Fold or Perserve

For my occupation I am a sheep farmer. I raise sheep for meat and breeding stock. I enjoy being a sheep farmer. Watching lambs being born, growing and playing is my “television”. I do not care to watch television or a movie much. Watching the lambs is enjoyment.

Most of my ewes I have owned since birth. I know their personality and the sound of their baa. I have selected my sheep from the best that I had, selling off other lambs. Seven years I have worked to have the sheep I currently own.

It is time for me to purchase hay for the winter. We have been purchasing hay from an individual the past two years. Because my flock has been growing larger the last two years, we inform him how much hay for winter we will need in the spring. We let him know this spring how many bales of hay we would need, and he said he would have them for us at the end of summer when we pick up the hay. When we contacted him, he said he sold all his hay to a the local feed store for $105.00 USD per bale. The feed store is charging $260.00 USD for the same hay. I can not continue to raise sheep with hay cost at $260.00 USD per bale. The only place to purchase hay in my area is from the feed store or hay brokers in nearby towns who charge the same amount. I am forced to go to another state and haul my hay to Texas.

Since I am going to have travel to purchase hay, and purchase the hay at one time, I do not have the ready cash for such a purchase. For the first time, I am going to have to borrow money to keep my sheep business going. I have worked for thirteen years to get our personal finances out of debt. I am very reluctant to go into debt to keep the sheep.

I have worked hard to raise the quality of my sheep. I have four sheep consigned to a special Dorper sheep sale in October. My business plan for 2022 was to keep two lambs, a ram and a ewe, to grow up and show and sale in April 2023, and this is on schedule. I have four ewes that are going to have lambs in September, 15 ewes that will start having lambs in October. Five lambs will be ready to sell as market lambs in November/December. The plans were made last January on when I would be having lambs, when they would be ready to sale.

A lot of sheep farmers and cattle ranchers have sold off all their animals. They have folded with hopes of being able to rebuild next spring. There are some who are borrowing money, to keep going and hoping for a better year next year. With fewer sheep having lambs next year, and the demand for lamb meat staying the same, hopefully the price will go up on the market lambs that are produced, and the sheep farmer might be able to recoup the loss of paying so much for hay this winter.

The sad news is, if the price goes up for the market lambs raised by the sheep farmer, the price will go up for the consumer buying lamb meat for dinner. Once ewes or cows are removed from herds producing offspring to be sold for market, it takes a year or two to build those numbers back up to what they were this year.

Should I fold, call it quits or go into debt and preserve to keep all my hard work going forward?

After much prayer and contemplation, I am going to persevere, push ahead to keep going. I will not have the profit margin I calculated last January, I am going forward hoping to do well. I am hoping the market lambs I sell in December/January will bring a high price. The two I am raising to show and sale in April as breeding stock will bring good money. The plans of breeding ewes, producing lambs, and selling market lambs will provide more money than I did this year. Hopefully the drought ends, the hay grows abundant for all farmers.



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