Sheep Farming in the UK, How to Start, and Facts

Introduction of how to start sheep farming in the UK, facts, profits and breeds: The sheep farming business is a major contributor to the UK economy. Sheep were mainly raised for milk, meat, and wool for thousands of years. Sheep farming in the UK is a profitable business and sheep can attain good weight within a short time. You can raise sheep on a small scale or large scale industries for commercial purposes. Several rural-based industries use sheep wool and skins as raw materials. Sheep manure also is an important source of soil fertility. This makes the best use of the different sheep breeds, land, and weather conditions in different areas, by matching breeds and production systems to the area in the UK. If you can raise sheep in small and large scale industries and you must have proper facilities.

Sheep farming business in the UK is a profitable business and you can get your investment back within a short period. Make a proper business plan and work according to the plan before starting a sheep farming business in the UK. Sheep form an important component of the rural economy mainly in the arid, semi-arid, and mountainous areas of the country because of their multi-facet utility for meat, wool, milk, skins, and manure.

A guide to on how to start sheep farming in the UK, facts, profits and breeds

how to start sheep farming in the UK
Sheep Farming (Image source: pixabay)

Sheep farming includes lowland, hill, and upland production. Without subsidies sheep farming business in the UK is not profitable if farmers are paid for their labor. Farmers can make money by raising their sheep breeds. Livestock farming is mostly dependent on subsidies and generates greenhouse gas emissions, the UK has a large potential for restoring and creating woodlands to help soak up carbon emissions.

How many sheep are in the UK?

Approximately, there are 22.5 million sheep in the UK. The main proportion of the UK sheep flock is found in England. About 66% of total meat production is half of the UK sheep flock residing in England comes from this region likely due to stratification.

Sheep farming in the UK is set out in a ‘stratified system’. The stratified system is unique to the UK and is designed to play the main role. One of the largest sheep flocks in Europe is the UK with around 22 million animals. Then, this can be done by using different rams for different purposes, or breeds that are suitable for breeding and meat or wool production traits.

Where are the most sheep breeds in the UK?

Northern and South West England are mostly suitable for sheep farming business. This landscape has milder conditions than the hills do, but the land condition is not viable for other farming. Lowland farming is used for stockier sheep-like Texel and Suffolk sheep breeds.

Almost 50% of sheep are based in East Cumbria within the region among its stunning mountains and moorlands in the UK. Yorkshire and the Humber area are home to more than about 2.1 million. More than about 1.7 million sheep within North Yorkshire are managed 82% of those in the wider Yorks and Humber area, with the counties of Shropshire and Herefordshire home to the most sheep breeds in the Midlands.

Select a suitable farm location for sheep farming in the UK

For starting a sheep farm select a suitable location is very important. Raising sheep consider an essential facility. A good clean and fresh water source, adequate amount of greens, suitable transportation, and proper marketing are the necessary facilities for starting a commercial sheep farming business. While selecting land for your business all these are kept in mind.

How to start a sheep farming business in the UK

In case if you miss this: How To Start Fish Farming In Canada.

How to start a sheep farming business in the UK
Sheep (Pic source: pixabay)

Make a Proper Business Plan

Make a proper business plan for your sheep farming is a very important factor. The main business plan tips are consisting the financial analysis, marketing strategy, and income revenue calculations.

You Need to Identify a Proper Location

You must select the best suitable place to start the fish farming business. If you already have a proper location of your own then it’s good. Then, you will need to identify and choose a location for setting up the farm. The location required depends on the size of the farm and the population of the livestock you want to keep on your farm.

You Should Opt Quality Breeds

One of the main things to be remembered is to go for quality breeds that can offer you more productivity. You are advised to procure quality breeds from trusted breeders or responsible farmers. Usually, you can find numerous sheep breeds throughout the world. Though, all those breeds are not suitable for farming in all areas. You will want to procure the breeds based on the agro-climatic condition of your area.

Build a House for the Sheep

For establishing the sheep farm, construct the right housing is the most important aspect. Sheep housing can provide can protect from adverse climatic situations.

For starting a small-scale sheep farming business, it does not require much space. There is no need for constructing an expensive house for sheep. Also, you can produce the fodder trees around the shades and then use the space as grazing land. The entire house has a sufficient ventilation facility.

Construct a separate house for them to shelter them to protect them from the worst weather, pests, and diseases, and natural predators for commercial purposes. A shelter that is about 20 feet long and 15 feet wider and having a rooftop at 8 feet height is good enough for commercial purposes.

Ventilation is the method of intentionally letting fresh outside air into an indoor space to control the air quality. Air quality is regulated by diluting and displacing pollutants like dust, odors, or gases. Dust from grain, hay, and dried manure floats around in barns; and this can cause respiratory problems and worsen allergies. It is very important to be careful around enclosed areas containing manure as gases from the manure can kill people and animals.

