Tuesday, September 18, 2007

selling out vs selling down

Here is an interesting topic.
We have had several people over the years who needed to sell down their flocks because their circumstances changed. Some people have had similar sales several years in a row. Have you ever bought sheep from a shetland sale like that? I have. Some breeder sales used to raise my eyebrows. Was it really a sales ploy? Just meant to sell off the sheep they no longer wanted? Was it legitimate for a person to beg for people to come buy their sheep before they were butchered....and then breed more lambs the following year?
I have decided it is legitimate.
Shetland breeders are suckered into breeding by the incredible beauty and personality of their sheep. How can I refuse a wagging tailed wide-eyed ewe, shuffling her butt outside a ram's breeding pen? I'm not sure there is a shetland breeder out there who doesn't have more sheep than they really want or can care for. I sure have too many.
No, I take that back....there are those breeders who think of their shetlands like livestock. Maybe they were raised on a farm. Maybe they have had circumstances toughen them up. Sorry, folks....my sheep are shetlands, they have personalities....I walk out in the morning and pet them and kiss them on the nose. I am not tempted to eat my babies. I am able to ship my extra ram lambs to the sales barn. If I can find one that wants them. Within driving distance.
What are dire circumstances? Why would a breeder have to sell....sell even the sheep they wanted to keep?
Life changes, health changes, farm land changes, drought especially, comes to mind. There have been several breeders affected by drought this year. Is that a reason to sell down your flock? You bet it is! Take my area for example....we had some rain a week ago ( after two month of dry)...but now there is no more rain in the forecast...and the grass that sprouted a week ago is dead again. I know when my ewes are hungry. They run back and forth....at a good clip too! Baaing. Trying to find some good grazing, the ewes run from one end of the pastures to the other several times a day. I have to figure all this running is causing some weight loss too.
Today, I am going to have to take their lives in my hands. I have to let them out in the south meadow, where the cat has killed five rams this year. I don't have a choice. There is no hay in this county. Cattle breeders have been selling down all year. Not enough grazing for cows, on this bad grassland. Not enough grazing for my flock of ewes either. But just like those other breeders out there....don't expect this breeder to sell down and stop breeding. It's not possible. This is a shetland addiction. It's not my fault we have drought. It's not the other breeders' fault they have changes in their lives that keep them from taking care of so many sheep.
I'll be breeding some of my girls soon. Yes, breeding....They are nice girls...they might be yearlings....and need to breed to make sure they can be moms at all....they may have had their lambs grabbed by me early on in the spring....before they even thought of weaning them. I promised them they could have lambs again. If the cat doesn't eat them this fall, they can go out in the unfenced hay ground and the high woods this winter, and eat whatever they can find. Maybe we will get rain later this year. It's possible.
I have started to sell off the spotted ewe lambs I kept out for myself this spring. There were four spotties, three in black and white....one in brown and white. Bet you can't guess which one went first. I also kept a set of AgAa spotted twin ewes. I will sell the twins together.
If you have hay and pasture in the south....let me know. They are all for sale. I may even be selling off my special flock ewes. Some exposed. I'm not cured.....just trying to the best I can for the girls that depend on me.
So if you see a sales list by someone who need to sell off some of their sheep. You can be sure they likely would want to keep them all....if they could. They may try to keep a few just so they don't feel so bad when the rest leave. Do you shed a tear when your sheep go down the road to a new farm? I do. If you have the room....this may be your lucky day. If you don't have room...don't critisize the breeders holding the sale. They may have no choice. Those sheep need a good home somewhere. They are nice girls....and sometimes, even nice boys. I am declaring it "Buy a Shetland" week. Let's try to find homes for those sheep!


At 6:47 PM, Blogger Tammy said...

Oh Mary Ellen - I couldn't agree with you more. I so hope that you get some rain, and that the big cat goes away. I find it so heartbreaking when I have to sell my sheep - I couldn't imagine going through what you are - severe drought - and finding them in bits.
I hope you sell many, many of your lovely sheep.

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Juliann said...

Hey Peeps,

You are right on the money. As shetland breeders, we really need to be less judgemental of each other. Life turns on a dime, and we are torn between our beloved sheep, and doing what is best for ourselves.
I have not been in this position yet, and my God give me compassion to not judge those who are.
Praying for you and your wonderful, spotted flock.


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