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skiba
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All of this is more or less hypothetical and I figured this would be a pretty good place to ask these questions :]

 

Ever since I got my BC I've decided that I am always going to have one in my life. I have yet to enroll him in herding (I'm 17 and jobless atm and finding the money for said classes is hard) but the more I learn about it, the more I want to try. Getting to the point, I was wondering how you started your farms and if you can live off selling the sheep's wool and whatnot or if you have to have another job?

I'm a total newbie to this, please excuse my naivety.

 

I would love love love to own a sheep farm and a few BC's. The work would be worth it.

 

If you could leave your 2 cents that would be great :]

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There's a lot more to it, but even selling specialty wool to a handspinners & craft market, it's the market lamb that pays the bills. The wool sales are an added bonus.

 

I work two other part-time jobs in addition to farming (sheep, pastured poultry, garden veggies & flowers), plus I do custom cakes on commission. My partner works full-time as an environmental consultant. We don't have much extra, we live simply, but well enough. It helps that we raise probably 80-90% of our own food.

 

I started off apprenticing on other farms & learning what I could. Then I got a bunch of ewes who got accidentally bred. It all spiraled down from there :rolleyes: (I got the collies AFTER I got the sheep)

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I've wanted a farm since I was a kid, but I also desperately wanted to be a vet. I work a full time job as a vet. Working the dogs is a hobby paid for by the job. One day I hope that I will own a flock of sheep that at least covers the cost of keeping them. My backup plan is to win the lotto so I can work part time and raise sheep part time. :rolleyes:

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My backup plan is to win the lotto so I can work part time and raise sheep part time. :rolleyes:

 

Hah, for well over a year after I got my PhD, and was still un(der)employed, I still found myself opening, with bated breath, the "Publishers Clearinghouse" letters that told me that I MIGHT have won a million dollars.

 

Today I find myself still thinking of buying lottery tickets in hopes of winning and cashing out of my current job and ... buying a farmette.

 

Skiba - follow your dreams! But maybe pursue a more direct trajectory than I did. And also follow Liz' pattern, and consider what you'll do for a "day job".

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Farming of any sort is a capital intensive enterprise and you have to operate at low margins. That means that in order to be profitable, you need to do three things: keep overheads as low as possible, keep gross margins as high as possible, and sell as many units as possible. These things are all more easily said than done. Put more simply, an old potato farmer down the river, whose name is about 20 letters long and ends in "wicz" once told me that farming is a lottery for Polacks. Instread of risking a dollar to make a million, you risk a million to make a dollar.

 

It is overheads (and the debt that is often used to pay for them) that kills profitability for most farms. Overheads include land costs, labor (yes, your own time has value), and depreciation of buildings, equipment, and animals. In many farm budgets these are simply disregarded, since they are largely non-cash costs. But they are real, and must be included in your plan.

 

Long and short of it, getting started with your own farm requires a packet of money, some very good planning, and the skills, business acumen, and work ethic to get the job done.

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:rolleyes::D

 

 

I think it's a good idea to have a free-agent kind of profession. In Poland, it is impossible to make money on farming they way most sheepdog people would want. However, e.g. being a translator is an ideal kind of profession that can make you money to keep the farm.

 

Maja

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Hey Skiba,

 

I am in the planning/dreaming phases of owning my farmette. But I will share my plans because, well I like to think about them and am constantly adjusting them. :D

 

I am 29 years old. I am a tax accountant. This is how I pay the bills and plan to pay for my farmette. My goal is to sell my current house (easier said than done these days) and hopefully purchase between 4 and 10 acres of land with a house. I know that there is no way that I will be able to have sheep immediately following the purchase - this is allowing for the costs of fixing/prepping to have livestock. So, my goal is to be ready to have sheep within two years of purchasing the farm. I would also like to have chickens, keep bees, and start a smallish organic vegetable garden. I do not plan to sell lamb for market (it's a personal choice) and would like to just sell wool. I would like to have a small flock of about 12 sheep max. (Really the sheep are there so I can work my dogs.) I would also like to be able to sell farm fresh eggs, honey, and vegetables at local farmers markets.

 

So, here's my idea. I know that I will need to keep working my day job while I have my farmette but, I would like to think that maybe I might be able to have the farm up and running relatively smoothly generating a little bit of income somewhere down the line - no set time frame for that. :D So, if I can do that, I may be able to retire a little bit earlier and have my little bit of farm income supplement my retirement income. :rolleyes:

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As the old saying goes, "keep the day job." If you have some sort of income that ideally requires not all of your time, you *might* be able to make the sheep pay for themselves, more or less. My dog/sheep operation pretty much pays for itself, but the income is from a number of sources: selling market lambs, training dogs, dog lessons, doing setout, occasional judging, trial winnings, and so on. It also helps that the business is write off, and I pay a lot of taxes at the day job; this means that I get back most of what I pay in to taxes each year, which then helps subsidize the whole operation...you get the idea,

