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Raising sheep only for wool  RSS feed

 
pioneer
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Posts: 11372
Location: Left Coast Canada
2016
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Wow!  $140 a pound for a raw fleece?!  Fantastic.  She says she grows the fleeces to over 12 inches long with no vegetation in it, to get that price.

Great video.

The coats are really interesting.  Even more interesting is that she doesn't coat the ones she wants to grow the extra long wool. 

Mostly I just love the dogs.  When I get enough sheep, I want a pair of dogs like that. 


Interesting what a hot dry area she's in.  Many of the fine wool breeds like merino come from hot, dry places like (in the case of merino) Spain.  I wonder if her climate is part of what makes the wool so fine?
 
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raven ranson wrote:Wow!  $140 a pound for a raw fleece?!  Fantastic.  She says she grows the fleeces to over 12 inches long with no vegetation in it, to get that price.

Great video.

The coats are really interesting.  Even more interesting is that she doesn't coat the ones she wants to grow the extra long wool. 

Mostly I just love the dogs.  When I get enough sheep, I want a pair of dogs like that. 


Interesting what a hot dry area she's in.  Many of the fine wool breeds like merino come from hot, dry places like (in the case of merino) Spain.  I wonder if her climate is part of what makes the wool so fine?



I have spun her fiber quite a bit and the long fleeces are definitely not fine like merino, what they are is lustrous kind of like angora (mohair). One of the best parts of her fleece is that those wools pick up color in such an amazing way. I do make wearable yarns out of her fiber but definitely not something shaped like sock or gloves! Mostly it is just amazing to play with and stare at...I make embroidered landscapes out of the wool by tacking down the wool in different shapes to represent trees and people and it is the simplest form of embroidery...and I sell the for a lot of money so it isn't just about the artsy fartsy part of me. Her Scrap Boxes are just a great way to get introduced to different luxury fibers in amazing colors. Yes, I do have a pretty powerful girl crush on her and her processes!
 
Posts: 76
Location: St. Ignatius, Montana, zone 5b
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I raise five sheep just for their wool, and I make a profit on them.  I process their fleece myself, spin it into yarn, sell it as combed fiber, yarns, and weave items from it, all making me more money that what it costs to fee them.  If you do not have the skills or the market for selling the "value added" wool, then it will probably cost you money to have them.
 
gardener
Posts: 1886
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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That's great Danette.I love to hear about people making a profit or even breaking even.

How have you managed to quantify your time?  That's always my biggest question.  I do work that I enjoy, but it seems like some of the time I should be generating funds to support the life I love.

Any perspective to lend on that question?

Thanks
 
Danette Cross
Posts: 76
Location: St. Ignatius, Montana, zone 5b
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:That's great Danette.I love to hear about people making a profit or even breaking even.

How have you managed to quantify your time?  That's always my biggest question.  I do work that I enjoy, but it seems like some of the time I should be generating funds to support the life I love.

Any perspective to lend on that question?

Thanks



I can wash and dry 3 fleeces in a day, and pick and card about 3 pounds while I wait on soaking and drying etc.  So in one day I can get 3 fleeces ready for picking and carding and about 3 pounds of wool from dry to ready to spin. Today is an example of a lot of time but not much to show for it though, spent 6 hours in my studio and got only one 20x20" pillow cover done.  BUT now that I got all the yarn choosing, pattern choosing etc done and fiddling around done, tomorrow I will weave up the other four and move onto another loom for horse blankets.  So, some days it seems like you are getting nowhere, then the next you launch forward. If I could get an image to upload from my machine (doesn't seem to want to let me do that) I would upload picks of my sheep and studio.

You can't gauge on a daily basis, has to be by project.  If you get an idea of what you can sell your items for, then get the process down to as efficient as possible, then you can see how much time it takes to make X number of Z and see if you are making any money (and materials of course).  Getting a fix on COGS (cost of goods sold) is a real challenge! Especially when you keep coming up with new things (which you have got to do). New items take practice, testing etc., that's a time vortex!
 
Danette Cross
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Location: St. Ignatius, Montana, zone 5b
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Thekla, I did a short video tour of my studio and put it on youtube.


 
Posts: 1960
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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r ranson wrote:Is it economically viable to raise sheep just for their wool alone?

number 2
Increasing the value of the finished product can be done by putting more labour into it.  My $20 fleece can become two to five hundred dollars worth of yarn or two $400 sweaters.  That's all well and good, but then the challenge is to find someone willing to pay that much for it.  There is more to increasing the value than simply putting more labour into it. 



If this is the case then, from a financial standpoint, you should be focusing on buying in raw fleeces and processing them. That is where the most value is created, you don't need to be individually responsible for every step in the production chain. For example the equipment to process fleeces is expensive; it doesn't make sense for each small farmer to own their own processing equipment, which is why so few of them even consider it. If you do make the investment you want to be processing as many fleeces as possible, not having it idle for large periods of time. Unlike permaculture grown food, I doubt that the intrinsic quality of the wool will vary substantially from farmer to farmer. Post processing your wool product will be indistinguishable from theirs.

