Prior to the beginning of a year, I make a business plan for the sheep business. This business plan includes the starting number of sheep and a goal for how many sheep I would want to have at the end of the year. Included is projected income and expenses as well as potential dates for shows, sales and educational events.
As with most business plans, we base the goals on the past year or years. Being a farmer, there are some situations that arise that we have no control over or the ability to change.
One event that affected my business plan was the sheep and goat auction closing in May. I had been attending this auction for seven years. I had to find other places to sell my sheep. The nearest reputable sheep and goat auction is two hours drive away instead of 30 minutes.
Another factor affecting this year, is fuel prices. Fuel prices in the United States has doubled what they were this time last year. The price of fuel, and the longer distance to a sheep auction, have forced some different plans than those thought out and written down in January.
The largest factor to affect my business plan this year – the lack of rainfall. Where I am located, there is no agriculture irrigation. The farmer is totally dependent on the rainfall. The past twelve years there has been adequate to over average rainfall. This year, the rainfall has been very light, and nonexistent. My pasture grass is not growing, instead is turning brown and dry. In a couple of weeks, I will be feeding hay to all the animals on the place.
The hay prices are creeping upwards due to higher fuel and fertilizer costs. The lack of rainfall means a lack of hay. So far this year, there has been one cutting of hay, instead of two and almost three. Every farmer learns, lack of supply for the demand means higher prices.
I have had to adjust my business plan. I will not be keeping ewe lambs to grow my flock this summer. I want to be able to feed the ewes I have through the winter months.
I will start lambing a group of ewes in July. I will also be lambing a different group of ewes in October/November. The lambs from these two groups will be sold to supply the hay needed for the fall and winter months, until the grass turns green next spring.
Adjustments might be made once more, if we receive abundant rainfall the remaining of summer and fall. Since the temperatures really do not get too cold for the grass to grow until late November.
A business plan is a good idea for the beginning of each year. Flexibility is needed in being a sheep farmer to adjust if things change too much.
Hope you are having a prosperous year.