January 18, 2022

From the Pastures: Turning green

Hello from Graze-N-Grow. Just when I was finally adapting to our snowy, frigid February, it all disappeared. This month, though, seems easier to adapt. All the lambs seem to enjoy the weather regardless of the temperature. I’m continually amazed by their hardiness compared to the wool breeds we used to raise. Since it’s harder for me to get up and down nowadays I sure don’t miss having to pull lambs or get them to suck.

In watching some videos of lamb and goat auctions it’s evident that the two distinct markets for lamb — traditional and non-traditional — continue to show the advantage of the smaller, under 80-pound lamb. Adding 20 or more pounds can rarely be justified. I would rather have three ewes weighing 120 pounds raising four or five 80-pound lambs at $3-plus per pound on pasture alone than two ewes at 180 pounds raising three that weigh 140 pounds with a lot of hay and grain at $2-plus per pound.

But then I did neglect to include the wool value on those big ewes. Let’s see, say 10 pounds of wool at $0.00 per pound minus $6 shearing — well, I guess that doesn’t quite make up the difference. At least that was the price my neighbor got for his wool this past December. I didn’t want to ask him if he had to pay his wool checkoff fee on top of that. I thought that would be rubbing it in too much.

There seems, with this increase in demand and price of lambs lately, a growing demand for breeding stock. I’ve had numerous calls from folks wanting to buy bred ewes the last few weeks, but I usually quit selling when we get into the lambing season. We usually sell at breeding time or a couple weeks prior to lambing. It seems supply is down and demand is strong. Let’s hope it stays that way.

This is the first time we have been sold out of slaughter lambs, as well. We will have some for our regular Easter lamb customers, but most lambs will get the opportunity to grow out on pasture for the July ethnic holiday market.

I always look forward to grazing season as it lets the animals do the work and I can take it easy. The ewes, even now, are turning their noses up at their regular hay diet as they go after what remains of green grass in their sacrifice pasture. It’s an annual ritual of approaching spring. The animals are not alone in wanting to shrug off the dreary cloak of winter for the green carpet and warm days of spring. I hope there is a great spring in store for all of us. Happy trails.

Jim Draper

Jim Draper

Sheffield, Ill.