This chilling morning I observed the arrival of an “Old Friend” whom I have named “The Flicker”. When I first moved to this place, Texas birds were unknown. I mistakenly identified this bird as a Northern Flicker, its true identity is a Yellow Bellied Sappsucker. “The Flicker” shows up every fall for a few weeks, marking the change of season on the farm. When the temperatures start turning chilly, I look forward to the short visit from my old friend, “The Flicker” as the sign the season of fall has officially arrived.
Seasons on the farm bring a change in routines and tasks. I will now have to make sure to drain the hoses after filling the water troughs each day. The visit from “The Flicker” usually means it is time to start feeding hay. But because of the drought, I have been feeding hay for awhile. My work clothing changes from short sleeves to long sleeves and possibly a light jacket.
Time marches forward and seasons change, even the seasons of the farm. When I started, the season was “mixed breeds of ewes raising lambs”. I had a hodge-podge of ewes of various ages, mostly old, just raising a lamb I could sell for any price. Then the I changed my farm plan to raise Dorper sheep, and get top price for my lambs at market. I purchased a registered fullblood Dorper ram, and gradually replaced my ewes with commercial Dorper ewes. Lambs improved and I was getting a better price for my market lambs, although not the top price.
Time marches forward, seasons change, I finally was able to purchase my first registered fullblood Dorper ewe. Oh, I was very excited I had finally reached this goal. One ewe, registered to put with my registered ram – I was now able to raise a registered fullblood Dorper lamb. This ewe was bred when I purchased her, she lambed out a ram and ewe lamb. Oh the joy, I had another registered fullblood Dorper ram to add to my flock, along with the ewe lamb. In time I was able to purchase a few more registered fullblood Dorper ewes.
I studied the Dorper breed standards and with time learned sheep vocabulary and what a Dorper should look like. I realized my rams were not good quality of the breed. Now the season of saving money and searching for much better quality of ram. After two years, I found and purchased two good quality rams.
I am still in the season of studying the Dorper breed standards, but now I have people who are helping me to understand what I am to be looking for. While my rams are good quality, and some of my ewes are good quality, most of my flock is still commercial quality Dorper sheep. Even though they are commercial quality according to the Dorper Standards for the breed, they are excellent quality for commercial Dorper sheep. I get the top market price for my market lambs. Along with a decent price for commercial quality Dorpers rams for commercial sheep farmers.
The season will come when I have excellent quality registered fullblood Dorper rams and ewes to sell. When that season arrives I will celebrate my accomplishment, as I have celebrated every time I improved my flock.
Regardless of what season you are in as a sheep farmer or farmer, celebrate your improvements, even the small ones. Majority do not have the finances to purchase a top quality Dorper ram for $16,000 USD or ewes that are as high. If I would have been able to purchase such expensive rams and ewes, I would probably have lost them quickly from lack of knowledge on how to care for sheep. By starting with inexpensive sheep, my lessons in how to care for sheep would not have been as knowledgeable and the losses did not wipe out my operation.
We have to start where we are and build upward. I have been able to take sale barn ewes, get them to produce lambs, save the money made to purchase better quality ewes to produce better quality lambs.
My advice is when you are starting out as a sheep farmer, purchase the best quality ram the budget will allow.
The ram is half of every lamb produced, the ewe is half of only the lambs she produces.