A

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Vicki,

 

Farmers markets are a huge time sink. Try to find a farmette that is close enough to civilization that you can have folks come to you and set up either a farm stand or a CSA. With farmers markets, you have to sit there for hours whether you're selling or not, and in some cases if you skip a week you may lose your spot. Voice of experience here. Back in the dim mists of time, I sold veggies at a farmer's market that ran from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday. The routine was this: Friday afternoon, get home from work, pick as many things as I could before dark, prep them for sale and pack the truck. Up at 4 a.m., out to pick sweet corn and other very perishable items and anything else I didn't get to Friday evening. Leave for the market by 6:45, set up and sell from 7:30 to 1, get home about 2 or 2:30 p.m., unload the truck, process and can or freeze any excess food, which usually finished at about 6:30 p.m. Collapse in a heap. Count the days receipts. A good day was $300 -- $200 was more like the average. This was in 1990 and 1991, so you can adjust for inflation -- $500 on a good day or so? For 18 hours of work, not counting the time that went into actually growing the veggies. And deduct $30 for my stall. And milage, etc., etc.

 

If you could do the same sort of sales without leaving your home -- so you could be attending to other duties between customers, and perhaps not have to overpick so you had all the stuff to can at the end of the day, $500 might not seem like so little.

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Bill is right on.

 

I do utilize farmers markets because I make yarn and clothing while I'm sitting there and this attracts people.

It also is good advertising.

But I and my husband work very hard.

 

We are tenant farmers, as we only own 8 acres but have access to miles of trails and 80 to 100 acres now of open land. So we use this land rent/morgage/tax free.

But of course we are subject to the whims of the owners. (They have been great so far.)

Our sheep can live on indigenous browse.

The down side is you have to, during the winter, stay out with the flock for 4 to 6 hours. They learn to stuff themselves during that time. That can be cold work.

 

I also utilize everything the sheep give me. The wool/meat/fat/bones/organs/hides......everything.

 

The only thing I have to get is my license for milk and cheese.

 

We also use the sheep for clearing land now.

Sell breeding stock.

 

Teach folks how to butcher/how to shear/knit/spin/etc

 

My shearing work has helped alot.

 

 

But I would rather work hard at this.

 

I also run a wildlife rehab and ed facility, but that work is a suck zone for $ And is truly charity work.

 

I am also an author and an artist- both of which are very rewarding but hungry work. I do those things at night.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We only have hobby sheep and they definitely do not pay for themselves. We do sell eggs, vegies and lamb. We are retired and cutting expenses is the way we survive (plus Soc. Sec. and savings). Definitely get a good job to pay for your stock, etc. but also follow your dreams. If you study, work hard and live within your means you should be able to afford a small farm, house and stock. It can work if you are willing to devote time and effort to acquiring what you want.

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It depends where you're farming and what you're farming. I know people who make their entire living off a couple of hundred acres, but they aren't sheep farming. They do run some sheep though, as a hobby/sideline. We live entirely off our farm (I think it would be a ranch in US-speak, maybe? What's the difference between farms and ranches?) at the moment, sheep + some cropping. In our markets, you really need multiple thousands of sheep to live off them. So you're needing a fair amount of land. We lease a second property, and that's a way to get started farming as a career, but you need to have some idea what you're doing because the margins are really tight these days.

 

I'd say look to have a day job that allows you to live somewhere rural, have enough flexibility in working hours to cater for hobby farming, and get into it recreationally. Or just go and live/work somewhere rural, and you might meet a nice farmer!

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A farm is a place where food is grown/raised. A farm can include crops and/or livestock.

 

The word ranch is generally reserved for larger livestock operations (sheep, cattle, goats, etc). Crops can be grown on a ranch, but those crops are grown primarily to feed the animals. When someone says sheep ranch I think of many hundreds or thousands of sheep.

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A farm is a place where food is grown/raised. A farm can include crops and/or livestock.

 

The word ranch is generally reserved for larger livestock operations (sheep, cattle, goats, etc). Crops can be grown on a ranch, but those crops are grown primarily to feed the animals. When someone says sheep ranch I think of many hundreds or thousands of sheep.

Did you mean hundreds of thousands?

 

Well, I guess we're a farm- we've been about 50/50 sheep/cropping recently, running eight to ten thousand sheep, but probably going more to sheep in the near future. I thought I read something recently about the use of "farm" and 'ranch" being quite different in the US. Over here it's farms or stations, but farms include some cropping (whether for stock feed or sale) +/or pasture cultivation, stations are just livestock and are usually northern/inland, with a much lower stocking rate. So you can have farmers with a hundred thousand sheep, and a station running a thousand (although most station country here is all cattle now). Station country runs acres per head, rather than head/acre.

 

Interesting, thanks.

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The focus of a ranch is the livestock.

