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looks like I am about to be a farmer- goats or sheep?

 
R Hasting
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Hey folks, I think I know the answer to this, but I still have to ask.

What would you do if you had this opportunity?
Currently, we are city slickers, but I have been on the permaculture path for a few years now, and I am planning on doing the online PDC with Geoff next month.
My wife and I are about a year away from our move onto a farm. We contacted a local farmer asking if he could mentor us.
He said he would. Then he said "I have 20-30 acres out back that I don't use. I can give you carte blanche."
Really? Cool. I will trade him some webpage work for the opportunity. I get the place for 12 months.

Location is near Taylor Texas, selling into the Austin market. It has a good, diverse forage available, but it is all pasture. Water is available. local stocking rate is about 30 sheep in a 1/4 acre for 3-4 days, then shift.
I have the ability to buy all the electric fencing that would be needed, and I am saving up for a farm, of all things, so I can afford to buy a good number of animals.
Let's call it a $10,000 maximum budget.

My new BFF says he thinks Boer Goats are the answer.
Honestly, I am iffy on goats. they are a bit of trouble, I hear.
I was thinking more on Dorper Sheep. Or possibly we can mix and match them?

Which animals would you go with, and how many?

I think I will also start in with bees as well.

What do you all think?

Thanks,
Richard
 
Su Ba
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Whichever you decide upon, goats or sheep, personally I'd suggest you start out small and learn about your livestock. I've been witness to many novice farmers/ranchers buying a large number of animals then proceed to lose most of them due to lack of knowledge and experience. Just because you can afford to purchase $10,000 worth of sheep/goats doesn't mean it's a wise first-step move.

Something to consider....what's your future market? That will have a bearing upon your choice of sheep vs goats.

I've had assorted dairy goats in the past and enjoyed working with them. But goats tend to be more difficult to keep fenced in than sheep. But if your terrain is "difficult", goats tend to do better than sheep. A local large rancher here tried sheep on their dry pastures and failed. The goats that replaced the lost sheep have done much better.

Currently I raise sheep. My small flock is mainly St Croix-Black Bellied Barbados. But I also have some Dorpers. I find the Doroers to be more suspectible to intestinal parasites, thus need deworming more often. I have to keep a closer eye on them so as not to lose them to worms. They also don't shed out as completely as the other breeds, often maintaining a rug of wool on their backs for a long time. Not a problem in dry areas but it's a problem for me since my area gets rains during the shedding period. I have to clip off that mat or else risk having flystrike.
 
Cj Sloane
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Su Ba wrote: But goats tend to be more difficult to keep fenced in than sheep.


A bit of an understatement.

Find out what breed the locals are using. I just heard a permaculture voices podcast about Gulf Coast sheep.

I keep sheep but the rams have horns & I haven't been successful with electroneting due to the horns & heavy fleeces.
 
R Scott
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+1 on start small. You also will need a GUARD ANIMAL or you will have losses to coyotes and feral (and off-leash) dogs.

Our pasture NEEDS sheep, goats, and cattle to do best--it is just the mix of "weeds" we have.

Boers are a desert breed, seem to do OK in Texas if from strong stock, but many herds are weak and kept alive through chemical wormers. You will see losses if you buy from a chemical farmer and try to raise them naturally.

Go to the Greg Judy thread here in the permaculture voices reviews and READ ALL THE NOTES, then listen to all the youtubes. He has a LOT of good info on farming other people's land and the tricks for making money.
 
Dan Grubbs
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My thoughts for what they're worth ...

+1 on R Scott’s comments.

If commercial meat is your plan, before you scale up from starting small I would get the back two years’ worth of monthly market reports on sheep, goats, and beef cattle so you can see the fluctuations of your market prices and the pressures of supply and demand at the auction house you’re planning to use. For goats, this is important for your breeding plans because you’ll back out your timing to when you believe will be the best time to breed. I’ve plotted out the data for a market near me and goats have two price peaks in the year but there are also supply peaks in the year that don’t match up with the price peaks. Read your market reports, it will be informative. The price difference between the different quality grades can also be interesting to observe, so be sure you know about how these animals are graded for auction. The point is to be sure you do all your math and make some basic projection balance sheets. I would seriously consider direct sales rather than commercial auction for goats.

