Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Counting Sheep

I've been counting sheep today.

My current flock consists of 25 sheep, 21 ewes and 4 rams.

When the trading-horses-for-sheep deal goes through, I will be getting 10 more sheep (8 bred ewes and 2 rams) from David Grote at Whippoorwill Hollow Farm in northern Wisconsin. (Check out his website: he's an artist who does beautiful paintings of the animals on his farm.)

I'm also getting 6 ewes and a Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dog from my friend Monica of Small Meadow Farm later in the summer.

There's also a particular ram I've had my eye on that I'd like to buy if he's available for sale in the summer.

But wait, there's more!

Based on my rough estimate of each ewe's expected number of lambs, my current ewes should produce about 30 lambs in the spring.

The ewes I get from David will probably produce about 13 or so lambs.

Add that all up, and you get---GULP!---85 sheep!

I may have 85 sheep here by summer's end!?! Yikes! Time to start building some more efficient feeders and a decent system of handling chutes! Time to stock up on wormers and supplements and ear tags. Time to fence that last field and save up to fertilize and reseed the pastures. Time to get the phone number of that professional shearer those people recommended to me. Time to start planning my marketing campaign!

About half of those sheep will be for sale. At my average prices for breeding stock (usually somewhere in the $500-$700 range), that's a decent chunk of income, and any that don't go for breeding stock can sell as locker lambs. That's when a customer buys a lamb to go straight to the butcher for meat.

As far as hay consumption, I estimate that 8 sheep eat about the same as 1 horse. So, once we sell all the horses I'm trying to sell, we'll still be saving money even with that many sheep. Once half the sheep sell too, our hay costs will be way down, compared to now.

Still, 85 is a big number, even if half of it is all cute little lambs who will be sold by the time they're a few months old.

No comments: