Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thoughts and Directions

Its been awhile since I've really sat down to blog. Not for lack of time. I've had plenty of that :)

I've tried to remove myself as best as I knew how from the political hoopla of NASSA for awhile. I spent a lot of time, emotion, energy, resources, love and heartache for an association that I felt was finally back on track with their sister organizations. We have only one standard. I would think all of our sheep on both sides of the pond should reflect the same look, as it is the same standard.

I won't go further in to that, but I wanted to share what has been happening with me.

I'd done a lot of soul searching. Praying. Meditating. I've spent a lot of time with Adam who is currently back in Milwaukee taking care of matters there on an extended Holiday visit. I've spent quite a bit of time with the dogs. Dog shows, dog training, etc.

I've been a terrible friend. I have hardly called or emailed any of my friends. It seems most of my time alone was spent just doing that. Basking in solitude, or out with the sheep. Any time I did have with people was mostly with Adam, or a few friends brave enough to attend my 3rd 29Th Birthday (I'll give you a minute to digest that).

I've made some realistic decisions on my flock. Let's go through them shall we? Let me grab my hot tea...with some raw honey.....

OK. I'm back :)

My 2011 goals for my flock are as follows:

Part One: The commercial buyer.

1. Re-enroll in the Scrapie Program. I recognize that hardly any Shetland folk are in it anymore. And that is OK with me. I really do not NEED any more sheep and with what I have I should be pretty set for ewes. Promote this as an advantage of purchasing from an enrolled and/or certified flock. Going the extra distance to show I care about my flock, and the buyers flock too.

2. Continue blood testing the entire flock for OPP, Johne's, CL and BTV. Another incentive for people to choose me, if they are trying to decide between two or more seller's flocks.

3. Become OPP Negative certified. This should be easy as I have all of the paperwork from the past several years for this.

4. Join the MN Lamb and Wool Producers' Association. My voice as both a purebred and commercial producer needs to be heard.

5. Market my roving and raw fleeces better. I DO have a contract for three years for all of my BFL fleeces, and I have a mill that will readily take all of my Shetland wool I have left to process it in to roving.

6. Continue to sell lamb chops/burger/brats to friends and family. I haven't had one person turn their nose up at it and actually sold several live lambs this fall to others who wanted to butcher them.

7. Increase my Mule production. I am planning on breeding nearly all of my Shetland ewes to the BFL this fall (2011) for Mule production. With lamb meat at record high prices, it would be foolish to do anything but do this. Shetland ewes eat way less than BFL ewes and they produce fast growing Shetland Mule lambs just on grass alone.

8. Send letters to local sheep producers in regards to the benefits of Mules and the terminal cross Texel sired lambs. The data I have would most likely astonish them. The word is slowly getting out about my 'unique' breeds of sheep locally and its nothing but GREAT things.

9. Scrapie type my rams. The state of Minnesota is doing this for FREE for up to 10 rams. I will do 10 of my rams just for the sole knowledge and for any customers that may inquire. It doesn't mean much to me, but its another tool.

Part Two: The purebred buyer:

This will most likely be a very limited group. My goal for 2011 with this is to breed my yearling ewes (lambs from 2010) to the purebred Shetland rams. I have kept back about two dozen ewe lambs to see who makes the grade with the micron results this spring. Those that don't, will be put in to the Mule group.

I also am excited about the UK folk who are coming over to the Midwest in September. I'm hoping they will be able to do flock inspection, or at the very least, ram inspections.

I'm not a huge fan of showing sheep. I think its been a huge disservice to our breed. However this fall in Jefferson there will be UK judges presiding over the ring, and I will be able to better understand their take on the Standard, and the direction I need to go to make my sheep better fit the Standard. They are the stewards of our breed. We should follow suit.

Continue to promote, preserve and protect the Shetland Sheep that we can find in the 1927 Standard. Learning, educating, and sharing knowledge amongst new and old shepherds a like is what needs to continue to be provided and encouraged.

Its a tall order, but I think I'm ready for new challenges. New customers. New friends (keep the old ones!). It looks to be a very BRIGHT future for the Shetland here!


Theresa said...

Hey Garrett!

Good to see you back online!

Winter is a good time for rumination of all sorts of things, including direction.

I'm excited about the UK breeder judges that are coming this fall too! It will be a wonderful experience to be in. Just hope that we can catch them on video so that the information gained can be disseminated to a much wider audience.

Definitely a bright future ahead with all the goals and aspirations that you have listed.

Best of luck!

Becky Utecht said...

Garrett, it would be great to have you join the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers! I'm with you on breeding all the ewes. I wish I would have bred more last year with lamb prices the way they are.
I reserved 10 ram genotypings for spring and I hope to test my flock for OPPv, Johnes and CL then too.
I am very much looking forward to the UK judges at Jefferson next year.

Kelly Bartels said...

My dear friend, those that are a true friend will not be upset in the least by the fact that you needed some solitary time of reflection. Good friends understand, and love you just the same.
As for the UK judge that's coming this fall........wooohooo, I am so thrilled to have this opportunity, and will try to bring at least a couple sheep to Jefferson to see if my breeding program is heading in the right direction. My focus mirrors yours, so I'm hoping to add a sheep or two from your flock sometime in the future.
I've missed you, so glad you are back, and am in awe of your goals.
Some of them are mine as well.
Take care my friend.

Michelle said...

I envy you the chance to watch and learn from the UK judges; I was unable to take advantage of Rena Douglas' recent visit to OFFF because of spiritual convictions (Sabbath). Are you still planning to come to BSG this June?

Your goals all look sound to me. I'm too small an operation to be able to shop around for the individuals from breeders such as you that would help me reach my goals more quickly, but am excited to see what Barish produces here in March. I was also excited to hear that Karen Valley is a NASSA member again! It is interesting to me that those who seem most committed to breeding for fine, soft fleeces are also those most open to polled genetics, if not actively breeding for polled stock. That is great news for me if and when I can shop for new stock!

Franna said...

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot...?

Worthy, ambitious goals, Garrett. I'm glad you're in Shetlands with the rest of us and help focus on fine fleeces.
When is the show in Sept? I'm planning to be in St. Louis for "dog stuff" Sept 16-19. St. L is a lot closer to you than Seattle! ...right?

stephen rouse said...

I'm also excited to hear that a UK judge will be at Jefferson. I hope a record amount of breeders take the opportunity to show and learn! If there was any way I could, I surely would, but that does not look like it's in the cards. :-(

Potosi Sheep Farm said...

So glad you are back blogging. Missed you!

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