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Old 05-12-2009, 05:16 AM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,157,444 times
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It was that annual day which means a whole lot of work, both preceding the big event and during Shearing Day. After spending spending Saturday, Sunday and Yesterday getting ready, I am taking it easy today. I think I deserve it, I got 40 hours of work in already this week and that was just working Sunday and Monday!!

It was one calamity to another too, from some sheep getting out overnight and getting soaked by rain, to some escape artist sheep during the middle of it. The sheep shearer was not ready either, with some dull shears, clippers that lost a bolt, and a smaller comb that made the job slower then it had to be.

The sheep were not very cooperative either, but somehow they managed to live through it, though they were jumping with vigor once their shed those 10 pound coats. It always amuses me to watch each sheep reaction of suddenly going on a diet, and how a sheep can look like a sheep one minute, and then look like a goat the a few minutes later.

All in all the wool crop on my sheep was WAY down this year, hitting a low of about 6.5 pounds per head on rather big sheep (Montadales/Hampshires). I was hoping to get a bit more in the 8-9 pound range. I was also hoping the price for wool was a bit higher too. I expected to get about $8 dollars per head with a shearer charging $10 dollars per head to do it. (Gross loss of -$2) Instead the price was $1.89 per head, though the shearer only got $5 dollars per head. (Gross loss of -$3.11).

In a perfect world I would try to tap the wool market a bit better and at least break even on the wool. Right now though it is too depressing to do so. It would take a lot of investment, inputs and manergerial changes to break even, and that is a lot to go through to still not make any money.

I pretty much shear the sheep because its a requirement of owning sheep and just part of best management practices for wool sheep. For awhile I considered Hair Sheep, but after calculating the lambing percentages, it became clear that the Katadins and their lack-luster twining rates were not going to cut it. Even running a loss on the wool, the wooly sheep make up for that loss by having a better birthing rate, and that is where the money is. Another little known fact about Hair Sheep is that they are NOT preferred by the ethnic market. If you sell sheep on the wholesale market, or directly to the ethnic market, hair sheep (because of their inferior genetics) will gross you a 12-15% loss. Based on the lambing numbers, and additional loss at market, I opted to forego the hair sheep and stick with the woolies.

You just gotta love farming some days. 20 hour days and you still lose money!
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Old 05-12-2009, 06:49 AM
 
2,421 posts, read 6,363,824 times
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I wouldnt mind seeing an American shearing operation. Just to compare it with an Australian one.

I'm Not at all familiar with American breeds (We've only ever run Merino). But the rest of your descriptions are quite familiar.

Last edited by Kangaroofarmer; 05-12-2009 at 07:44 AM..
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Old 05-12-2009, 09:24 AM
 
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There are lots of differences, primarily NZ and Australia breeding for the wool quality, while in the US we breed for meat quality. For that reason we tend to enjoy the longer breeds like the Suffolk and Hampshire. These are long bodied breeds that give you a longer lamb chop and they forage better.

Here the conversion of weight per day is a huge factor too. I have heard of people making the claims that Suffolk could gain 3 pounds per day, but I find that a bit over the top. It would depend upon what they are eating, how much and for how long...certainly nothing sustainable. I mean that would mean a Suffolk lamb could go from 10 pounds to 130 pounds in less than 6 weeks...I don't think so.

Still the Suffolk is king, and while I no longer raise them, they are the top breed in the USA. In fact 1 of 4 sheep in the USA is a Suffolk if that tells you the kind of numbers they have. They are a good breed, but prone to disease like Scrapie. Yes Scrapie has turned up in Montadales, but the numbers are low because the percentage is low.

