Changing direction and growing the flock

A place to exchange ideas, stories, and to solve problems related to breeding the flock and delivering lambs.
HomesteadNowhere
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Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby HomesteadNowhere » Sat Dec 29, 2018 1:04 am

I think I need to streamline. I'd appreciate any suggestions you all might have.

I'm going to be investing in flock filer program to help me keep track of things and be able to more easily/objectively assess the sheep. Currently I'm doing a lot of paper jumbling and shuffling bits n bobs.

- My main interest is wool. I know that the next couple years at least my main income will be from meat lamb sales. I do have market for wool and products.

- I currently have shetlands and shetland crosses (border cheviot, cormo, wool mutt). I'm going to invest in a BFL ram in 2019 and work my flock over to mostly BFL crosses. In 2020 I want to bring in some Corriedale ewes. This will be the main base of my flock.
After a few years of seeing what they are producing like I would consider bringing in a Corriedale, Romney, or Coopworth ram. (This would be hypothetically after 2022, see below)
If things go really well and I can expand the flock and lamb prices are good I would consider bringing in a terminal ram for market lambs. As of right now I don't think that I will have enough ewes in the somewhat foreseeable future to want to get into that.

- Traits:
Good moms, easy births
High twinning (not crazy multiples I have to mess with)
Manageable birth weights (no point in big lambs if I lose them)
Milky to feed up lambs (but not prone to mastitis)
Ewes that get bred in the first cycle
Do well on pasture and hay (would like to only feed out in late gestation and for 'treats'/bribes)
Clean faces, legs, udders/testicles
Lambs that fill out well in time for better market prices
Ewe lambs grown enough by fall for breeding (undecided?)
Fleece fine to medium micron
Fleece weight 4+lbs skirted
Sheep not overly large that I cannot easily handle

- Shetlands are seasonal breeders. Seem to not get bred before mid October or after February.
BFL are seasonal breeders but I'm told will breed in September. Little longer season anyways.
Corriedales will breed out of season. I'm told bred in April for Sept lambs and bred in August/Sept for January/Feb lambs.
I don't think I will be going for Jan/Feb lambing at all and I am thinking that being crossbreds most of the ewes will probably end up cycling more like a BFL with the little longer season. As of right now I think that will work just fine for me.

- Currently I have a few ideas on how I may do the breeding. I am basically wanting a to make a composite with nice fleece and good market lambs. And I understand that it may not turn out how I plan and end up going to something different. This is the thought process as of now. I think by the fourth year lambing I would have a good mix and be able to cull out any stragglers, tidy it up to those that fit my goals the best.

* 2019 breeding-
-BFL ram x shetland ewes

* 2020 lambing-
BFL/shetland(A)
keep best ewe lambs

* 2020 breeding-
-BFL ram x
shetland ewes
Corriedale ewes
BFL/shetland(A)
keep best ewe lambs

* 2021 lambing-
BFL/shetland(A)
BFL/Corriedale(A)
BFL/shetland(B)
keep best ewe lambs
keep 1 or 2 best BFL/Corriedale(A) rams, 2 best BFL/shetland(B) rams

* 2021 breeding-
-BFL ram x
BFL/shetland(A) ewes
BFL/Corriedale(A) ewe lambs
-ram lambs x
Corriedale ewes
BFL/shetland(B) ewes

*2022 lambing-
BFL/shetland(B)
BFL/Corriedale(B)
BFL/Corriedale back cross
BFL/shetland back cross
BFL/Corriedale/shetland back cross

- Almost forgot.. My current aim is to have 50 breeding ewes. I live on a 250 acre family farm so I could easily expand if things are doing well to facilitate more barn space and fencing.
Katie
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby Polypays4U » Sat Dec 29, 2018 8:04 am

I know nothing about the breeds you mention, other than Corriedale. That being said, Polypays meet the trait you are aiming for. I would suggest you contact an Ohio Polypay producer.
Bill Hardman
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby OogieM » Sun Dec 30, 2018 8:16 am

I'd agree that you need totake a look at Polypay and existing breeds. Developing a good composite breed takes decades. Do you have the time and skills to create a breed from the traits in the breeds you choose as founders?
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby HomesteadNowhere » Sun Dec 30, 2018 3:45 pm

Polypay were one of the breeds I looked at. I've not seen any in person and can't find anything online about average ram/ewe adult weight. I thought they were quite big, like 200+lb range. For me doing almost all the farm work myself getting nearer 200# is pushing my limit to manhandle them. From what I see people post on the spinners groups polypay seems to be popular enough. Finer than I'm aiming for.

