Author Topic: The cost of starting with sheep  (Read 5574 times)

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #45 on: September 12, 2012, 11:39:15 pm »

What I said was - if you had a flock of 4 ewes and you sold a tup as a breeder each year, you would soon get a reputation for producing shite, and I stand by that. I have a small flock, in fact most of us on here have small flocks. 

(Sorry folks - for some reason you have to scroll down the blue bit above.)

While I believe that everyone has a right to their opinion Steve, I would say that if that is really what you have found out from experience, then either the Wiltshire Horn Breed Society is trying to perpetuate some very strange views or you may possibly have some problems with your own breeding stock which has led to you producing "shite."
There is absolutely no reason why any small breeder, with good quality breeding stock, should not, most years, produce at least one ram worth registering and selling at a premium.
You surely understand the hierarchy in any breed society. You have the elite breeders at the top, who have taken years to build up their reputation and who will get the top prices, often into £1,000s,  for their stock. Under these are other less known breeders who achieve lower, but still very attractive prices, and so it goes down the ladder, till you get to the commercial breeders  at the bottom who are still producing quality stock capable of fetching a good premium above meat prices. This is probably the level that most people with small flocks are aiming at. And I am sure this is the sort of thing Buffy was referring to when she talked about hoping to sell a good ram lamb for breeding each year.
From my own experience, this is perfectly possible. I have read what you said many times and I cannot understand why you should think that breeding from a  small flock = breeding "shite." Just as rubbish produces rubbish, so good stock will give you good offspring. Whether you have 4 or 400 does not alter the genetic potential..
I started many years ago with 6 pedigree, good quality Ryeland ewes, and an excellent aged ram (costing £25).
Each year I sold at least 1 registered ram lamb for breeding at about twice what it would have fetched for meat. Back fat measurements, muscle scanning etc are entirely irrelevant at this level. A well grown, good shaped lamb, whose parents can be seen stands for itself.  I eventually went out of Ryelands because of problems with dog worrying. I sold all my stock at the breed sale at York and got the top price for one of my shearlings, over stock from breeders who had won at the Yorkshire show.   
So Buffy's thoughts and aspirations are perfectly reasonable and attainable.
Of course if your stock management is poor then your animals won't reach their full potential. But I would think the main reason people use this forum is to ensure they are doing everything as well as possible for their animals.
So I'm sorry Steve, that your small flock of Wiltshire Horns only produced "shite." Maybe the breed just wasn't right for you. But I can assure you, that with good management and husbandry you can produce a reasonable return (not a fortune  :trophy: ) from a small starter flock of Ryelands. :sunshine:
 
 
« Last Edit: September 13, 2012, 03:20:49 am by landroverroy »
life's too short to be boring.

SteveHants

  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #46 on: September 17, 2012, 05:19:24 pm »
I've had a bit of a think how to respond to that post and I an only say this;


The original question on the thread was about flock costings, and I had said (and I stick by this) that it is better to underestimate than overestimate your potential income, because if you can balance the books in a bad year then good years are a bonus.



I had never intended to become a ram breeder anyway, and nor did I say my stock was 'shite'. However, if I ever did decide to sell a ram, it would be privately, and I am aware of the heirachy in some breed societies, which is why I'm not their biggest fan to put it mildly. Again, I think I advised that were I new to buying rams I would buy off farm, because producing rams should not be all about the point of sale.


Were I to sell a ram, it would be largeley within the ethos of the breed and therefore would have these attributes as a bare minimum (aside from the usual own limbs/teeth, pair of eyes etc):


1) Would have been born unaided (and I feel that this is a welfare issue as it goes - assisted births are more stressful than natural ones and the genetics should not be passed on)
2) Would have got up/sucked unaided
3) Would be one of twins (unless the customer specifically wanted a single, maybe to put to a very fecund breed)
4) Would never have gone off its feet/limped
5) Would have done off it mothers milk/grass and not needed concentrate feeding
6) Would have grown faster than its counterparts


I know not all breeds have the same 'attributes' as Wilts horns and therefore different things are important to breeders. I would say that a ram of any breed that did not have attributes 1, 2, 4 and 6 is not worth breeding from.


and, when I have the kit probably:


7) A high natural worm resistance


I do tend to do rams harder than flock ewes, with the possibility of a sale in the back of my mind, Id rather I discovered any errors than a customer did.

JFDI

  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Hertfordshire
Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #47 on: September 17, 2012, 06:20:48 pm »
This is a great thread with some thoughtful and considered ideas.  It has helped and informed me anyway.

