I wrote a blog post for the Montana Fiber Shed last month called Getting to know your wool. I would like to continue the topic here. Please read Part 1 on the Montana Fiber sheds website linked here Getting to know your wool. — Montana Fiber shed
Getting to know your wool Part 2
Let’s talk more about the sheep that grow the wool. I am focusing this post on what I know about raising livestock in Montana. Every part of Montana’s landscape has it’s own unique weather system. The North West corner receives more moisture and grows different type of forage. The south west is dryer with harsher winters making you need more acres to cover feed for one animal. Northern and Eastern Montana is more rolling hills, dryer needing even more acres to cover feed for one animal. One common thing across Montana is our winds! If you don’t like the weather in Montana just wait 10 minutes
Do you already have sheep or are you looking into buying sheep?
If you have sheep great, that’s the first step now the real work begins. If you are looking into buying sheep. I highly recommend doing your research first. Have you owned sheep before? Do you own ground that can feed the sheep all year around? Are you able to put up your own hay for winter feeding? Hay is something that is becoming harder to find with prices sky rocketing and drought conditions. Hay can become a scarce commodity so plan accordingly. Now to figure out how many sheep per acre you can raise. How will you water them? Do you have multiple pastures with water available? Not all acres are created equal. So, talk to area rancher, talk to your local extension agents.
Once you have figure how you will feed and water the sheep next is picking a breed?
Start by creating a list of breeds that will thrive in Montana climate. Next make another list of what you want from your sheep, are you just interested in the meat, or just the wool. Do you want to breed that can do both? If wool is a priority dive into researching each breed on your first list. If you are a fiber artist (which I hope you are). Find some wool from your list to get your hands in. play with it, and learn.
Once you have narrowed it down to a couple of breeds. Start looking for people who raise them. If you want to raise for meat, you will need ewes and a ram. If you are more interested in just the wool for your hobby, consider buying a *wether.
As you are still doing your research another important thing after feed and water is shearing. Who will do your shearing? Will you sheep need shorn once or twice a year? Will you shear your own or will you hire someone? Talk to your area sheep producers to see who they use to shear. The Montana Wool Growers is a good spot to start researching shearers.
To be continued....
*a wether is a castrated ram, so unable to breed