You may already know this, but I’ve been observing a lot of people who are simply culling their herds and selling them at both the commercial market and direct sales. One must be very confident they are not buying an animal that someone else is trying to get rid of because it is a weakness in their operations. I’ve seen someone near me buying someone else’s problems and then introduce that right into their heard.

I’ve also read of the many benefits of mixed-species grazing (including fowl). With the right combination of species, you can help manage parasite load and improve pasture conditions. This is second-hand info for me, I’ve not done that, but I’ve read it’s very effective. I believe the information that R Scott recommend to you will have some of that in it from Mr. Judy.

There are some great threads on goats and sheep in the forums here. I’ve learned a lot from the exchange in these threads and recommend them. And, paraphrasing Mr. Salatin, capitalize on the nature and tendencies of the animal and stack functions; leverage the pigness of the pig, the goatness of the goat or the sheepness of the sheep.
 
R Hasting
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All good advice.
Farm has an LGD and is adding two more next month. Predator pressure is fairly low, all the farms in the area have Great Pyr. and keep the coyotes somewhat at bay.
I have little experience, but my farmer friend has been doing this awhile, including sheep and goats, but the drought of 2011 still has him over extended, and he is trying to catch up.
He assures me that he won't let me screw this up too bad. So although I don't have experience, I am doing it under this guy's tutelage. Sort of a backstop.

Market will be two of the biggest Farmers Market in Austin, (which is quite a spectacle if you have never seen it) with no real competition for goat or lamb meat. Non-organic ground lamb sells at one market for $8/lb.
This land is not scrub. It is semi-arid in the summer, (25"-32" normal) river bottom with fairly deep clay soil.
Dorpers and Boers are both very common in the area, two doors down in one direction has boers, and my friend has a few dorpers, though he is trying to grow
his flock and is only selling his rams.
In addition, my drive to the farm is not insignificant. About 30 minutes, 50 minutes during traffic after work.

My math tells me I am going to need at least seven electronet rolls and maybe as many as 8. I think it makes sense to build my paddocks in 164' squares. .62 acres
That comes out to an investment of around $1500 including the energizer.
In addition, I will probably make a portable cover or two, maybe $500.

So I would like to at least recoup my investment.
I think I should be able to produce about $200 profit (above cost of animal and minerals and processing) per animal.
I am sure that I am missing some costs somewhere, so let's say $100 profit per animal to be conservative.
In addition, if I drive there twice a week, I am looking at $500 driving costs.

So I may need to raise as many as 25 sheep to end up with no money and 1600 feet of fencing and two animal shelters.

Given this additional information, how small should I start with?

Richard
 
Cj Sloane
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R Hasting wrote:
In addition, my drive to the farm is not insignificant. About 30 minutes, 50 minutes during traffic after work.

My math tells me I am going to need at least seven electronet rolls and maybe as many as 8. I think it makes sense to build my paddocks in 164' squares. .62 acres


OK, a few things.
1. I don't see how this can work if the farm is a 30-50 minute commute. Sheep find so many ways to get into trouble that without a shepherd on site disasters seems a given.
2. Why would you need 7 rolls?
3. I wouldn't be so concerned about breaking even your first year. IMHO, more than a few sheep to start off with as a novice is a bad idea.
 
Dan Grubbs
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I'm not sure what the health laws are in Texas. In my area, I'd have to figure in the costs of butchering and processing and inspection of my processing facility. I'd rather sell on the hoof and eliminate processing costs and market booth fees. The produce farmers I know are not too happy with the whole farmers' market thing. I can't imagine that's every market farmers' experience, but it seems the ones I've talked to are not big fans of farmers' markets.

Should you choose goats, know they are not fans of the rain, so you're going to need some form of shelter in each paddock they are in that allows them to get out of the elements ... more costs if you don't already have it.

Speaking of being a fan, I'm not a fan of non-resident farmers keeping animals. I assume your farmer friend will be there to watch over the animals each day ... or so I hope.

I might suggest you use other parts of the property to grow forage that you can harvest and feed to your animals to suppliment the pasture nutrition. A couple examples would be tree hay, tree branches including cedar, annual veg, and serecea lespedeza as an effective forb. Just some additional thoughts to help keep your goats, should you choose goats, happy and healthy.
 