Along with air quality, ventilation can also control the temperature levels and humidity to make the space more comfortable for you and your animal. Humidity is moisture in the air and too much of it can cause your animals’ housing to become damp, which can result in sick animals. Sheep are better off cool and dry, versus warm and damp. Also, humidity can be damaging to milking equipment and machinery. Ideally, humidity levels in the barn will stay under 75–80%.

Must Provide Proper Feeding

The last factor but it is the most important point to remember. You must provide proper feeding for the best result and you will want to provide the food according to gender and age. For your sheep’s growth, good-quality hay or stored forage is a highly productive feed.

Unique characteristics of sheep

  • Excellent capability to survive over a prolonged period of drought and semi-starvation
  • Sheep can produce prime carcasses on roughage alone. They are adapted to many areas unable to produce grain profitably.
  • Strong herd instincts of sheep make them excellent ranch animals and simply managed flocks and do not disperse widely all over the available land.
  • Less prone to extreme weather conditions, ectoparasites as well as other types of diseases
  • Their visual sense is exceedingly well-developed and they can discern movement far better than humans, but cannot distinguish shapes as well as man
  • Usually, sheep do not require expensive buildings to house them properly

Tips for a profitable sheep farming in the UK

How about this: Goat Farming In The USA.

Profitable sheep farming in the UK
Profitable sheep farming (Pic source: pixabay)
  • Follow some modern and scientific sheep rearing rules to get better profits.
  • The important elements in sheep farming are purchasing sheep, lamb care, housing and shelter, keeping records, identification, and health management, etc.
  • Select healthy sheep breeds and take extra care for feeding sheep. Also, maximum profit depends on proper marketing.
  • So find your marketing plan, before starting. You have to do all these activities perfectly for better production and maximum profit.
  • Remember that always try to take good care of your sheep. Buy healthy sheep breeds by provide them good housing, feed and always take good care of them.
  • Sheep are sometimes infected by various types of diseases. Timely vaccination and proper medication can prevent types of sheep diseases.
  • Sell your sheep timely when they reach marketing age. In a cage of wool production, collect wool after several periods and then sell the sheep products in the market.
  • Try to visit the nearest livestock training center and learn more about the profitable raising system of sheep.
  • Good caring tips for sheep can ensure maximum profit.  Therefore, always try to take good care of your animals. Try to purchase quality and productive breeds, feed them by using nutritious foods. To prevent them from several types of sheep diseases vaccinate them timely. And always keep good relation with the veterinarian, so that you can ask for help anytime.

Different sheep breeds in the UK

Select a sheep breed suitable to your area and business requirements. Several sheep breeds and cross-breeds are found in the UK can be found on the National Sheep Association website. If you are farming in the hills with harsh climate conditions and a short growing season, it is advisable to choose hill breeds that are adapted for this environment.

There are different sheep breeds and crosses in the UK with each one uniquely bred to thrive in certain environments. The badger faces welsh mountain is supposed to be one of the oldest British sheep breeds.

Sheep farming is largely stratified with some breeds occupying specific environments. It is important to choose a breed suitable to your location and your business requirements.

The Hills

Hardy hill and mountain sheep are kept as pure breeds.

Typical breeds – The sheep breeds in the hills are Cheviots, Rough Fell, Swaledale, Dalesbred, Derbyshire Gritstone, Welsh Mountain, Scottish Blackface, and Herdwick.

Purpose – Pure-bred breeding stock. Surplus female and wether lambs are sold as stores to lowland or upland farms to be fattened.

Where to find them – These are mainly found in the highlands and islands of Scotland, mountain areas of Wales. Hill areas have short growing seasons, relatively poor soil quality, and long winters.

The Uplands

In upland areas, there are again specific sheep breeds.

Typical breeds – Some typical breeds in uplands are Teeswater, Wensleydale, Bluefaced Leicester, Border Leicester, Devon, and Cornwall Long wool.

Traits – More prolific compared to hill breeds, and do better on the lower, easier terrain. Though, mules inherit the mothering abilities of hill relatives.

Purpose – Older ewes’ drafter from the hills can continue to breed in the easier conditions to produce ewe lambs transferred to lowland farms for breeding and male lambs reared for meat production. Ewe lambs are sold to the lowlands to be crossed with a lowland or terminal sire breed.

Where to find them – Regions of Northern England such as The Pennines and Lake District, and in the South West, on Dartmoor and Exmoor.

The Lowlands

Typical breeds – Some typical breeds are Suffolk, Charollais, Clun Forest, Romney, and Oxford/Hampshire/Dorset Down.

Purpose – Lambs are reared for meat production. Though, slower-growing lambs join the store lambs that arrived from the hill and upland regions.

