April 21, 2006 -- Sheep farming in the Garden State declined in the last century, but in the last several years it has been slowly rebounding, farmers and agriculture experts say.
The new trend is fueled by everything from the modest startup costs and small amount of land needed, to rising market prices and increased demand from New Jersey's diverse ethnic groups. Improved genetics also have made lamb relatively lean for a red meat, widening its appeal.
Sheep are still a comparatively small niche in New Jersey agriculture, but farmers, butchers and others in the industry see sheep farmers increasing the size of their flocks and new people getting in on a small scale. Raising lamb is particularly attractive for women and even retirees because the animals are so gentle.
Donald Kniffen, president of the Garden State Sheep Breeders, said rising land prices make raising sheep more practical than cows in New Jersey. On about five acres, a farmer can graze five ewes and produce 10 lambs ready for sale in a year, compared with one cow needing almost two years to produce a market-ready calf.
?I think especially in the Northeast here, sheep farmers have a good future,? stated one producer who expects sheep farmers to enlarge their flocks, given rising demand and prices.
Reprinted in part from Association Press