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Building blocks for tending flocks

Workshop series to teach sheep handling and herding skills
By: Julie Miller, Design and Content Manager
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Shepherding Skills Workshops
Presented by UC Cooperative Extension of University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources Workshop dates:
jan. 18:Sheep Management Basics
Jan. 20: Preparing Ewes for Lambing
March 3: Pasture Lambing School
May (date TBD: Wool Handling and Shearing Management
Aug. 30: Preparing Ewes for Breeding
Sept. 14-15: Small Ruminant Grazing School 
Info: To register or for more information: Go to ucanr.edu/sites/placernevadasmallfarms or call 530-889-7397.
Counting sheep is no longer for the tired and sleepy.
Shepherding has become a booming industry in Placer County. At last count, there are 9,000 head of sheep registered with the county, said Dan Macon, livestock and natural resources advisor for University of California, for Placer and Nevada counties. And there may be more sheep that have not been registered, perhaps because they are in a smaller flock of 10 to 15, he said.
Sheep have proven to be versatile. Not only raised for the meat and milk, but also wool fibers, plus, they can help reduce fire danger by eating away tall grasses and shrubs.
Livestock has been placed in “Lincoln, Rocklin and Roseville for fuel reduction,” Macon said. “This adds another 10,000 (head of sheep) to Placer County in the spring time.”
Macon is also vice president of the California Wool Growers Association. He helps to drive awareness to raising sheep and using sheep-related products. Having a small-sized flock has piqued the interest for a growing number.
“We’re seeing a number of opportunities increasing and average number in flocks decreasing,” he said. “There are lots more opportunities to fit in niches in earnings.”
Another perk with smaller flock sizes is some shepherds in Placer County have been able to keep their day job and raise sheep on the side.
“We’ve got a good nucleus that are doing a part-time personal business who are looking to expand,” Macon said.
And the Auburn area is fitting location for sheep. Modest-sized flocks of sheep can live on steep, small plots of land where it wouldn’t be suitable for raising other animals or growing crops.
“In the foothills in particular, as land becomes more fragmented, there are lots of opportunities (for raising sheep),” Macon said. “It’s more cost-effective than someone with cattle.”
Shepherding class
To help build awareness for sheep raising, shepherd skills workshops are being offered by the University of California, UC Cooperative Extension for Placer and Nevada counties. Instructed by Macon, the workshop will cover basics in raising sheep, wool handling and shearing, as well as, breeding ewes and ruminant grazing.
The six workshops begin this month and are peppered throughout the year with classes scheduled in March, May, August and September.
Each session is hands-on and will teach good and bad practices of raising sheep.
“Basically, I wanted to teach people about the mistakes I made so they won’t make them,” Macon said.
It is also an opportunity to meet others in the industry, share ideas and “build a knowledge base and skills to be more skillful in their enterprises,” he added.