Like anything you must match the breed to the farm, and for many in the USA on range land, Suffolk's work. I have Montadales and it is clearly seen that they are for rangelands as well...always have their noses in the grass and eating. They put on some good weight though...½ pound per day perhaps...and if I could get more of them I would. No such luck though, they tend to be well West of the Mississisppi and I live in Maine.
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Old 05-13-2009, 12:22 AM
 
Location: Valley City, ND
625 posts, read 1,675,103 times
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Not everyone breeds ONLY for meat. We had a little over 200 ewes, but most were Columbia X Rambouillet crosses. Then we'd use suffolk & Hampshire bucks and feed out all the lambs. We'd also buy in around 1500 head of western feeder lambs each fall. These were usually Columbia, Targhee, Rambouillet crosses crossed w/blackfaced bucks, real similar to what we were raising ourselves. I grew up in Minnesota.

With the Rambouillet blood helping give finer, higher quality wool, we always came out very well...always made more than what it cost to shear, both with the ewes & the lambs.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BrokenTap View Post
There are lots of differences, primarily NZ and Australia breeding for the wool quality, while in the US we breed for meat quality. For that reason we tend to enjoy the longer breeds like the Suffolk and Hampshire. These are long bodied breeds that give you a longer lamb chop and they forage better.

Here the conversion of weight per day is a huge factor too. I have heard of people making the claims that Suffolk could gain 3 pounds per day, but I find that a bit over the top. It would depend upon what they are eating, how much and for how long...certainly nothing sustainable. I mean that would mean a Suffolk lamb could go from 10 pounds to 130 pounds in less than 6 weeks...I don't think so.

Still the Suffolk is king, and while I no longer raise them, they are the top breed in the USA. In fact 1 of 4 sheep in the USA is a Suffolk if that tells you the kind of numbers they have. They are a good breed, but prone to disease like Scrapie. Yes Scrapie has turned up in Montadales, but the numbers are low because the percentage is low.

Like anything you must match the breed to the farm, and for many in the USA on range land, Suffolk's work. I have Montadales and it is clearly seen that they are for rangelands as well...always have their noses in the grass and eating. They put on some good weight though...½ pound per day perhaps...and if I could get more of them I would. No such luck though, they tend to be well West of the Mississisppi and I live in Maine.
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Old 05-13-2009, 05:52 AM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,157,444 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3-Oaks View Post
With the Rambouillet blood helping give finer, higher quality wool, we always came out very well...always made more than what it cost to shear, both with the ewes & the lambs.
I think the market has died in the last year. I know its pretty bad. The Gov did redo some of the military uniforms to include some more wool to help bump the industry, and obviously by rights the wool must be USA wool.

The United Nations is trying to, making 2009 an official Natural Fiber Arts year, but with the economy so bad on such a large scale, I think there are bigger issues at work like feeding people and getting the economy back more so then trying to get people to switch from nylon to wool.
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Old 05-13-2009, 10:48 AM
 
2,421 posts, read 6,363,824 times
Reputation: 3819
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrokenTap View Post
There are lots of differences, primarily NZ and Australia breeding for the wool quality, while in the US we breed for meat quality. For that reason we tend to enjoy the longer breeds like the Suffolk and Hampshire. These are long bodied breeds that give you a longer lamb chop and they forage better.

Here the conversion of weight per day is a huge factor too. I have heard of people making the claims that Suffolk could gain 3 pounds per day, but I find that a bit over the top. It would depend upon what they are eating, how much and for how long...certainly nothing sustainable. I mean that would mean a Suffolk lamb could go from 10 pounds to 130 pounds in less than 6 weeks...I don't think so.

Still the Suffolk is king, and while I no longer raise them, they are the top breed in the USA. In fact 1 of 4 sheep in the USA is a Suffolk if that tells you the kind of numbers they have. They are a good breed, but prone to disease like Scrapie. Yes Scrapie has turned up in Montadales, but the numbers are low because the percentage is low.

Like anything you must match the breed to the farm, and for many in the USA on range land, Suffolk's work. I have Montadales and it is clearly seen that they are for rangelands as well...always have their noses in the grass and eating. They put on some good weight though...½ pound per day perhaps...and if I could get more of them I would. No such luck though, they tend to be well West of the Mississisppi and I live in Maine.
Is growing sheep for meat common right across the US? Are there regions that tend to favour wool production? Also, how do you deal with Winter...Maine gets snow right?

Scrapie? Heard of it! (It affects the nervous system). But We just don't get it down here.