I don't mean that I'll be making a composite and expecting to sell them as a new breed or anything. I know they'd just be crossbreds until I'd proven them over many years. I might do that. I might not do that. But I'm 26 and if that did happen than this seems like the perfect time to start. As they say "the best time to plant an apple tree is 5 years ago" :lol:
I'm not trying to reinvent the polypay wheel. I'd be modeling after it somewhat but I don't want huge sheep or accelerated lambing. I don't know that I'll want two lambing groups in a year let alone three lambings in two years for individual ewes.
As to whether I have the skills, I don't know yet. I've had rabbits for years and done pretty well with those breeding plans and learning from outcomes that weren't what I wanted/expected. Most of my ewe lambs I have were born here this spring, shetland crosses, and they were as big and bigger than the 3-6y/o pure shetland ewes at 8 months old. So that was pretty successful and if not for this reassessment I would have continued with largely shetland base genetics to getting a little meatier, faster growing animal.
I also think that I understand not holding onto a mistake just because I spent a lot of time on it. I mean what I've got now took me a jumbled 4 years to get to, only to realize now I need to redirect. So that's what I'm doing.

I will have to make a trip of it to get good stock anyways. If I follow my breeding plan idea then I could easily alter it so that in 2021 I could pick up some Corriedale ewes and some polypay ewes. I'll be record keeping and comparing the lambs growth between crosses and ewe lines. If it turns out a few of the shetland mule ewe lines aren't keeping up then I'll cull them and replace from the best producing. If it turns out the Corriedales cross and produce better than the shetland mules then I'll phase out the mules and in the Corriedales. If the polypays and shetland mules do better than the Corriedales I'll phase them out.

The other reason I chose those breeds is because I know their wool and how I can utilize and market it, and to an extent what to expect with the first crossing. After that it's about culling for the best traits.
Katie
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby Don Hausser » Sun Dec 30, 2018 4:12 pm

You won't have to go too far to see some Polypays. Their are several flocks around Wooster. Check the Polypay Website. And the Corriedales I've seen are larger than most Polypays..Very few are 200# ewes. U won't have to lamb them every six or eight months if you don't keep the ram in with them all the tim. Just lamb when you are able. More Polypays are being raised on pasture and breeders are doing FECs so they don"t run into as many worm problems. There will be an NSIP sale in Wooster the beginning of August so you can get a good idea of Polypays and other breeds.

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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby HomesteadNowhere » Sun Dec 30, 2018 9:48 pm

Thanks I hadn't heard about the NSIP sale before. I'll be there in May for the Great Lakes fiber show and there is the Banner (I think?) sheep show/auction. I hadn't got a chance to see the previous years I've been but I plan to make time this year and am hoping to meet up with some BFL breeders over that weekend as well.

I don't know why I thought Polypay were that big. Now of course I can't find anything online to say average size. I don't know... Well I guess that puts polypay back on the consideration list. I'm always on the watch to see what people within decent distance of me are raising. And if polypays do as well as they seem then they could make a good fit.
However wool quality is still questionable. As a composite breed and no set standards of wool traits I'm thinking wool in different flocks will vary quite considerably. So that will be something I'll have to look at. Although if they do as well as they seem then I could breed for better wool pretty well in a couple generations.
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Mon Dec 31, 2018 11:38 am

All the breeds of sheep you have talked about are incredibly different from one another. They differ incredibly in size and wool and temperament etc... Corriedales are huge. Rams can easily be 275-300+ pounds. Shetlands are tiny. You are starting with a bunch of crosses that you plan to further cross and then further cross- there is nothing that can lead us to believe that you can end up with something uniform or reliable in the end. You will always be comparing apples to oranges. Wool will never be consistent which is fine if you can sell it all to hand spinners but can you if your flock keeps growing? You may have an interest in wool, even a passion for it but it is hard for me to believe that with the breeds you have chosen that the wool money is going to be a main source of income for you, if the secondary market doesn't even cover the cost of shearing. Being able to sell 10-15 fleeces a year private treaty is just a bonus, not a livelihood. You are focusing on producing a luxury item which is an eternal bet on the economy.

