Sunday, February 1, 2009

Katahdin hair sheep & buying stock

I'm experimenting with a small crop of sheep; I chose the katahdin sheep breed because you don't have to shear them every year -- they shed their wood on their own. I suppose you could collect it, but I'm more interested in the lamb than the fibre. This is the ram we're looking at.
I also have a couple of more traditional sheep. The 2nd sheep from the left with the black face is a traditional sheep. The wool coat is nearly permanent -- they don't shed at all. I traded a couple of piglets for a couple of sheep, because sheep farmers can only eat so much mutton, and pig farmers can only eat so much pork. So for both of us it was a welcome change.

Buying stock
One thing that Matt Butler (friend of mine who operates of Plum Creek piggery a few miles from my farm) has said to me is that "No farmer will sell you the gold". What he means is that when you approach someone to buy an animal, the first thing that runs through the farmers head is the animal that they'd most like to get rid of. That's not a bad thing. Maybe it has a bad attitude, but it'll taste just as good. With breeding stock this is particularly true.

What's wrong with those sheep?

The sheep I purchased came from a fellow who was culling them from his herd; the main complaint he had about these particular ewes is that they only produced twin lambs, not triples. Most of the rest of his herd produced triples, and that's what he wanted to maintain. When you're buying animals that you want to breed you want to know why they're being sold. From time to time you'll find someone getting out of the business entirely, but most often what you will be offered will not be the top stock the fellow has unless you're also paying top dollar for that stock. I wanted a small flock of sheep so I could learn what the husbandry was like, and the "twins not triples" defect was just fine for me. But if I were going to bet the house on my sheep flock, the extra 30% lamb production might spell the difference between success and failure. So when you're buying an animal for breeding, ask why they're selling that one. If no reason is given, a simple test is to ask to purchase another animal at the same price. Did the guy flinch? Are there suddenly reasons you can't do that? Or was there an agreeable smile and a handshake?

I believe that they're starting to show that they're pregnant. Looking forward to the lambs in couple of months. Baby lambs are pretty darned cute.

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