Occasionally when I have a difficult time falling asleep, I do try to “count sheep”. It never really helps much, but it’s a pleasant thought, picturing sheep jumping one by one over a white split rail fence in a pastoral setting. Sheep are not as popular to raise as cows and pigs are, but their popularity is increasing, especially with smaller operations. Sheep (and goats for that matter) are efficient foragers; they get a larger portion of their daily nutrients from foraging than do most other animals, which helps to cut down feed costs. They also eat and control most weeds.
According to the USDA, there were 86,000 sheep in Pennsylvania in 2012. Sheep are raised for meat, milk (for cheese), breeding stock, and wool; however, current markets for wool are weak and likely only profitable if the wool is directly marketed for crafts. At one time wool was the major source of income for sheep producers, but due to the decline in wool prices, many sheep producers are turning to raising hair sheep, or “naked” sheep, which do not have wooly coats and thus, eliminate or reduce the cost of shearing.
Want to learn more about raising sheep? Come to Sheep Day! Penn State Extension is holding a training session on Saturday, April 12th from 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Delaware County 4-H Farm & Educational Center in Newtown Square. The workshop costs $20 for youth and $35 for adults with lunch included. For more information or to register, visit http://www.cvent.com/events/sheep-day/event-summary-99ec79a3d4214185b3545fa1bc9aa059.aspx. The registration deadline is April 4th and space is limited.
Support Your Farmer:
Berks County: Winterside Sheep Farm
Bucks County: Ivy Acres
Lehigh Valley: Suyundalla Farms