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View Full Version : Sheep as companion for single horse?



Goldiegirl
Nov. 16, 2009, 06:09 PM
My horse lives solo in 2 acre field by himself. This summer I had a market hog & after being terrified of the pig, the horse actually became quite fond of it.

Not that he really needs a companion, but if I were to get him a sheep, then I could use the wool from the sheep for spinning & knitting.

What breed of sheep would be appropriate for hanging out with an extra large draft cross & producing nice wool. Can I get just one sheep or would the sheep be happier with two? Should I get wethers or ewes? Any resulting lambs would be put in the freezer for dinner.

Thomas_1
Nov. 16, 2009, 06:38 PM
For spinning wool then breeds like Jacobs or Shetland are good. Both naturally coloured and easy to keep. The former has either 2 or 4 horns and is generally patched dark brown to black and white. The latter is dark brown and quite a small breed. It's good wool for hand spinning though a little course.

I've got hundreds of cheviot sheep and they produce nice wool too. But rather than for knitting, for weaving into tweed and cloth. We've also got a few other breeds and Wensleydales are quite interesting if you're just keeping a small number. They've a long corded fleece and the wool is very fine quality and specifically used as a fine hand knitting wool.

Texels are very nice and easy keepers. Another relatively large sheep and VERY high quality wool that's used for blankets and knitwear.

Sheep are better in a flock and as a novice owner, you'd be better off with ewes. How many depends on how much land you have. I'd say 2 or 4. Rams can be quite aggressive/territorial if you're not used to them. They ram you! Broken bones are not uncommon if you take your eyes off them! A good ram is quite expensive too. Last tup I bought was £3,000. It's not uncommon for certain breeds to sell for up to £12,000. The top Texel ram at Kelso Ram sales a couple of months ago sold for just short of £13,000. Prices there I'm sure will be different but no matter where you are in the world a good ram will cost a lot.

So MUCH cheaper just to get ewes served and rear the lambs.

Finally sheep are great companion grazers with horses and help to control the worm population and also to manage grazing.

I have a hand reared horse who was orphaned when his dam died foaling. He shared a stable with a single cheviot sheep for quite some time. She even allowed him to suckle and used to jump up on the wall outside and stand for him to reach her.

RougeEmpire
Nov. 16, 2009, 06:50 PM
My horse lives solo in 2 acre field by himself. This summer I had a market hog & after being terrified of the pig, the horse actually became quite fond of it.

Not that he really needs a companion, but if I were to get him a sheep, then I could use the wool from the sheep for spinning & knitting.

What breed of sheep would be appropriate for hanging out with an extra large draft cross & producing nice wool. Can I get just one sheep or would the sheep be happier with two? Should I get wethers or ewes? Any resulting lambs would be put in the freezer for dinner.


I had a pet sheep when I was a kid, I also showed lambs in 4-H. I like sheep, they will be friends with just about anyone in the barn yard (friendly almost to a fault). I would suggest a rare or heritage breed if you want a pretty cool sheep. Try the breeders listed with the The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. http://www.albc-usa.org/

Also be aware that sheep have no tolerance to COPPER. There is way to much copper in standard horse feed for sheep, even a small amount of horse feed can and will outright KILL a healthy young sheep. They MUST be seperated when graining!

craz4crtrs
Nov. 16, 2009, 09:44 PM
We did the sheep thing for several years and had suffolks. My girls did 4-h and ffa. When they went to college, we sold the herd to another 4-h family.

I also had a few pygmy goats. Those babies are adorable but have more birthing issues than lambs.

I did find that the goats socialized with the horses a lot more and were generally easier to have around.

How about angora goats? Goats actually need copper, so the horse/sheep feed thing isn't an issue.

How about a llama or alpaca? You can get gelding llamas or alpacas very reasonable. I think the alpaca wool is the nicest. :lol:

Goldiegirl
Nov. 17, 2009, 12:06 PM
Gothedistance- Love the pic of your sheep. They make me want to break out the knitting needles right now!

