I made a couple of comments offering an example of a high return model that would yield enough farm income to pay off even a 400k house and barn on 5-7 acres in under a decade. The model was specialty wool and meat production from sheep. There are several breeds of sheep whose wool is highly valued in the specialty wool (handspinning, felting, crafts, etc) market. The meat can often be sold at a modest premium compared to regular lamb, and there’s also the breeding stock/pet fiber animal possibilities for further income.
With specialty wool, the top end is currently right around 90/lb for finished yarn in skeins and the bottom end is around 10/lb for raw fleece, usually skirted (trimmed of the worst poop bits and leaves/etc). An adult ewe yields 8-12lbs of wool annually after washing and skirting, depending on the various specialty breeds out there. Twinning is usual, so those two lambs yield 2-4lbs combined of lamb’s fleece, added to the ewe’s total.
Lowballing, that’s 10lbs of wool per ewe per year. That’s 100-900 dollars per ewe per year. Not all ewes will have fleece that can go to the highest-value yarn. So the midpoint there is 500 dollars per ewe in fleece sales to account for wool sales having such a wide range per pound.
At 500 in wool per ewe, the two lambs will yield 300 each at a modest premium as meat and 400 each as breeding stock. So that is 600-800 in lamb sales per year per ewe. Now we’re up to 1100 per ewe per year in wool plus lamb sales.
Five acres can stock 25-35 ewes, six 30-40 and seven acres can stock 35-50 ewes. This gives 55k/yr at 50 ewes and 33k/yr at 30 ewes. I am handwaving the ram issue for now, but there is room to grow into an aggressive program of getting 70-90/lb for wool sales and selling meat animals at breed stock prices. And with hitting those aggressive targets, on five acres stocking 30 ewes, getting 1600/ewe is pretty close to 50k/yr off less than 3 dozen animals.
This is a labor intensive model, no sugar coating on that one. Carding, picking and cleaning wool is challenging, as are the husbandry techniques to minimize skirting and dirt accumulation and the practices to get excellent quality wool production. But the customer base exists and the sales are good enough that shepherds can come close to the higher-end numbers for pure fiber flocks, no meat sales. That is nearly 1k/ewe just for wool alone annually. And ewes live 15-20 years.
This is just one example of a high-labor, high-return model.