According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) 2012 Census of Agriculture, Pennsylvania has almost 3,600 farms producing over 96,000 sheep and lambs. These sheep and lambs annually generate almost 305,500 pounds of wool with a value of $202,000. These farms also sold over 55,800 sheep and lambs with a value of over $8M.
The same Census of Agriculture indicated that goat production decreased from 2007 to 2012 to just over 4,000 farms producing over 50,000 goats. There were 1,600 Angora goats, 15,200 milking goats, and 33,250 meat goats generating over $2.9M in sales annually.
The Penn State Extension Small-scale and Part-time Farming project develops the Agricultural Alternatives publication series which contains several publications covering sheep and goat production. A growing interest in Artisan cheeses has increased the interest in Milking Sheep Production.
With certain ethnic markets increasing in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, having sheep and lambs available year around is becoming more common. The Agricultural Alternatives: Off-season and Accelerated Lamb Production publication will outline how to begin producing lambs in the off-season of producing primarily for the Easter market. The Agricultural Alternatives: Spring Lamb Production publication informs you about having lambs available for the spring or Easter market. A calendar of Ethnic Holidays may be found here.
The publication series highlights goat production with two publications; Agricultural Alternatives: Dairy Goat Production and Agricultural Alternatives: Meat Goat Production. The Artisan cheese industry is also increasing the interest in goat milk and the interest in meat goats is also a product of new markets opening within the eastern United States.
Home Study Courses
The courses are conducted one time each year and by following the links, you can sign up to participate in the class of your choice.
The courses are instructed by Extension Educator Melanie Barkley who is very knowledgeable in the topics as she is a practicing shepherd. The courses cover:
- Basic production
- Financial information
Small Ruminant Information
The University of Maryland has a Small Ruminant web site that contains a wealth of very useful information. Included in the site are research results covering goat breeds, market reports and an Ethic calendar with important marketing dates for sheep and goats.
Housing and Equipment Plans
The Penn State Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering has plans for sheep housing, fencing, feeders, and equipment. These easy to follow drawings will assist in the construction and maintenance of your sheep operation. The plans may not be to scale however; if you are mechanically inclined, they will be beneficial.
Marketing of your sheep and goat production may take several forms. You may direct market whole animals live, whole animals slaughtered and portions of animals (halves or quarters) or even individual cuts. A source of determining prices for live animals is the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service’s report on sheep auctions. These prices will be a starting point for selling your lambs or sheep. For goats, please see the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service’s report on goat auctions. Depending on your production (live or slaughtered), you may use these reports to better determine when to sell your production.
Sheep and goats do not require much land if you start small and grow your flock. Lambing and kidding seasons will be during the winter months if your production is for the spring markets so shelter is required. Selecting you ewes and nannies for easy births will help reduce death loss and make the shepherd’s duties much easier.
This publication is available in alternative media on request.