Monday, October 20, 2008

I am thinking about my Sheep........

I am thinking about my sheep. I have been reading many of the blogs about upcoming breedings.....breed groups, how many to breed, the genetics, the quality, the cost, & other issues I am not have covered. I have read everyone's comments, some I agree with, some I don't, some I understand their perspective & respect, some I just don't. But my reasons for going into sheep are not the same as others, nor should they be.
For me it was an exciting summer with the lambs that were born; it was heart wrenching when I lost 2, & when I was not able to sell any, it made me question, "Why am I even doing this at all? Is it because I am new to Shetlands that nobody wants to buy from me? Are my lambs not quality lambs?" It just made me question all sorts of things. I know the economy sucks but it still made me question myself & my sheep. I have invested very good money in my 2 foundation rams & the ewes that I have did not come cheap either. I researched the breeders that I bought from, of which there were only 3 and I was very satisfied with what I got, even more satisfied when I got my lambs this summer.

I believe I am doing the right thing & moving in the right direction. I had 2 of my ram lambs wethered last week. Both are nice boys but I do not need all these boys & made a decision to go with what I think are going to be better producers in the future. I cannot rationalize taking them to auction as I know auctions are a huge dumping ground right now & I will not do that to animals that I brought into this world due to my choice to breed & who count on me to keep them safe. If I can afford to feed them, I will keep them, it will be more expensive but I will take care of the issues that I created...I will not pass my issues off on someone else. And of course all the ewe lambs will stay, no questions asked. For a time I thought of just letting them go cheap if there was a buyer out there. But no, I will not undersell them. They are not some run of the mill sheep. I put a lot of thought, time, & effort into my Shetlands and I do believe in them also ( thank you Juliann for saying that:). Not too mention that I bond with all of my animals. They are my life, my heart goes out to them each & everyday, in the snow, in the heat or the rain, they are my friends and I do not let my friends down. Friends are there for you & love unconditionally, and those wooly ones may knock me down when I have a grain bucket, but its all out of love because they count on me as their friend and I count on them as my friends.
Harvest Thyme is a dream in the making. Its a hobby farm, its home, its a place where my niece & nephew come to learn & play with the animals, where Mom & Dad come to relax (sometimes work:), its a place my animals can call home also.
Heck, I know this is not some big money making endeavor, sure I would like to sell a few lambs to cover hay costs but if I don't, well, I guess that's more Kraft Mac' n' Cheese for me at dinner & no more fun pink coveralls. I will just tell the chickens the pressure is on them to produce more farm eggs.....
So anyways, back to my breeding group decisions for if I knew that don't you think I would have told you right away instead of "thinking" about my sheep and doing all this talking? I was just in the mood to speak out loud today.
Oh, what I do know is that first 3 weeks of May are not going to work for lambs because the 2nd week of May I am going to Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, & Monticello (T.Jefferson's Home) for 3 days with my 8th graders. Last year (my 8th graders were my 7th graders) we went to Washington D.C. so this year is Williamsburg......and boy do I love Williamsburg.....esp. the haunted ghost tour!!!
When I do decide on breeding groups, I'll let you know:) And if I decide to do more thinking, I'll give you a always feel free to comment if your thinking too:)


Tracey said...

Ok, I have to admit I know nothing about sheep, but I think yours are BEAUTIFUL and the love you have for them is so evident in your words!!
Williamsburg sounds like fun, and I love a good Ghost Tour!
:) Tracey

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Kristi, (as you probably know from my comments elsewhere) I lean much more towards your attitude than some other breeders. I have a small flock and I must keep a small flock; that means I have to sell lambs if I breed for lambs. God was good this year and I sold pretty much what I needed to both for numbers and to move towards my full-polled goals. I would rather not breed at all than to have to ship animals to market; what a terrible, fearful end for them! If I ate meat, I'd probably go the route of having a mobile slaughter unit come to my house to dispatch them without trauma or fear; that seems much kinder to the animal but I don't think it would be much easier on my heart.

P.S. If you do breed, why not breed for April lambs?

Rayna said...

