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Mob Grazing Sheep Opportunity in Central Missouri

 
Dave Hawkins
Posts: 19
Location: Kansas City, MO
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I don't know if this is the right forum for this, but here goes (maybe a moderator can move it if there's a better place for it) ... My name's Dave Hawkins and I just completed a 6 month internship with Greg Judy in Clark, Missouri (30 minutes north of Columbia) where I learned mob grazing of both cattle and sheep very thoroughly and I ended up liking sheep much better than cattle. Near the end of my time with Greg, I stumbled upon an opportunity close by on a beautiful 240 acre parcel of land. Long story short, the landowner has agreed to install fencing and water plus buy the animals to start a mob grazed sheep operation on the Front 40 acres. I have my sheep supply lined up from one of the best in this business - the Hopping Brothers of NE Oklahoma who have Katahdin / Florida Native / Dorper hair sheep that are extremely parasite resistant and are used to daily moves. There is an old 12x60 trailer on the place which I have rehabbed. And I have a 35' x 35' BackToEdenFilm.com garden spot started. I'm divorced so it's just me. Here's what I am looking for: HELP. I cannot be at the farm 7 days per week but someone has to be. So I am putting feelers out to see if there's any "permie types" out there that would like to live here in this trailer on this farm and pay some low rent in exchange for a bit of help with daily chores (mainly moving temporary fence). Another option might be for you to park your own travel trailer on the property and pay NO rent in exchange for help. I don't know exactly what would be fair, but this seems like a great opportunity and I don't want to pass it up for lack of help. The landowner is open to letting me use the additional 200 acres in subsequent years if I do well on this 40 acres. He is also open minded to other aspects of permaculture - keyline plowing, swaling, planting of nut trees, berry bushes (per Mark Shepard). In this project, I am working closely with the University of Missouri Agroforestry Center, which I learned about by reading Mark Shepard's book, and also with a professor at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. This could be a great advantage for someone because I do know a lot about rotational grazing of hair sheep, having interned with Greg and being connected with the Hopping Bros. These sheep are very profitable. You can read about me at my blog here ... http://truthmatters.info/about-me/
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Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Dave - Sounds like a great project, but I have to ask if you have a proper business plan worked out. Will this project pay enough for you and the wage of a part time (or full time?) helper? You ask for someone to come and live on the land to help you, and pay rent to do so - I can't see many people jumping at that opportunity unless they are getting something substantial back in return. A truly viable business shouldn't be running on free labour anyway, as it isn't sustainable in the long term.

Rather than try to get someone to come live with you why don't you employ someone from the local area on a casual basis?
 
Dave Hawkins
Posts: 19
Location: Kansas City, MO
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Michael Cox wrote:Dave - Sounds like a great project, but I have to ask if you have a proper business plan worked out. Will this project pay enough for you and the wage of a part time (or full time?) helper? You ask for someone to come and live on the land to help you, and pay rent to do so - I can't see many people jumping at that opportunity unless they are getting something substantial back in return. A truly viable business shouldn't be running on free labour anyway, as it isn't sustainable in the long term.

Rather than try to get someone to come live with you why don't you employ someone from the local area on a casual basis?
Good questions. I don't honestly know the answers yet. What I do know is that I would prefer to have someone here who is a "permie" thinker and who thus might benefit from being here. That's hard to find in the local area. I also know that the market value of the rent for this place is about $400/mo but obviously if someone was living here and helping with daily chores, that's worth something, hence my thought about "discount rent." The profit from the sheep operation will be minimal the first year because we will only begin with 20 (maybe as many as 40) ewes. So to me this is more of a science experiment this first year.

Thanks for the input and I welcome any and all input. Again, I do not have all the answers and I want to offer a fair deal to someone where we both have a benefit.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I'm not an experienced grazer but that sounds like a fairly low stock density for the area you are talking about. A neighbour runs his sheep in our field for about half the year, and stocks nearly 40 at a time on 6 acres. When the grass is growing fast they can't keep up.

Also, those numbers don't sound like the makings of a livelihood. I know you are talking about building up numbers, but on the basis that you sell 40 sheep a year over each of the next few years you are looking at a very low wage for your efforts. Our neighbour works on a similar scale with his sheep, but he and his wife both also have jobs (tree surgeon and teacher respectively) and freely admit that they don't make money from their hobby farm.

My fear is that the experiment (mob grazing) could be a success but the project (a profitable business providing an income) still fail. Can you support yourself for 3 or more years without income from this project while you build your flock size and scale up to the remaining land?

You have probably thought about most of these things already, but details will matter to who ever you attract.


(Edit - Those picture look lovely )
 
Dave Hawkins
Posts: 19
Location: Kansas City, MO
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I work a town job currently and I don't expect this sheep thing to be a livelihood until I get up to a couple hundred ewes or more in my flock. Greg (where I worked) stocks approximately 1 ewe per acre and sells off lambs every year and he keeps them year round and does not feed hay or grain and also no meds. I have for sure 20 acres of pasture in the Front 40, but probably more because grass and forbs do grow under the trees depending upon how much sunlight penetration the site gets. We are doing a partial timber harvest but it remains to be seen how much grass will grow. The goals for this year are (a) keep the sheep from getting eaten by coyotes - we will use Komondor dogs from the Hoppings (b) keep the ewes in good condition with appropriate stocking / daily moves so they will breed, (c) get 90% or better breeding rate, (d) get 2 (live) lambs per ewe born in about May. If we can achieve that successfully, then we will think about making some money the following year. This year is pretty much a science experiment.
 
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