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EXECUTION Yes, I'm really a shepherd.

Discussion in 'Progress/Execution Threads' started by Shepherd, Dec 27, 2017.

  1. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Long time coming on this post. Long story short, I raise sheep. Lambs, to be precise. I have a flock of 233 sheep in the U.S. Midwest that I will expand to more than 1,000 within the next 3 years. I started with 9 sheep in 2009 and have grown to this point through partnership (more on that later), planning, more screw-ups than I can count, effort and stubbornness. My goal is to be able to leave the day job in 5 years.

    Background
    I grew up on a 1,200 acre farm which is still intact with my uncle and father as owners, purchased from my grandpa in the early 1980's. Corn, soybeans, hay, cattle, hogs and a handful of sheep my dad kept just as a curiosity. While my friends slept in on weekends, I was up early and working which made for a weird mixture of pride and loathing in my teenage years. Once I got out of high school, married and had kids, my involvement became "as needed" and I didn't really feel cut out for or motivated to pursue farm life beyond an occasional helping hand.

    Fast forward to my early 30's and I had a change of perspective as a result of personal and professional changes in my life. My dad still had about 30-40 sheep and I asked about getting a few as well. I bought 9 ewes (female sheep) in 2009. Within a year, I had nearly as many as my dad and we agreed to become partners. Since then, with many hiccups, failed experiments and heated arguments, we have managed to scrape forward. Through a combination of genetic selection, health protocols and countless hours of research, I feel good about the road forward. Below are some of the pros/cons about my plan to move from 9-5 toward the Fastlane.

    Pros
    * Having the family farm as a resource for feed, facilities, equipment, etc. is a major advantage. I have a very good relationship with my uncle and his son. Those two along with my dad are the only ones involved in the daily farm activities.

    * The commodity market for lamb has been solid for the past several years due to increased demand from "ethnic" markets (Muslim, Hispanic, etc.). This also brings the opportunity for potential on retail "on farm" sales in the future, which I have dabbled in.

    *Expansion opportunities in the future. We have added to our barns over the years and our logistics in terms of movement of the sheep are very standardized and efficient. Expansion will create a few logistics issues, but I'm confident we can handle those. My dad is on board with my desire to grow the business.

    Cons
    * Working with my dad every day can be burdensome. We are both very stubborn and opinionated. He is in his mid-60's and I'm in my early 40's. I have consciously tried to pick my battles and pick which hills are worthy of dying on. There have been times where the personal has bled into the professional. The only saving grace is that neither of us questions the others work ethic.

    *Putting all my eggs into one basket. I own half the sheep, but none of the facilities and a minimum of equipment. I have wanted to have this discussion about buying into either my dad's portion or the overall farm, but have been blown off in the past. I have 50 acres of farm ground of my own and plan on hedging my bets with rental properties as well over the next few years. This will be an ongoing issue as we move forward.

    *The commodity market is unpredictable. With growing populations that like lamb as part of their regular diet, I'm optimistic about the near future. However, with companies such as Memphis Meats on the horizon, the sourcing of animal protein will surely change in the next 10+ years. Since we are not in the retail space, I'm also dependent on just a couple buyers in my area.

    Overall Outlook

    Right now we are beginning our main lambing season, which will run through February. In the mornings I feed sheep and take care of newborn lambs, check them again in the evenings. My dad keeps an eye on things during the day. It's tiring, but I don't mind the hustle and it's a profitable side business. We have engineered our flock to be productive through genetic choices, quality feed and a consistent health protocol, with a discerning eye toward expenses. My main goal is to use the extra income to pay off my personal debt and get to a point where I can have more freedom in my day-to-day. I know this is a bit different than the usual post here, but any questions or feedback are greatly appreciated.
     
    Dramolion, HackVenture, G-Man and 6 others like this.
  2. Imon32red
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    Imon32red New Contributor

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    Your a little guy compared to the big farms but if you had an angle you could charge more.

