Best Sheep Breeds For Meat

I have been asked what are the best sheep to breed for meat.

I have read that for best meat production, consider fast-growing breeds with good carcasses. Generally, medium to large breeds are good for meat.

My husband felt that downland breeds such as Texel or Suffolk are best sheep breeds for meat.

I asked my sheep farming friend and she said that her husband “favours a Beltex tup to a Suffolk ewe for meat production.”

Via twitter Jane @ dovefarm suggested the Ryelands, ” I would have to say ‘ryelands’ from mine n customers experience.”

I googled best sheep breeds and found that the Hampshire  and the Dorper or White Dorper seem to be good meat breeds.

Which sheep breed do you think is best for meat production?

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6 thoughts on “Best Sheep Breeds For Meat”

  1. i live in Hamilton Ontario Canada and have never owned sheep before. i want to know the advantages and disadvantageous of meat sheep and wool sheep and what you think that i should get. thank you.

  2. I am afraid the question is just too “open” to give a definitive reply. In any case there is probably no one correct answer. One would first have to define what you mean by “best for meat”. Are we talking greatest liveweight gain per day, value of deadweight over feed input, tastiest meat, easiest meat to produce, leanest meat?
    Using a terminal sire of a different and well established meat breed (such as texel, suffolk, meatlinc etc) on a fecund and good mothering breed will give you reliable rusults.
    A trial I am hoping to do myself is to use Wiltshire horn – a breed that has hair like a goat instead of wool. Wool is made mainly of protein so if you want meat (protein too) then a breed that puts its energy into meat proten production and not wool growh should give good results. I also want to add flavour. I think the tastiest meat comes from a 2 to 3 year old vegetation fed (not sheep nuts or rolls) wether (castrated ram), but some breeds have more taste than others (perhaps too strong for some tastes), so I am looking at Soay and Boreay sheep. A third thing you can do is to control what your sheep eat. The “saltmarsh” fed sheep of northern france have a wonderful and uniqe flavour as do the Ronaldsay sheep that eat seaweed. Heather fed sheep from the Scottish Highlands are to my mind the epitome of good flavour, though I would like to repeat some Roman practices of feeding sheep herbs for a few weeks proir to slaughter to flavour the meat. The Romans did it with Sage, Mint and Rosemary, though I am not sure how keen the sheep are on such an enforced diet.
    In very simple terms the best sheep for meat are the ones that you enjoy breeding and looking after as you will always “do” them better than a perhaps technically better breed that you do not like or get on with.

  3. I’ve a few suggestions here! Firstly, our farm favourite, the Hampshire Down, there’s a resurgence of using Hamps as ‘terminal sires’ in commercial flocks to produce lively lambs that finish off grass and produce fabulous flavoured meat! Next, a much smaller sheep, the Portland – renowned for fine-textured flavoursome meat, and they are very lovely small (horned) sheep. Another tiny, and rare, breed – the Soay, some say the meat tastes like venison. Another favourite is the Ryeland, they look like teddy-bears and produce excellent meat. With over 80 breeds of British sheep, there’s plenty of choice and the more we eat the more breeds will be preserved for posterity!

  4. Depends how big you want your joints to be. Our Jacobs had beautiful meat: tender, moist & full of flavour, but the joints were small – just big enough for a family of 4. Our friends have ‘ryelands’ & they are tasty too.

  5. Great post,
    I would like to know if these downland sheep will tolerate the cold weather here in NY state US, we routinely go down below 0 degrees farenheit, with plenty of snow, we have been looking to get some sheep for meat production for us and a few friends, in other words we are not starting a sheep ranch just a few to take care of our needs here on the homestead. you can contact me if you like at Thanks in advance for your help
    Rich @ NY Homesteader

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