John Pollard
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If you're going to process them yourself, you might look into Kiko goats. Much lower maintenance than the worm ridden boer goat. For on the hoof sales however, top dollar is white body with red/brown head. (because that's what a meat goat is supposed to look like?) Kind of like solid black cattle. Makes no sense bit that's the way it is.
 
R Hasting
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Cj Verde wrote:
OK, a few things.
1. I don't see how this can work if the farm is a 30-50 minute commute. Sheep find so many ways to get into trouble that without a shepherd on site disasters seems a given.
2. Why would you need 7 rolls?
3. I wouldn't be so concerned about breaking even your first year. IMHO, more than a few sheep to start off with as a novice is a bad idea.


1. We have a full time farm caretaker plus the farmer that will looking out for them. on the daily basis. The farm already has over 700 animals (including chickens
2. Because I think I want a paddock of 160X160 instead of 80X80, (which would require moving daily) and before I move them from one paddock to the next, I need the next paddock set up.
I don't wish to go chasing goats I lose that race every time.
3. I think the attitude of "I am not concerned about losing money" is not a net positive. It is a quick way to become a poor farmer. and a serious mistake to go into a venture like that.

"Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly." - Joel Salatin

The processor is five miles away. Which is an oddity I know!
Our markets are producer markets, and we literally have thousands of people every weekend. Dare I say "crowded" even?

I plan on building portable shelters for rain and shade.

I do not want to compete with the farm, they do pork and eggs. Which pretty much leaves sheep, goats, cattle, meat chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks.
I have no desire to dress out a bunch of birds, and they really do need daily care.

My biggest goals are
1. experience
2. a schedule F
3. experience
4. not to lose a bunch of money

Surely there is a way to do this. My farmer is willing to assist and advise, but just assist, not really "do", if you get the difference.
 
Cj Sloane
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R Hasting wrote:
1. We have a full time farm caretaker plus the farmer that will looking out for them. on the daily basis. The farm already has over 700 animals (including chickens
2. Because I think I want a paddock of 160X160 instead of 80X80, (which would require moving daily) and before I move them from one paddock to the next, I need the next paddock set up.
I don't wish to go chasing goats I lose that race every time.


OK, I didn't realize someone else would be there.

As far as electronetting goes, if I had more money, and sheep that I could use with electric fence, I would lay them out in long rectangles moving the shorter fence when I wanted to let them into a new paddock. I think you do want to move them daily if you can.

Good luck and keep us posted.
 
R Hasting
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As far as electronetting goes, if I had more money, and sheep that I could use with electric fence, I would lay them out in long rectangles moving the shorter fence when I wanted to let them into a new paddock. I think you do want to move them daily if you can.


That is a great idea. Now I need 10 rolls
If I could move them daily, I would. On my own farm it would always be daily.
 
Terri Matthews
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I would first find where you would market them, and then see what they are selling for!

In a great many areas either animal would bring you in a very good price per head when it is time to sell your young stock, but not in my area. In my area a fat lamb may only sell for $15. Though, a young dairy goat my go for $150.

What people are willing to buy has to do with the food that they were raised in, and in my area almost nobody eats lamb! Where I go shopping I have never, ever seen any offered at the meat counter. Because nobody eats it few stores are interested in selling it.

So, before you buy any animals, find out if the folk in that area eat it.
 
Cj Sloane
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Terri Matthews wrote:In my area a fat lamb may only sell for $15.


Wow!
 
R Hasting
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Terri Matthews wrote:I would first find where you would market them, and then see what they are selling for!


Austin Texas is probably one of the most food diverse cities in the country. The high tech industry brings people from around the world. There are a lot of people from Middle East, Asia and Europe.
20% of Austin is hispanic and goat is a native food in the hispanic community.

In addition, the metropolitan area is almost 2 million, so there is a market.

At the farmers markets, of which I know of at least five, ground lamb goes for $7 - $8 a lb. chops are $13.
to give you a comparison, Ribeye steak is $26/lb.

 
Terri Matthews
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WOW!

Historically, in my area, sheep were said to ruin the grass for cattle, and cattle were big business. Sheep were *NOT* welcome!

Nobody cares any longer, of course, but the people who grew up in this area did not grow up eating lamb. Mostly, anyways. Lamb is a bit like watercress: everybody has heard of it but not that many people have tried it!
 
R Hasting
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Terri Matthews wrote:WOW!

