Your Icelandic Sheep: Flock on a Shoestring
How do you build your flock if your farm budget is a little tight? Time, you’ll find, is the friend of a farm on a shoestring. You’d be amazed what a little time can buy you.
If you have an unlimited budget to spend on your sheep… you don’t need to read this article. But if you don’t, you may have looked at the price of Registered Icelandic Sheep and thought “Wow! Getting started in Icelandic Sheep would cost thousands!” Which, if you want to start with a couple of proven rams, a handful of proven ewes, and a half dozen ewe lambs to boot… certainly would. Fortunately, you don’t have to begin with quite such an investment to start enjoying the benefits of owning Icelandic Sheep.
Let’s put together a sample flock for a small farm. Our small farm wants a versatile sheep it can use to clear some woody areas, they want some nice fleeces to work with over the winter, and in the future they’d like to try their hand at milking their sheep. They know that they must have at least two sheep in the pen to keep each other company, so they decide they’d like to start with two ewe lambs: a white one and a black one. They contact us in January to reserve their ewe lambs so they won’t be disappointed in the spring, and at that time they also talk to us about getting a ram so they can have lambs of their own the following spring.
After some discussion, they decide that they don’t have the resources to invest in their own ram this year, nor are they quite ready to invest in a Breeder’s Choice ewe. So it is decided they’ll send a deposit and reserve one of our Proven Ewes to be delivered after the breeding season. They’ll have a lamb, quite possibly even lambs, born on their own farm the following spring, and this year’s lambs will have a year to mature before they’re bred… which is better for their health, and allows the couple to see how the ewes mature so they can make a better decision about their foundation ram. They take the time now to enroll in VSFCP, so they can have an AI impregnated ewe next winter, and get ready for their new lambs.
They name their new lambs Salt and Pepper have a wonderful times with their lambs during the summer, and in mid-winter their Proven Ewe is delivered. She’s a good solid Icelandic who has been through it before, so she pops out two wriggly lambs come spring and our small farm is thrilled. Five sheep! It’s a flock! They name their new ewe lamb Sugar and their new ram lamb Spice. They call us and ask if they can use their new little ram lamb as a stud.
Well, they can… but not on the mother of the ram lamb, nor his sister. Our little farm thinks about this and decides they’d like to use their own little ram lamb this year. His mother and sister will have to be penned separately during the breeding season… that’s not a problem, they can keep each other company. But our farm decides to get a wether just in case they need to pen their ram lamb separately from the girls, so he has company.
Come December, two years after our farm got their first two lambs, They have two yearling ewes pregnant by their own little ram lamb. They’ve an ewe lamb maturing for next year’s breeding cycle. They’ve a proven ewe who is taking a year off, they’ve a ram lamb who is pretty sure he’s hot stuff.. and a nice wether to keep him company (they named the wether “Why?” because he’s so sweet they don’t know why he’s a wether). Six sheep.
They can continue to breed the ram lamb Spice to Salt and Pepper… but they can’t breed him to his mother, and he can’t be bred to his sister Sugar. Now they decide to take the plunge and invest in a foundation ram. They know they enjoy keeping sheep, they’ve been through a couple of years and have a better idea of what they’re doing. So they contact us in the fall and we discuss a good choice in a ram for their flock.
When their new ram arrives in the spring, Salt and Pepper are popping their first lambs, and our farm is ready to try their hand at milking. Sugar is coming on a yearling and showing a lovely fleece. Her brother Spice, standing in the field next to the new foundation ram looks pretty darn good, and they’ve decided to keep the boys, including the wether, together as a flock while the girls flock together. Their Proven Ewe has taught the youngsters how to “walk down a tree” to push the scrub down so they can browse it to death, and a nose count of our little flock comes up with three new lambs from Salt and Pepper… for a total of four ewes ready to breed this coming fall, two new ram lambs, a new ewe lamb, their own yearling ram, the stud ram they’ve purchased… and the friendly little wether.
They’re really starting to look like a farm! Let’s see what they invested in getting there:
They bought two ewe lambs: Salt and Pepper for a total of $900 the first spring.
The following February, they took delivery of the Proven Ewe with the breeding fee… $750
They used their own ram lamb that summer, but contracted for a stud ram in the fall… and bought a wether: $250
Taking delivery of the ram in the early winter… $1000
Our farm has purchased 5 sheep at a total investment of $2900, or $580/sheep spread out over almost 3 years. In the barn they have Salt and Spice their first ewe lambs, with their three lambs. Their Proven Ewe with her new twins, Sugar, with her first lamb, the wether, Spice the now yearling ram, and the new Stud Ram… 13 sheep, or an increase of 8 new sheep over their original investment, bringing the “cost per sheep” down to less than $225!
Our small farm built their flock slowly and patiently because they had more time (and patience) than cash resources. If you value speed over cash, you simply multiply the number of sheep, and add the foundation ram earlier, to build a much larger flock, much more quickly.
You can afford the best, you can afford to enjoy the benefits of good solid Registered Icelandic stock in your flock and on your farm. The advantages of starting small are numerous. Two is not an overwhelming number of sheep. Twelve might be. By growing your own flock, you grow your skills with your farm and enjoy the animals you’re working with.
Talk to us. We love building small farm packages for new shepherds because we know how much fun having your own flock is, and remember how exciting it was when our first lambs were born on our farm.