One of them questions that most frequently finds it’s way in to my inbox is “how much land do I need to raise sheep?” Unfortunately, it’s not one I can answer easily because there are just t0o many variables involved. How many sheep? What breed? Will you be purchasing older ewes and raising them just for fiber or is your heart set on breeding? If you plan to breed, what’s the maximum number of animals you’re willing to settle for? Will you stop breeding when you reach it?
How good is the pasture you’ll be raising them on? Will you supplement the pasture with grain rations? Sheep need access to a constant supply of hay to keep their rumens moving, but are you willing to supply it at levels that will also take care of some of their nutritional needs?
As much as I wish I did, I don’t have time to spend with each of the people I receive questions from, going through this list of questions and helping them track down the answers. I wish I did, because nothing makes me as happy as helping new create a new shepherd. But that would be a full-time job and I already have several of those!
But I’ve got great news. There is someone who can help you and it is his or her full-time job- your county cooperative extension agent. The Cooperative Extension System is a nation-wide education network. “These offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes.”
My county cooperative extension office is run by John Thompson and he has helped Juniper Moon Farm more times than I can count. He is positively evangelical about small farms, setting up workshops on bee keeping, chicken processing, foresting, and a dozen more that I’ve forgotten.
I consider John a member of my team, and when I’m having a new problem I’ve never seen before, he is the first person I call.
Not all cooperative extension offices are as helpful as mine, but they exist as a resource for you. It’s their reason for being. We need to use them, because that’s what they are there for. Even if your farm is just a small kitchen garden, your cooperative extension office is there to serve.
I did want to share this interesting infographic with you, created by One Block Off the Grid, that breaks down how much land you need to start a backyard homestead. I think it’s interesting that sheep don’t figure into their plan at all. Apparently living off the grid involves a fair amount of nakedness.
The corn pictured in the graphic are actually not accounted for in the final land estimates, so I’m not entirely sure why it’s there at all. I don’t think corn should be included in backyard farming at all, as growing corn is terribly hard on the soil, leaving it thin and depleted.
Overall though I think this is a great jumping-off point for anyone looking to lead a more sustainable, self-sufficient life.