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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Buying Sheep for the First time?

Looking to Buy Sheep for the First Time?
Some Thoughts to Consider

1) Does the breeder try to convince you to take what he/she wants to sell you instead of what you are searching for?

2) What over-all sense do you get when you go on their place?  Can you see all the sheep? Is the breeder willing to show you everything you want to see? Will he or she only show you a few sheep?  Even if only a few sheep are for sale, it is customary to be able to see all the sheep on the place if you wish, so that you can get a sense of how the flock functions together. Your new sheep will bring flock characteristics with it, and you want those characteristics to be positive ones.

3) Does the number of sheep seem appropriate for the size of the property? Think "puppy mill" – does the breeder appear concerned only with how many breeding sheep he or she can cram on the property to maximize the number of lambs for sale, or does he have appropriate sheep welfare in mind?

4) Are lambs for sale at an appropriate age?  Are they weaned? If you are buying a bottle-baby, do you have instructions and milk-replacer ready to go? Is the breeder willing and able to give you information and instruction that you need to make this successful?

5) Is the farm well-maintained and thrifty looking? Care of property is an indicator of care of sheep.

6) Is the breeder willing to have you visit a couple of times before committing? Does he or she seem impatient with questions, or make you feel that your questions are dumb, or make you feel that you are unknowledgable and "lesser?"

7) Is he or she prompt to refer you to the Registry where you can see if in fact they are registered breeders and that you can, therefore, maintain your own registered sheep if that is your desire?

8) Is the breeder able and willing to show you registration papers for the specific sheep you are interested in purchasing? Sometimes registration papers “to be mailed later” is a red flag that the breeder isn’t providing what he or she says he is.

9) Have you seen other sheep from this breeder on other farms?

10) Does the breeder talk down other breeders in order to promote his or her own sheep?

11) Is the breeder willing to talk about breed standards?

12) Is the breeder willing to show you barn records for sheep you are considering?

13) What about bio-security? Is there anything on the breeder's place you don't want to bring on to your own farm? Barn records, which show care and treatment patterns, can be a clue in this question.

14) While "buyer beware" is the foundation principle for every purchase, is the breeder willing to talk about any potential defects you might have noticed on a given sheep and address how they do or do not fit into the breed standard?


  1. Newbie question- would this "Registry" be just a breed registry for each particular breed? And where would you find a breeder for the breed you are wanting?

  2. Hello Christy -
    Thanks for reading our blog and asking a great question! Each sheep breed maintains a least one registry of its purebred stock and their owners/breeders. Tunis sheep, which I raise, has two registries as do other breeds. That is mostly as a result of different philosophies regarding what folks want to see as a breed standard.

    Because of the registry, finding a breeder is simple: find the web address for the breed in question and look through it. At its most basic you can simply enter "cotswold breeders by state" (for instance). Once you find the registry, breeders will be listed by state. Here is a link to one of the Tunis registries so that you can see how it is set up Sheep folks are very good about helping each other and we all believe that there is no such thing as a "dumb" question! Good luck with your search, and if there is anything further I can help with, feel free to ask.