 

I would say that as far as I can tell station = ranch and farm = farm. You own a very big farm if you are running thousands of sheep. :rolleyes:

Right. Although we have neighbours who only do sheep, no cropping at all, and they're a farm by our standards. Anywhere south/coastal tends to be "farmland", regardless of what you grow. "Station country" is north/inland, and it's a station even if it's irrigated and growing fruit trees! There are quite a few stations that run less sheep than most sheep farms do, but they need many square kilometres to do it. Is herdcentral around? She's from "station country"...

 

We're only a small-medium sized farm by commercial standards. Just one family, no employees. As I said, if you actually want to make a living off sheep alone, you have to be running thousands (definitely more than a few thousand). That's over here, but I'd be surprised if it was much different in the US. I think government subsidies change things in Europe.

 

holy cow, a hundred thousand sheep?!! That's hard for this midwesterner to fathom! What are the numbers for big ranches here in the US?

There's a big export feedlot down the road from us, and they have loaded out a hundred thousand sheep onto trucks over a couple of days. It's a bit disconcerting seeing that many sheep in one place. Most people would farm nowhere near that number, but some big farmers or ag companies would run that many. Sheep numbers have been at a historical low in Australia recently, but are on the increase now with the rise in prices (and the crash in cropping profits). I hope it continues- we'd rather be all sheep and no cropping if we had a choice. Our shire (equivalent to a county, I think) was once famous for being the first to have a million sheep, but we have a way to go to get back there.

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I was once told that a farm is where the feed is brought to the animals and a ranch is where the animals are brought to the feed. By that reckoning, I am a rancher most of the year. A better distinction might be on whether the feed is native or planted. Many ranch business planners talk about ranches that have a farming division. The farming division might produce grain or hay, almost all of it planted. The ranching division produces livestock and manages range or pasture -- almost none of it planted.

 

Here in the Northeastern US, any enterprise that produces agricultural products for sale is called a farm, whether those are livestock, fruit, vegetables, hay, grain, or even forest products in some cases. Lots of properties that produce nothing are also called farms. They would be called "estates" or "country homes" in most places. Enterprises that stable recreational horses, even if they produce none of their own feed, are also called farms.

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Bill's definition of a New England farm is close to my own -- the farm on which I was born was a dairy farm of +/- 250 acres -- which, particularly during the Depression and WW II had a supplemental income of a "truck route" to the city -- poultry, produce, and flowers. There wasn't an inch of the place that my grandmother didn't have under cultivation. Selected timber harvest about every 50 years. The year I was born, the dairy closed (my grandfather had heart problems and there was no one to do the heavy lifting of running a dairy) and the family opened a commercial greenhouse operation - though we still kept smaller animals -- chickens, and the like and a beef cow. The greenhouse operated for ten years, until my father's untimely death and my mother needed to work at a job that provided health insurance, etc.

 

Inheritance divisions has shrunk the farm to forty acres that is now in a land trust. I mourn the loss of the other 200 acres (though about 100 acres is owned by relatives and are as yet, undeveloped.) In the forty acres of the home place are two big hayfields, an orchard with old variety apples, three small pastures, and the greenhouse, four gardens locations, the old grape arbor, the small wood lot on the Pinnacle, the highest point on the farm. A horse barn, which is pretty solid, the old farm house, much in need of repairs.

 

We all get to share it, under one prime directive -- no one person's use can interfere with the other's. My sheep are inoffensive because they will serve a purpose - keeping browse down in the orchard and in the smaller pastures that are too small to get the big hay balers in so 2-3 times a year somebody has to go in there to brush hog those areas to beat back the multiflora rose - but I'll have to pay for fencing, their upkeep, etc.- I'm playing a waiting game -- my cousin is talking about running beef on his property, which borders the orchard and two of the smaller pastures; if so, that's one fence I won't have to put up and it's a long one! I'll just have to tack sheep fence on "my side" of the posts). However, my niece's husband is thinking pigs...well, his father-in-law is very much opposed...though I wouldn't mind a good pork roast or some kielbasi...

 

The important thing about this situation is that we don't "have" to make any money on it...though it would be nice to not lose any on the sheep...even if it is just putting one or two in the freezer each year, or selling a few at auction. Their real purpose is the stewardship of the land. I don't see how we could make a decent living (though everyone's definition is different) on that size property, though the opportunities it offers are flexible - As many have pointed out, making a small holding self-sustaining is difficult unless a) you are living "off the grid" and are willing to work very hard or :rolleyes: have an independent source of income. The fortunate thing with the farm, as we still call it, is that a minimal amount of income is needed to pay the taxes each year -- the hay crop takes care of that. But if someone had to make a living on just that amount of land, and having to start with purchasing it at today's real estate prices, it would be tough going.

 

So, along with the others, I heartily endorse developing a plan that will enable you to obtain a job/career that you like will provide you with opportunities to live the kind of life that you desire.

 

Liz

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