How to Start a Sheep Farm in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: March 29, 2024 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Raising sheep can be a rewarding and profitable endeavor. The global sheep farming industry has a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.5% into 2033. As demand rises for wool, meat, and dairy products from sheep, the industry is projected to continue growing over the next several years.


Getting into the sheep farming business does require some upfront investment and preparation. You’ll need adequate grazing land and facilities like barns and fences. It’s also important to research the sheep breeds that are most suitable for your climate and the market you plan to target.

This guide will walk you through how to start a sheep farm. Topics include market research, registering an EIN, obtaining business insurance, forming a legal business entity, improving customer focus, marketing techniques, and more.

1. Conduct Sheep Farmer Market Research

Market research is important to organic sheep breeders. It offers insight into how many sheep to include in your herd, the ins and outs of breeding sheep, pasture management, tools needed to raise sheep, and farm animals popular among sheep farmers.


Some details you’ll learn through market research on sheep breeding and adult sheep include:

  • The top sheep-farming countries by volume are China, Australia, India, and New Zealand.
  • The highest returns per animal typically come from regions like Europe and North America.
  • While more tropical regions may allow for cheaper land and feed costs, selling into niche Western markets can boost profit margins.
  • Over 90% of American lamb is still imported, signaling room in the market for expansion.
  • Both wool and sheep milk products also rely heavily on imports in the US.
  • Focusing on specialty dairy sheep breeds could fill local demand.
  • Smaller farms earning less than $10,000 annually from sheep make up around 70% of operations.
  • Successfully growing a pastured-based sheep dairy or ranch to support multiple households is viable.
  • Individual farm earnings of between $50k-$500k per year are reasonable long-term goals for mid-sized producers working with a few hundred sheep.
  • Key costs when starting include fencing, housing, breeding stock, supplemental feed, and equipment for handling/milking sheep.
  • Ongoing expenses can be kept relatively low though – especially if accessing pasture.
  • Average annual care costs per animal range from $75-$300 depending on the scale.
  • Sheep also reproduce quickly, with each ewe lambing one to three offspring per year.

The global and American sheep industry metrics highlight a sizable market opportunity for those looking to purchase sheep breeds. Capitalizing on growing consumer demand for ethically raised, local lamb, wool, and dairy items provides a good avenue for predictable income.

2. Analyze the Competition

Understanding the competitive landscape is vital for entering the sheep farming industry with a solid business plan. Useful context can be gained by analyzing operations of various sizes in your target region.

For local physical competition, identify other sheep farms within a 50-mile radius of your planned location. Check their websites/social media and visit in person when possible to assess flock size, facilities, breeds raised, marketing channels used, and product mix.

Resources like state agriculture census data also compile production volumes and sales by county. Comparing this data to population demographics in the area can expose gaps in certain product availability to help with differentiation.

An online search reveals key details as well. Search “buy sheep milk near me” or “sheep wool yarn [city name]” to gauge what buyers are looking for. Review top listings for eCommerce sites selling relevant items locally.

Order products from some sheep farms shipping nationally to asses packaging, pricing, sizing, and quality. This testing exposes what your competition is currently offering and what buyers respond well to.

To complement this information, connect with regional lamb/wool buyers, cooperatives, veterinarians, feed stores, and agricultural extension offices. Discuss challenges and opportunities industry peers are facing and where they see demand trending for small ruminant products.

3. Costs to Start a Sheep Farm Business

When starting a sheep, cattle, or goat farm, some of the major upfront investments include knowing how much land, housing, and handling facilities you need. Things like initial sheep purchases, fencing, and equipment are costly.

Start-up Costs

  • Pasture Land Purchase/Lease: Leasing land for $30-$200 per acre per year may be most affordable when first piloting smaller operations under 100 sheep. Purchasing land outright averages around $4,000 per acre in the US currently.
  • Housing/Handling: For sheep shelters and birthing barns, simple pole structures can be suitable. The cost per square foot runs around $45. Having 50-100 square feet per ewe is typical, so plan for an outlay of potentially $2,000-$10,000.
  • Initial Sheep Purchase: Even if you’re breeding sheep regularly, you need to start somewhere. Breeding ewes cost $200-$500 per head, while lamb prices sit around $150-$300 each. Start small with 10-25 sheep for several thousand dollars if bootstrapping.
  • Fencing: Perimeter and cross fencing are crucial, with budgets around $3-$15 per linear foot. For a 50-acre parcel that requires 3-4 miles of total fencing, estimate $50,000 in materials and labor. Portable electric net fencing can also help rotate grazing for a few thousand dollars.
  • Equipment/Supplies: Buckets, medical supplies, shears, brushes, scales, containment crates, and other lambing/milking gear will likely cost around $2,000-$5,000 when equipping the operation.
  • Administrative, Insurance, Licensing: $2,000-$5,000 Filing LLC/incorporation paperwork, permits for dairy/meat processing, livestock transportation licenses, and basic business insurance will incur fees during launch.

