About the Farm
Riverslea has been a working farm for over 200 years. Jeff and Liz Conrad have been operating the farm since 1991, raising sheep and goats for the sale of meat, skins and wool. The farm is 45 acres and has 3 barns and 5 miles of fencing.
- Meat Supply
- Housing and Health Management
- Products: meat, skins and wool
- Riverslea Shop
Sheep is the general name. A female is a ewe; the male is a ram. The young are lambs. A group is a flock. Our flock is approximately 60 breeding ewes and 3 breeding rams. They produce about 150 lambs for sale each year.
We cross Leicester and Dorset sheep to get the best attributes from each breed. The hardy Leicester gives us twins and triplets. They are good mothers and their wool is excellent for hand spinning. The Dorset rapidly gains weight from birth, which is important for getting our lambs to market as fast as possible. Experimenting with new breeds is also part of our fun. You’ll always find a few other breeds in the flock.
Goat is the general name. The female is a doe; the male is a buck. The young are kids and a group is a herd. Our herd is approximately 50 breeding does and 2 breeding bucks. They produce about 150 kids for sale each year.
We began our herd with Nubians, who are excellent milk-producing animals and very tame for easy handling. We mixed them with another dairy breed, Alpines, who are hardy pasture animals. In 1996, we added South African Boer goats in order to increase the rate of weight gain and get a meatier animal. The Boer is extremely gentle.
Left to nature, our sheep and goats would breed when cool fall weather sets in. Five months later, they would deliver their young in late winter. Because our customers want a steady supply of meat, we genetically select animals that will breed off-season and more than once a year. We expect our ewes and does to breed three times in two years.
A few years ago, we realized we couldn’t keep up with our customers’ demand for meat. What was a problem turned into a happy solution. We now buy kids and lambs year- round from a small network of family farms that raise their meat in the same natural way that we do.
Housing and Health Management
Sheep and goats are susceptible to disease. Curing them once they fall ill is difficult at best. Proper housing is critical for their good health. They need shelter from rain, wind and sun, but they shouldn’t be shut up in dark moist places. All our barns are designed to allow the animals to go in and out at will.
In the winter the animals stay warm by grouping together. The barn floor gets covered with a thick pack of manure and hay, which keeps them off the frozen ground and acts as warm dry, padding. In the spring, we clean out the pack before hot weather makes it a health hazard. It gets spread back on the pastures the next winter for natural fertilizer. Each year, we dig out about 50 tons (100,000 pounds) of pack! (Gardeners come from as far away as Boston to buy our manure.)
Our animals live on hay and grain in the winter. Every year we feed approximately 6,000 bales of hay (150 tons) and over 50 tons of grains. In the summer, everyone lives on pasture. It is imperative that the animals have fresh water available at all times. Everybody gets at least 2 gallons a day. We also supplement nutrient intake with a salt and mineral lick.
Sheep and goats have no upper front teeth except for molars. To clip off grasses and other forage plants, they use their lower teeth against their hard upper palates. Then they grind the food instead of chewing it. By the time the food has passed through their 4 stomachs, it is thoroughly digested and makes excellent fertilizer.
Sheep and goats eat grasses, which means they also eat the tiny parasites that naturally exist on the land everywhere. All Riverslea animals are treated to prevent parasites. This is the only medication that we use regularly. Each year we select some of our best young females to keep for breeding stock. Those who stay with us are vaccinated against tetanus and overeating disease.
In the wild, sheep and goats wear down their hooves naturally by clambering over rocks and rough terrain in search of food. Since they have an easier life with us, they need their hooves trimmed at least twice a year. Otherwise, the overgrown hooves would eventually cripple them. New Hampshire summers are much too warm for our sheep to keep their coats on. We shear each year in late spring.
For years we had coyotes and other predators living around us but never harming our livestock. As the forests and hay fields in southern New Hampshire have rapidly turned into house lots, this has changed. We have had to introduce guard animals to protect our sheep and goats. We chose llamas.
While we are currently without a guard llama, we thought people would be interested to know that our previous llama lived full-time with its herd or flock, ate the same food and required all the same care. Llamas have proven to be more effective guards than dogs or donkeys and come with the added benefit of their beautiful wool.
Meat: We sell live animals and also arrange for butchering upon request. Many of our customers buy whole animals for the meat parts that are not readily available in stores. They place high value on knowing the source of their meat and that the animal has been raised naturally in a healthy environment.
Skins: We salt our skins and ship them to Bucks County Fur products in Quakertown, Pa. Every few months we receive a shipment of beautiful washable sheepskins and colorful kidskins. Our creative customers buy for baby gifts, car and motorcycle seats, bed and chair cushioning, clothing and all-purpose snuggles.
Wool: We stock a full line of wool products including skirted fleeces, roving, batting, felt sheets and yarn. We have the unusual opportunity to harvest from our own colorful flock and from other purchased breeds.
The Riverslea Shop
We have a small shop at the farm and also do business by mail. Call us or e-mail to arrange a visit or mail orders.
Take a Virtual Tour of the Riverslea Shop!
Jeff and Liz Conrad
362 North River Rd., Epping NH 03042
Phone: 603 679-2629 E-mail: info (at) riversleafarm (dot) com