I tell you what...I see no reason why those three gems on your page wouldn't have sold...But I don't need anymore! LOL.

Kara said...

Oh Kristi,

I will most likely buy a lamb from you at some point. I have come to the conclusion recently that the best way for us to support and promote the breed is for those of us that are just getting started is to support each other. Sure I have thought long and hard and considered buying one from Juliann and Heather, but you have lines from both and happen to be closer than either (sorry ladies). I wouldn't mind one from Shula (sorry Nancy and Nadine). Your lambs are beautiful and you should be proud them. I have not sold any lambs to an auction. I did sell one wether out of my unregistered ewe and a cross breed to a very nice couple as feeder lambs. They resold the ewe lamb to a place she could have a home. As for the wether, they pampered and cared for him very well so I feel he had a peaceful yet short life. I don't think I would ever sell at auction. Next year, I will have some that will be sold as market lambs though, hopefully just the crosses, but my friend and neighbor owns a custom meat plant and he treats the animals gently and with compassion. He processes our pigs for us. It is nice knowing they were well cared for from start to finish. In terms of marketing your wethers, put up flyers in local feed stores and contact your local spinner's guilds. Also let your local 4-H groups know you have lambs for sale. I sold 2 lambs and one adult ewe to 4-H families and one says she is coming back for more next year. I kept the other two lambs both boys (one wether). Now I will have a much larger lamb crop next year, we will see how I do! I have faith it will be okay. Not sure why, but I do. April lambs is probably about right.

Tammy said...

Hi Kristi,
You are so right, it's an individual choice on how we choose to 'run' our sheep operation. I started out in commerical sheep and lasted two years sending the boys to market--it was too sad. I was made fun of and put down because of my choices (like keeping wethers to run with the ram)by local breeders of commericals and decided right then and there that it was MY sheep farm and I can make what decisions I want. I try to be very upfront when I do sell, and I have no regrets. All my stock isn't perfect, but I try and breed to animals that compliment each other to always improve and find it to be part of the fun. Just a couple of ideas for you--most of my sales go to hobby farmers, small farmers and fiber flock owners (I always offer 'follow up' advice and help if they need it, and I make sure they know what they are doing before they purchase the animal). I have a website which helps, but I'd say that 95% of my sales have come through free adverstising on yahoo. groups. I don't mean the specific Shetland groups either, but usually state specific sites like 'Livestock Breeders' or "Missouri Livestock Classifieds", as well as a bunch of fiber/spinning lists. Through out the summer I list my for-sale sheep once per month on each list. It takes time, but has been very lucrative for me. I base prices on the quality of the animal: temperment, conformation, fleece (etc). I also have a percentage off system for 'package deals'. I adjust my prices to the economy of the area I'm in as well. This avenue is esp. helpful to sell the wethers. If you'd like more information on the sites I use, drop me an email. You have fine stock, and it may just be you need more exposure to 'get them out there' to the 'regular' people. ;-)

kristi said...

thank you for always sharing your thoughts & just being there to listen to me:)

I truly love hearing from you, I love your honesty & support, thank you for being there:)

I hope you check out next years babies!!!

you have become a such a great blogger friend, who one day I hope to meet (with a lamb in tow of course:) I so agree with you on supporting each other with our Shetlands! I know I probably could have pushed harder with selling, but then I get caught up in teaching, chores etc.& I just say oh heck, i will keep them...thank you for writing & putting a smile on my face:)

Yes, "My Sheep"!! Your comments I always look forward to! I appreciate all your suggestions too. Sometimes its just good to have someone else point things out. Single hobby farm woman need to look out for each other:)

Juliann said...


Keep on breeding, I didn't even know you had anything for sale! Polled + spots, get advertising, girl! You've got some gems, let people know about them!
Are you on the polled list? You can advertise anytime there.

Kara, you won't hurt my feelings buying from someone else. I'd love to see us shetland people suport each other, expecially us pollies because we really need it.

It takes time to sell sheep. I didn't sell anything for the first two years I raised shetlands.
You have to network and get your name out there, let people see your name and your farm name. Be patient, get those sheep to some shows if you can.