Where to find them – These are mainly found in low-lying regions of Wales and England mostly in central and eastern England. Sheep become part of arable rotations, and where fields that have grown crops for many years are put to grass to help improve the soil.

Shelter and caring tips for sheep

Particularly sheep require protection from predators and inclement weather conditions. Housing shelter keeps you more comfortable when tending to them. Account for additional space in the barn or shelter to store tools, feed, and bedding.

Sheep mostly thrive in a wide range of shelters. New barns, pole barns, and pre-fab metal structures are expensive but they provide excellent protection. Outbuildings and barns already present on your land can make good housing and might not need much adaptation for raising sheep.

The best type of fence for sheep farming is smooth-wire electric or woven wire non-electric fencing. You could use electric net fencing for temporary paddocks. Also, rotating sheep into different paddocks keeps them on fresh pasture. In hot climate conditions, sheep need some shade from trees or an open roof structure. Make sure they have plenty of fresh, cool water during these seasons.

Sheep don’t need much protection. By using a light, portable shed allows you to move it to their current paddock. One exception is if your sheep give birth to lambs during the winter season. So, a small barn or sturdy enclosed shed is essential to protect young animals. This can be a simple chute or forcing pen. This is safer than trying to chase and catch animals to handle them. This business requires less labor for daily maintenance and care. Therefore, you can run the farm with less working capital investment. Sheep give birth to kids frequently and you can create a large size herd within a short time.

Sheep require less space for living. Even you can raise sheep with another type of livestock animal. Sheep don’t want to build expensive housing. Thus, it allows you to maintain your cost early. Sheep eat different kinds of plants. You don’t need to provide high-quality feeds all the time and sheep are very hardy animals. The products you get from sheep have high demand in the market. It is a lucrative business for entrepreneurs who want to start a livestock business.

Few reasons why you should start sheep farming in the UK

  • Sheep are relatively small and easy to handle when compared with cows, horses, and pigs.
  • Sheep manure will fertilize the soil and sheep pastures can be rotated with crop planting.
  • Sheep don’t need much space. Even one acre can support small flock 3 or 4 ewes and their lambs.
  • For starting this sheep business, you don’t need to have huge capital. An expensive house for sheep is not required as they acquire less space for living and you can raise sheep with other livestock animals.
  • Sheep frequently gives birth to kids. So, the size of your herd will be large within a short time.
  • Sheep eat different kinds of plants, not like any other kinds of animals. Therefore, you can use them for cleaning unwanted plants from your garden or field.

Feed and nutrition requirements for sheep farming in the UK

Meat is the main product of sheep which makes them one of the most sustainable animals. Wool is an amazing product with several uses and sheep need to be sheared to keep them fit and healthy. Lamb is also packed with iron which is very important for adolescents as it helps with muscle development and growth. But adolescents are not consuming enough iron which can impact cognitive ability and behavior.

Environment –UK farmland is best suited for growing grass. It is incredible really, these animals can utilize areas of the UK that farmers never be able to use to grow fruit or veg and turn it into delicious and nutritious meat.

A sheep’s nutritional requirements will change throughout the year and will be at their highest during late pregnancy and lactation. For most of the year, they will get all they want to eat from a field of grass. Most flock owner’s start these supplementary feeding about 6 weeks before the ewe is due to lamb. Don’t worry about wastage, the sheep love this food and sniff around until they find every last piece. If there is no decent grass around by the time the ewe lambs will have to carry on feeding her. Producing milk for her lambs is even more of a demand on the system than the pregnancy.

Sheep require less copper than cows and goats, and they are more susceptible to copper toxicity than other livestock. Though, sheep still need copper and can become copper deficient if you have copper antagonists on your farm like high sulfur and iron in your well water.

The challenges of sheep farming in the UK

The uplands of the UK are semi-natural habitats that have been formed by generations of agricultural enterprise, which has been shaped by grazing livestock. The regions of the North East, North West, and South West England include a large proportion of the upland areas of England. The uplands are unique in many ways like the climate is varied and often extreme, they are mostly at high altitudes (with some of the uplands of the South West being an exception) and they are remote. They play an important role in the sheep industry of the UK.

Sheep farming in the uplands suffers from the same difficulties as in the lowlands, which result in the uplands being a difficult place to make a living. The higher altitude, more extreme climate conditions, shorter growing seasons, topography, and low soil fertility all add to the complexities of farming. The land is marginal, with limited options for what it can be used for, thus leaving them vulnerable to price fluctuations.

Sheep marketing in the UK

Sheep raised in the UK pass through domestic livestock markets. Lambs with unhealed navels should not be transported, and not taken to market under current welfare regulations. Therefore, lambs as young as two or three days old are frequently seen in markets. Lambs can be sent for slaughter at the ages of about 3 and 10 months.



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