Ongoing Costs

In terms of ongoing annual expenses, key costs will include:

  • Feed & Mineral Supplements – $20-$60 per sheep
  • Vet Bills/Medications – $15-$30 per sheep
  • Shearing $4-$10 per sheep
    Farm Labor – $30,000+ for part-time help
  • Fence/Facility Maintenance – $5,000+
  • Property Taxes and Insurance – $500-$5,000
  • Marketing and Accounting – $1,000-$5,000

Tracking both one-time start-up cash flow needs against projected ongoing profit and expenses month-to-month will give the best picture of the total capital needed.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

When structuring a sheep farming business, four main options exist – sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or limited liability company (LLC). Each carries different pros, cons, and legal protections.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship represents the simplest and most affordable route. There are minimal paperwork requirements and operational flexibility. However, the owner assumes unlimited financial liability and pays personal income taxes on profits.


Forming a partnership allows the sharing of management duties and expenses across partners. However, all partners remain jointly liable for debts and legal issues. Disagreements between partners can also trigger complex dissolution challenges. Tracking profit shares adds accounting overhead as well.


A standard C-corporation offers complete business liability separation from owners’ finances. The entity pays taxes on profits. Ownership is easily transferrable through selling shares. However, corporate formalities like issuing stock and annual shareholder meetings add administrative burdens.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

For most small sheep farms, a limited liability company (LLC) strikes the best balance of liability protection, tax flexibility, and simplified management. Owners benefit from legal and financial separation of business and personal assets. Company profits directly pass through to members’ tax returns as well, avoiding double taxation.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

Any sheep business structured as an LLC, corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship with employees must obtain an employer identification number (EIN). This unique nine-digit number essentially serves as the business’s social security number for tax and reporting purposes.

Applying online for an EIN is free, quick, and done directly through the IRS. To complete the process, you’ll need to identify details about the farm ownership and structure. These standard details include names, addresses, socials/previous EINs, and the type of LLC, corporation, or partnership formed.

The online application form takes less than 15 minutes total to complete. Opting for the EIN to be issued immediately via the IRS website allows grabbing the official number right away rather than waiting for mail delivery.

Beyond taxes, an EIN is crucial for several licensing and regulatory compliance needs at both state and federal levels. For example, a farm selling products requires sales and use tax permits connected to the EIN.

Obtaining an EIN essentially formalizes the sheep farm’s status as a recognized business entity. Following through with properly structuring and registering the farm business legally is vital for everything from acquiring financing to avoiding tax issues.

6. Setup Your Accounting

Keeping accurate financial records is critical for any livestock farm to track profitability and ensure full legal compliance. Investing in tools like accounting software and an accountant from the start creates vital organization and analysis to guide smart business decisions.

Accounting Software

Using a cloud-based program like QuickBooks streamlines bookkeeping enormously compared to manual spreadsheets. QuickBooks seamlessly connects to the farm’s bank and credit card accounts to automatically import and categorize transactions.

Hire an Accountant

Supplementing with an experienced agricultural accountant adds further value to your business. General small business bookkeeping assistance can cost around $100 per month, while targeted services like annual tax preparation range from $500-$2,000.

Open a Business Bank Account

Opening a dedicated business bank account then connects directly with the accounting software as well. This separates all personal and farm finances to avoid any unnecessary commingling of expenditures or tax implications from mingled accounts.

Apply for a Business Credit Card

Using a business credit card also simplifies tracking small farm expenses distinctly. Cards are issued based on both personal credit history and the entity’s financial reports.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Before welcoming the first flock or making any sales, new sheep farms must ensure all legally required permissions from various state and federal agencies are secured. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

Several baseline permits and plans pertain to land usage and facilities. Zoning approval must be confirmed that agricultural activity aligns with any local ordinances. Any new physical structures like barns require obtaining necessary building permits during construction too.

