Top 19 Meat Producing Sheep Breeds

Meat Producing Sheep Breeds
Photo by Frantisek Duris

Hundreds of sheep breeds worldwide can be challenging to choose which one will be right for your homestead.

For those living on a homestead or small farm, it’s essential to know which breeds of sheep produce the most meat.

These animals not only give you plenty of protein, but they also provide wool and skins that you can use to make clothing and other items. 

Choosing meat-producing sheep breeds can help you focus on the most critical aspects of keeping Sheep, like how quickly you want to grow and how much meat you’ll want to produce.

Here are 19 of the best meat producing sheep breeds you should consider if you want to grow and harvest your high-quality lamb or mutton at home.

1. Hampshire Sheep

Hampshire sheep are a medium to large-sized breed that is popular among homesteaders. They are known for their high-quality meat and as one of the best meat producing sheep breeds, which is why they are on this list. 

Hampshire sheep are also relatively easy to care for. If looking for an excellent meat-producing sheep breed, Hampshire sheep are a great option.

2. Southdown Sheep

The Southdown is a small, compact sheep known for its high-quality meat. The carcass of a Southdown lamb is very well-proportioned, with little waste, and the flesh is fine-grained and has a mild flavor.

3. Columbia

Columbia sheep are a relatively new breed, developed in the United States in the early 1900s. They are a cross between Rambouillet and Merino sheep and were bred specifically for their superior meat production.

Columbia sheep are large animals, with ewes weighing around 200 pounds and rams weighing up to 350 pounds. 

They have white faces and legs with a light brown body. Columbia sheep are hardy animals that do well in various climates and terrain. 

These Meat Producing Sheep Breeds are excellent foragers and do not require supplemental feed in most cases. Columbia sheep produce high-quality meat that is well-marbled and flavorful.

4. Katahdin

The Katahdin is a hair sheep, which means it doesn’t grow wool. It’s a relatively new breed developed in Maine in the 1950s. Katahdins are known for being easy to care for and having high-quality meat. 

They’re also good foragers and do well in cold weather. The Katahdin is a good choice if you’re looking for a meat-producing sheep breed that’s low maintenance.

5. Lincoln Sheep

Lincoln sheep are a British breed that was developed in the early 1800s. They are large, with males weighing up to 250 pounds and females weighing up to 200 pounds, and they are one of the best meat producing sheep breeds. Lincoln sheep are known for their high-quality wool and meat. 

They are also good milk producers, with ewes averaging 2-3 gallons per day. Lincoln sheep are relatively easy to care for and make a great addition to any homestead.

They have few health problems but can suffer from pasture feet if they live on dry ground without adequate access to water. 

Many people who keep them as pets or show animals like to use Lincolns because they produce such high-quality wool. Lincoln sheep require very little maintenance and do not need much hay or grain if they graze freely on pasture land. 

They will be fine on pastures most of the year but should be supplemented with hay during winter when the grass is low due to lack of rain or snowfall. For those looking for a dual-purpose animal that provides both meat and fiber, then Lincolns are perfect.

6. Romney

Romney sheep are a dual-purpose breed suitable for meat and wool production. They’re a hardy breed that does well in cold climates, and they’re known for being easy to handle. 

Romney lambs overgrow and reach market weight at around six months old. The average live weight of a Romney ewe is between 200 and 250 pounds, and the rams can weigh up to 350 pounds.

7. Targhee

The Targhee is a dual-purpose sheep, raised both for meat and wool. The Targhee was developed in the early 1900s by crossing Rambouillet ewes with English Hampshire rams. The result was a hardy yet versatile animal that could thrive in various climates. 

Targhee sheep are known for their high-quality meat, wool, and calm temperament. The Targhee is a great option if you’re looking for a versatile sheep that can provide you with both heart and yarn.

8. Dorper

The Dorper is a South African breed that was developed in the 1930s. It’s a cross between the Dorset Horn and the Blackhead Persian, and it’s known for being easy to care for and having high-quality meat. 

The Dorper is a fast-growing breed known to be one of the best meat producing sheep breeds, so you’ll be able to get plenty of heart from just a few animals.

And, because they don’t have wool, you won’t have to deal with shearing. The Dorper is an excellent option if you’re looking for a low-maintenance meat sheep.

9. Shropshire

A favorite of old-timey shepherds, the Shropshire is a large, white-faced sheep known for its easygoing nature. Docile disposition and heavy fleece. Although not widespread, Shropshire remains a good option for lamb with excellent meat production. 

These Meat Producing Sheep Breeds are also known to be disease-resistant and can do well in a variety of climates. Some even believe that the Shropshire’s flavor matches up with mutton, making it an excellent alternative for people who don’t like a lamb.

10. Dorset

The Dorset is a British breed of domestic Sheep from the county of Dorset in southwest England. It is large and docile, and both sexes are horned.

The fleece is white and soft, and the meat is high quality and is one of the best meat producing sheep breeds. 

The breed was formerly known as the Cumberland sheep but was changed name in 1966 to reflect its place of origin. The wool produced by this breed is used to make knitwear, coats, blankets, and sweaters. 

