Our running costs for sheep look like they will end up about $150 per sheep per year. This is hay, minerals, vaccines/vet, water and other consumables (including the shearer). This isn’t counting infrastructure like the fencing or the hay feeder they eat out of. All the sheep can provide one fleece per year, and the ewes are supposed to additionally provide 2 lambs average per year.
I am not sure how to assign the rams a cash value for fathering the lambs, so I’ll just note that the ram fleeces would have to bring in $150 apiece to cover their running costs. To keep things really simple, the ram fleeces are likely to yield 5lbs of raw fleece after shearing and skirting of rough ends. This means carding the fleece into roving (moderate level of processing, maybe three hours a fleece). Roving sells for about $35-40/lb. So we would have to do some processing with the ram fleeces to get enough per pound to cover their running costs.
Things are much easier with the ewes, who provide lambs and fleece and lamb fleeces!
The ewe fleeces will yield less, they were sheared late summer last year and the rams were never sheared at all (being lambs when we bought them). The ewes should give about 4lbs of usable raw fleece after skirting. For each lamb, 1.5lbs of raw fleece is a good estimate. So each ewe ideally would give us 7lbs total to sell to cover running costs. Lamb fleece routinely sells for $25/lb raw, so that is $75. Ewe fleece is more like $20/lb raw, which is $80 and covers running costs. There’s just the skirting time, which is not much time at all. So if the ewe twins, the fleeces can just about be tossed in a sack and sold to cover the running costs.
If the ewe has only one lamb, turning that fleece into lamb’s roving would get the same $75 (lamb roving is softer and gets closer to $50/lb), but would take an hour or so of carding labor. And you could still sell the ewe’s fleece raw with no extra labor. So a young ewe that doesn’t twin in her first breeding could still produce enough fleece to cover her running costs with a relatively modest increase in labor.
We only have six sheep and we expect at least one ewe to single, so we are expecting to do some processing of wool this year along with our journey into the world of wool selling. We have to make 12-14 fleece sales and plan for about a day’s labor carding and then we have from April to December to make those sales happen.
I was going to get into meat sales with the lambs, but I don’t think we’re going to sell more than a couple for meat this year. With so few animals, we are likely to keep the lambs back to grow the flock. We’re nervous about lambing, it’s already next month and the next few weeks will be vaccinating and putting down more straw in the barn.
The ewes seem to be doing well on the daily mineral and are less pale. So here’s hoping they bear some nice healthy lambs to shear at all.