the lactation, but cannot sustain the length of lactation.

Lawnmowers and Pets

Realistically any sheep breed can be used as a lawnmower or pet. However, Babydoll Southdown sheep are increasingly popular as ornamental and pet sheep. Being miniatures they take up less space and can be easier to handle, whilst their woolly teddy-bear faces attract much attention for the ‘cute’ factor. Shedding sheep are also becoming more popular due to their lower maintenance of not requiring shearing.

What do you need to run sheep?

Again, this does depend largely on what your purpose for having sheep is. If you are looking to breed, you need to think about things such as;

  • Time availability (especially during lambing season),
  • Shedding and shelter,
  • Ability to crutch or shear if required,
  • Ability to increase feed quality as pregnancy progresses,
  • Protection from predators,
  • Housing rams away from ewes to prevent untimely birthing,
  • Ability to care for orphaned lambs and sick ewes post birth,
  • Good fences to keep them out of where you don’t want them to go!

If you are thinking you want to put your sheep in the freezer, do you really have the ability to kill and butcher animals that you may have raised by hand from infancy? There is no right or wrong response here – every farmer is different, but it is good to know your limitations!

No matter what type of sheep you decide to get for you farm, make sure you have the time and the skills to be able to care for them appropriately. Do your research, visit some breeders to see what the sheep look like and how they behave.

Most of all, get them for the right reasons, not just because it seemed like a good idea on the spur of the moment!

Good luck, and happy sheep farming!

Chris 🐑

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