Purchasing sheep for our flock is a critical decision. Not only is it an added expense, but it can bring in genetics, good or bad, that can reshape all of the lambs that will eventually come from our flock. It is not a decision that I make lightly.
Once I have made a decision, however, the problem of adding a sheep to our flock is not solved — it simply moves into the next stage. Since we usually mount a cross-country search to buy the best that we can find, once the choice is made, we must figure out a way to transport that sheep back to our farm. Sometimes this task is an easy one, but at other times (like this summer!) it can be a challenge.
Earlier this year, we initiated a search for one or two ram lambs to bring particular traits to our Romney flock. We eventually decided on two boys from California, but the issue then became how to get them here before fall breeding. Since my friend Melissa (who lives two hours west of us) was also purchasing a couple of ram lambs from the same farm, we joined forces, knowing that moving four lambs would be more cost-effective than moving two. And that’s where this story begins.
Our initial plan was for me to drive out to California with Rick to pick up our two boys in the bed of our pick up truck. Once I looked over the drive and realized how many hours we would spend sitting in the truck, Melissa offered to make the drive instead with her husband and pick up all four ram lambs. Ever since I rolled my truck ten years ago, sitting for long periods can be terribly painful, so I was happy with the prospect of letting them make the trip. Since they didn’t currently have a truck, we decided that I would loan them our truck for the drive and would farm-sit for them during their absence. This would keep both of our expenses minimal and help keep overall costs down.
The plan was set into place, and Melissa scheduled vacation from her work for the week of transport. We both started to look for others who might need sheep moved, which would reduce the costs for us all. We found another couple from Wisconsin who had also bought a couple of sheep from the same CA farm, and we decided to transport those two sheep, too — now dividing the expenses by six sheep. Shortly after that, I made a sale to Arizona, so another five sheep were added to the transport, and we were now looking at using our trailer, too. Expenses were no longer such a critical issue since we had a number of sheep over which to divide the costs. Things looked good.
Before much time passed, however, the Arizona deal fell through and we were back to only the six sheep coming from CA. Then we were contacted by a coalition of breeders looking to bring a larger number of Romeldale/CVMs from Oregon. Since we were going to be picking up our sheep from near the north border of California, continuing into Oregon to add to our load seemed a good decision; once again it would help to divide the costs among many more sheep, bringing the cost per sheep way down. No problem; we were now picking up in CA and OR!
But that didn’t last long. Each state has its own requirements to transport sheep across state lines, but at the very least, the sheep need an exam and a certificate of health. It sounded as if the Oregon sheep couldn’t get such a certificate in time for our trip to the West Coast, so they dropped out of our transport and we were back to the six sheep coming from CA.
It was about that time that I added two sheep to the trip west for drop off in California, dividing our costs by eight sheep: the two girls going west, my two boys, Melissa’s two boys, and the ram and ewe pair for the couple in Wisconsin. It looked like it was all going to work out, since expenses for a trip to and from the West Coast were substantial, but we had a good number of sheep. That’s when one of the ram lambs I was going to purchase fell out of the deal. Unfortunately, he was not growing and developing as we had expected. We were down to seven sheep. Things were getting tight
Then, a few days later, the couple from Wisconsin called and pulled out — plans had changed, and they were no longer going to purchase any sheep this year. Now we were down to five sheep: two going west and three coming east. Believe it or not, all of these permutations had occurred over the past two to three months. As of Monday, the plan was still that I would farm-sit for Melissa while she and her husband made the round-trip in six days beginning today, driving 15-hour days to minimize expenses. It sounded brutal, but we each prepared ourselves. Rick would cover our farm, I would cover Melissa’s, and the two of them would drive. I was to arrive at their farm yesterday evening, and they were to leave this morning. We were all packed. I moved the sheep to new grazing at our place and loaded the truck. I had just finished mowing the pasture and was on my way to shower and leave when I got the call: the CA sheep had a case of summer pneumonia, not an uncommon illness during these months. There was no health certificate, and they could not travel for the next two weeks. Yikes! What to do now? I need my boy for breeding this fall!
More on how our transport continues to evolve on Monday’s blog.