Raising Cows, Sheep & Goats

STOCKSCH 268, 3 credits


Instructor:  Nicole Burton   ngburton@umass.edu    (413) 429-6544

Image result for sheep image

Class Description:

This course is a farmer’s perspective on the sustainable management of cows, sheep and goats on a small farm. It provides students with a clear understanding of how to think through the planning and management of cows, sheep and goats for meat production. All aspects from purchasing and nutrition to marketing and finances will be addressed. This course also brings awareness to our meat industry and supports becoming an educated consumer and producer. Students will get the opportunity to focus on the animal(s) of their interest through assignments, but will be educated on cow, sheep and goats through the material presented.  Students will walk away with a rudimentary plan on how to incorporate ruminants into their small farm plan.

Learning Objectives/ Course Goals:

Students will gain the knowledge related to the planning and management of a diversified livestock farm for meat production. Specifically, students will adopt the following practices

  • Identify and utilize sustainable management practices for livestock
  • Develop critical thinking skills on designing and implementing systems on a small farm
  • Understand the rules and regulations of running a livestock farm business
  • Comprehension of the complete life cycle management of ruminants for meat production
  • Image result for caring for sick animals on farm
Week 1 ·         Class Overview

·         Who we all are

Readings #1
Week 2 ·         Selecting & Purchasing Breeds Assignment #1

Reading #2

Week 3 ·         Housing

·         Fencing

·         Predator Control

Readings #3

Assignment #2

Week 4 ·         Grass farming

·         Rotational grazing

·         Multi-species grazing

·         Haymaking

Assignment #3

Reading #4

Week 5 ·         Health and Nutrition Reading #5

Week 6

·         Breeding

·         Gestation

Reading #6
Week 7 ·         Birthing

·         Raising young ruminants

Reading #7

Assignment #4

Week 8 ·         Illness and Disease

·         Parasite Control

Reading #8
Week 9 ·  Integration of ruminants into farming systems Assignment#5

Reading #9

Week 10 ·         Slaughter

·         Products

Assignment #6

Reading #10

Week 11 ·         Record Keeping

·         Certifications

Final Project outline Due
Week 12 ·         Marketing Assignment #8

Reading #11

Week 13 ·        Farm Finances and Structures Reading #12

Farm visit Assignment Due

Week 14 ·         Recap on class

·         Presentations & Reviews

Final Project Due

Meat Consumption Reflection Due


  • Image result for caring for sick animals on farm

Written Assignments:

All written assignments will be focusing on the animal(s) of your choice (cow, sheep or goat) and all material is to be submitted on Blackboard. If they are not submitted by the due date then there will be 2 points deducted for each day thereafter.

Readings Reflections:

Each week you will have an article or document to read and you will be responsible to write up a quick reflection. This reflection can be your personal reaction, your like or dislike of the article or the important information that you have taken from the material presented. A paragraph will suffice.


Most weeks we will have a discussion forum on a specific topic. This will be our opportunity to learn from each other and hopefully answer some questions that have come up during the week’s material.

Meat Consumption Reflection and Entries:

Throughout the semester I am asking each of you to observe and document your personal consumption of meat. At the end of the semester you will write a reflection on your observations on your own consumption over the semester and state any changes or appreciations you have on your diet.

Image result for caring for sick animals on farm

Farm Visit:

This is your opportunity to get out into your community and explore farms of your interest. After your farm visit you will be responsible to recap the highlights on the systems used at that particular farm. This must be in the form of a 2 page reflection then reformatted into a condensed blog post. The blog post must include pictures and should be sent to my email. These blog posts will be uploaded onto the Small Farm Husbandry blog site before the last day of class so please make sure that they have appropriate content for a UMass website. If no farms are available, we may discuss other options.

Final Project:

Since the majority of the assignments are focused on building a farm plan, this will be your opportunity to share your dream. Using your individual assignments to support this assignment you will present your farm to the class. This presentation must have visuals, so PowerPoint, google slides, etc will be mandatory. You will be graded on clarity, presentation of farm and use of time. You will also have a short paper to summarize the material that you will present. Details on this project will be given by mid-semester.

Text Books  (None required)

Highly Recommended

*The New Livestock Farmer: The Business of Raising and Selling Ethical Meat, by Recca Thistlethwaite and Jim Dunlop, 2015, Cost $29.95

*The Art and Science of Grazing: How Grass Farmers Can Create Sustainable Systems for Healthy Animals and Farm Ecosystems, by Sarah Flack, $33.95


Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle, 3rd Edition:Health, Handling & Breeding,

by Heather Smith Thomas, Storey Publishing 2009, Cost $15.25

Grass-Fed Cattle: How to produce and Market Natural Beef, by Julius Ruechel

Storey Publishing, 2006, Cost $24.95

Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep, 4th Edition:Breeding, Care, Facilities, byCarol Ekarius&Paula Simmons, Storey Publishing 2009, Cost $17.20

Storey’s Guide to Raising Meat Goats, 2nd Edition:Managing, Breeding, Marketing,

by Maggie Sayer, Storey Publishing 2010, Cost $16.50


This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program and will count toward the Associate of Science degree as well as the Online B.S. degree.  Online classes cost $482/credit.

To begin planning for the future, see….

Annual Class Schedule

NOTE: The UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Certificate has been declared eligible for Veterans Educational Benefits. For instructions see: Veterans Benefits.

If you are not interested in earning college credit, there are many non-credited workshops and short courses you can take outside of the university.  For a list see: non-university workshops and courses.

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