In North Central Texas farmers and ranchers have been experiencing a drought. The amount of hay produced is less than previous years. The cost of the hay is extremely high. I am perplexed with which choice to make, find some money to keep going or sell off my sheep flock.
I do not have the size of property large enough to raise my own hay. There are plans of purchasing property in the spring of 2023 large enough to raise my sheep and produce the hay to feed in the winter months. Those are my plans for the spring, but I need to make it through the winter this year.
Some sheep farmers are sorting through their flocks, only keeping the young ewes and rams, and selling all the rest to purchase hay for winter. Keeping the best of their flocks and rebuild their numbers. Currently, I am in this group of sheep farmers. I am selling some of my older ewes, and young ewes that are not producing the best in order to pay for hay. Keeping the top producing of my flock to rebuild my numbers. My business plan was to reach 40 ewes this year, but I will fail reach this goal. With my current plan of selling, I will have approximately 20 ewes at the end of the year.
Others are selling all their animals with plans to rebuild in the spring after the rains and green grass reappears. I have consider this option. But I am concerned that the cost of good quality ewes and rams will be so high due to lack of supply for the demand, since so many sheep farmers are currently selling sheep. The price of ewes and rams in the spring is a big “IF”. Unfortunately I do not have a crystal ball or a method of seeing the future and determine the “IF”.
A few sheep farmers are selling out and not looking to purchase any sheep in the future. A couple of sheep farmers I know are up in years, they are tired, times are hard and they ready for quieter days. They are going to miss having the sheep.
Some who are selling out are beginning sheep farmers, they have been struggling to learn about sheep and their care. They feel they have made a folly decision in raising sheep for profit. They have seen a lot of hard work. They have lost sheep due to worms and other diseases. The learning and doing has been a hardship the past year or two, and the cost of hay this year was “the final straw”. Time to quit and move on to something different. In their minds they have failed to make it work, to be a sheep farmer.
I may have to change my plans of keeping the best and sell off my entire flock. I do not consider myself a failure in doing so. Situations and circumstances may force my me to make this decision. Failure is not taking care of the sheep. If I retain my flock, and they starve, I have failed as a sheep farmer. Not taking care of the sheep is failure.
Selling all my sheep because I am unable to purchase feed for them, is not failing, but still taking care of the sheep. Yes, a lot will be butched, they are raised for meat. But some would go to other sheep farmers improving their flocks and producing good lambs for sale. I have not failed as I have produced good ewes and rams for breeding, and good quality carcasses on my lambs and sheep for butcher.