Historically, in my area, sheep were said to ruin the grass for cattle, and cattle were big business. Sheep were *NOT* welcome!

Nobody cares any longer, of course, but the people who grew up in this area did not grow up eating lamb. Mostly, anyways. Lamb is a bit like watercress: everybody has heard of it but not that many people have tried it!


Well, people used to say a lot of things, didn't they?

I think we ate lamb maybe a few times growing up in Tulsa. But honestly, for a lot of the marginal land of Texas, lamb and goat are probably a much better ruminant than cattle.
There is a lot of variability in the rainfall, and we can go from desert to tropical rainforest in the matter of a year, and then back again. a normal rainfall is not normal, it is just average.
What is turning into normal is a hot dry (less than 3 inches of rain) over the three summer months, which can kill the cattle in normal grazing methods, and it probably isn't too good even with rotational grazing either.
The land I am "leasing" is in the better half, and is considerably wetter, I believe, than west Austin, probably by five inches a year on occasion.

Lately, Austin has been taken over by foodies, so people here tend to stretch a little as well.

 
R Hasting
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Ok, I have one week of sheep ownership. I currently have 6 ewes and 10 lambs in a 50mX50mX50m paddock. (The electro-net comes in 164 feet (50m) lengths)

I use a 48 AH 12V Deep Cycle, AGM battery to run an inverter that powers a 3 Joule energizer. The battery is kept charged with a 50 watt solar panel that runs through a 10 amp charge controller.
I am using 35" sheep netting from premier 1, staked at 12.5 feet and in the couple of places where the land undulates more than the fence, I use a 40" long 3/4 " PVC with a notch at the top to act as a temporary stake.

I am using the equilateral triangle because it allows me to build six paddocks without moving the energizer or the shelter very far. It has about 11,000 SF in the paddock, and it looks like the rotation time needs to be right at a week.

I bought a gorilla cart wagon to carry the battery and the components, using the solar panel and a small sheet of plywood to act as the roof.

I have three 3' ground rods sunk to at least 30" and I am using 12g wire in all my wiring.

The shelter is almost completed, and the sheep are as happy as they can be.

2014-04-06 13.22.14.jpg
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The wagon with the solar panel and the charger, battery, inverter and energizer.
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The electronics from left to right, energizer, inverter, charge controller. If you don
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Dorpers!
 
Dan Grubbs
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Can't wait to hear and see more, R Hastings. Pretty girls, too!
 
Jonathan Bethea
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How are things Going? great forum for folks who are still in the research stage

,J
 
R Hasting
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Jonathan Bethea wrote:How are things Going? great forum for folks who are still in the research stage

,J


Well, I am now 6 weeks into having sheep.
I haven't lost one yet. Must be a good sign!
Ok, honestly, I think this is, so far, about the easiest thing I have done in my life. Maybe I was just prepared for it, but this is a cakewalk so far.
This makes me glad, because you people were starting to scare me a bit up above! Thanks for keeping me honest though.
I am currently running 18 sheep(10 of them are 7 week old lambs) in a .26 acre paddock which I move weekly. I think I could go at least 10 days, and possibly 12 at the moment, but I want them moving faster than that just for pest and worm situations.

The resident farmer checks on them daily, and adds water to the trough when necessary.
I placed a movable shelter into the paddock, which provides shade and some shelter from wind and rain.
I have placed two brick sized mineral blocks into the shelter, each is about 1/3 licked through.
The sheep are very happy, the lambs are growing nicely. No problems with fencing. The battery stays charged, and I always have at least 6000V running through the fence.
The first paddock has nearly recovered completely. Might need another week or two.

I am fairly certain I could run ten times this number of sheep in the same paddock size, if moved daily. That would be 80 adult sheep, 100 lambs.

No, I am not about to go buy 165 more sheep, I am just giving a rough estimate.

I like the triangular setup I have. I use a total of five 50M sections of Electronet. I can enclose two equilateral triangles with these five sections. I move fence every other week. Every week, I move the sheep to the next paddock. In 7 weeks, I have yet to move the fence charger and the grounding rods, since each paddock rotates around the central core.
Next Saturday, I will have to start a new hexagon, and I haven't done that yet, but I will have to move the charger and the ground rods when I do. 3 - 3 foot ground rods in clay. Nice.