My flock which is 13 years old in 2 months, I started just like you except mine were all bottle lambs. They were finn/dorset, dorset or dorset/suffolk. Then I bought some really mixed up sheep like karakul and finn and bfl etc..- I bought 3 of those. All different sizes, types and wool. Based on what I had I decided that I was strictly commercial meat and that I would focus on having the most number of lambs per ewe for the greatest profit. My motley crew was not going to ever top the sale barn in price for fat lambs but I would make it up with more lambs. That was my strategy. So I stuck with my Finn theme and either used a finn/dorset, straight dorset or for a while a Texel/finn ram. I culled ewes that didn't have enough lambs consistently- although I was done culling for that within 3 years. Finns are stellar mommas. Dorsets, commercial style/production style are also great sheep. I never kept back a suffolk crossed lamb from my 2 suffolk crosses because they never failed to succumb to parasites first, even though their mothers were amazing in every other way. Then just 5 years ago, I bought a tunis ram and about the same time a purebred finn ram. My flock turned orange but number of lambs born did not drop which they will if you give the Tunis a chance to drop it. Then I realized last year that Tunis are the best tasting sheep- yes, even sheep, on the whole planet along with a bunch of other people and I ended up figuring out how to make more money per lamb with direct sales and the farmers market. So, in the 12th year of raising sheep, I finally came into my own and bought another orange ram. My flock is still a motley crew- I have 13 year old sheep and down and they have not changed their spots though I breed them every year. I also added some hair sheep in Missouri when I moved here. I have 75 head of sheep so far, working to 150.

Your goals are VERY long term, they get longer the more breeds you add. It really doesn't ever straighten itself out either. Mine never did. I just settled on 2 traits, able to raise trips unassisted and great tasting meat and then the rest doesn't really matter except parasite tolerance which nobody can afford to ignore anyway. Those 2 traits make raising sheep long term possible for me. Can your focus and goals and the way you attempt to arrive at them carry you long term? In a recession?

I like you. You are thoughtful and a planner and on this forum and I would like to see you with us in 10 years. So maybe fewer goals? People spend their lifetime on your perfect sheep quality list, on even just a few of the traits. No matter how great a sheep raiser you are, you won't blow through them. Also, people who try not to feed their sheep, who decide to make their flock subsist on pasture and do not improve it or obsess over it and work hard at it, just end up starving their sheep. There are a thousand conversations to have on your short list. But just a few thoughts here FWIW.

Kirsten
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby HomesteadNowhere » Mon Dec 31, 2018 3:27 pm

Do you think a more realistic program would be to keep the breed crosses separate, like different breeding lines? Then I could compare the lines against each other to determine which line to continue with.
BFL x shetland. The next year shetland mules crossing back to BFL and mule to mule.
BFL x Corriedale. The next year corri mules crossing back to Corriedale and mule to mule.
I would prioritize twins, growth, and parasite resistance. The other traits would be easier to sort out down the line as long as I cull hard for these while building the flock.

I have been collecting pictures of the sheep crosses I have been interested in. Pictures of the sheep and fleeces. And collecting bits of information about the crosses from various facebook groups, forums, and blogs. The shetland mules have been the most easily compiled as they are fairly common enough cross.
"BFL rams over shetland ewes, creating shetland mules, was a beautiful cross... The wool and hardiness were outstanding on ewes that were about 120#, twinned easily, and never with assistance.
mature Mules who are around 120-130 pounds.
My largest cross lambs were 70 pounds at 3.5 months of age! Absolutely incredible. The Finn crosses were also between 58 and 69 pounds, and the rest of the mules were 45-66 (again all at just 3.5 months of age!) These lambs are coming from ewes that are between 65 and 95 pounds so for the most part, I was very pleased with the crosses."

I have several pictures of Corriedale x shetland crosses but not Corriedale x bfl. I had considered when I got the Corriedales I might put half to a shetland and half to the BFL and compare the lambs and fleece. As well as the shetland influencing the frame size. I was thinking when I picked out Corriedale ewes that I'd go for the slightly smaller ewes. And I'd just breed for growthy lambs but away from the biggest adults being over like 180#-ish.
With my shetland breeder friends several of them bring in a terminal sire for market lambs that is a heavier meatier breed but will choose a smaller ram of what's available so as not to be too big over the shetland ewes. One used a half shetland half cormo ram for several years then got a border cheviot ram lamb. Two of my shetland crosses are from her. The same border cheviot sire but one's dam was a shetland and the other's dam was 75% shetland 25% cormo. Looking at them you can only tell a difference in them because one has a docked tail and is ever so slightly taller. And their fleece is very similar to Corriedale.
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby HomesteadNowhere » Mon Dec 31, 2018 6:14 pm

I also think I need to clarify a little.

I'm not expecting to produce the biggest nicest lambs at the auction. I'm wanting to make enough with the meat lambs sales to feed the sheep, etc, and have some money to invest in the wool aspects. (The wool is basically going to be a different business to make the math less complicated.) But I understand that producing better market lambs means more money to continue with the sheep and then with the wool.
I have estimates on what I can expect for lamb sales. I have estimates on what I can expect for wool sales. If the numbers didn't lead me to think I could do this and work my way up to being entirely self employed from it I would be considering other things. And I have considered other things as well.

