What are the best sheep for hobby farming?

We often get asked what stock we are running on the Rock Farm?  Whilst the property had previously run cattle, we chose to run shedding meat sheep for a couple of reasons:

  •  Shedding sheep do not require shearing and are less susceptible to fly strike than their wool bearing cousins
  • We don’t need to invest in shearing infrastructure or arrange transport to and from a shearing shed annually
  • Sheep are quicker growing than cattle
  • We are able to slaughter our sheep without external assistance (cattle are much larger and difficult to slaughter on farm)
  • Lamb is one of our favourite meals.

Shedding meat sheep have risen in popularity in Australia over the past ten years or so and many breeds are now available.  With plenty of choice available, it is hard to know which is the best sheep for hobby farming.

In my mind, the best sheep for hobby farming must be hardy, quick growing and a proven performer on native pastures.  They must also be easy to manage and low maintenance.  We asked many producers in our local area what type of sheep they were running, and eventually settled on the Wiltipoll.

Wiltipoll Sheep

The Wiltipoll is a breed developed in Australia.  They are large easy care sheep, and may weigh up to 125kg in reasonable conditions.  The ewes breed seasonally and are known as good mothers, with a high percentage of multiple births.  They are also known to perform well on poor or rougher country that normally carries Merino wethers. They seemed to be the perfect sheep for hobby farmers like us.

Based on that information, we contacted a nearby Wiltipoll Association member, and ordered 15 hogget ewes (2 adult teeth, approximately 12 months old) and one ram.  The Wiltipoll Association website is: http://www.wiltipoll.com.au/

A short time later, we received a call from the breeder to let us know our sheep were ready.  A little nervously I hitched up the ancient horse float for the trip.  Thankfully all 16 sheep fitted into the float with no spare room at all – and they were soon eating a fire break in our fresh spring pastures.

These sheep are hardy sheep, bred for meat production.  They shed their wool naturally, meaning they are low maintenance and ideal for the hobby farmer like us.

The first priority was to teach them to come to me – also known as bucket mustering.  A 4 litre bucket of oats was given to them daily for the first couple of weeks, and it didn’t take the sheep long to come when I called.

Even now, at least once a week I give them a small amount of oats, just to keep them coming to me.  It was worth all the effort just once when I found them in the neighbour’s place.  A quick call, and all our sheep were back on our side of the fence – allowing me to repair the kangaroo hole.

Sometimes going for walks in the paddocks means you have a few friends though 🙂

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We haven’t lambed yet – but when we do, I’ll be sure to post more about our wonderful Wiltipoll sheep here.

Please let us know what your thoughts on the Wiltipoll sheep are, or if you have any questions by leaving us a comment below.

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2 thoughts on “What are the best sheep for hobby farming?

  1. What is the major difference between Wiltpoll and Dorper sheep? If my land-owning dream ever comes to fruition, I was thinking of running sheep lawnmowers and Dorpers seem to be fairly well established in the local area too.

  2. Hi Conrad,

    Both Dorpers and Wiltipoll were on our short list. They both shed their wool, do well on poorer country and make delicious chops.

    We had heard anecdotally that the Dorpers are harder on fences and more likely to push through poor fences. I was worried I would have to spend a fortune upgrading our boundary fence if we were to run Dorpers. Our neighbour grows fine wool merinos, and would look very poorly on any boundary breeches.

    The Wiltipoll seem to be a quiet sheep, and are quick to learn. Once they settled in, we just check them every few days or so, and they are happy enough.

    That said, I think all sheep learn quickly to come to a bucket of feed. It is worth spending a bit of time handling them and creating good habits in the sheep.

    Good luck with the land-owning dream!
    Cheers
    Phil

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