We manily run "Peppin" Merino becuase of their hardyness in dry conditions and That They'll give an excellent clip if the seasons good!

Here in the Central Wheatbelt of Western Australia. You can quite easily run South African Meat Merino (SAMM) and even maybe Dorset instead. If you're primarily going after the meat market? and with the fairly poor state of the wool market here. Many around us have gone for that option.

Though most have completely gone out of sheep, prefering larger cropping operations. Due to having almost no shearing teams in the area.
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Old 05-14-2009, 12:58 PM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,157,444 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kangaroofarmer View Post
Is growing sheep for meat common right across the US? Are there regions that tend to favour wool production?
Oh yeah for sure. There is a list of states that the USDA (US Dept of Agriculture) designates as wool producing states. They get a few more options on selling their wool to the Wool Deficiency Loan Program, which is essentially a crop insurance program then non-wool states. Even then, that program has sporadic funding so from farm bill to farm bill you never know if they will help pay for your low quality wool or not.

Overall sheep are considered a "minor species" of livestock here, but there again certain states do a bit better then others. In my case, Maine is NOT a sheep state so the chances of me getting any funding to help me raise sheep is very limited. I do get some help with this farm but it is because my farm raises feed for dairy cows which has priority in this state. It's all about priority, so even though I might be entitled to improve my pasture for my sheep, I'll probably never actually get the money to do so, unless I can put the request in under crop land for the dairy cows. Then the priority level completely changes...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kangaroofarmer View Post
Also, how do you deal with Winter...Maine gets snow right?
Yeah Maine gets plenty of snow. Last year we did not have much, but it was cold...the coldest on record. (-45.3 below, Fahrenheit, no wind chill factored in), but the year before we had the most snow on record at 197½ inches. Still sheep are VERY hardy and was one of the reasons I decided to get back into sheep. In this family's 386 year history, from 1623-1976 we had sheep, and then returned them to the farm in 2008. They do well here, and Maine and Vermont have the best topography and climate for pastures. Our stocking rate is around 8 sheep per acre which is pretty incredible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kangaroofarmer View Post
Scrapie? Heard of it! (It affects the nervous system). But We just don't get it down here.
The beauty of living on an Island huh? Of course it is a mighty big island. We got the disease a long time ago from some imported stock from England and its been here ever since. Its no big deal, and my flock did have a trace-back which resulted in the death of one of the ewes. The USDA must have a dead animal to test, so unfortunately when the ewes orginal flock turned up some Scrapie-Positive ewes, it was either have it killed and tested, or be in quarantine for the next 5 years. Not hard to figure out the best choice on that deal. I think the compensation was around $320 dollars for a ewe that had a cost of $600 dollars (purchase, transportation, etc).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kangaroofarmer View Post
We manily run "Peppin" Merino becuase of their hardyness in dry conditions and That They'll give an excellent clip if the seasons good!

Here in the Central Wheatbelt of Western Australia. You can quite easily run South African Meat Merino (SAMM) and even maybe Dorset instead. If you're primarily going after the meat market? and with the fairly poor state of the wool market here. Many around us have gone for that option.

Though most have completely gone out of sheep, prefering larger cropping operations. Due to having almost no shearing teams in the area.
I had heard that Australia was in the midst of agricultural change. I have mixed feelings on it. I am glad your are willing to change and have the land and soil conducive to crop farming, but at the same time sheep farms and Australia just seem to go together.

Back in the 1840's sheep built New England. They needed the wool because its so darn cold here, and the woolen mills were powered by the many rivers. Cities grew up along the banks and it was 100% attributed to the lowley ole sheep.

Where I live, we are well away from the rivers, but we have good soil and so the trees were cleared to raise sheep so that wool could be produced to power the looms that built New England. I get grief around here because no one has sheep anymore, and yet I often point out that it was the sheep that came first and not the dairy cows. Words cannot convey how important sheep were to the agricultural industry from 1840-1947 here.

I hope your area does not succumb to the "progress" we have seen here as far as sheep goes.
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