When I started raising sheep, my husband was driving a truck over the road. He was away from home most of the time. The decisions of buying sheep was my idea as a method to produce income from our property.
Prior to him being laid off from his oilfield job, we raised and showed horses. The cashflow is high when raising horses and competing. The loss of his job, put our way of living to an abrupt halt. Instead of building a horse business, we went to survival mode. The horses were sold.
To maintain agriculture exemption on the property taxes, we had to find something for agriculture business. We were cattle people. We would buy some cows and raise two or three calves. The thought of handling cattle on my own I was not thrilled about.
At the same time my husband was driving truck, his son was moving. He had two sheep he used to train border collies to herd. I took the sheep to sell for him. I went to the sheep auction to find out how much these two sheep were worth, and seen the price of one lamb was enough to buy two ewes. I thought I could make money raising sheep. The start up expense was much lower than with cattle. I could handle sheep on my own. This is what I would do for income and the agriculture exemption.
I discussed the decision with my husband. He was not excited about raising sheep, but said do what you can do. My journey began as a sheep farmer. The last seven years I started learning about sheep, started raising Dorper sheep, and made the long term plans and short plans as well as took care of the daily needs of raising sheep.
My flock grew from 2 ewes to 60 ewes, mostly commercial. Two years ago I made the decision to do a serious cull. We were down to twelve ewes, with four of those ewes being registered. The beginning of this month, we have 7 commercial ewes, 13 registered Fullblood Dorper ewes and 10 percentage ewes producing lambs. There are 6 replacement ewe lambs and a lamb crop still on the ewes. And we just purchases 3 registered Pureblood Dorper ewes this past weekend. The amount of money being spent to purchase rams and ewes, in addition to amount of income from selling market lambs and breeding stock has greatly changed since I began raising sheep.
I felt it was time for my husband to become more involved with the decision making of the sheep business. We have always had conversations about the sheep and the business plans. But the final decision was mine to make. Now instead of buying a ewe for $100 USD, I am buying ewes for $700 USD. I am paying more for rams. I am also selling better quality ewes and rams, and those prices have risen as well. Bigger amounts of money, mean when I make a mistake, the cost of that mistake is larger. A larger loss affects the whole household more. When I overspent on a ewe, I would adjust the grocery budget. Today, if I overspend, it would take the whole grocery budget. I need someone else’s view to keep balance and lower the risk of making a mistake.
This week I express my desire to my husband of being more involved in the decisions and planning of the sheep business. I want his views of a situation before making a decision. The plan for the past two years is to build the sheep production up to where when my husband retires, we do not have a loss in income. The time has come for him to become an active member of this adventure, instead of a consultant on call.
Now we are both active sheep farmers. Tonight, we evaluated the flock together, pointing out flaws discussing strong points of each ewe. Discussing future breedings and which ewes to put with each ram. The fresh pair of eyes on the evaluation of our flock was good for both of us. We both have more confidence as we move forward.