If selling products like meat cuts, value-added wool items, or dairy directly to consumers, proper processing licenses allow legally operating retail spaces onsite and at farmers’ markets. Mobile food vendor permits enable serving dishes at events as well.

Producing raw dairy especially carries additional rules to inherently protect against risks like pathogens within milk, cheeses, and yogurts. Regular facility inspections confirm protocol compliance for the safety of both animals and end consumers.

Transporting sheep on public roads requires approved livestock trailers and appropriate commercial driver’s licenses depending on weight class. This guarantees accident liability coverage plus hands-on driving skill verification for highway safety.

8. Get Business Insurance

Investing in adequate insurance protects sheep farms financially from unpredictable losses stemming from common liabilities, accidents, or natural disasters. Going uninsured threatens to wipe out personal assets or force dissolution if unable to rebound from a large-scale event.

Some examples of the need for insurance as a sheep farmer include:

  • A guest slipped on the ice near the barn and then sued for ongoing medical bill reimbursement. Without liability coverage, legal fees and awarded damages may reach six figures quickly.
  • Catching a highly contagious illness requires exterminating the entire flock to contain further spread. Lacking mortality insurance on breeding stock means absorbing substantial replacement costs independently.
  • A wildfire destroys grazing lands and facilities, requiring rebuilding fencing, barns, and irrigation systems from scratch. Sufficient property/casualty coverage helps fund extensive reconstruction.

Standard packages exist but consider add-ons like business interruption, flood/earthquake damage, vehicle, and equipment breakdown, and cyber security as well. To initiate the process:

  1. Document Insurable Assets – Inventory sheep, buildings, vehicles, equipment, and liability event history
  2. Get Multiple Quotes – Compare several carriers on premiums and claim response reputations
  3. Review Policy Terms – Understand exclusions, deductibles, and payment limits before committing
  4. Make Coverage Effective – Avoid gaps between previous and new insurers if switching

9. Create an Office Space

Having a functional office area allows sheep farmers to efficiently handle administrative tasks like billing, marketing, and business analysis. Dedicating space for administrative tasks is important. Some office options include:

Home Office

A basic home office works for sole proprietors and very small teams. Costs are essentially limited to a desk and filing supplies for under $1,000. However, mixing professional and personal spaces can enable distracting household interruptions. Broadband internet capabilities may also lag in rural locales.

Coworking Office

For larger staff or client meetings, coworking spaces like WeWork provide affordable office rentals starting at around $250 per month. Customizable options exist from private offices to cubicles and meeting rooms outfitted with the latest video conferencing technology.

On-Site Office

If selling products directly to consumers, a modest retail space could double as a tasting room and farm management office when not occupied by customers. While builds average $100-$200 per square foot, it facilitates efficient oversight of the daily ranch operations.

10. Source Your Equipment

Launching a sheep operation requires various materials like fencing, housing structures, storage solutions, vegetation, medications, tools for shearing and hoof care, milk harvesting containers, and more. New entrepreneurs have four main channels to acquire essential gear and supplies:

Buy New

Purchasing new equipment from agricultural outlets ensures acquiring durable systems sized specifically to projected needs that align with industry best practices. Common retailers include Premier1Supplies, ValleyVet, and Jeffers Livestock.

Buy Used

Buying quality used materials helps lower initiation investments substantially. Check local classifieds on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for listings of second-hand tractors, livestock trailers, storage tanks, or other ranch infrastructure frequently sold by retiring farmers.


Rentals allow utilizing certain expensive, specialized machinery like advanced breeding and lambing assistance tools only during peak annual cycles rather than owning perpetually. Connect with regional universities that may offer affordable rentals to local producers.


Leasing essentials like fencing, barns, livestock waterers, or tractors helps break upfront costs into more manageable monthly payments over 3-7 years. This can prevent tying up too much-working capital at once.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Crafting a distinctive brand platform fuels recognition and trust in any market. Investing in professional logo design, websites, signage, and collateral provides vital cohesion across the customer journey.

Get a Business Phone Number

Acquiring a unique toll-free phone number via a system like RingCentral enables projecting legitimacy and seamless call management. Expect costs of around $30 per month.

Design a Logo

An iconic logo synthesizes the essence of a brand’s personality and offerings at a glance. A memorable wordmark, monogram, or emblem makes an impression on product packaging, uniforms, interior decor, and promotions. Services like Looka offer an affordable custom design that complements the farm’s image.