Consider this to be like applying the 80/20 principal - rather than try and do more of the low value activity, instead focus on what brings your the most benefit for the least work.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1960
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Danette Cross wrote:I raise five sheep just for their wool, and I make a profit on them.  I process their fleece myself, spin it into yarn, sell it as combed fiber, yarns, and weave items from it, all making me more money that what it costs to fee them.  If you do not have the skills or the market for selling the "value added" wool, then it will probably cost you money to have them.



You say you make a profit on your sheep, but you don't appear to account for your time spent processing. What hourly rate would you give yourself? And how doe sit stack up when you factor that in as well?
 
Danette Cross
Posts: 76
Location: St. Ignatius, Montana, zone 5b
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You say you make a profit on your sheep, but you don't appear to account for your time spent processing. What hourly rate would you give yourself? And how doe sit stack up when you factor that in as well?



You do need to count your time. As the old saying goes, time is money.  So how I do it, is during the design process, I do a lot of testing, from how long it takes to wind a warp or process the wool etc., for a given project, then how long it takes to make the item.  Then I add in the cost of materials, which for me is pretty low because I raise and process my own wool.  Some suggest going to a commercial processor, but that can be cost prohibitive, and I don't always get the hand in the wool that I want.  Usually comes back far too dry and over processed. An example from last year:  I was blessed with 6 Churro fleeces for FREE, they took me 2 days to wash and dry (16 hours). I picked and carded 4 of them (60 pounds of wool!) That took about 13 hours according to my notes. I dyed 4 pounds which took very little time on my part, only about an hour of set up and rinsing, the rest of the process happens in the dye pot or on the drying rack, while I am doing other things. So now I had 60 pounds of picked, carded and dyed (to blend in with the natural) wool.  I went to a show and sold 35 pounds of it ( along with many other things) for $25 a pound. A return of 875/29 = $30 an hour because the fleeces were free. Now when I have to fold in my hay costs and the shearer for my own sheep, that drops to about $15 an hour, but that is still above minimum wage just for wool.  When I weave an item or make yarn, the cost of the item offsets the time cost.  For instance, a 4 oz. skein of hand dyed, hand spun yarn costs about $25, and you get 4 of them per pound if you have a good market for your work. In an 8 hour day, I can spin up 3 pounds of wool, that's 12 skeins with a potential income of $300, that $100 a day, so about $12.50 an hour.

Of course all of this fluctuates: where did you get the wool, what did you pay for it, what is your market and what can it bear?  How much in equipment costs etc.  I am blessed in that I have all the equipment, though no automated picker or washer, I do that with a small picker and wash my fleeces in large baths by hand.  But most of that process is again, the wool sitting in the hot bath soaking, then I drain, and put into a second bath.  I usually put each fleece through 4 baths and 1 rinse. So, what I want to convey is that you have to have your process down and efficient to make it work.  I have a system where I know what to do while waiting on a step in the process, like picking washed and ready wool, while a fleece is soaking.  Or spin while waiting for a dye bath to set etc.  Keep moving!
 
Posts: 97
Location: suburbs of Chicago USDA zone 5b
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We're considering getting a few sheep expect the endeavor to be economically viable even though I'll keep most of all the wool for myself. We live in the suburbs, on a 1.5 acre horse property (with no horses).  My mother-in-law (who owns the property) is currently paying a hefty sum for mowing every week during the growing season. I've eliminated large chinks of lawn by planting other things, but there is still a lot of it. We could rotate a small flock of sheep around most of it, and reduce the mowing to a more manageable amount.
 
Danette Cross
Posts: 76
Location: St. Ignatius, Montana, zone 5b
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Thea Olsen wrote:We're considering getting a few sheep expect the endeavor to be economically viable even though I'll keep most of all the wool for myself. We live in the suburbs, on a 1.5 acre horse property (with no horses).  My mother-in-law (who owns the property) is currently paying a hefty sum for mowing every week during the growing season. I've eliminated large chinks of lawn by planting other things, but there is still a lot of it. We could rotate a small flock of sheep around most of it, and reduce the mowing to a more manageable amount.



Just remember that summer isn't the only time that you need to feed sheep.  During winter if you have snow on the ground you will need to feed them a good quality hay, and perhaps supplement with oats like I do in chilly Montana when the temps really drop.  And of course, loose minerals.  Sheep can't use a salt lick block.  The number of sheep will determine if you have enough grass to feed them during the grazing season.
 
Thea Olsen
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Location: suburbs of Chicago USDA zone 5b
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I'm well aware of that. I Suspect we'd also need some supplemental feed during the growing season at least at first, while we work on improving the quality of the pasture.
 
Danette Cross
Posts: 76
Location: St. Ignatius, Montana, zone 5b
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Thea Olsen wrote:I'm well aware of that. I Suspect we'd also need some supplemental feed during the growing season at least at first, while we work on improving the quality of the pasture.



Yeah.  I sometimes use a small bucket of oats to get my sheep to follow me from their upper pasture to the lower.  Good thing about sheep is that they trim and fertilize!!
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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