I'm not planning on continually introducing new breeds. I do have a few breeds earmarked that I am interested in if in the future I was going to do some test breeding like that. For now I would be focusing on this couple breeds and then continuing from the offspring produced.

I realize that I'm not going to have a homogeneous flock in four years. In four years or so I hope to have a good base flock that has been culled down to the best producing animals. This would be the beginning of breeding toward animals that breed true, that produce animals looking and producing like themselves.
Katie
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby HomesteadNowhere » Tue Jan 01, 2019 1:29 am

As to wool I think you're underestimating what properly marketed wool goes for. For nice wool, decently clean, I'll be starting at $15/lb. Better fleeces, coated fleeces, price goes up from there.

Going with an average of 5# skirted fleece per sheep. 5# x $15= $75 - 5.50 shearing per head= $69.95 x 30 ewes= $2,085.
That would be an equivalent of 15.5 market lambs at $135/head which is the low for the 40-60# (not choice or prime) at the auction for this year.

Let's say I sell other fleeces and am left with 30 fleeces as above and I have it milled into yarn...
#5 x 30 sheep= 150# minus 30% cleaning loss= 105# wool = 420 skeins yarn (4oz)
105# x $26/lb processing into yarn= $2,730 + $165 shearing costs= $2,895
$2,895 divided by 420 skeins = $6.90 cost to me per skein
420 x $17 skein sale price= $7,140 (I'm selling wool in yarn form for $68 a lb)
7,140 - 2,895= $4,245 to me

-If I dye yarn the price per skein would be more like $20+ per skein.
-If I get something worked out with the three yarn stores I've contacted I will have those three avenues each for something a little different. One would probably want to work wholesale with me for my hanspun, which goes significantly higher than mill spun. One I think will want to work wholesale for rovings and mill spun yarns. One is small and new but I think open to just about anything I could make and bring to sell there.
-I go to four festivals each year to sell wool/yarn/handmade items.
-I've been considering finding someone to work with that I would sell my yarns to and they can sell them online.
Katie
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Thu Jan 03, 2019 11:28 am

I think you should go ahead with all your plans. I didn't mean to imply you shouldn't.

I think you should add the corriedales to produce larger lambs. As a note though, if one knows how to flip a sheep, the bigger, 170-200 pound sheep are often easier to flip than the small ones. Even if you fall down with your sheep, 100 times out of a 100 times, you get up faster than the sheep! You always win. I am only 5'4".

Your wool is still a luxury item and pricey. Even more expensive than I thought. I hope that works out for you. I definitely want you to succeed in sheep long term. We need more shepherds and more wool shepherds.

However, a business should be planned on the bottom dollar, not the top. When I started selling lambs, the price for fats was 89 cents. I base my business model on seeing a profit which will keep me in the sheep business on $1 a pound. It seems that we generally exceed that but the ups and downs of the market don't make me want to quit in difficult years. Then finally even, I have found part of the way around the market dictating my income.
But because I can make $250 per sheep sold at market, I don't decide that I can sell all 140 lambs this year at that rate. Or all 140 at $150 any year. How about when I have 300 lambs? I don't plan my life around premium prices. My 2 cents.

kirsten
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby HomesteadNowhere » Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:53 pm

I'm a little confused because these are based on bottom dollar.
Assuming low meat lamb prices. Assuming high waste in wool processing. Assuming I sell yarn at the low range of wool yarn prices. Assuming I sell fleece at the low range of raw wool prices. And I have done research for all of these prices and ranges.

I pulled up the market reports of the auction I will be taking lambs to. I wrote down the prices for 40-60# lambs (not choice, not prime) for all of this year and last year. Jan 2 auction #40-60 went $200-240. But I know this is the higher price time and that I won't be lambing to hit this market. I'm not expecting to get $240 for my lambs. Especially not this fall when my lambs will all be shetland crosses that won't look real heavy and nice beside more hefty breed lambs.
In Sept the price was $135-180, $125-170, $110-192, $120-177
In June the price was $140-180, $135-180, $150-200, $165-200

