When I was a young girl about ten years of age, our family went to the county fair. The county fair was a wonderful adventure for a young girl who loved animals. We rode carnival rides for the first time and saw many different types of livestock. At this county fair was horse and mule races. I was a very horse crazy girl, so my dad took me to the races. My dad and I sat side by side, picking out the ones we thought would win. I was pretty good about picking out the winners.
“Dad let’s bet on a horse, I think that one is going to win.”
“Well, you are pretty good about selecting the horse that wins. But let me tell you a rule with gambling. Never gamble with more than you can afford to lose. Very few people win at gambling.”
I have always remembered these words from my dad. Yet, what do I do for income. I am a sheep farmer. I gamble with it all.
There are some many influences out of my control that affect the profit of my sheep farm. The biggest influence is weather.
Weather can turn wet and cold during lambing increasing the possibility of losing some lambs. Losing lambs means less money for feed. The weather can be too hot and dry affecting how much hay is grown, resulting in higher hay costs. The weather in other areas affect the growth of grains used in the supplement I feed to the pregnant ewes and those with lambs, as well as my weaned lambs. Higher cost of feed, means I need a higher market lamb price to keep the same profit margin.
Then there is the sheep market. The price of rams and ewes at auction set the bottom price for my breeding stock. The price of market lambs affects me directly.
Then there is the economy. If the economy is struggling, I am struggling. People do not want to buy breeding stock when finances are tight. Currently the inflation is high in my country. High inflation results in higher prices for the necessities of food, clothing and shelter expenses. Other sheep farmers, like myself, will make due with the breeding stock we have, until things get better.
Last week, I was reminded that disasters can strike to wipe out everything I have worked towards building. Tornados hit the area around us. In a matter of minutes all was gone. One friend lost all but three ewes and a lamb, which he sold due to not having pens and shelters for them. My friend is having to rebuild their pens, shelters and eventually buy more sheep. My friend told me it would be a year at least before they were back to selling sheep again, but they would get there. “I have always had sheep and I will have them again.”
Sheep farmers gamble with everything.
Yet, we are persistent and optimistic. We keep working our sheep, hoping and believing that things will be better next month, next quarter and next year.
Hoping your sheep farm is doing great and you are having a great year.