Saturday, July 19, 2008

To buy or not to buy

These may sound a bit rambled, but I was thinking a lot about this topic after Sabrina left today.

Why does a person buy what they do? Now I'm speaking mostly from an agricultural point of view. Having been born, raised and educated on the farm (and when away to school i studied animal science, emphasis in genetics and nutrition) I think like a 'farmer'. What is my bottom dollar? Can I make money at this? Will it provide me with enough money to reinvest into them, as well as supply me with what I need?

I'm not an impulse buyer. I admit buying a pack of gum or bottle of pop while waiting in line at Target, but that is not the typical me. I think things through. People are amazed at the amount of sheep I purchase. I've only been in this two years and I can say I've come a long way already. I've researched and researched pedigrees, UK rams, domestic lines, I've picked people's brains until BOTH of ours hurt LOL.

Shetlands have amazing advantages over the commerical stock. My neighbors (and by neighbors I mean anyone within a 5-10 miles radius is considered your 'neighbor') laugh when they see the size of my sheep. "What are you going to do with THAT?!" one exclaims. Or another says "you can't EAT those can you??!!". And the best yet is "You mean you actually KEEP the wool?!!".

Without trying to sound degrading I tell them all the reasons the shetlands are an amazing breed, that have yet to be utilized to their fullest potential. From a marketing stand point Shetlands have a long list of attributes (and I won't be able to list them all)
1. Hardiness. If they can survive the treeless, wind ravaged, wet and damp weather the Shetland Isles, they can certainly handle the MN winters. they actually prefer to sleep IN the snow, rather than in their barn.
2. Thriftiness. My idea of a thrifty animal is one who requires little in the ways of management as far as wormers, parasite control, diseases, genetic/environmental health issues etc.
3. Amazing mothering ability. From the moment that lamb is born, those yearling and mature ewes are cleaning and calling their babies, and ever watchful of the shepherd. They lamb without assistance (in most cases) and are able to be crossbred to much larger breeds, carry that lamb and lamb it out with little effort, even if its twice the size of a purebred Shetland.
4. Their small size, allows for more animals fed on less hay.
5. Their primitive-ness allows for a grass only diet (or other forbs) and requires little to no grain or other supplements.
6. The hybrid vigor of the shetland mules is amazing and every producer of commercial sheep should have them as their core group of ewes. They finish their lambs at the same size as the purebred commercial moms, on less milk and feed.

I could go on and on, but these reasons were and are some of the reasons I got them in the first place.

To be honest, my original goal with them was to have a group of ewes or whethers as a testing group for my Corgis to herd them. I soon fell in love with them and read all I could about them and wanted to help 'save' the breed, promote the breed, and enjoy sheep for the first time in my life.

Being 6'3" has its advantages when it comes to working the sheep. I can move them myself and sort, worm, lift to move to another jug, ear tag, give shots to (when needed, and rarely at that). The only time I've really needed assistance is when the hooves needed to be done, which here is at least four times a year. This breed is docile, smart, friendly, colorful and truly, the softest of the British breeds.

So back to my original question. To buy or not to buy?

Since I'm not an impulse buyer, my orignal quest starts when I read a 'for sale' announcement on a yahoogroup, or blog. I see what is available, research the animals, check pedigrees, ask about lambing history (if mature ewes), ask for fleece samples, micron reports, strength and weaknesses,etc. Each animal is discussed at great length. An animal that I might pass on this year, may be just what I am looking for NEXT year, or would have been my ideal animal a year ago. It is true I'm a sucker for diversity in my flock. I have many patterns and colors in my sheep. That was a goal of mine. Now that I have them, I want only the best of each color or pattern. And in all reality, your lambs are your future and if you sell them off, you are back to where you started the year before! It is better to move the mothers out, as hard as it may be, to a home that is perhaps one step behind you in your goals, or to a fiber farm where their fleece can be appreciated. Maybe someone's goals have changed (like deciding to go ALL POLLED). Suddenly some of your ewes or rams may be just what they are looking for. I am glad that I can be of help and am honored to be the one they come to asking.

I feel that I will be a positive influence in the breed, and I hope that it will show. I truly believe it already has. I know what I was looking for, I find it, I get it, utilize it and reap the just rewards. Not every endeavor with them is fool proof, or without consequences, but if you know what you are looking for, have goals and don't impulse buy because it is cute, or friendly, then you are on your way my friend.

Enjoy these Shetlands. Spread the word. I think they have a bright future in our lifetime!

1 comment:

dreameyce said...

I loved this post :) I'm a lurker on your blog, and love your genetics and breeding posts (Oh and Ell! I've been drooling hers her since she was a baby!).

I was an FFA member in highschool, breeding and showing Columbia's. I'm now a hand-spinner, pet rat breeder, and Cardi fancier.

Please keep these posts up! I love hearing about sheep genetics, and would love to have a small herd of fiber and meat sheep when we move. I've been thinking about Shetland crosses, or Icelandics.

Maybe someday if your selling fleeces, I'll have to buy a few from you *G*

Available sheep

With my work load continuing to pile up, and less time to spend with the sheep, I am offering the following: My entire flock of BlueFaced ...