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #48 on: September 17, 2012, 07:03:00 pm »
Like I said Steve, everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But I don't think it really gives a true impression to a beginner for you to say FOUR TIMES, as if it's gospel, that someone with a small flock will only produce shite rams and get a bad reputation if they sell them for breeding. This is patently untrue from my knowledge and experience (unless you are suggesting I'm lying.) And I don't understand where you have got this strong opinion from, if it's not from your own stock.
  Obviously from other posts, you have considerable knowledge and experience of sheep, so please don't think I'm trying to discredit your views. However, if I, as a small farmer, am selecting a new ram - as I am at present about to buy a fresh Suffolk tup - the main thing I am looking for is conformation and size.
The other 6 of the 7 points you mentioned are mainly (but not entirely) environmental or irrelevant, in my opinion, though obviously may be important to others.
Let me explain:
Point 1. Easy birth.  Could be important, especially in a breed like Texel, but not of greatest relevence in Ryelands, which I believe Buffy keeps. A difficult birth is often due to overfeeding the ewe in late pregnancy. (Hence scanning to determine number of lambs and state of pregnancy.) I wouldn't turn down a fantastic ram lamb because it was born by caesarian. But I would be careful of overfeeding the ewes carrying its offspring. 
         2. Quickly up on its feet. Again any problems here are more due to condition of ewe, extreme weather, or other external factors.  But if you have a thin skinned breed, eg Bleu du Maine, you would not expect them to lamb outside in a gale and sub zero temps, and if you did, the lambs would probably never get up. That doesn't mean they are no good - just in the wrong environment.
        3. Twins are due to multiple ovulation by the ewe, and can be affected by her plane of nutrition at tupping. It has NOTHING to do with the ram, unless you believe he normally only produces one sperm.
      4. Limping.  Environmental due to bacteria. They aren't born with scald or foot rot.
      5. Good growth with no concentrates.  If you are selling a ram, you show it at its best. To get the optimum price for a ram lamb it needs to be big. That generally means born early and fed concentrates to achieve maximum size at point of sale. If you don't feed your ram lamb to achieve optimum growth, you will lose your sale to the breeder who does.   
  6. Fast growing and therefore big for its age. Yes - this I agree with. But the seller will ensure optimum growth, again by feeding concentrates.   
  7. High Worm resistance.  I do not wish to insult you by saying that this is rubbish. (So I will think it but not say it :sunshine: .) There is no tool available to the smallholder to test worm  resistance. You can test for worms, but if you don't find many this doesn't prove the sheep have a genetic resistance. It just proves your husbandry is right and you're keeping the worms under control. Under different conditions the same sheep could be riddled with worms. To achieve optimum growth lambs must be kept as worm free as possible. Either by moving frequently onto clean pasture or worming regularly or grazing with a different species, or any combination of the 3. It has nothing to do with breeding so can not be cited as a selling point.
Finally, Steve, you say that you never intended to become a ram breeder,. . . and if you ever decide to sell a ram. . . This suggests that you never have, so with all due respect, I don't think you have the experience or knowledge to advise people who may be thinking of  selling breeding stock. You say that you do your rams harder than your flock ewes, and again  - this is NOT how you produce good rams for sale. If I buy a ram I want to see it at its best. I'm not going to pay a premium for one that has had to struggle to achieve a mediocre size.And if this is how the people you know treat their rams that they aim to sell, then it's no wonder that you have such a poor opinion of small scale ram breeders.       
But please - I'm not trying to insult you or rubbish your views - I have read many of your posts which are helpful and knowledgeable.
But on the subject of producing ram lambs for breeding I can assure you there are better ways than those  that you have been advised of.
 
 
 
life's too short to be boring.

SteveHants

  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #49 on: September 17, 2012, 08:10:58 pm »


1. Easy birth.  Could be important, especially in a breed like Texel, but not of greatest relevence in Ryelands, which I believe Buffy keeps. A difficult birth is often due to overfeeding the ewe in late pregnancy. (Hence scanning to determine number of lambs and state of pregnancy.) I wouldn't turn down a fantastic ram lamb because it was born by caesarian. But I would be careful of overfeeding the ewes carrying its offspring. 
       
        3. Twins are due to multiple ovulation by the ewe, and can be affected by her plane of nutrition at tupping. It has NOTHING to do with the ram, unless you believe he normally only produces one sperm.
      4. Limping.  Environmental due to bacteria. They aren't born with scald or foot rot.
      5. Good growth with no concentrates.  If you are selling a ram, you show it at its best. To get the optimum price for a ram lamb it needs to be big. That generally means born early and fed concentrates to achieve maximum size at point of sale. If you don't feed your ram lamb to achieve optimum growth, you will lose your sale to the breeder who does.   
  6. Fast growing and therefore big for its age. Yes - this I agree with. But the seller will ensure optimum growth, again by feeding concentrates.   
  7. High Worm resistance.  I do not wish to insult you by saying that this is rubbish. (So I will think it but not say it :sunshine: .) There is no tool available to the smallholder to test worm  resistance. You can test for worms, but if you don't find many this doesn't prove the sheep have a genetic resistance.