Going forward I plan to lamb in March. Once I have mule ewes kept back I can see if they'll breed in September and give me lambs in February, and see if that works for me or if I have issues with lambing in the month we get the harshest winter weather.
When I get the Corriedale ewes I could see how it goes breeding in april for sept lambs that hit the dec/jan market. Or is parasites a huge pain to make it worth doing? I could see how it goes breeding in Aug/sept for jan/feb lambs. Or is it crap to try breeding in the heat and end up with really low lambing rates to bother with a second lambing a year to manage around?
At this point I think keeping a fall breeding and spring lambing will work the best. I can aim for the may/june market before the price drops much and real light stragglers can go in my freezer or sold locally. If there's several too light to market I could possibly keep them until the September market without too much issue and they'd be in the higher weight range. Although I don't think I'll need to do that.
Katie
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby HomesteadNowhere » Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:05 pm

At this point I'm still planning to get a BFL ram after I sell the lambs. And to get a few Corriedale ewes next year. Everything else is subject to change. But changes will be made based on a lot of thinking and information. That's why I posted here. There is another forum I post about sheep on but it is all small producers. I think it is good to also look for advice places like this that is larger producer based. You get different thinking and ideas and different reasoning if you have 10 ewes or 100 ewes or 1000 ewes. Since I am aiming to increase my flock and to make them more profitable it makes sense to ask people who have more animals and reason more based on production.
Someone who has 100 ewes and two that are old favorites is going to have different answers than someone with 10 nonbreeding sheep who also 'rescues' old laying hens :roll: :lol:
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby Saffronsheepranch » Wed Jan 09, 2019 11:24 am

HI.
Where are you in east central Ohio? I have a friend in Newark who has done better in sheep than I ever will. If you live close to him, he might be an excellent sheep friend for you.
Out of curiosity, had you already computed the prices the lambs were bringing or did you just copy what was on the auction page?
Such as 40-60 lb lambs bringing 200-240? We read this on the auction site and then we do math. Let's take the average: 50 lb lamb brings 2.20 a pound= $110 per lamb. Just checking. I know they get really good prices at New Holland but 4.85+ per lb for a 50 lb lamb just sounds pretty miraculous, especially given that Easter is still 3 months away in January. If that is true, I believe I could justify that trucking expense, especially at the current price of fuel.

Fall lambing has a lot of benefits: low parasite loads being chief among them which means better gains. It is easier on the ewes and it seems to me they lamb better and easier and regain condition faster. With everyone glued to the hay feeder, they are all easier to manage and inspect. It seems like you just turn around and have grown lambs by the time Spring arrives without any added effort or noise, counting or walking.
But starting with a Spring lambing for the whole flock is best. Fall lambing can be very iffy and the right ram is necessary.

This year, I have some sort of crazy mess going on. We had a severe or extreme drought this year and it affected the settling rates of cattle and sheep and I still don't know why. I would put a ram in and discover after I removed him that ewes were not bred, so I returned the ram, then I put in a new ram who was really too young and then I put in another older ram who died and then I gave up. So lambing is from Jan 29th to May something and I have no idea if they are really bred or not. I usually lamb in 17-20 days and I am done. Trying to manage a 4 month lambing is kind of a nightmare for a lot of reasons I won't list but I couldn't let it go because the yearly mortgage needs to be paid. I cannot afford for them not to be bred. I suspect I will also be Fall lambing the misses too. Such a thing has never happened before. I am a very organized micro-manager and now I am not sure when to do the cdts, when to add the ctc as insurance for past problems, I will need to feed grain for MUCH longer, have hay on hand about year round. The only good thing about all this is that my feedlots will be built so I can sort everyone and try to save some money on feed costs. Still it will be a total mess. I love lambing but 4 straight months is a bit insane for a few 70 some sheep. But things happen and you roll with it.

kirsten
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Re: Changing direction and growing the flock

Postby HomesteadNowhere » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:24 pm

The prices are from the market report. http://www.mthopeauction.com/market_reports I wrote down prices from jan 2017 to current for 40-60# and 60-80#. I hope to update my notepad periodically until lambing then watch it closely through weaning and cross my fingers. From jan 2017 until now there was only 4 times it went below $135 for the lower prices, the lowest being $110. It seems that market prices don't quite follow the expected price rise/fall exactly.

It's not quite 2hrs to Newark, depending on where in the area they are. I'm about an hour or so to Pittsburgh pa. Quite east and not really north and not really south, I call it east central :lol:
I have sheep friends ranging from a few miles away to all across the country, mostly online and meeting up at events now and then. A few people in the spinners and weavers guild have sheep and I chat with them a lot but they all have smaller flocks. Except one woman who has a nice commercial flock, "largely Dorset, with Ile de France, Polypay, and South African Meat Merino influences". I'd considered getting some ewes from her.
Katie
Homestead Nowhere


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