Can you still make money w sheep if you have to buy feed beyond pasture limits?

Shepherdess219

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Yup? What everyone said. I have 16 ewes and barely cover costs, but I do get my own meat. Best years ever you may gain about $10-$20 a lamb if you have a lot of triplets and excellent hanging weights at market time. The worst increase has been in processing. When I first started it was $35/lamb. 13 years later with government regulations it’s now $130/lamb no matter the size plus taxes. Hays doubled in price, big feed increases, and now you can’t even seem to get basic pharmacy items without having a vet come out and check which is about a $600 touch at minimum. It’s killed many small farmers. Why do we do it you ask? Because we love it and I do get my own meat and I know that it was raised with love and kindness and what went into it.
 

Nao57

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It all heavily depends on your area.

Here you can not rent goats or sheep or anything else, people laugh at the mention of it. We also have no solar farms so lol. Lamb at the store starts at $12/Lb here but people don't want to pay over $150 for a butcher ready lamb most of the time. If they bought the same 50Lbs of meat in the store it would be $650 minimum but they baulk at anything over $150 off the farm. If you can do like Bay was and sell USDA cuts you will make more overall.

I agree that it takes awhile to get used to some ideas. Here solar and lots of things are seen as a joke.

But I do like letting people try to work it out and see what they can come up with.
 

Fishychix

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@Nao57 understand something else about most of us being able to choose our daily schedule..... Many many of us are "older" ...like retirement age..... and a few that are younger have a spouse that works and can support the family .... often so that they can be homeschooled and not have to pay for child care and such. Many have worked their butts off and have their place paid for so not looking at a mortgage.... or in my case, a smaller mortgage than I was paying in rent......so the livestock enterprises pays for its self most time with the food in your own freezer etc is "free".....
Yes, having the ability to choose to do things at your own pace is very nice.....most of us have worked long and hard years to be at this point. Many of us also work slower than we used to sadly to say. So we need the extra time to do what we might have gotten done in 1/2 the time when we were younger. And many of us are tired of working at that frenetic pace.

I agree....it's fun in the trying! I've been told over and over things that "can't be done" but have done them and even when you tell folks you've done them, they don't believe it. I say go for it!

Most smallholders who are turning a profit are doing it from multiple streams of income on the same piece of land....agritourism, microgreens, CSA, etc. So, if you can find a way to generate more income from the same piece of land, you may turn a profit. Also, there are folks renting out goat herds to clear vacant lots near towns and hair sheep could be utilized as easily and thus increasing your available pasture based feeds while also giving you extra income from the flock. Look into grazing solar farms.
Well, that answers a couple of questions I had also 🤣🤣🤣

What are solar farms?
 

farmerjan

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If you go to any search engine you can find all sorts of info on solar farms. But in essence, a solar farm is where solar panels are installed to collect the sunshine to produce electricity. Most consist of anywhere from 6-10 acres to over 20,000 acres.... there is a big one near Los Angeles and another being built in Nev....I think near Reno.... many do not build them but lease out their land for it. Income is determined by proximity and land value , lots of things. The land is not useable for farming enterprises with the panels except for fringe grazing possibly....
 

Beekissed

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Fishychix

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If you go to any search engine you can find all sorts of info on solar farms. But in essence, a solar farm is where solar panels are installed to collect the sunshine to produce electricity. Most consist of anywhere from 6-10 acres to over 20,000 acres.... there is a big one near Los Angeles and another being built in Nev....I think near Reno.... many do not build them but lease out their land for it. Income is determined by proximity and land value , lots of things. The land is not useable for farming enterprises with the panels except for fringe grazing possibly....

Thank you both :)
I dont know why I didnt think if that, but for some reason that isnt what came to mind. Lol :)
 

Ridgetop

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You cannot make any money on any livestock if you have to purchase feed. The only exception is rabbits and chickens if you have some sort of market. you will have to sell live and butcher as a "favor" to your buyers. We have been raising livestock for 35 years. We have no year round pasture. If the rains come in southern California we have some forage on our 5 acres of steep hillsides. When we started we had no forage and bought all our feed. 35 years ago a 125 lb. bale of good alfalfa was $5.00. Now it ranges from a low price of $12/13 to $20 a bale and the bales range from 100 to 110. A 50 lb. bag of barleycorn was $3-4, now it is $12.00. Specialty feeds for putting meat on your lambs and kids costs around $25-30 for a 40 lb. bag. Without enough pasture to feed year round you will not make anything and will be in the hole. Even dairy goats that you use for milk production might not be economical anymore if yiu have to carry hay since they require grain lb. for lb. in ratio to their milk yield.

