How Much A Ram Costs
Sheep are an excellent choice of “starter” livestock – they are hardy, content animals and can provide a homestead with ample meat, milk, and fleece. If you are interested in raising your own flock of self-sustaining sheep, you will need to purchase a ram or two for breeding purposes.
How much does a ram cost? You can expect to pay between $2,000 and $4,000 in initial expenses to purchase a ram (including the animal himself). After this, expect to pay around $90 monthly in maintenance costs, or $1,100 annually. Though sheep are hardy animals and easy to keep, there are a few necessities you must take into consideration before committing to a ram.
How Many Rams Should You Purchase?
If you are researching the cost of adding a ram to your homestead, you more than likely are planning to raise him with a flock already on the premises. Though rams do provide the advantage to raising meat of a faster growth rate, the main purpose that a ram serves will be breeding. Rams are not often kept unless there are ewes to be serviced, as rams can present more management challenges.
When considering breeding rams, you will need to know the appropriate ram:ewe ratio. Rams can service a surprisingly high rate of ewes, with an ideal ratio as high as 1:50 (or higher) with a mature ram. A ram’s peak breeding age is around 3-4 years of age, with immature rams able to service a slightly smaller number of ewes. Therefore, unless you have 50 or more ewes, you will only need one ram (keeping him with a wether – or altered male sheep – would be ideal as rams are social animals however).
Initial Costs Of Keeping A Ram
There are several initial costs associated with keeping a ram, however, if you are researching rams you likely already have sheep and some of these expenses may not apply to you.
Cost Of Purchasing Your Ram
You can purchase a ram from a local breeder, from your local farm site, or through Craigslist. You will want to visit the farm from where you are purchasing your ram, to ensure it is a clean and (visibly) healthy environment. It is best to buy your ram locally, as there are several diseases that can affect sheep depending on the region. If you are purchasing your ram for breeding purposes, you will want the healthiest animal you can find.
In most areas of the United States, you can expect to pay between $250 and $350 for a ram. This cost will vary according to the breed and age of the ram. The more common breeds such as Dorpers and Katahdins will usually run on the less expensive side, with the price climbing for breeds that are harder to find. As for age, ram lambs are often less experienced than mature rams. Not all rams will breed with ewes, and a “proven” ram will give you the best chance of success in your breeding program.
Cost For Purchasing A Ram Shelter
Again, if you already have a flock of sheep, you likely have a ram shelter in place. It is best to keep rams separately from your ewes however, so if you have a barn in place make sure to dedicate a portion of that to your new ram. If you do not have a shelter and are starting from scratch, know that sheep do not need anything fancy – a simple 3-sided shelter will accommodate your ram in most weather. A simple 3-sided shelter can cost you as little as $500-$1,000.
Confining Your Ram Cost
Proper fencing is vital to keeping any sheep safe. Sheep are highly susceptible to predators, as they have little defenses aside from running. Even if you already have fences for a resident flock of ewes, you will at the very least need cross fencing to keep your ram contained and separated from the females. Fencing costs will vary greatly depending on the material used and, especially, the size of the area that needs to be fenced. You should expect to pay at least $1,000-$2,000 in fencing.
Cost Of Additional Ram Supplies
You will need to purchase a watering device for your ram – this can be as simple as a water bucket or pan, or as intricate as an automatic waterer. Depending on the device chosen, expect to pay between $20 and $100.
Sheep are highly efficient eaters, and can usually obtain all of their necessary nutrition from good pasture. If you do not have year-round pasture, you will need to supplement with hay. Sheep will not eat hay that has been trampled, so you will need to make or purchase a raised hay feeder. If purchasing one, you can expect to pay between $250 and $400.
You should expect to trim your ram’s hooves every 6-8 weeks. If you opt to trim your ram’s hooves yourself, you will need nail trimmers appropriate for sheep. You can buy these online for around $15 to $30.
It is a good idea to halter train your ram, if he is not already trained. This will make catching him and leading him much easier. You can purchase a halter and lead for around $35.
Total Initial Ram Cost
Assuming you are starting from scratch, you can expect to pay at least $2,000 in initial ram expenses (including the ram himself), or as much as $4,000 or more.
Ongoing Costs of Keeping a Ram
After the initial costs, there are several maintenance costs of raising rams – including feed, shearing, vet bills, and vaccinations.
Cost Of Feeding Your Ram
Again, sheep are wonderfully efficient at meeting their nutritional needs through pasture alone. If you have good year-round pasture available for your ram, you will not need to purchase any supplemental feed.
If you do not have healthy year-round pasture, you will need to purchase hay to feed your ram. In this case, good-quality hay will likely be your largest 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.
To figure out how long one 50-pound bale will take you, you will need to know how much sheep eat. Sheep will eat between 2% – 3.5% of their body weight in hay per day, with rams requiring the higher level of intake. If you have a 250-pound ram eating 3.5% of his body weight per day, this will come out to 8.75 pounds of hay per day – meaning that a 50-pound bale of hay will feed your ram for a little under 6 days. In this scenario, you can expect to go through about 5.5 bales of 50-pound bales of hay per month, or $82.50.
Cost Of Shearing Your Ram
Some sheep have wool, while others have hair. If you decide to raise a ram that produces wool, you will need to shear him annually. You may shear your ram yourself, but it will take you some practice, and ideally guidance from an experienced sheep farmer. If you choose to shear your ram yourself, you can purchase a shearing kit online for $150. If you choose to outsource this job, you can expect to pay approximately $50 – $60 per ram, depending on your location.
If you would like to avoid shearing altogether, consider a ram with hair, or a ram with a blend of hair and wool. Popular hair breeds include the Katahdin, Barbados Blackbelly, and the St. Croix. Another highly popular breed is the Dorper, which has a blend of hair and wool. Dorpers shed their fleece annually without assistance.
Ram Vet Costs, Deworming, and Vaccinations
You will need to account for vet costs when determining the cost of raising a ram. Sheep are relatively hardy animals, but nevertheless the need may occasionally arise to have a vet come out for an examination. Your ram may be injured, may have gotten into some forage that did not agree with him, or may be suffering from a parasitic illness.
You will want to make sure to have a connection with a vet so that you can call them when the inevitable happens. You can expect to pay between $60 and $130 for a vet farm call.
When talking with your vet, make sure to discuss vaccinations and deworming with them. Which diseases you need to vaccinate against and which parasites 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. In addition to region, you will want to look into diseases that your specific breed of ram is susceptible to. Some breeds are more susceptible to certain parasites than others.
Total Annual Ram Expense
All in all, you should expect to spend around $1,100 annually for your ram, not including vet calls. This includes $990 in hay (by far the largest expense), an annual shear, and the Clostridium C&D vaccine.
If you’d like to learn more about owning and caring for rams and other farm animals, you can find my most recent articles below!