sheep for orchard

locust(z9 CA)February 10, 2005

We are thinking about getting sheep for our apple/pear orchard in order to graze the grasses and fertilize. We have considered other animals as well, but we really would like to get sheep. I have interviewed several people, and have gotten two different answers:

1. sheep are fine. They are not like goats, they won't hurt the trees.

2. unless you're trees are mature enough for the branches to be out of reach, sheep will destroy your trees.

Anyone want to add to this debate?

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Sheep are not twig browsers like goats but ...... I've always been told its a bad idea to mix any grazing animal in an orchid. Why take a chance I'd say.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 4:43PM
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huisjen(z5 ME)

The folks from whom we got our sheep had them in an orchard of dwarf apples. They had covered the trunks of the trees with hardware cloth but the low hanging branches were trimmed up to sheep-head height. Overall the whole system looked good, and we plan to replicate it once our trees get a little taller. I doubt they'd decimate the trees unless they ran out of grass. My advice would be to get a small (short) breed of sheep (Shetlands? Jacobs?) and add chickens to the mix to keep down the flies, sheep parasites, and tree fruit borers!


    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 10:21AM
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huisjen(z5 ME)

Also, you might try asking this question over on the farm life forum. There are quite a few shepherds over there. There will probably be at least one grumpy person who runs you over because it sounds like you care more about the orchard than the sheep, and you shouldn't run out and buy an animal without long consideration, blah blah blah, but if you can ignore them you'll get some good advice from the rest who know what you're talking about.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 10:26AM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

And you might find out what you could use to improve the pasturage.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 1:05PM
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SofiasfarmNC(z7 NC Piedmont)

Have you considered weeder geese?? They do a really good job in orchards, are lower maintainance than sheep and for sure won't eat your trees.
We have sheep and I adore them! If you do get sheep or geese for that matter, why don't you consider getting a heritage breed that also could use a little protecting? The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has a list of livestock animals and poultry/ waterfowl, etc that are heritage breeds that are in low numbers. The heritage breeds tend to be more sturdy and need less intensive parenting (from you). We have 3 types of heritage chickens, turkeys to follow soon and CVM Romeldale sheep. You would also be helping to maintain biodiversity in our livestock populations. Just a thought.

Here is a link that might be useful: American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

    Bookmark   March 5, 2005 at 7:37PM
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I raise sheep. Sheep are very definitely leaf and twig browsers. They also eat bark. This has nothing to do with whether they have enough grass. Even horses like the taste of apple leaves, bark, and the growing tips. I have watched a ewe stand on her back legs and jump to reach fruit leaves and apples. However, a previous poster is correct: if you protect the trunk, and paint that black, tarry wound healer on any bitten area, the sheep will only eat up as far as they can reach, which leaves a nice even canopy. The shorter the sheep, the lower your bottom branches can be.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 4:48AM
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I second geese. You would be AMAZED at how efficient they are to keep a pasture down. I once read 40 per acre- I would say 10-15 would be more than enough.
They're cheap, hilarious, and so much easier than sheep.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 9:44PM
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