1) a difficult birth could be as a result of overfeeding, but has a genetic component, so why take the risk breeding from that ram?


3) Correct, twins/trips etc are a result of the number of eggs released by the ewe and it is hereditary, but I'm pretty sure its heritability isnt only down the maternal line, ergo, if you want to retain ewe lambs from your ewes and the ram you have just bought, then you will want a ram that also carries those genetics, that he will pass on to his daughters.


4) Some animals have a greater natural resistance to those bacteria than others. Ask any farmer who has culled for foot problems over a number of years. If I have a limper, and she doesn't get better in a couple of days, I trim, treat and cull. I buy animals off those who do the same. I am a grazier and run ewes over lots of different kinds of ground, including some overgrown stuff etc. I have seen two cases of full blown scald in my career.


5) You could always sell it privately. Lots of people are now wanting grass fed rams for the reason that they want to get their offspring to market weight off grass alone. As soon as you feed concentrates you mask those genes. Some of the more easy to find breeders who do this are Easyrams: http://www.easyrams.co.uk/ and Peter Baber http://www.baber.co.uk/ . The texel breed society also appears to be moving in this direction from a piece I read in the last "Sheep Farmer" (Edited to add: and of course, I forgot Meatlincs and Primeras)


7) FECs do this - you test each animal - you will then see who is carrying the biggest worm burden. Its easy enough to buy a microscope and a macmaster slide. In New Zealand, breeders associations actually give awards to flocks with the best natural antihalmic properties.
Apparently barbados black belly sheep have a very high natural worm resistance, and have been used in (very tiny part, cos they look like goats - ha) in breeding Exlanas.


Your other points, I'll just have to say I disagree with.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2012, 10:57:57 pm by SteveHants »

JFDI

  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Hertfordshire
Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #50 on: September 17, 2012, 10:52:40 pm »
Steve, I agree.

If I were buying a Suffolk tup now for commercial production (though it's really too late to be sure he's going to be in peak condition) I'd be basing my choice around EBVs and buying off-farm rather from an auction.  Genetics is much more important than size and conformation.

That means I'd need to understand the genetic characteristics of my ewes on my land with my production system so I can match the maternal and terminal sire indices.

That's the biggest difference between small flocks and commercial production though we can all cull out the weak or problematic performers.

SteveHants

  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #51 on: September 17, 2012, 11:02:31 pm »
Steve, I agree.

If I were buying a Suffolk tup now for commercial production (though it's really too late to be sure he's going to be in peak condition) I'd be basing my choice around EBVs and buying off-farm rather from an auction.  Genetics is much more important than size and conformation.

That means I'd need to understand the genetic characteristics of my ewes on my land with my production system so I can match the maternal and terminal sire indices.

That's the biggest difference between small flocks and commercial production though we can all cull out the weak or problematic performers.


Exactly - when I had a small flock, I had a different version of 'cull' anything that wasn't too problematic (eg whose feet I had to trim, not those who I had to assist at lambing, for me that is a red card every time), my culling was of their genetics, ie I'd use those lambs for meat, but not replacements - with small flocks its easy to keep very accurate records.


And funnily enough - I bought a pair of SufTex's this year for that very purpose (I do love a composite haha). 

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #52 on: September 17, 2012, 11:22:13 pm »
 That's fair enough Steve, there are as many ways of producing sheep as there are people producing them.
 But I believe you are talking about the theory, as you admit that you've never produced or sold a ram for breeding, and I am talking about the practice, backed by 30 years experience. 
Also, I don't understand why you keep suggesting selling privately. That is exactly where most small producers sell, as we aren't famous enough to compete at the big breed sales.   
As such, the buyers come and can see our stock, including their parents and siblings, and how we keep them. And that's exactly what I do when I get a replacement ram. Nobody at this level asks for written confirmation about how soon the ram stood at birth, whether it is a triplet or if its mother only lambs every second year, or how many worms were found at the last worm count. Do you honestly think someone will chose to breed from a small lamb, that was a twin, feeding within 20 seconds of birth, never had any concentrates, with a low faecal  egg count, over a large single lamb that you had no further information on? If you, or the people giving you all this information, would chose the former, then it's no wonder that all you are seeing is "shite"
I can prevent difficult births by the feeding programme of the ewe.
I can treat a lamb that limps. I've never had one that was untreatable.
I can flush the ewes so I get 200% + lambing.
I don't need to do FEC. Wormy lambs stand out a mile.
But to get a good shaped fast growing lamb, that will fetch the best price, whether for breeding or meat, then I will buy a good shaped, well grown ram.  Size and shape are to me the only important genetic characteristics that I will not compromise on.
 
