What is the Cost of Owning Sheep?
If you are considering raising sheep, you will need to first ensure that you are able to financially commit to the animal. Aside from considering the temperament and level of care the animal requires, you will need to consider the cost of the animal – both the up-front costs and the ongoing costs.
How much does it cost to both purchase, and maintain, sheep? To purchase a sheep, you should expect to spend between $150 and $300 for the animal itself – depending on the breed, gender, and age of the sheep you are looking for. Aside from this, there are many other costs you should take into account – from the cost of shelter and fencing, to the ongoing costs of feed, shearing, and vet costs. Read on to learn about the approximate upfront and ongoing costs in purchasing and raising sheep.
Initial Costs Of Keeping Sheep
There are several initial costs that you will need to front when purchasing sheep. These include the cost of the sheep themselves, environmental costs such as shelters and fencing, and equipment that you may need or want.
Purchasing Your Sheep
It is best to purchase your sheep locally, so that you are buying sheep that are already well-accustomed to your climate. You can find sheep from a local breeder or through the classified section of your local farm site or social media group. Visit the farm where your sheep are coming from so that you can see how the sheep are raised and get a feel for the environment – healthy sheep come from healthy environments.
In most areas of the United States, you can expect to pay between $150 and $300 for a single sheep, or between $450 and $900 for three sheep. This will vary depending on the breed, age, and gender of the sheep. The more common breeds such as Dorpers and Katahdins will usually run on the less expensive side, with the price climbing for more rare and unique breeds. Ewes at a prime breeding age are often priced higher than rams and lambs, as they are more productive.
Do Not Purchase A Single Sheep
We all know that sheep are herd animals with strong flocking instincts. A lone sheep would be a depressed and fearful, and you should never keep less then three sheep together. If you have only one or two sheep, your sheep will not feel safe. For this reason, in this post I will also include each cost in terms of having a flock of three sheep.
To learn more about why you can’t keep a sheep by itself, visit my article Can You Keep a Sheep By Itself? Essential Guide.
Building (or Purchasing) A Sheep Shelter
Sheep are typically hardy animals, and often do not need more than a simple three-sided shelter. You can expect to pay approximately $500 to $1,000 for a simple three-sided shelter, depending on the materials that you use. You may even have a garden shed or small barn that you can re-purpose. If that is the case, you will be able to save money in this area – after all, your sheep will be looking for protection from the elements, not a masterpiece.
Fencing For Your Sheep
You will need to keep your sheep safe – safely on your property, and safe from predators. Sheep do not typically challenge fencing – nevertheless, you will need to provide adequate fencing to ward off predators that want you sheep for dinner. The fencing cost will depend on several factors, including the size of the area you are fencing and the materials you are using. You should expect to spend at least $1,000 to $2,000 on fencing, and this is just for the fencing supplies. If you plan on paying someone to put up the fencing, you can expect to pay more for the labor.
Additional Sheep Supplies
You will need to provide fresh water to your sheep at all times. You can use a water trough, an automatic waterer, or even a large and sturdy bucket. Depending on the device you would like to use, you should expect to pay between $20 and $100 for a waterer.
Unless your sheep are on fresh pasture year round, you will have to feed hay. If you feed hay, it would be ideal to raise it off of the ground using a raised hay feeder. You can make one yourself using material you have on hand and an online tutorial, or you can purchase a hay feeder. If purchasing one, you can expect to pay between $250 and $400.
You should expect to trim your sheep’s hooves every 6-8 weeks. Though you can outsource this job, it is not difficult to learn to do it yourself, so long as you have the right equipment. You can purchase nail trimmers for sheep online for around $15 to $30.
If you are raising wool sheep, they will need to be sheared at least once a year, usually in the Springtime. While you can also outsource shearing, if you plan on shearing sheep yourself, you’ll need good electric clippers. Good reliable clippers can run anywhere from $150 – $500.