We started with a couple of dairy goats for home milk and for our 4 children to be in 4-H. By the time our 2 younger boys were involved in 4-H 7 years later we had grown to a larger dairy herd and the kids had raised veal, hogs, lambs, and rabbit meat pens for the Fair JR. livestock auction. They made good money for those animals since businesses would buy them for prices well over market to support the youth program. By then two of our 3 boys each had a small flock of registered sheep, and a small flock of crossbred market production sheep. Then the 2 younger boys decided to focus in dairy goats They showed their goats at all the livestock fairs in the breeding classes. This made them some money since the Fairs pay "premium" money prizes for placings in the classes. Because they each has a different breed, and we knew how to group and enter the animals, they could make up to $1000 at a Fair. BUT the costs of keeping and breeding that many goats was also high and we exceeded the money they made. Their goats were very well bred, and new breeding stock - bucks included - were expensive. They had to win in the classes to make any money which meant that they also had to trim, fit, and show their goats well in order to win. It took a lot of work. They were allowed to keep the Fair premiums because they did not receive any allowance and were milking 12-20 goats am and pm year round. We were on milk test. In addition to their dairy chores, they also were required to maintain a certain grade point average and were active in sports.

When the Fair was over and the veal calves had been auctioned, we bought newborn Holstein bull calves from 4-H family that had a dairy. She made sure they got colostrum. We raised them on the dairy goat milk (we were getting 12-20 gallons daily depending on the number of does we had kept for show purposes) and the stemmy hay that the goats rejected. At 2 months I took them to the cattle auction and that money went towards hay. We sold all the buck kids at 2 months at the auction. Goat prices were not as good as they are now and where you can now get about $100 for a buck kid I was lucky to get $30. I increased my profits by making sure to take them to the auction before holidays - Palm Sunday, Cinquo de Mayo, Memorial day, etc. Or rabbits always sold well at $5.00 each. DH sold them at work and would take in a cooler of bagged bunnies once a month to the buyers. We also sold live bunnies to the Chinese live market in Los Angeles. The rabbits made our hay month but we had 100 holes of breeding does in our barn and it was a full time job for me to keep them bred and producing. My husband showed his rabbits and had a reputation for winners, so we also sold a lot of breeding stock. Again the rabbits made money. I also bred and sold Holland Lops for pets, and did well until I got tired of repeat customers who came back because they "accidently" killed the first bunny. I would breed litters 2 weeks apart for Easter, Valentines Day and Mothers Day. The second set of litters was for replacement bunnies for the ones that died. I finally sold my small breed and just went with the meat bunny sales because while I could deal with meat sales, I couldn't deal with the idiots that let their bunnies "play with the dog" or fall into the pool and drown. :mad:

The children grew up and went off to college. They sold their herds and flocks. We have 6 acres of very very steep hillsides. The fire regulations require us to clear 200' from all buildings. The first year without any animals cost us $5,000.00 to clear the hillsides. After the 3rd year we bought sheep again since they will eat everything to the bare dirt. Over the past 10 years our sheep have prevented us from being burned out twice in serious fires.

I can afford to spend $5,000.00 annually in purchased feed for our sheep and figure we break even. Then if I sell any market lambs to personal customers, that is income. Any lambs or older sheep that are sent to the livestock auction is also income. And we put several in our freezer too.

By the way, if you keep sheep or goats, you will also have to figure in the cost of buying and supporting (feed and vet bills) livestock guardian dogs to protect them, in the 2 years we went without a LGD after our last LGD died of cancer, we lost over $6,000-$8,000 in ewes and lambs to predators. These were daylight kills. We now keep 3 Anatolians, and will be adding a puppy this summer since our old bitch is now 9. We need to get the puppy while she is still around to help train the new one.

Do I make money? NO! But we don't have to pay for hillside clearing, or stagger up a 60 degree slope with a weed eater or brush cutter. We enjoy seeing the lambs cavorting on the field. We like our sheep. And we love eating lamb.

if we had year round pasture for our sheep, we might break even. By carefully rotating pastures, cutting pastures for hay, and my ewes producing lambs every 9 months year round, I might see some profit. On the other hand, vet bills, wormers, meds, etc. might still reduce it to a break even. Definitely not enough to live on, and not enough to merit going into sheep raising with a small flock for income, especially if you have to buy the property to ranch on. To make money on small stock you need lots of acres of pasture, you need to know how to keep your pasture in good condition (fertilize, lime, cut, bale), and how to rotate your flocks through the pastures to avoid over grazing and parasite problems. You need to have enough fences (expensive) to make multiple pastures to separate your breeding ewes, rams when they are not breeding, heavily pregnant ewes getting ready to lamb, ewes with nursing lambs, young replacement ewes not old enough to breed yet, and ram lambs destined for the market. You will need at least 200 ewes or does to give you a large enough lamb or kid crop to sell and make enough to support the flock and property. Then you have to continually inspect and repair the fences, buildings, feeders, water lines, predator proof the property, and be ready to buy feed if the rains don't come at the right time, or snow comes too heavy, etc. In all weathers.

So, NO, you won't make any money with raising a few sheep or goats. But you will have fun. Farming and ranching is not for the faint of heart, IT IS A LIFESTYLE. Most of us are retired or retirement age now and will be very sad when we can't manage to do it anymore. :hit We enjoy and love it while we can! :love
 

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