 And JFDI, I'm not discounting EBVs - this is a useful tool for commercial flocks. But this post was originally about starting a small flock and you can't justify a high EBV ram for half a dozen ewes.   
 
« Last Edit: September 17, 2012, 11:31:10 pm by landroverroy »
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SteveHants

  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #53 on: September 17, 2012, 11:40:13 pm »

I can prevent difficult births by the feeding programme of the ewe.
I can treat a lamb that limps. I've never had one that was untreatable.
I can flush the ewes so I get 200% + lambing.
I don't need to do FEC. Wormy lambs stand out a mile.
But to get a good shaped fast growing lamb, that will fetch the best price, whether for breeding or meat, then I will buy a good shaped, well grown ram.  Size and shape are to me the only important genetic characteristics that I will not compromise on.


Prevent difficult births? So, you are saying that if you feed the ewes right, you'll never have to assist a lamb?
I only had to assist 2 last year out of 105, but thats still 2 too many for me. One was a large single and took 18 odd hours to suck, with me hand milking the ewe (who I had to catch and pen), the other was a set of twins, both coming at the same time, one with one of its front legs back and considerably smaller than the other. Both ewes will go.


I can treat a sheep that limps, but I don't want her genetics, thankyou. I treat her and then she goes, because 99% of my flock don't limp, and their daughters will be coming on and, Id much sooner keep one of those, given that it it more likely that they will never go off their feet either.


I tend not to flush ewes, but I see no problem with doing so. I find that I get nigh on that using lleyns and lleyn crosses on just decent grass, but different breeds are different.


Wormy lambs can stand out a mile, but you'd be surprised. This summer I had FECs done on a batch that looked otherwise ok (no scour, no pinch, spriteley little things), I just reckoned they weren't coming on as fast (which some people said was because it had been cold), all needed worming and had elevated levels of cocci.


And you are right, I don't produce rams for two reasons - firstly, I still only have a small flock of wiltshires and so am not really expecting to see one thats well above average, but if I do, I'll have no qualms about selling it.  Secondly, I am breeding a maternal line who are particular to what I want, and so I really hadn't considered that there would be a market for them, but if anybody wants a polled, woolshedding ram - I have some absolute crackers (some of which I'm keeping for myself  :P )


But what I do do is buy rams. I find it the easiest way to progress my flock quickly, and I know what I want to see, as a customer.

Edited to add: I do know people who would buy a twin who was up and sucking quickly etc as opposed to a massive single, admittedly it wouldn't be a small twin (as twins go). Thats what the indices on the EBV sheet relate to - a single would have a small litter size factor. Of course, you leave it up to the reputation of the ram breeder not to fiddle the info. Plenty of terminal sire producers (and maternal breed producers, come to that) especially are using EBVs, its one way to get around being a small flock owner, because you can compare to all the other terminal sire producers (across the breeds) who produce rams.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2012, 11:49:46 pm by SteveHants »

JFDI

  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Hertfordshire
Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #54 on: September 17, 2012, 11:58:04 pm »
Probably time to draw a line under this fireside chat and chill out, don't you think?

I've enjoyed it a lot and it's been very thought provoking.

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #55 on: September 18, 2012, 12:18:55 am »
Steve, I would just like to say that to only have 2 assisted births from 105 ewes is really good. I must admit I'm happy with 4/ 100 ewes.
Also, as you say, Lleyns are a prolific breed , so don't usually need flushing. But with something like Ryelands, or commercial cross breeds, it is usually worth doing for the extra lambs you get.
But your lambs that you tested for worms this year, must have appeared inferior in some way, and obviously you noticed that they weren't as good as they could have been.
However, as I'm sure you'll agree, most of our differences are a matter of opinion, and because you have a maternal breed of sheep, and I buy, and have produced a terminal breed. So obviously there is some difference in the market we are aiming at. But there is nothing wrong with good robust discussion, and I find it's useful to find out how other people do things and then make your own decision. :sunshine: :sunshine: 
life's too short to be boring.

Dan

  • The Accidental Smallholder
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  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Carnoustie, Angus
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Re: The cost of starting with sheep
« Reply #56 on: September 18, 2012, 08:37:23 am »
I think JFDI is right, this thread has run its course and is being locked.

Thanks, :sheep: :thumbsup:

Dan

 

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