Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Breeding Groups

I've been quite surprised by the amount of blogger friends that are going to be breeding their ewes this fall in minute numbers. WHY?! I heard numbers like 3, 4 and 5. Yes the economy sucks. Yes everyone is pulling back a bit on spending, but that feed that you'll be feeding the 'extra' sheep all winter is going to add up. Do you really make that much money on your fleeces?

I agree selling NASSA registered stock for less than 250 dollars is ludicrous but yet most people did it this year. Why? Everyone was already doing a 'fire sale' for various reasons this year. Its a pity that everyone would pull back and breed less ewes. Maybe its better to sell them off than to feed them for ANOTHER year without any type of profit?

Get a crossing sire and produce market lambs! That way you are not feeding an extra mouth and you will get some revenue coming back to you when you sell the lambs next fall to market. I think that's the best idea ;)

I will be breeding 12 ewes to AI this fall. When I initially started the AI endeavor it was made clear that this would be the last massive AI for awhile until new semen came in from the UK and I really didn't want the semen to 'run out' here and be left with no way to improve my flock. Next year I hope to use several F1 rams back to the ewes. Any 'extra' sheep that I cannot sell and don't want to breed to the purebred Shetlands will go to the BFL ram for market lambs.

I'll be breeding a minimum of 30 ewes/ewe lambs this fall including BFLs. Next year I would assume it would be around that many again for purebred, and probably 10-15 for Mule lambs from the BFL ram to the Shetland ewes. Time will tell. This year I was going to breed all of my NCWGA registered ewes to the BFL but I had an opportunity to sell most of that stock to a petting zoo in Chicago so won't have that extra revenue next year, but it did save a TON on feed costs and pasture stress.

What are your plans for next year?


Theresa said...

Excellent idea, Garrett! I would hope that more people will start to use crossing sires to produce market lambs. They can get a double return off the lambs, both meat and wool. And, ALL the lambs can go to market with no regrets.

My plans for next year! Ha! I already made up my breeding list for next year last night! I'm so glad I'm not the only one planning ahead. It won't be very much different than this year, though, with about 35-40 going to crossing sires and around 25-30 to purebreds. I do plan on bringing back ewes that were put to the crossers this year and put them to pures next year.

Kara said...

I am breeding 11 ewes this year, keeping my two smallest ewe lambs out of the mix as long as there are no accidental breedings. That gives me 8 registered, two to produce market lambs, and one that is a non registered Shetland so I guess I could register her with the NCWGA if need be. She would have been a cull because she is as flighty as all get out but has amazing fleece and is very pretty, so until I decide she has a replacement in my handspinner's flock, she'll stay. I believe it will all be alright. I agree that feeding them all winter and not breeding doesn't seem to be helpful financially. If I don't find I can sell enough lambs this year, I will buy a terminal cross breeding sire and breed back only my very best Shetlands for Shetland breeding stock next year. Actually I am probably going to do that anyhow. That way I have my handspinner's flock and pets and they still can be productive. A petting zoo, how great is that? Oh BTW big Harry Potter fans here.

Rayna said...

There's always wiggle room in my plans, but so far they're set. I'm sure they'll get fine tuned before the actual time comes, but who knows :) I'm actually seriously considering getting a mule ram...I think my mom would throw a hissy fit lol.

Nancy K. said...

Your plan makes perfect sense, Garrett. Except for one thing. I specifically chose Shetlands because I wanted a breed who's purpose was NOT to bring animals into this world with the intention of sending them to slaughter. The sheep in my flock are my friends. Probably my BEST friends. Those that I can bear to part with, I will sell ~ IF they will go to a loving home. Those that I can't part with will stay. They have given me many beautiful lambs and have earned the right to count on me to continue to care for them. I will continue to breed a few each year, but to me, it makes no sense to produce more lambs than I can find homes for. I'll leave producing market lambs to the rest of you....

I never really got into being a Shepherd to make lots of money. I do it for the joy it brings into my life. And hauling lambs to the slaughter house or sale barn does NOT bring joy into my life. I know ~ I'm doing it today!

Just the way this Shepherdess does things ~ not saying that it's the way that anyone else should...

Karen Valley said...

How many sheep to breed all depends upon why you are breeding and what type of resources--i.e. fenced pasture, good hay source, etc.--you have available to you during these tough times. Some of us do not live close to sale areas for meat and must make do with local private sales to individuals. With limited pasture costs per animal also rise and insuring that each and every animal has enough space is vital especially with Shetlands who like to roam and browse.

I see nothing wrong with not breeding an entire flock for a year...nor do I see anything wrong with crossing mature ewes if you have a viable meat market. It really comes down to individual choices, needs and the economics involved with your particular region.

Becky Utecht said...

I agree with Karen, I think it's responsible shepherding for those who can't handle the meat production aspect of shepherding to limit their breeding plans in times like this. Personally, I always feel regretful when bringing sheep to slaughter. I'm not sure that feeling will ever go away, but after the deed is done I'm so grateful for all the wonderful gifts our sheep have to offer.

Jen C said...


I know that since we just put an investment in new breeding rams, and the fact that the girls that didn't get bred this past fall got really chunky, we'll be breeding all our 11 adult ewes. The two ewe lambs we'll not be breeding.

Take care,

susan said...

Unbred animals require alot less feed, and management. So if you have your sheep in drylots or barns in the winter, and you have to buy all the feed, it might be cheaper to not breed them. But were is this taking you. If they are your pets thats fine, but if you are trying to make genetic improvemnts in your flock, or if they need to be more productive than what their wool brings in, you have to breed them.

I don't have enough well fenced separate pastures to keep a group of unbred ewes. Managment wise it is easyest if they are all on the same schedual.

The wool from the unbred ewes that I've had in the past dosn't seem better than the bred ewes.

With such a small flock as I have, the time spent trying to establish a wool market just hasn't seemed worth it. Maybe as time changes there will be more demand for wool, but for now, I take the best to the local wool show and sale. If they sell great. If not, I save for my own future use.

My sheep have browse and pasture all year, except for a few weeks here and there when they have to be put in pens for some reason that don't have feed. I only have to put out grain for the ewes that have twins. In a way, I wish that they would all single. It makes management much easier.

I have to cut my flock back hard each year. This year I cut it even lower as we will have two cows calving in spring as well. In the past the number was dictated by how many I thought I could shear in spring, but now that I have a horse, bull and two cows due to calve in spring, they will be competeing for time and feed. My mini milk cow is way more productive than an equivalent amount of sheep!

Most years I don't have that many extra meat lambs for sale. We butcher out own. I find it cheaper to feed my dog cull sheep than to buy the lamb and rice dog food from the store. If I don't feel like butchering, the well grown young lambs are easy to sell at $50 each. The local ethnic people here like well grown, smaller framed young lambs.

I was very fortunate to find buyers for the extra breeding stock I had for sale this year.

If I had 30 breeding ewes, I don't think I could find enough buyers for the good quality breeding stock. It would be to hard on me if I had to send good breeding stock for butcher.

Keeping your farm in balence is tricky but very important to the health of the land and your livestock.

Juliann said...

I'm breeding less only because I need more land to do it the way I'd like to do it, and that isn't going to happen until I retire in 9years. :) I have to limit my numbers for good pasture managment, and that's the only reason I'm cutting back.

I'd rather ship my shetlands to market than sell them for peanuts. I don't want to be known for having a "cheap flock prefix".

I'm playing around with mules this year, but only over Clun Forest, not my shetlands. I do want to turn a profit one of these years, I don't want a hobby farm, nor another year of my accountant rolling his eyes at my losing money yet another year.

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 ...