    Can you market your lamb as "All Natural", "Organic", "No antibiotics", "No steriods", or something similar and charge a premium for it?

    You could possibly sell to local restaurants too that cater to local grown fresh ingredients.

    Can you find a local butcher that sells premium cuts and become his supplier?
     
    mo3 and Xeon like this.
  3. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    All these avenues have the opportunity for premium pricing and I have dipped my toe in, but will most likely wait until I leave the 9-5 to explore more heavily. I plan on expanding to at least 1,000 head and have the resources to scale more than the time required to market effectively for a premium priced product. I may try and have a booth at some local farmer's markets on the weekends.

    Hormone free would be accurate, but health protocols on our farm wouldn't allow for "no antibiotics" or probably "Organic" labeling.
     
  4. Globe-Al
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    Globe-Al Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Are there are problems within the lamb farming industry that you could solve? You know the industry so well maybe you could create some thing they need from you because it solves a common issue rather than competing for their business.
    Or maybe write a book on "how to start your own farm with only 9 sheep" and sell it to all the millennials who want to build tiny houses.
     
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  5. mo3
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    mo3 Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    So great to see such a diverse business on here. Welcome.

    I would second @Imon32red and the organic or grassfed route.

    Better for the planet, the animals and for us. I only buy high welfare meat for my family and I do pay extra because I won’t put my cash towards supporting intensively farmed animals.

    Good luck and keep us updated. When I was a little girl I always wanted to be a farmer’s wife when I grew up, so my ideas of life on a farm are probably somewhat idealised!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  6. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    In an ideal world, I would have any customers who wanted come to the farm and see how our animals are raised. From touching the intensively raised animal industry as part of my day job, I do know the industry is responding to animal welfare concerns and trying to create a dialogue with end consumers, albeit slowly. Farmers can be defensive because of fear of judgment due to publicizing of bad actors within the industry.

    I spent my Saturday morning rearranging our barn so that every sheep can come inside and escape the cold snap we are seeing in the Midwest. I'm very happy with our farm from a welfare perspective, although I don't publicize or market that aspect since it currently doesn't add value to my actual customers. I will think more on this as we move forward.

    One issue that may be coming up in the near future is promotion in my day job. Have any of you had to deal with a decision whether or not to pursue a promotion while simultaneously planning an eventual transition to your own business? On paper it seems like a no-brainer to pursue, but I worry about the added pressure and time requirements.
     
    mo3 likes this.
  7. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Update 1-24-18

    Nearly halfway through lambing the older ewes (female sheep). Here are the stats so far:
    61 ewes had 97 lambs, which is 1.59 lambs per ewe. Certainly acceptable per industry standards, but my goal is to edge closer to 2 lambs per ewe. I have incorporated more prolific genetics to increase the lambing percentage.

    Mortality rate for lambs so far is 5.2%, again very good per industry standards, especially considering we had a crazy weather swing from temps in the 60's to sub-zero. Thus far, I have 6 ewes I will cull for various issues this Spring. This may seem harsh, but one must be ruthless in keeping only productive livestock in order to be profitable. A very small percentage of problem animals can take up the majority of your time if you aren't careful.

    I'm anxious to see how the first-time mothers with new genetics will do, which will be within the next couple weeks. With waking up at 5:30 a.m. to check sheep, the day job, my kids basketball games, working out, checking the sheep at night and developing another hustle (writing, self-publishing), I'm hitting a bit of a mental/physical wall this week. Eating low-carb, exercise and meditation have helped, but I need to double down on the healthy habits including being grateful for the opportunity to have the workload I do.

    Any questions, feel free to ask.
     
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  8. cottonbuds
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    cottonbuds Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Bit off topic but a good book I read about managing people is "The Way of The Shepherd". Should be a fun, quick read for you. I also come from a farming background and enjoyed it.
     
  9. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Noted. Thank you!
     