So, this is proof that sheep do, in fact, eat grass. I cannot tell you how many times people ask me what I am feeding them.. "Grass?" I say. "Don't you have to feed them hay or something", they respond? "Um, hay, is sort of like dried grass, isn't it? Wouldn't green grass be a little more appetizing?"

So much fun.

Here is the latest from the farm..


 
Jonathan Bethea
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Awesome! Glad to hear its going so well, and looks to me like you have a great system.
 
wayne fajkus
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I know I'm late on your decision process on sheep vs goat but my question is which one do you prefer to eat?

We had the same dilemma and that settled it for us. We went with sheep. We picked up our first two slaughtered lamb about two weeks ago. We have three breeders which will net 6-9 lambs per year. We no longer buy beef at the grocery store. From steaks to ground, it's all lamb for us. No regrets.
 
Mike Cornwell
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Cj Verde wrote:I just heard a permaculture voices podcast about Gulf Coast sheep.


Thanks for this! I have been thinking about adding Sheep to my herd as another animal that will take down grass more/faster than goats. I think they're actually kind of a good complementary set. The wife doesn't want to do sheep because Ben Falk scared her to death that they get diseased too easily. I think his situation is a tad different than ours. Also his place (in my opinion) was much more in need of goats than sheep. But if I remember rightly he had issues with fencing or something. Gulf Coast sheep sound like just what I need.

We have Boer goats and it hasn't been nearly as difficult as others have had issues. I ascertain that a lot of people who have difficulties (particularly with fencing) of goats have different types of goats that are probably much more energetic than mine. Look on youtube at dwarf nigerians. No way jose. Mine could careless about leaving their fenced in area, and really would rather lay down and sunbathe all day. But, I've also learned goats have personalities. Escape artists definitely = food. We have a baby boy who is begging to be put in the fryer because he acts so non social with us. Our other babies might as well be lovable dogs.

Just realized, he got sheep. Very cool setup!
 
Cj Sloane
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Mike Cornwell wrote:The wife doesn't want to do sheep because Ben Falk scared her to death that they get diseased too easily. I think his situation is a tad different than ours. Also his place (in my opinion) was much more in need of goats than sheep. But if I remember rightly he had issues with fencing or something. Gulf Coast sheep sound like just what I need.


I live in the same state as Ben & I haven't had many of the problems he has had. Much of this is breed specific. I think he had problems with fly strike but mine have never had that, I think because the tails aren't docked.

That said, I have heard that sheep have a really hard time in the south with barber pole worm. I mean it's bad here, I lost one to it. But super bad in the south where it doesn't freeze much. Maybe the Gulf Coast Sheep breed has better immunity.
 
Mike Cornwell
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I did a little research on them, and they definitely sound like "the right type". Hot and humid varieties of everything is something I'm looking for. Living around here makes me appreciate how some areas just aren't well documented whatsoever for more "non-traditional-commerical" approaches. I looked on the state's ag newsletter and didn't find any of them.

The other thing I'll have to deal with is perhaps they're around here, but people call them something different. That is definitely one of the more annoying things, but generally its more of a plant issue (rather than animal breeds). I read that apparently LSU has a herd they're keeping, maybe I can get in contact with them. The thing about Louisiana is everything is connected to the damn university, so its all about rubbing elbows and getting politically noisy with people in Baton Rouge.
 
R Hasting
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Short update.
We now have sheep for 12 weeks. So far, no losses. Lots of happy sheep though...
it appears that recovery time for land that they just decimate is about 45 days in the spring time. The areas that were grazed are certainly better looking than the areas that have not been grazed, and most of the little sheep pellets are still in pellet form.

I was told by a commercial conventional breeder that he processes his sheep at 12-14 weeks. He feeds his sheep a medicated feed, about one five gallon bucket shared by 30 sheep a day.

As I am looking at my sheep. now about 11-12 weeks old, They still look small to me, maybe about 60 lbs (though I have not actually weighed one) and I am wondering why you would process them at 12 weeks. The only answer I can dream up is that the feed conversion rate might be falling after that. Well, my feed bill is approaching ZERO. So I don't care if their growth starts to taper a bit. So, I am going to let the graze for another month beyond the "normal", after all, I am not feeding them, and it costs me nothing to process slightly larger sheep, and in fact it creates more product for the customer. I have processing set up for five lambs on Aug 9, and five more on Aug 19.

