Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hard decisions

Mike and Jonathan just unloaded 100 bales of hay, which brings us to about 200 to get us into April. Jonathan, Katherine, and I talked about how much hay we're feeding every day, and it's mind boggling -- five bales a day! So, now we have enough for about 40 days. Even if we did buy more hay, that would bring us to more than 600 bales for this winter, which is ridiculous. I don't even want to think about how many dollars that totals.

We'll start seeing a few blades of green grass in March, and the lawns and pastures will be solid green by early April. However, it can't be counted on as a serious source of food until May. It just doesn't grow very fast when it's still cold outside. So, something has to change.

I just emailed pictures and info on seven sheep to someone, so if she buys them, that will reduce the number of sheep by more than 25%. The other obvious reduction that can be made immediately is in goat wethers. My mother always told me, "Never say never," but you know, there are times when you think that it's perfectly safe to say that you will never do something -- like, "I could never butcher one of our goats." Part of me says that it wouldn't help that much, but then three goats is 10% of the herd, so that would make a difference, especially when one of them is a standard-sized goat, so he probably eats as much as two of my Nigerians. There's a part of me that has no trouble talking about this, but there is also the part of me that can't seem to pick up the phone and actually make the appointment with the slaughterhouse.


Anonymous said...

If it is any concollation you are not alone in this situation. For some of us it is visiting for a second (or third) time. I am starting a cut back as well. I am fortunatly past the "I couldn't eat one" stage...but it took a good number of years to reach it.
I hope you will find as I have that the lessing of worry by cutting back to be welcomed.
Unfortunatly it is one of the hard desisions that need to be made as an animal caretaker.

Anita said...

My husband and I have been having a related conversation recently about the new bucklings that are bound to be born here late next month. They are not herdsire quality, so would, of course, be wethered. However, it costs me more to feed them to weaning than I can charge for them as pets, so it simply makes no sense to allow them to live. The doelings are worth much more, and will make a profit. At this point, unless we have a change of heart, the bucklings will be culled immediately at birth. I keep telling myself that they are livestock, and the number one consumed meat in the world. It's still tough. I wouldn't fault you in the least if you butchered your wethers for yourself, or sold them as meat. Do what you have to do.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

In the Midwest, wethers sell for $50 to $125 each as pets, which is a lot more than it costs to feed them until weaning. They don't really eat much, especially if they're on pasture with a dam (handful of grain for a month = $5). And if a doe has only one or two, I start separating them overnight when they're two weeks old, so we're still getting milk.

It was my own fault that I wound up with all these adult wethers, and I won't do that again. Now that they're not babies anymore, it's much harder to sell them. When people are pet shopping, they want babies.

Even if there is no pet wether market in your area, you could have some good grass-fed chevon in six months at a really cheap price if you have pasture. I know there is a goat book out there that talks about butchering kids at birth, but I've never met a goat person who actually does that. They either sell them as pets or meat when they get older.

Anita said...

I pull all kids at birth because I want the milk for myself, and I want the kids super friendly. Last year I figured that it cost me about $100 per kid for milk replacer to feed them to weaning. (Grant it, I do buy the best, but I want that for the doelings.) I can sell them for $25-$50 IF I can find someone to buy them. There's not a big market around here. So, the numbers don't make sense, especially when you add in the labor involved.

I certainly could eat goat meat, if it was someone else's goat. If I bottle-fed the bucklings and then cared for them to six months I know I could never eat them myself. So, I just figured it was easier to cull them immediately before I got attached.

Jenny Holden said...

You are definitely not alone! I'm trying to decide whether to cut my flock significantly before next winter. I'm going to see what I get this lambing time and then get a bit ruthless I think! Hope you get everything sorted ok x

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear of your hard decisions.

Considering all of the money you are spending, have you ever calculated how much money you save being self sufficent? Consider the average amount of money people spend on grocery items, I would think you'd save a lot!

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

We are keeping track of what we produce this year, but the chevre alone covers the cost of the hay. And then we make 60-70 pounds of mozzarella per year, plus yogurt, buttermilk, cheddar, gouda, parmesan, etc. And we can't forget that we don't buy milk either. The goats (most of them) more than earn their keep. We're putting the total on the homepage of the our website,, which reminds me that I need to update the milk!


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