If you are purchasing lambs, you will want to spend as much time with them and raise them so that they trust humans – this makes it much easier to catch them and perform regular chores such as shearing and nail trimming. It would be a good idea to halter train your sheep, and you can purchase a halter and lead for around $35.
Total Initial Sheep Cost
In total, if you are purchasing three sheep at $200 each, you can expect to pay roughly $4,000 in startup costs (this includes an estimate of $1,000 for a shelter and $2,000 for fencing). The bulk of this number comes from the shelter and fencing, which may vary significantly depending on your property.
Ongoing Costs of Keeping Sheep
In addition to the startup costs, there are several ongoing costs of raising sheep – including feed, shearing, vet bills, and vaccinations.
Feeding Your Sheep
If you have plenty of fresh pasture available year around for your sheep – great! You can cross this cost off of your list (though depending on your climate make sure you take irrigation costs into account).
Most of us will need to supplement our sheep’s feed with hay. If this is the case, good-quality hay will likely be your biggest ongoing expense. The cost of hay will vary greatly depending on your region and the season – but a good rough estimate is around $15 per 50-pound bale of hay.
How long will that feed your three sheep? Sheep will eat between 2% – 3.5% of their body weight in hay per day, depending on their stage of life. If you have three 150-pound sheep eating 3% of their body weight per day, this will come out to 13.5 pounds of hay per day – meaning that a 50-pound bale of hay will feed your three sheep for about 4 days. In this scenario, you can expect to spend approximately $120 – $150 per month in hay.
Most sheep only require hay to thrive. In some situations, however, your vet may recommend that you feed your sheep grain as well. You can expect to purchase a 50-pound bag of sheep pellets for around $16. If your sheep eat 2 pounds of grain per day, you should expect to pay around $64 per month on grain, or about 4 bags. Just make sure that you purchase feed specifically formulated for sheep – sheep are susceptible to copper toxicity which can be found in goat and other livestock feed.
To learn more about what it takes to feed sheep, visit my article How Much Do Sheep Eat? Daily, Monthly, and Yearly Guide.
Shearing Your Sheep
Some sheep have wool, while others have hair. If you decide to raise wool-producing sheep, you will need to shear them annually. If you choose to shear your sheep yourself, you can purchase a shearing kit online for $150 – $500. If you choose to outsource this job, you can expect to pay approximately $50 – $60 per sheep, depending on your location. If you outsource the job, this means you can expect to pay approximately $150 – $180 for your three sheep.
Vet Costs, Deworming, and Vaccinations
You will need to account for vet costs when determining the cost of raising sheep. Sheep are relatively healthy animals, but you may need to have a vet come out to check for illness, injury, pregnancy, or even just for a wellness check. You can expect to pay between $60 and $130 for an onsite vet call. Having a relationship with a vet that you trust is invaluable, and it is best to reach out to one and introduce yourself before you find yourself in need of one.
Sheep need to be dewormed about every month. While this may seem like a lot, it is something you can do on your own rather than calling a vet out. Sheep dewormer comes in a few different forms, from pellets you can put in their grain to gel that must be administered orally with a syringe. Either way, you can expect to pay $20-$30 for sheep dewormer.
When talking with your vet, make sure to discuss vaccinations and deworming with them. Which diseases you need to vaccinate against and which worms you need to protect against will vary according to your region, though vaccinating against Clostridium C&D is almost universal. This vaccine you can administer yourself if you choose to for around $13 per vial, but some vaccines must be administered by a licensed veterinarian.
Total Yearly Sheep Costs
All in all, you should expect to spend roughly $3,000 annually for three sheep. This includes $1,800 in hay, $750 in grain (if needed), $180 in shearing, and an estimated $200 for a vet visit plus vaccinations.
Of course, this is roughly an estimate, and your actual costs may vary significantly depending on your location and climate, the health of your sheep, and whether or not you are breeding your sheep.
To get a complete rundown of everything that goes into caring for sheep, visit my article How to Care For Sheep: Essential Guide For Beginners.