Posts Tagged ‘Animals’


I am trying to decide if sheep will be worth our time and effort. I’d love to try my hand at spinning, but that can be accomplished with alpaca fibre instead. We need to try mutton to see if we actually like it (the Fella does not). I think having sheep for wool and meat would be the best for us, and if we aren’t going to eat the meat, I don’t know that it’s worth the investment to own them solely for wool when there are alpacas about. Nevertheless…

*Straw is best for sheep bedding. Wood chips are not absorbent enough and saw dust will ruin the fleece. Waste hay can work.

*Good ventilation is key. Drafts are not a big concern with sheep, but keeping the moisture and ammonia out of their shelter are of concern.

*Sheep seem to need to be dewormed fairly frequently (read about a ‘worm-resistant’ breed that needed to be dewormed every three months or so).

*It can be possibly, depending on personalities, to keep different species with sheep (like goats).

*Sheep can live into their teens. Rarely into their early 20s. Commercially-bred sheep rarely live past 8.

*Some breeds of sheep (particularly longwools) are often shorn twice a year, but typically, sheep are shorn in the spring.


*The wool from one sheep is called a fleece, from many sheep, a clip.

*The amount of wool that a sheep produces depends upon its breed, genetics, nutrition, and shearing interval.

*Long Wool Sheep have the longest fibres, which makes their wool desirable to hand-spinners. Course and heavy fibres. Border Leicester, Coopworth, Cotswold, Lincoln, Perendale, Romney, Wensleydale.


(Lincoln. Source:

*Medium Wool Sheep are typically used more for meat than for wool. They have the lightest-weight, least valuable fleeces. Medium wool is usually either felted or made into blankets, socks, and sweaters. Popular meat breeds are Suffolk, Dorset, Southdown, and Hampshire.


(Suffolk Sheep. Source:

*Fine Wool Sheep produce the thinnest fibres, which are the most versatile. American Cormo, Booroola Merina, Debouillet, Delaine-Merino, Rambouillet are fine wool sheep breeds.


(Merino Sheep. Source:

*This looks to be an excellent resource on starting out with sheep:



I love hand-spun fibres and knitting and crocheting. I’m hoping to add weaving to my hand-crafting repertoire when we have the room for a loom, as well. It seems natural to consider adding sheep and/or alpacas to our farm for fleece, so here’s my current collection of alpaca information:


*An adult alpaca generally is between 81 and 99 cm in height (a little over 2.5 feet – a little over 3 feet) at the withers (highest part of the back). They usually weigh between 48 and 84 kg (106 and 185 lbs).

*They are a domesticated species of camelid and they can spit, though not all do.

*Alpacas use a communal dung pile, where they do not graze. This behaviour tends to limit the spread of internal parasites. Generally, males have much tidier, and fewer dung piles than females, which tend to stand in a line and all go at once. One female approaches the dung pile and begins to urinate and/or defecate, and the rest of the herd often follows. Apparently they can be house-trained. (Source:

*Alpacas are induced ovulators (they ovulate at the act of mating and presence of semen). Gestation is ~345 days (+/- 15 days).

*Alpacas can live up to 20 years.

* They typically eat hay and grass and usually get a daily dose of grains for vitamins if they are not free-ranging alpacas.

*Alpacas need to eat 1-2% of body weight per day, so about two 60 lb (27 kg) bales of grass hay per month per animal.

*5 per acre is ideal, though 8-10 is generally accepted as the rule of thumb.

*Planning the location of the barn and alpaca pasture is important. Alpacas need shade available to them in summer and an easy way to get out of the elements in the winter.

*Alpacas make great manure. Some dogs apparently like to eat it. Considering myself forewarned.

*Fencing is required to protect alpacas from predators more than anything else. They will not challenge the fence. 2×4 mesh wire fencing works well because it’s too small for the alpacas to poke their heads out of and too small for predators to stick their heads into. 5-foot height should suffice. Attaching chicken wire to the bottom of the fence and burying it out about 2 feet helps prevent predators from digging under the fence, too.

*A guardian animal is a good idea for alpaca protection in addition to excellent fencing.

*Alpacas get sheared once a year, but as they age, the growth rate of their fleece slows. This is an interesting article on sheering alpacas:

*Nail and teeth trimming needs to happen ever 6-12 months.

*You can build your own alpaca feeders:



But the alpaca farmers who built these say that it mats the fleece on the necks of their alpacas, which makes the fleece unusable.

Here’s a commercially made feeder. Not sure how it functions for neck-matting.



* lists these things as necessary alpaca-owner equipment:

  • Halters
  • Lead ropes
  • Needles and syringes
  • Toenail trimmers
  • Grooming items
  • Scale for weighing cria
  • Cria and birthing kits
  • First aid kit
  • Shovel to scoop poop and something (wheelbarrow, wagon attached to ATV) to scoop poop into
  • A trailer for transporting alpacas
  • Stock tanks
  • 5-gallon buckets for water with heating elements for winter

*There are two types of alpacas: Suri and Huacaya. They are physiologically alike, but differ pretty distinctly in appearance. Both types of fleece are considered luxury fibres in the textile world. They both come in several different colours.

(Source: Alpacas 101)

Suri Alpaca:






I wasn’t totally sold on alpacas before a bit more research, but they are really growing on me. Really, really growing on me!