Monday, August 29, 2011

The long view

Last week, Dave cut down the cotoneaster hedge on the west edge of our yard, as well as three young box elder trees sharing the space. We can now see across our driveway, the barnyard, three pastures and into the state “waterfowl protected area” land beyond. We can see the sheep in four of their nine pastures, grazing quietly against the hills and ponds of Otter Tail County. It’s a beautiful view that we have missed out on for thirty years because of that hedge.

We have spent the last several weeks discussing the purchase of ten goats. We bought all of our hay this year, so we know exactly how much it will cost to feed an animal over the winter - $150 for hay and $25 for corn. That means if each doe has two kids, we have to sell each kid for at least $90 to break even assuming we have no other expenses. Worming medications and vaccinations will cost about $5 per doe. And the kids will eat creep, need ear tags and vaccinations themselves.

Hashi, our student, isn’t sure that the Somalis he knows will pay that much for a 100# kid, and we don’t know how fast our kids will gain weight. When will they reach 100#s?

Once we figured out these statistics, we realized that they fit our own flock as well. I’ve always justified our low lamb prices because we also shear a fleece off of each ewe and that is eventually added income. But most of the fleeces need further processing before they can be sold, so the wool is a part of our long range planning. Each ewe should also produce two babies.

This year, for the first time we have made over $100 for each lamb sold. We are learning to value our work. Perhaps taking the long view will mean that we can actually make a reasonable amount of money off the flock

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