Print Business Cards

Posters, banners, and directional signs then let visitors immerse themselves into the branded landscape from initial arrival onwards. Vistaprint provides affordable, durable in-person collateral like eye-catching business cards to nurture customer relationships as well.

Get a Domain Name

Securing aligned web assets strengthens findability and familiarity with the organization’s offerings too. Registering domains with Namecheap makes the website and email easy to recall.

Design a Website

Constructing a functional website informs and converts both wholesale and direct buyers. Employing an intuitive all-in-one platform like Wix facilitates quick DIY publishing without coding skills. You can also hire freelancers through Fiverr.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Tapping into established agricultural networks like a national sheep breeder’s association provides invaluable mentorship and industry insights for aspiring sheep farmers. Both general and sheep-specific organizations exist regionally to exchange advice on best practices.

Local Associations

State chapters of the American Sheep Industry Association offer networking and educational sheep breed programming for members. Joining allows accessing their collective decades of small ruminant experience. Expect reasonable annual dues of around $100.

Local Meetups

Attending local agriculture meetings also seeds relationships with fellow ranchers, suppliers, and advocates in the area. Using Meetup helps easily discover upcoming events nearby. Don’t see a meetup you’re interested in? Create your own.

Facebook Groups

Peer learning happens through online communities as well. The Facebook groups Sheep101 and Goats, Sheep And Livestock NY, PA, NJ, WV, And More connect producers across the continent. Chat about what makes a good quality pasture, where to buy a suitable sheep trailer, feeding sheep, and more.

13. How to Market a Sheep Farm Business

Implementing diverse marketing initiatives gives vital visibility to attract and retain farm customers while raising sheep. Both digital and traditional channels should be leveraged to target local consumers during sheep production.


Personal Networking

Tap into your existing personal and professional contacts first as you raise sheep. These individuals likely already know and trust your skills and values in sheep raising. Offering discounts or membership perks encourages referrals.

Digital Marketing

Digital platforms present low-cost opportunities to reach niche regional audiences interested in pasture-raised meat and wool. Consider the following tools to advertise your sheep breed business:

  • Google Ads – Geo-target nearby households by creating text/display ads optimized for “sheep wool yarn [city]” and similar search queries. Can cost between $100-$500 per month.
  • Facebook/Instagram Ads – Create social media ads promoting the next on-farm market day or featuring lamb recipe videos. Budget $5 per day up to a few thousand for extended campaigns.
  • Email Marketing – Send monthly newsletters highlighting new products, profiles of individual sheep, special sales, helpful care tips, etc.
  • YouTube Channel – Give virtual farm tours showing day-to-day workings to build deeper customer connections. Cost nothing besides the time invested filming in and publishing videos.

Traditional Marketing

More conventional options still carry weight with the older demographics sheep farming often attracts:

  • Local Radio Ads – Develop short stories conveying the farm’s founding and core values. Typically around $15 per 30-60 second weekday spot.
  • Direct Mail Flyers – Mail eye-catching postcards to households within a 25-mile radius announcing seasonal wreaths, homemade wool dryer balls, upcoming classes, or other specialty offerings not found elsewhere locally.
  • Sponsor Local Events – Provide meat or yarn samples at county fairs, farmers markets, and festivals celebrating historical rural trades. Can cost a few hundred dollars but raises awareness.

The most successful farms intertwine digital discovery and real-life gatherings. Weaving an engaging story around products makes emotional connections to turn patrons into vocal advocates.

14. Focus on the Customer

Providing incredible service helps transform one-time shoppers into loyal advocates for any sheep farm. Negative experiences travel fast, while positive interactions encourage patrons to share firsthand stories of their rewardingly genuine engagement.


For example, taking time to thoughtfully answer questions about breed selection and ideal grazing conditions shows care beyond just making the sale. Follow-up calls checking in on how recently purchased ewes are acclimating cement trust in your expertise.

Even small touches like handwritten thank you notes and free samples of artisanal cheeses make customers feel part of an extended agricultural family. Providing sheep with healthy and tidy fleece, or working to obtain organic homegrown meat (depending on your sheep niche) improves brand loyalty.

Breeding generations of organically raised sheep is enhanced by positive farm-to-customer relationships. This sparks crucial word of mouth and customer retention essential for continual growth. The hospitality shown often proves even more memorable than any one particular purchase.

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