Kentucky Meadows Meanderings - Persistence
Welcome to our Farm, and to our Blog. My wife (Terri) and I (Ed) are in our first year of farming together. It’s a part time endeavor, we both have day jobs which pay the bills and keeps the farm going. But it’s something we both really love. I grew up on a farm (dairy and beef cattle) so this is like coming home for me, although it’s my first time sheep farming! So we are learning, doing some things right, making some mistakes, but trying to have fun through all of it!
We are raising registered Rambouillet sheep for wool and stock sales, registered Nubian and Dwarf Nigerian goats for cheese, soap and stock sales, a bunch of different kinds of chickens and ducks for eggs, and Muscovy ducks to sell meat to local restaurants. We expect that it will take us at least two to three years to break-even – but the farm is already producing some revenue and should produce quite a bit more next year. Our near term goal is just to break even, and then ultimately to make at least a small amount of money on our place!
If there is one thing I think we are learning this first year, it’s persistence is key. Actually, I’m kind of re-learning it. I remember asking my dad when I was a young kid what the most important attribute to be a successful farmer is, and he said persistence. Boy is that true! So far this year we have lost two sheep (one to disease and one to get its neck stuck in a horse feeder and hanging itself) and several chickens (some to dogs, some to who knows what).
At the same time, we have had some successes! We actually are producing a steady supply of eggs now. Nice, big wholesome all natural eggs (they are a heck of a lot bigger than large eggs from the store). Enough to supply us and getting close to enough to begin marketing them to neighbors and local farm to table outlets. We also had great wool from our Rambouillet sheep this year. We sold it all to a local wool and yarn shop at a fair price.
We did learn that in wool, paying for a professional shearer is worth it! We saved a few dollars and hired a young man locally to do the sheering. Unfortunately, we ended up with way too many second cuts and it probably cut our wool revenue by 40% since this really hurt the quality of our fleece. The good news is we had exceptionally good wool according to tests by Yocom-McColl Testing Laboratories, with one of our ewes actually having 14.3 micron wool (this is extremely small wool, – Fine Grade on the blood grade scale), which is equivalent to the finest grade Merino wool. I really recommend using these folks for wool testing. They are very professional, easy to work with, and pretty reasonable.
Another lesson was that training is huge! We took the Sheep and Goat school course from the University of Kentucky and we learned so much. I can honestly say that this made a tremendous difference in our knowledge and confidence level, and it gave us some tremendous connections that have been invaluable in starting our operation.
So I hope you enjoy this blog and that you will share our journey with us as we grow our small sheep, goat, duck, and chicken operation! Please feel free to send us your questions and to share your comments.
Example of a Yocom-McColl Test