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Goats and Sheep FAQ

Is it feasible to raise meat production sheep and goats in the state and where can I get information on raising them?

As ethnic consumer markets grow in size and buying power, the demand for sheep and goats should continue to increase. The appeal of low-carb foods, low-fat meats, and naturally raised products, combined with a little consumer education, may also push goat meat into new markets. Armed with market research, knowledge of state regulations, a quality product, and willingness to learn, you should be well-prepared to begin selling your products directly to the consumer. Here are some resources to get you started:

University of Massachusetts Crops, Dairy, Livestock and Equine Fact Sheets -
Pennsylvania State Extension – Meat Goat Production -
Ranch and Rural Living -Raising Hair Sheep and Meat Goats –
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) - Small Ruminant Toolbox

Are goats as sensitive to copper as sheep?

While sheep are copper sensitive, goats can tolerate more copper than sheep and appear to need as much copper as cattle. The exception may be Angora and Pygmy goats. The exact amount of copper required in the goat's diet is currently unknown and is dependent upon several factors. However, the goat needs far more dietary copper than was originally thought. Testing can reveal enough copper in tissue or blood samples and the goat can still be copper deficient. This is due to the complex interaction of minerals in the goat's metabolic system. Copper is essential in the proper development of the central nervous system, correct bone growth, and hair pigmentation. Copper-deficient goats have difficulty conceiving kids and, if bred, abortions are not uncommon. Copper supplementation can sometimes help but cannot always eliminate these health problems.

Copper deficiency can be the result of low levels of the mineral in the soil and in forages raised on the soil; this is primary copper deficiency. However, both the feed and the soil can have adequate copper but its absorption can be interfered with by minerals known as copper antagonists: lead, iron, manganese, various sulfates, cadmium, and molybdenum. This is secondary copper deficiency.

Here are some resources:

Dairy Goat Journal, Copper's Role in Goat Health

eXtension, Goat Nutrition, Copper

What are the differences between the Mandatory Scrapie Eradication Program and the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program?

The mandatory program requires that most sheep and goats be officially identified with USDA approved ID (ear tags, tattoos, or in some circumstances microchips) when moved interstate, exhibited, or upon change of ownership.
The voluntary program is a monitoring program that allows flocks to achieve Scrapie “free” certification after five years.

For more information on the Scrapie program, please contact MA APHIS (Animal Plant Health Inspection Service) Office – 160 Worcester-Providence Road, Sutton, MA 01590 or (508) 363-2290 or email:

Where can I locate a person to shear my sheep?

Most all mature sheep need to be sheared at least annually with the exception of some hair breeds of sheep. There are professionals who travel around the region shearing sheep. It may be difficult to find a professional shearer if you have only a few sheep. A professional can shear 10-20 sheep an hour, so the time cost of transportation may be excessive relative to the value of the work. If you have only a few sheep it may be possible to form a group with nearby sheep owners and contract shearing for the group. Alternatively you can learn to do your own shearing by attending a sheep shearing class.


Massachusetts 4-H at has a sheep program. Young shearers may be interested in shearing a few sheep with a novice owner/shearer.
Pioneer Valley Sheep Breeders’ Association at
Shawn Thayer, Secretary 160 Bryant Rd Cummington, MA 01026
The Dorset Sheep Group at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst