If you’re trying to decide between raising sheep or goats, there are several things you should consider, including the best type of fencing, ease of handling, feed concerns, acres required, breeding, and more.
While you can raise sheep and goats together, this usually requires some special considerations, so beginner farmers should typically look to raise either one or the other otherwise they’ll likely get overwhelmed.
6 Considerations When Raising Sheep vs. Goats
Goats are known as “escape artists” and will try to escape every chance they get. Sheep, on the other hand, are relatively docile and won’t try to escape nearly as much.
Either way, the best fence for sheep or the best fence for goats must have the right spacing to keep predators out while also avoiding the risk of strangulation, which can occur if sheep and goats get their heads stuck.
There are several fencing options to choose from, but it’s recommended that you run a plain wire pulled as tight as possible between the posts, as well as stringing a strand of electric fencing at the top of the fence to discourage goats from climbing.
Unless you raise Angoras, you don’t need to worry about shearing goats. Wool sheep, though, must be shorn at least once or twice a year.
The cost of shearing is typically around $15 each for flocks of 15 sheep and fewer, though with more volume, the price becomes cheaper. A minimum charge, which is usually in the range of $100-150 regardless of how many sheep are sheared normally applies too. These costs can quickly add up.
To save money, you can learn to shear sheep yourself or even avoid the need to shear at all by keeping hair sheep breeds, like Dorpers and Katahdins.
Goats might give you more trouble with their tendency to try and escape, but they are generally easier to handle than sheep, especially during routine procedures that you will have to perform often.
Procedures like deworming, vaccinating, and hoof trimming will all be easier to perform on goats because sheep are wired to flee when frightened. You’ll definitely want to set up handling facilities if you raise sheep.
If making money is one of your key concerns when trying to decide between raising sheep or goats, then we recommend that you raise goats, for several reasons.
- Goats mature faster than sheep (300 days vs. 390 days), which affects the growth of the herd and time to market
- Goats produce more milk than sheep (up to a gallon of milk a day vs. half a gallon), although keep in mind that the average lactation for a goat is around 300 days compared to 240 days for sheep
- Goats do not need to be sheared, which will save you several hundred dollars a year – or more depending on the size of your herd
- Goats require less fodder than sheep, which will save you a lot of money in feed costs throughout the year
- Goats sell for less than sheep, but goats are more reproductively efficient, which ultimately makes them more profitable.
You can support about six to sight goats or sheep per acre, so the amount of acreage you have shouldn’t factor too much into your decision-making process. However, sheep like flatter land whereas goats will do just fine on rocky and uneven terrain.
Also, keep in mind that goats are foragers and browsers while sheep are grazers. With goats’ preference to brush, twigs and leaves than to grass, they are perfect if you need to clear your land of brush and weeds.
Your Goals & Preferences
On paper, either raising goats or sheep may be the more obvious choice as one may more closely align with your goals, whether that be your interests lie in raising these animals for milk and cheese, fiber, breeding stock, or simply as pets.