Monday, November 15, 2010

Real Farming....

Today I took 25 sheep to the local auction. Prices were 96.00/cwt - 170.00/cwt so it was a mixed bag. Its not a typical place for sheep buyers so didn't think the prices were going to be as high as say some of the auction barns that sell sheep by the thousands every week. I was happy with the prices and even happier that I don't have to feed 2.5 bales more a day now!

In any real farm situation where money is ultimately whether we keep the farm or not..... I culled several ewes with mastitis that i shipped, ewes that were old, ewes that didn't have the fleece type I preferred, ewes that sheared terribly every year (due to thin skin, not the rise). I sold rams with bad horns, one had a bad bite, one had one nut, several were extremely cow hocked, etc.

For anyone who thinks I am only breeding for fine fleece can think again! Conformation and temperament, breed type and all the primitive traits that we all love are also top notch. But for every single virtue, there cannot be a major fault and so culling exists. Its part of life.

So do you think that by having all these things 'pop up' in my breeding program make me a bad shepherd? In the least! With 175+ lambs born this spring, I am bound to find things like these things. It happens. And by culling them out, I hope to not see them expressed any time soon :)

I've now made three rounds of culls. First the obvious culls went. Then the ones that I knew would never 'turn out' in to what I had hoped for went. Then the ones with one major fault that I just couldn't over look.

My flock is by far better off now after these three culls than I can ever remember. I will be wintering over 18 rams (three BFL and one Texel and the rest Shetlands). Most are F1s or certainly F2s. I will have around 100 ewes and ewe lambs wintered over. The highest yet, but also the highest quality. I'm quite excited to see what my commercial ewes and my purebred ewes produce.

I'm taking in 6 lambs to butcher for myself and Adam to feed us over the winter. 2 Texel cross (over Shetland Mules and Shetland-Cheviot ewes), 2 BFL purebred, and 2 Shetland purebred. I"m going to put a T, B or S on the packages so I know if the flavor really is so different between the breeds and will be able to better promote my meat to my friends and neighbors. I already have a waiting list for brats, leg of lamb, steaks and chops and lamb burger! COOL!

A few more days of work and I"ll be able to breathe and catch up. No snow yet!


Cynthia said...

Well this very appropriate busyness certainly explains your absence. Glad to know you are doing alright. We did a speed run to son Justin's in NY last week to deliver 500 lbs of organic meat from our farm, including one Shetland and one BFL cross. We grilled chops of both...I really enjoyed the cross especially. Very gentle flavor.

Theresa said...

Hey Garrett! Nice to see you posting! It's a busy season for everyone.

Culling is such a hard job but it is an important aspect of "real farming". It is a bit easier when prices are high both for feed and market. At least the one justifies the other.

How many ewe lambs are you retaining and evaluating?

Would like to see you do a taste testing side by side of all of the breeds/crosses. I know I've got my preferences as there are subtle differences with all ones we've done (purebred Shetland of various ages and genders, NCC/Shetland, BFL/Shetland, Icelandic/Shetland, Shetland mule/Texel but haven't tried purebred BFL) but they are all delicious! Many people can't even taste the differences. I think though, it is the depth of the flavor that is coming out, not so much taste differnce.

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 ...