The grass has gotten nice and tall and it seems like there is about 10 days worth of feed in the 1/4 acre paddock. I am moving them every 6 days over the past 3 weeks.
I am adding about one pint of Apple Cider Vinegar to the water trough when I move them. It is supposed to help stimulate their guy microbes, as well as keeping the parasite load in control. They seem to be going thru about 50-70 gallons of water per week between them.




Now, with regards to the electric fencing...

if you have a week without sunlight, your battery will get drained.
Here in Texas, a week without sunshine is really rare. But Rare isn't the same as never. (I suppose if you are in Seattle area, the solar panel thing would be a waste of time)
When my battery got below 10 volts, I had to go buy a second battery and swap it out and take it to the garage for a long slow trickle.

So, if you have had several days of clouds, take the second battery and do a swap.
For me, it appeared that the battery went from good to bad in a period of ten to twelve days with no significant sunshine.
If you want to know how long you can go between cloudy battery checks, the equation is
days ( Amp usage per day - amp added by panel) = amp hour storage in battery
For me, that is T days( 12AH/d - 6 AH/d ) = 48 AH
So assuming cloud cover that allows for 6 AH to be added to the battery each day, My battery empties from full in a week.

If I get two days of full sun, it would take both days to charge the battery to full.

Note to battery users: If you let the battery get to 0% full, you are doing significant damage to the chemistry of the battery.

On a deep cycle battery, you should not allow it to go below a 40% charge, so after four days of all clouds, go replace the battery and put it on the charger.

If is better than chasing sheep. Ask me how I know!!!

for more, see my blog page

Richard


 
wayne fajkus
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My understanding is after one year old the meat gets gamy. We processed close to the one year mark and it tastes good. My processor raises sheep and he does his at 4 months old.

It's hiblers in San saba.
 
R Hasting
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wayne fajkus wrote:My understanding is after one year old the meat gets gamy. We processed close to the one year mark and it tastes good. My processor raises sheep and he does his at 4 months old.

It's hiblers in San saba.


hmm. If you have the grass to feed, that would make sense.
What is the usual weight at processing for you?
 
wayne fajkus
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Let me take a step back. We bought 3 breeders. 2 weened babies. And 2 that were less than a year old. The 2 went straight to slaughter about a week after purchase. The combined four will provide meat till we get ours bred.

I have 16 acres but the sheep are on one acre that was devastated to nothingness by horses. I planted winter rye but it's dying out. We will open up some rotational grazing soon. I have two 1/2 acre patches that will have permanent fencing soon. Out on the big pasture which is probably 2 ft tall with grass, I'll have move able electric fences.

 
wayne fajkus
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I have to check with my wife on the weight. I can't remember. I do know that when I got a cow slaughtered I had to bring a truck to pick it up. With two lambs we took our ford focus. Lol. Quantities Are manageable. It would take two years to eat through a cow, which is why we looked at sheep. Everything is easier.
 
Cj Sloane
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wayne fajkus wrote:My understanding is after one year old the meat gets gamy.


It depends on the breed. I've got Black Welsh Mountain Sheep which is supposed to be prized as mutton. A lady in town who used to keep sheep thought lamb = veal and mutton = beef and so she couldn't understand why more people don't like mutton. I guess one bad one is all it takes to turn you off.
 
Cj Sloane
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wayne fajkus wrote:Everything is easier.


I can let my sheep free range and I've trained them to come back when I ring a bell. No way could I do that with cows! Not even with my minis.
 
Susan Doyon
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which ever you get, train them to a bell or grain ( every time you offer feed or minerals shake a grain can or ring a bell ) that way if they ever get out they come when you call
I have raised angora goats and Shetland sheep
goats are much more prone to testing the fence and spend much time looking for trouble
sheep are content to graze and look cute unless one of the rams thinks you are a threat to his girls ( goat bucks have a similar attitude and can be aggressive )

sheep are more into grass and goat more interested in browsing weeds and leaves , so if you have a weedy pasture or poison ivy some goats help clear the pasture
sheep left too long in one paddock can damage the grass by nibbling it to the ground

if you have a large ethnic population many prize goat for festivals and holiday meals and if you can do certified halal there is a good market for that
 
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