Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Counting Sheep

There is nothing that makes me lose more sleep then the sheep. I know its sounds crazy but probably out of all the things I do here at the farm (milk Nubian goats, make cheese, grow a market garden, host farm table dinners, raise hens for eggs and meat) the sheep have got me over a barrel. Maybe they are just the scape goat (hardy har har) for the inadequacy I feel sometimes in regards to my own ability to farm.

So here's the deal I have now 43 ewes, I have 40 female lambs, and 37 male lambs, these are what we call the butcher lambs. I have a lot of pasture for them but the pasture is not that great and with this drought not growing either. So in order to keep them happy, with the help of my two interns we move the sheep nearly everyday. This is quite an undertaking. it takes a lot of time and effort and at the end of it all i'm not completely sure its worth it. Hay prices are going to be high and my cost are going to go up. So far I've just been able to break even and cover my costs.... but lordy I have bills to pay and I need to see some kind of profit here.

So I'm considering giving up on the sheep business and just cutting my losses.

but here's the deal again,
Sheep are beautiful. I love watching them graze I know they are helping the pasture instead of harming it, I like the fact that I produce pastured lamb which is healthy and nutritious that was raised sustainably and with care and ...love. I like having that say over the meat I eat and raise for others. There is nothing more beautiful than holding a newborn lamb or listen to the chewing sounds that sing out like a brilliant choir when the sheep are let into a new pasture.

I'm on the fence about this. I'm weighing out the pros and cons the problem is the cons are logical and based on numbers and time and energy the pros are emotionally driven and based on things that are difficult to quantify.

Could I cut down on the flock. Yes, and If I do decide to keep sheep I will do just that, but I still need to go beyond hobby shepherding and actually get to a point where they are contributing some green back to this here venture. Is it possible? in all honesty I haven't figured it out. I've spent what probably seems like hours on the phone with my friend Nanc crying on her shoulder. She also raises sheep. I'm crunching numbers and counting losses and try to predict gains and hope that some light is shed and I can do this and do this well.

But I'm a busy girl trying to do a lot of things and I need some down time, some time to kick back. In one week I'll be 45! I cant run around like I'm 44 any longer. But serously I want sheep in my life, I want goats in my life and chickens. I want a beautiful garden I want to produce food for myself and make a life of producing food for others.

So who knows


Cassandra said...

They really are lovely animals. I hope you're able to find a good balance. Hang in there!

Judy Gex said...

I am feeling your angst! I am 47 this year and between the garden and the chickens, I barely have time to breathe. We need a group for mutual farm therapy.

nanc said...

Here's the thing, whether you have 4 sheep or 40, you're not a hobby farm (you, Lisa, Living Kitchen.) So you can cut back to as many as what you think are right for you. Or cut back to less, keeping only the best of the best, and build back from there. This is *the* year to sell any fringe doers, if ever there was one.

Lisa said...

Cassandra, thanks. and I will. Judy, seroiusly you are so right! you want to take this on? I'll be the first to join!
Nanc, always the voice of reason:)

Anonymous said...

Hope it works out. You have to keep having fun or it is not worth all the work.