Interested in Raising Sheep – What you need to know

Most of the sheep production in Manitoba and Canada is done to raise lamb for meat production. There are some producers, who raise registered breeding stock, have fiber flocks and raise sheep for dairy production.

You need to learn as much as you can about the various production systems, sheep breeds that will or will not work within the systems, the management that is required to maintain that level of production and decide which works best with your resources and your goal of becoming a sheep producer.

There is conventional production with lambing in the spring, pasture-based systems, intensive production, where animals are housed or confined, semi confined, out of season breed, lambing year round, accelerated lambing, Induced lambing.

Each one of these production systems require an understanding of the management, the breed of sheep that will work within this system and the level of intensity, that is required to be successful and the expected economic returns.

There are lots of markets available for sheep raised for meat production.  Although, Manitoba does not have a federally inspected processing plant for sheep, animals go to either Ontario or Alberta for processing. There are a number of provincially inspected plants in Manitoba that will process sheep and lamb, but the numbers are not significant.

There are many management practices for raising sheep and getting them to market. Some systems will have lambs ready for market in 90 to 120 days, well others will take longer. There is no right way, only the system that works best for you and produces a lamb to industry specifics.

There are many marketing opportunities, Canada only produces 40% of the lamb available to consumers, so there is lots of room to grow. The best prices for lamb is the Easter market for new crop lamb. Many lambs are marketed from September to December, coming off pasture. There are many producers that are bridging the gap to supply lamb year-round by intensively raising sheep and lambing year-round.

The price of wool has been low for the last few years and wool production is not generally a great source of revenue. However, there is a growing fiber industry creating a value-added industry for wool products from specific breeds and creating some producers to raise fiber flocks.

Try and find out as much as possible, talk to sheep specialist and sheep producers to get all the information.

For further information, please contact the Manitoba Agriculture Sheep Team

Is Sheep Production Profitable?

Successful Sheep production is very attainable, viable and profitable but is very management sensitive.

  • Good nutrition is key
  • lambing can be a challenge if not planned
  • careful attention to production issues

The Manitoba/Canadian Sheep Industry

For further information, please contact the Manitoba Agriculture Sheep Team

Sheep Industry Specialist – Linda Fox – Phone 1-204-4477376 Email: linda.fox@gov.mb.ca

Dairy Specialist – Rob Berry – Phone – 1-204-797-807 Email: robert.berry@gov.mb.ca

Livestock Predation Specialist– Wray Whitmore – Phone- 1- 204-861-2298 Email: wray.whitmore@gov.mb.ca

Or the Manitoba Sheep Association • 204-421-9434 • www.mbsheep.ca Email: mb@mbsheep.ca

Economics and Production Costs

Please visit the Cost of Production tool available on the Manitoba Agriculture site here.


Sheep Breeding Systems

Commercial lamb production, generally uses cross breeding programs to maximize the lamb crop while optimizing lamb quality.  The rams (Terminal Sires) that are chosen will provided the traits and the strengths on lamb quality and the ability to grow. So when buying a ram it is important to know what you are buying.

And the ewes will be chosen for their maternal qualities, good mothering and milking abilities.  Sheep are more reproductively efficient. Some breeds are very prolific, capable of triplets and quadruplets. These breeds require additional production needs and costs with nutrition and management, such as a nursery with milking machines.

Sheep have a short gestation period of 148 days (5 months and 5 days) and ewes can be bred more than once per year. Some breeds are capable of breeding year-round, under the right management.

There several types of breeding management systems being used in Manitoba.

  • Once a year spring lambing on or off pasture, markets in Sept. to Dec.
  • Once a year winter lambing target the Easter market for new crop lambs.
  • Year round lambing programs marketing year round
  • Accelerated lambing programs (either three times in two years or five lambings in 3 years) marketing lambs on a year-round basis.

For further information, please contact the Manitoba Agriculture Sheep Team:

Sheep Industry Specialist – Linda Fox – Phone: 1-204-647-7747 Email: linda.fox@gov.mb.ca

Dairy Specialist – Rob Berry – Phone: 1-204-797-8079 Email: robert.berry@gov.mb.ca

Manager Livestock Production Extension- Wray Whitmore – Phone: 1-861-2298 Email: wray.whitmore@gov.mb.ca


Manitoba Sheep Association • 204-421-9434 • www. mbsheep.ca


Consumer information

Please visit the Consumer Information page on the Fresh Canadian Lamb website here.

Purchasing CSIP tags & Manitoba Sheep membership

Tags for Manitoba sheep can be purchased from the Canadian Cooperative Wool Growers Association at this online address: http://alberta.wool.ca/online_sales

If you wish to phone in an order, the number is 1-800-567-3693