The past two days I have been attending the American Dorper Sheep Breeders Society Mid-American Show and Sale in Duncan, Oklahoma. This event is fairly close to where I live, meaning travel expenses are lower than if I went to other events.
Why do I attend this event? I am a sheep farmer raising Dorper sheep. Attending this event I have to opportunity to meet with and talk to other Dorper Sheep breeders. I study their animals and their bloodlines. As a sheep farmer I will need to purchase breeding rams for my farm every two to three years. I want to know what other sheep breeders raise that would benefit my breeding plans for my sheep.
It is an event that brings anxiety as I am very nervous in large crowds. This year the event was even more crowded. With the lifting of many of the moretoriams due to Covid-19, people were able to travel, show and sale their sheep from states that previously they had not been able to travel to. The event is also a large learning time for me to study sheep and bloodlines. I also get to connect with sheep farmers whose sheep I like and want to put their bloodlines in my flock. Sheep farmers are able to see what the sheep look like that others are breeding and what bloodlines they are using with their sheep.
Sheep farmers like looking at others sheep. Talk to each other about the influences in the sheep agriculture business. Mostly, they like to show they have the best sheep. Yes, the show is very competitive. When the sale day arrives, there are some sheep who fetch a very high price as there are sheep farmers wanting to improve their sheep, and bring in different bloodlines.
Two years of not being able to buy rams and ewes with different bloodlines, put the breeding plans on a holding pattern of just maintaining the quality of their sheep, without improving their sheep.
When you live in an area, the area gets saturated with certain bloodlines. Breeding only those bloodlines does not improve your sheep, but can cause your sheep to degrease, as the recessive genetics start showing up as dominant traits. With these large show and sales, sheep farmers are offered the opportunity for bloodlines very different than the ones they have.
Several sheep farmers in different states are bringing in bloodlines from Australia to diversify the bloodlines in the United States. Sheep embryos are purchased, shipped to the United States and implanted in a ewe in their flock. The expense of shipping embryos is much less than trying to ship a sheep. This method is too expensive for me at this time. But I have learned at the event, a sheep farmer and friend has done that and the embryo produced a ram. Great news as a ram will put the bloodlines in many lambs, where a ewe will only put the bloodlines in her lambs.
At this event I met and talked with a breeder and we became friends. They were also able to tell me about the new ram I purchased. The information was most helpful. I am looking forward to more visits as they are close to where I live. Although it will be difficult to purchase sheep from them, since the new ram I purchased came from ewe and ram they had sold to the person I purchased the ram from. Sharing knowledge and conversation will be good.
At the sale I purchased three ewes to add to my breeding program. The person I had purchased the ewes from has been most friendly to us. Has wanted to help us in the sheep business. He has definitely encouraged me to on improving my sheep and showing my sheep. Although I did not have a sheep to show this year. I do have a couple to show next year. He was so thrilled we purchased sheep from him.
Some things I left with I need to learn more about artificial insemination and looking into doing embryo transfers. I also need to find a veterinarian who has working knowledge of the procedures and does them with a good success rate. I will be busy for the next year learning more about being a sheep farmer.
Regardless of what you do for income or as a hobby, there is always more to learn. I need to learn to move forward and improve in what I am doing as a sheep farmer, and with the other things I do with my life.