I thought about goats. I am not sure they will be inclined to stay in the pasture- I have 5-strand high tencel (sp?). I am not sure all the neighbors will appreciate the goat as much as I would.

SGray
Nov. 17, 2009, 12:17 PM
my sheep are never far from the horses -- the goat, on the other hand, rarely leaves the vicinity of the stalls

2foals
Nov. 17, 2009, 02:06 PM
Icelandic sheep!

Fabulous fleeces, delicious meat (very mild tasting) and very attractive, sturdy sheep. I would recommend at least 2 sheep, and either wethers or ewes. Wethers will be cheaper if you have no desire to breed the sheep. If you do want lambs to butcher, Icelandics can have their lambs out in the pasture and then the lambs reach market weight quickly so you do not need to castrate ram lambs prior to butchering. Icelandics also do not need much grain (other than a treat).

Sheep are fabulous. They do not share parasites with horses, they will happily graze the "rough" areas that your horses use to pee & poop, and they don't dig up your fields. Icelandics are a "browsing" breed and will eat a fair number of weeds as well, and will not eat your grass down to a nub.

Goats are harder to keep fenced in, and all the ones I have known became very annoying--stealing the horses' feed, jumping on cars, getting out, making a mess.

See my website for pictures:
http://web.me.com/plainfieldfarm/Site/Icelandic_Sheep.html

craz4crtrs
Nov. 17, 2009, 06:30 PM
Icelandic sheep!

Fabulous fleeces, delicious meat (very mild tasting) and very attractive, sturdy sheep. I would recommend at least 2 sheep, and either wethers or ewes. Wethers will be cheaper if you have no desire to breed the sheep. If you do want lambs to butcher, Icelandics can have their lambs out in the pasture and then the lambs reach market weight quickly so you do not need to castrate ram lambs prior to butchering. Icelandics also do not need much grain (other than a treat).

Sheep are fabulous. They do not share parasites with horses, they will happily graze the "rough" areas that your horses use to pee & poop, and they don't dig up your fields. Icelandics are a "browsing" breed and will eat a fair number of weeds as well, and will not eat your grass down to a nub.

Goats are harder to keep fenced in, and all the ones I have known became very annoying--stealing the horses' feed, jumping on cars, getting out, making a mess.

See my website for pictures:
http://web.me.com/plainfieldfarm/Site/Icelandic_Sheep.html

These are seriously cute sheep! Great looking fleece, too.

citydog
Nov. 17, 2009, 06:42 PM
We have an Icelandic x Friesian wether (neutered as young as possible) and a Tunis x Friesian ewe. We bottle-raised them both and they are charming and full of personality. The wether did occasionally head butt, but a plant mister of water cured him of that against people (it was pretty funny), and he does have the more entertaining personality of the two. Folks familiar with sheep as pets (as opposed to commercial) said the wethers were better pets personality-wise.

RougeEmpire
Nov. 17, 2009, 08:02 PM
Friesian sheep? I googled them hoping to find an all black super long wooley sheep with snappy knee action! Alas just a simple white ewes:lol:

BestHorses
Nov. 17, 2009, 10:34 PM
What kind of fencing do sheep require? Will they duck under plain wood three-board fence? I'm thinking I would have to put some kind of no-climb wire on the bottom of the fence for sheep...

citydog
Nov. 17, 2009, 11:13 PM
Friesian sheep? I googled them hoping to find an all black super long wooley sheep with snappy knee action! Alas just a simple white ewes:lol:

:lol:

Yeah, as I was typing that I found myself wondering what an Icelandic x Friesian *horse* would be like. :eek:

RougeEmpire
Nov. 18, 2009, 10:00 AM
:lol:

Yeah, as I was typing that I found myself wondering what an Icelandic x Friesian *horse* would be like. :eek:


LOTS OF HAIR and to much trot to handle im sure!!! l:lol:

craz4crtrs
Nov. 18, 2009, 12:53 PM
What kind of fencing do sheep require? Will they duck under plain wood three-board fence? I'm thinking I would have to put some kind of no-climb wire on the bottom of the fence for sheep...