  10. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Update 2-1-18

    Up to 90 ewes with 147 lambs, average of 1.63 lambs per ewe. Glad to see this number creep up, but I expect it to dip again as most of the first-time mothers have yet to lamb. Weather has been up and down, which can make the daily routine a bit more tedious. I would actually rather it be a bit cold so the ground stays frozen and I don't have to work in the slop outside. Also is easier to keep the barn clean and bedded down with straw if the sheep aren't dragging mud inside.

    Found out about a new market about 2 hours away that I'm going to visit. Again, it's a commodity market, but with the day job and current commitments I don't want to move toward exploring the retail side yet. My advantage is the marketplace is the capacity for volume, so my main focus for the time being is scale.

    A buddy of mine and his daughter visited the farm on Sunday and it just so happened we had a first-time mother reject one of her lambs. Perfect timing, so now they have a bottle lamb they are going to raise for the next 30-45 days. Good to see younger kids taking an interest in the farm.

    Personally, I'm down 15 lbs and nearly toward my first goal. Lifted heavy again on Sunday and getting circuit workouts in on my own during the week. Low carb, high fat diet with plenty of protein. Much better sleep, quite a bit more energy.
     
  11. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    As of this morning, we have 135 ewes with 203 lambs, average of 1.5 lambs per ewe. A dip as expected with more first-time mothers. After flooding in the area, the past week has been calm which makes daily chores much easier.

    Spring grasses are starting to sprout up, which means I will have to de-worm all the sheep to prevent parasites in the flock. I also have to vaccinate all lambs to prevent overeating as the lambs are weaned from their mothers over the next few weeks. Staying in good physical condition is vital for me, since I have to handle every sheep we have as part of this process. This will become more important as we scale, but I enjoy a good workout so no complaints from me.
     
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  12. Knugs
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    Knugs Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    How are you gonna scale this up? I assume you can only look after that many?
     
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  13. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    I have quite a few processes pretty well ironed out, so I think I can easily expand to 1,000 and not get in over my head. The difference between handling 100 and 200 is really not that significant if you have the sheep conditioned to move through the facilities and have structured those facilities for few bottlenecks and low stress.

    Since I have the infrastructure of a larger family farm behind me, the resources of land and equipment are already there. Also, my dad is around most of every day, so if there are any emergency issues he can respond fairly quickly.
     
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  14. Knugs
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    Knugs Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Awesome! I really don't know anything about farming & Herds. Whats the maximum capacity you can expand to (how long will it take?) and how are you going to go beyond that?
     
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  15. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    I have access to enough pasture ground at the home farm to expand to 1,000 head. I'm saving all the female offspring to expand, so at the current rate of growth I should hit my goal by either 2020 or 2021.

    After that, I would probably have to buy or rent more land if I want to go further. I'm not game planning much further out because of the ever-changing market conditions.
     
  16. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Good day on the farm today. 10 new lambs waiting for me when I got home. Early fall is technically out of season, but the genetics I have selected the past two years for out of season breeding is showing results. Having out of season lambs allows me to have more steady product available and to hit the market when it's more profitable. It's rewarding when a decision made many months ago come to fruition.
    Hopefully some more good news coming this week.
     
  17. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Well, we just bought a 165 acre farm adjacent to ours that went up for tax sale. Property has to sit for a year to give the owners the opportunity to pay the back taxes along with interest to us. We have been eyeing this property for 4 generations, offered to buy it in the past on multiple occasions.

    I was really interested in the players at the tax sale at our local government office. Almost no local bidders and the big players all knew each other. It was fascinating to chat with those people about how they got into bidding on these properties. We thought we would have local competition but ended up bidding against professional investors. We still got a pretty good deal, but definitely had to up the ante.
     
  18. Shepherd
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    Shepherd Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    I started to do some research with past experiences with lamb from Facebook followers on our business page. Will probably do some giveaways in exchange for honest reviews. Time to get off my butt.

    Bought a few lambs on Sunday that we will put on good hay and resell in a couple months. Had to carry most of them to the trailer by putting them over my shoulder, a couple of them well over 100 lbs. This is not a business where getting out of shape is an option.
     
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