Manure sales are a critical aspect of our year round income, while wool sells during winter with some consistency; it is at most a supplemental source of income. The other large source of income is selling rams and lambs, while this is often our largest sales for the year; they are generally one off events and nothing that can be relied upon. Typically lamb sales are once or twice a year, unless a stray buyer or trade comes along.
It is manure sales that offer a relatively consistent sales record; typically it sells year round, though perhaps more during the easing of winter and through the spring. For this reason it is something we spend a great deal of time modifying our methods and product line. Recently we introduced the selling of manure directly through this website, this is primarily because the on-line retail sites are expensive (fees), arrogant and arbitrary in dealing with sellers. Their policies and fees directly increase the costs we must charge, which hampers sales (higher price point), it also increases our expenses which harm our animals. Typically when we have good sales of wool and manure, or sell off lambs, the surplus is largely used to purchase more and better feed, improve structures, and provide the ewes with special treats, like carrots and grains.
Just as the death of a cherished ewe causes sorrow, the birth of new lambs are the bright spot of the year. Generally, for the breed of sheep we raise, this occurs primarily in February and March, which is generally when the weather starts to improve. This lambing season has begun well for us, so far three ewe lambs and only one ram lamb. More importantly, the mother ewes have been among our strongest and youngest animals, which give the lambs the best shot of a problem free “lambhood”. This is also of tremendous value for the shepherd as it relieves the necessity of close monitoring and hand feeding, which often accompanies the birth of a lamb to an older ewe.
Rarely does the death of a sheep cause more than distraction
during the day, sadness for the lost life, but mostly due to the loss of a
productive animal and a nuisance having to bury the animal. We generally place
a higher value to the life and well being of our ewes, they are not only our
greatest resource, lambs, but they are generally tamer and friendlier, less of
a burden to maintain and care for. Over the years that we have raised sheep,
there have been a few that have stood out, while I am very familiar with all of
them, knowing their personalities and habits, a few have found a special place
within the herd. One such animal was a ewe that we have owned for over 11
years, a very productive animal, and mother of several other productive ewes. She
came to us early in our ranching, one of four ewes we bought from a couple
outside of Flagstaff.
She was a spooky little lady for the first few years, but shortly after we
started to shear our own sheep she came to be a little more trusting, knowing
that we didn’t have any desire to harm her. We think it is important that you
shear your own animals if at all possible, while they do not like it, it does
help building trust between and animal and a shepard. If you hire out the work
it is far more difficult to develop a relationship with an animal. Simply put,
sheep are not stupid, they are often incredibly intelligent, – I have found
them more intelligent than many people I deal with… while they are suspicious
of any human presence, the more contact you have with them lessens the fear
they have, at least if you are deliberate in your dealings with them. One
stupid act can undo a week of kindness, but over time, once trust is created,
they can be very tame and friendly. At least it is possible with most ewes, –
some are impossible to reach and this is surely because of past mistakes in
your behavior as a shepard (sheep do not forget or forgive easily).
At various times the subject of garden fertilization using sheep manure comes our way; naturally, we are great advocates of the practice! Using sheep manure has many advantages over other alternatives and a relative few disadvantages. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of sheep manure is its compact and clean nature; it is easily the cleanest, least revolting “natural” manure available. Not only do sheep shed their nasty smelling sulfides in the production of wool, it comes in a clean utilitarian form, quick-drying compact pellets that are easy to dry, transport and utilize in the garden.
If that isn’t enough, sheep manure generally doesn’t need much aging or special preparation; it comes ready-made for application. Generally, sheep manure takes about a week or two to thoroughly dry in Arizona’s sunny and arid environment. Properly raised sheep, meaning largely pen fed with alfalfa as ours are, which have no exposure to other animals or toxic chemicals (fertilizers, tainted water or medications) do not even require drying, though we do in all cases dry our manure for two weeks because of the need to store large quantities and for shipping purposes. Manure will mold if it is not thoroughly dried, – if properly dried manure will store for many months, but great care needs to be taken to monitor inventory. Even a small introduction of “moist” manure can contaminate the driest manure, ruining an entire batch.