I know I am not the only person who gets groceries and wonder about the costs. My grocery expense has doubled in less than a year. Each person is being hit with inflation and the threat of recession. Everyone is having to face the same situation of how to make their money stretch further.
The drought has caused hay prices in my area to triple. We are know purchasing hay grown in another state with a higher nutrient content to feed the sheep.
The market lamb prices have bottomed, which they do every year at this time. The worrisome part is the replacement ewe market has dropped. People selling their entire flocks so they do not have to feed them through the winter has caused the replacement or breeding ewe prices to drop.
I have turned my attention to improving how I raise my sheep. Working on solutions to make sure every ewe gets bred in a timely manner. Looking for different markets to sell market lambs and breeding stock.
One change I am making is to plant a winter cover crop next fall for winter feed. I usually let the pasture rest during the winter, not having any animals on the pasture for three to four months. With the cost of hay this year, I am going to change next year to having a winter grazing crop. That means I will have to fertilize in the spring to keep the ground productive instead of letting it rest for three months.
I do pasture rotation, of grazing one pasture for thirty days, then moving the sheep to another pasture for the next thirty days. I also pen all the sheep up at night, so nothing is grazing at night. There are times the pasture is able to rest. I would continue to do the same with a winter cover crop, moving the sheep off each pasture for thirty days and bringing the sheep in at night.
Some have asked why I bring the sheep in each night, the answer is neighbor’s dogs and coyotes, the night predators in my area. I keep my sheep close to the house in pens that dogs and coyotes are not able to get through the fences. There are no bushes or trees for them to hide in, like there is in the pastures. I do have Livestock Guard dogs that patrol the property day and night. I got in the habit of bringing in the sheep before I had Livestock Guard dogs and never changed. In addition, the pasture is allowed to rest at night.
I am not increasing my ewe flock at this time, but selling older ewes and keeping young ewes to replace them. I still have the same number of sheep to feed, but a younger flock. I was wanting to continue to increase my flock this year, but with feed costs I am concentrating on improving quality of the ewe flock and lambs produced.
Everything travels in a cycle. The cycle will change and I will continue to be a sheep farmer, hopefully a wiser sheep farmer than before.