Today, I went through my flock to take an inventory, assessing their body condition, timing of lambing and how the lambs were growing. Today, all my sheep look like and most are registered Dorper sheep. That is not how this journey of raising sheep started.
There have only been a twice I have owned sheep. Once many years ago I had a few Navajo churro sheep and my daughter’s 4-H project lambs. All these sheep needed to be sheared. I am not good at shearing sheep.
The second time is now. But the start was when my husband’s son was needing to move right away and had two ewes he had recently purchased to train herding dogs with. He had purchased them as lambs, owned them for several months before changing jobs and needing to move as soon as possible. I agreed to purchase these two ewes from him as a favor, to help him so he would not have to just shoot them.
So, I owned two ewe that I was going to take to a auction and sell. Only two days later, one had a lamb. Well, I went to the auction, and seen that market lambs weighing 50 to 60 pounds, sold for approximately $125.00 USD, and there were ewes selling for $50.00 USD. A person could make money I thought raising sheep.
During this time, we had a major life change. My husband was laid off from a nice paying job, and was driving over the road as a truck driver making very little income. I was home selling all the horses as the horse market was not real strong. Cutting losses and getting money in a bank account to survive. My husband and I come from raising cattle. But I could not handle cattle alone. Sheep, they are smaller. I did not know much about sheep, but I could handle them and learn.
I purchased very cheap ewes, nothing over $75.00 USD. Good Dorper bred ewes were going for $200.00 USD at the time. I thought a lamb is a lamb, and ewes have lambs. I purchased my first ram, a white Dorper without papers, for $225.00. Now with a few ewes and a ram, I would have lambs.
Through the years I did a lot of studying of books and the internet. I asked questions from those who would share knowledge. Mostly I watched. I watched the markets. I saw what type of sheep brought more money than others at the auction. Those lambs with black heads always sold for more money than all white ones. My husband did not like white sheep. We decided to raise Dorpers.
We learned about percentage breeding with Dorper sheep. We purchased our first fullblood registered Dorper ram in January 2018. I continued to learn how to evaluate Dorper sheep, what the breed standards are. I started purchasing registered ewes, the best to the Dorper sheep breed standards that I could afford. Some of these ewes were getting up in years, but if I could keep them producing for a year or two, I would be ahead.
Today, I have some serious ram power in my ram pen. The show rams I am preparing for an April 2023 show are quality to be proud to enter a show ring leading. The ewe flock looks impressive, and all have black heads. There are two commercial ewes left from when I was purchasing Dorper looking ewes and buying one registered ewe a year. They are the only ewes that do not have registration papers. I will be selling these ewes in the spring.
Five years, of learning, breeding, buying and selling sheep to get the flock I have. The registered fullblood sheep I purchased, the money came from selling market lambs from the ewes I owned at the time. There were times I sold ten market lambs to pay for one registered fullblood Dorper ewe. Today, I get above the market average when I sell market lambs at the auction.
In the coming years, we will sell off the percentage registered ewes, and replace them with registered fullblood ewes. I will continue to learn how to evaluate and strengthen my “eye” for traits of Dorper sheep. With dreams of one day, in the show pen being awarded Grand Champion Dorper. Meantime I will raise good quality meat lambs that grow fast and develop my flock.