I would have dog/predator proof boundary fence. Wire on the outside would be fine. We used hog panels on our arena galvanized panels attached with zipties. Field or horse wire fence with hot wire on top and 1 ft up on the inside works great for larger pastures. Sheep will rub on everything when they get hot. The electric wire will keep them from rubbing. Before we put up the wire on the metal panels, we had a determined ewe squeeze through 4 rail panels. :lol: It was funny to watch, but not funny chasing that dang ewe all day long all over the neighborhood.

You can even put hot wire on the inside of your boards to keep them from going under or through. I would still put some sort of mesh wire on the ground level up, even if its just 2 or 3 ft.

2foals
Nov. 18, 2009, 10:10 PM
What kind of fencing do sheep require? Will they duck under plain wood three-board fence? I'm thinking I would have to put some kind of no-climb wire on the bottom of the fence for sheep...

We have four board fence and just run a hotwire halfway between the lowest board and the ground. That has worked great, and ours seem to have formed the habit to stay in. Our perimeter fence is V-mesh, though.

DieBlaueReiterin
Nov. 20, 2009, 09:26 AM
just mind your horse doesn't attack your sheep! my horse lived with a flock until we caught her picking up one of the lambs by its neck and throwing it away from its feed :eek:

Chall
Nov. 22, 2009, 07:56 PM
Someone on another board had a sheep that ran with a herd of horses and acted like he thought he was a horse and seemed quite the character. Personally I'd be worried about predators (wandering dogs) and would think about a donkey or small mule if it will only be those two on your farm, it probably wouldn't require additional fencing either.

Renae
Nov. 22, 2009, 09:26 PM
Friesian sheep? I googled them hoping to find an all black super long wooley sheep with snappy knee action! Alas just a simple white ewes:lol:

Oh no, not just simple white ewes! Great milk producers for making sheep's milk yogurt and cheese.

I am a huge sheep fan, lately I have been coveting a Babydoll Southdown- google them, too darn cute!

RougeEmpire
Nov. 22, 2009, 10:06 PM
Oh no, not just simple white ewes! Great milk producers for making sheep's milk yogurt and cheese.

I am a huge sheep fan, lately I have been coveting a Babydoll Southdown- google them, too darn cute!


I had one as a kid, they are sooooo adorable! As a kid we also had this great wether named Rameses. He was to cool, a funky crossbred of who know what, no bigger than a southdown, less than a hundred pounds soakin we with all his wool on, bow legged in the back and knock kneed in the front. He was a black bownish color with SILVER strands on his hind end from the flanks back. He got more and more "silvery" as the years went on. He lived with the dogs, crawled into the dogs houses to sleep with them when ever possible, ate dog food if you let him and came to his name and knew commands. I taught him to jump jumps in hand and pull a cart, he was "one of the pack". He loved the horses but they hated him and I'm pretty sure he had no idea he as sheep at all :lol:

Ozalynda
Nov. 23, 2009, 01:52 AM
My vote also goes to Icelandic sheep! Our sheep share the pastures with the horses except during lambing and about a month thereafter (worried about little lambies being stepped on inadvertantly). I have even seen the ram standing UNDERNEATH one of the mares while they shared a haypile.

Also, sheep will happily graze all those lush grass areas in the horses' "toilet area" that the horses won't touch.

Icelandics are very hardy, and have much less requirement for shelter and lambing assistance than some of the more "refined" breeds. However, as mentioned, sheep do most certainly put a new requirement on your fencing strategy. :yes:

CosMonster
Nov. 23, 2009, 07:46 AM
I don't know anything about sheep specifically but I do have a client who has one horse with a couple of sheep for companions. She is very well-adjusted and happy, and they all eat together and play together, so it works well for them anyway. It's also a riot watching them play together. :)