11. Icelandic Sheep

A cross between a Shetland and a Finn, the Icelandic is one of the Northern European short-tailed breeds. It is adapted to survive harsh weather conditions and has a double coat of hair that keeps it warm. 

The Icelandic produces a lot of meat and is a good choice for homesteaders who want to raise Sheep for food. It is also quite resistant to worms, foot rot, and other common ailments. 

However, these traits come at a cost: this breed matures slowly and takes about three years before reaching market weight.

They also have high reproductive rates, so you will need to plan on having at least two shepherds if you are raising this breed on your farm or ranch.

12. Montadale

The Montadale is a medium-wool, dual-purpose sheep originating from the United States. They are known for their prolificacy, with ewes often having twins and triplets, and Montadales proliferate and produce high-quality meat. 

The breed is also known for its calm temperament, making it a good choice for homesteaders with limited experience raising Sheep.

It’s important to note that the Montadale isn’t as well suited to harsh climates as some other breeds because of its low winter wool coverage.

Additionally, this breed has less resistance to parasites than many others. On the upside, Montadales are relatively small sheep that can easily be housed in pastures with shelter from predators and weather.

Finally, these animals require less feed than many other breeds due to their higher fertility rates and can be counted among the best meat producing sheep breeds.

13. Corriedale

The Corriedale is a dual-purpose sheep, raised both for meat and wool. They are a large breed, with ewes weighing around 200 pounds and rams up to 250 pounds. 

The Corriedale is a hardy breed that does well in cold climates and rough terrain. These Meat Producing Sheep Breeds are calm breeds, making them easy to handle. The Corriedale produces medium wool, perfect for those who want to hand spin their yarn.

14. Charollais

The Charollais is a medium to large-framed, white-coated French breed known for its carcass quality. The Charollais was first developed in the early 1800s in the Charolles region of France. Today, the Charollais is one of Europe’s and North America’s most popular meat sheep breeds. 

The Charollais is a dual-purpose breed, meaning you can use it for meat and wool production. The average live weight of a mature ewe is around 180 pounds, and the fleece weighs between 4-6 pounds. Carcass yield is typically 60-65%.

15. Suffolk

The Suffolk is a British breed of domestic Sheep from Suffolk county in England. It is a medium-wool, dual-purpose breed, producing both meat and wool. 

The Suffolk was developed in the early 19th century by crossing existing British breeds, including the Southdown, Hampshire, and Norfolk Horn.

The resulting flock was large and robust, with good carcass quality. Today, the Suffolk is the most popular commercial sheep breed in the United Kingdom and is also found in North America and Australia.

16. Tunis Barbara

The Tunis is a fat-tailed, North African sheep known for its superior carcass quality. The Tunis was imported to the United States in the early 1900s and quickly became popular among homesteaders and commercial producers. 

Tunis is a hardy breed that can thrive in harsh conditions, making it an ideal choice for homesteaders, and they are recognized as one of the best meat producing sheep breeds. The species is also known for its docile nature, which makes it easy to handle.

17. Texel

The Texel is a breed of domestic Sheep originating in the Netherlands. These Meat Producing Sheep Breeds were developed in the late 18th century on the island of Texel, and today it is widely considered one of the best meat-producing sheep breeds in the world

While they are not the most significant sheep breed, they are known for their high-quality meat, which is flavorful and tender. The Texel is an excellent choice if you are looking for a good all-around meat-producing sheep.

18. Barbados Blackbelly

The Barbados Blackbelly is a beautiful breed of sheep that produces high-quality meat. These Meat Producing Sheep Breeds are hardy, adaptable, and able to thrive in various climates and conditions. Originally from Barbados, they brought these Sheep to the United States in the early 1900s. 

Today, they are prized for their lean, flavorful meat that is perfect for grilling or roasting. If you’re looking for a delicious and nutritious meat option for your homestead, look no further than the Barbados Blackbelly! The Barbados Black Belly is a hardy, easy-to-care-for Sheep that does well in hot, humid climates. 

They are good foragers and can be left to fend for themselves in many cases. The ewes typically have twins or triplets, and the lambs snowball. The meat is lean and flavorful, making it an excellent choice for homesteaders who want to raise their hearts.

19. Leicester Long-wool Sheep

The Leicester Long-wool is a British breed of Sheep known for its strong carcass and heavy fleece. The Leicester was once the dominant breed in England and Wales, but it declined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Today, the species is making a comeback among homesteaders who appreciate its dual-purpose qualities for being one of the best meat producing sheep breeds. If you’re looking for a sheep that can provide both meat and wool, the Leicester Long-wool is an excellent choice.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a versatile and hardy animal to add to your homestead, sheep are a great option. They can provide you with meat, wool, and even milk, making them valuable to any farm. But with so many breeds of Sheep, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. 

To help you decide, we’ve compiled a list of homesteaders’ 19  best meat producing sheep breeds. From the well-known Suffolk breed to the more unusual Jacob, there’s sure to be a perfect sheep on this list for your farm.

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