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Could You Make Money by Adding a Ewe For Every Cow in Your Herd?

By   /  September 4, 2017  /  12 Comments

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Photo by Perry Rech Recent Dickinson Research Extension Center sales caused me to ponder the concep
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About the author

Dr. Ringwall is the director of North Dakota State University's Dickinson Research Extension Center. The Center was established to research crop production and improvements to native and introduced forage crops for ranchers on the Missouri Plateau region. The Center's runs a herd of May calving cattle.


  1. Alaina says:

    Any idea if these figures consider sheep breeding once a year or 3 times in 2 years?

  2. Sheep are indeed more ‘hands on’ than cattle no doubt about it. Parasites, predators, and fencing all need to be considered. They will clean up a pasture of most weeds making it more productive.
    Just as you can select and manage cattle to calve without lots of assistance you can select ewes to do that same. Good mothers and good milking ewes goes a long way but managing a sheep flock will be a new skill for cattle folks. Sheep demand you are observant and take care of small problems right away. If you wait an see the outcome is not usually a good one.

  3. Lin Karcher says:

    If sheep eat weeds which our cows don’t eat (ironweed, ragweed, cocklebur, smartweed), mowing costs could be greatly reduced. The added fence expense could be worth it.

  4. Brian Nichols says:

    I’d love to hear more information on this subject. Particularly hearing from some people that have bonded sheep to cattle. I understand the need to have a more sheep proof perimeter fence, but do the bonded sheep wander very far away from cattle when you’re only using 1 polywire to rotate the cattle?

    • Myra says:

      I don’t think they would need to be bonded to the cattle to share a pasture. They don’t have to be grazing side by side or anything.

  5. Josh Vaillancourt says:

    Would sheep respect a single strand of polywire? That’d be the million dollar question for us – we strip graze our pasture, moving the line 3-4 times a day, and with just a small herd, needing to add extra lines, the time/labor would add up.

    • Julie Smith says:

      We just put 70 head of ewes with lambs on pasture fenced with 7 wires of barbed wire, 4 inches apart towards the bottom, electrified with a charger and they are still getting out. Maybe electric woven wire would stop the sneaky ones. Worse than keeping in bulls during breeding season.

  6. Lealand says:

    When considering another business partner (the next generation – son or daughter), add sheep seems like a good business decision. In South Central South Dakota, in a good grazing management system, the sheep selected forbs and little bluestem, before the mother cows. The mother cows selected the Western Whtgrass, which the sheep dislike. It works and with Dr. Ringwall’s information; it pays. Long-term generationally, fencing for sheep makes sense.

  7. Bill Gibson says:

    As a longtime grazer of sheep with cattle mixed in there are advantages when done carefully.
    My major concern is for the welfare of the sheep.They aren’t just little cows that generate cash flow.

  8. Julie Smith says:

    Two limiting factors I can see with this model of production would be the cost of fencing for 300 ewes on pasture plus 600 lambs till weaning if shooting for a projected 200% lamb crop. Along with the extra time and labor involved with lambing 300 ewes. Otherwise, I really love that someone did a study on this and there is some concrete data to present to my husband! I have been trying to convince him to increase our sheep herd up to at least 200 ewes to run along with our cows. He’ll have none of that. LOL!

  9. Betsy Hodge says:

    There are other benefits to the sheep – the cows help control the sheep parasites. Our cow calf pairs also did a pretty good job keeping the coyotes at bay.

    One word of caution. You need a bigger, better fence for sheep than most people have for their cows and that is an added expense that many farmers forget about.

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