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Livestock on Small Acres Can be Costly

By Roger Findlay, Gerogery West

When people ask me about where we live my reply is normally followed by a question on whether we have stock and do we eat our own meat. I often detect a hint of envy but I know, deep-down, that it’s not as glamourous as it sounds.

Our block is at the bottom end of the scale in terms of small acres and it is easy to fall into the trap of over stocking or selecting the wrong type of livestock. We probably made the right decision in not selecting cattle. Even one or two require lots of quality feed and water; they can be hard on fences and damage the ground with large hooves.

Sheep types that require shearing and crutching are prone to blow fly attack and attract added labour costs and inconvenience of hiring a shearer. (Most aren’t interested in shearing a few). Goats are an unknown quantity to us but could have been an option.

After an initial trial with sheep in the category mentioned, we switched to the no-shear low maintenance Damara. You may have seen them with their prominent fat tail.

Flock management and stocking numbers has been our problem in the past. We’ve always had a ram running with the ewes and he has always done his job. As a consequence, numbers can almost double putting stress on the land and the available natural forage.

A farm butcher kills our stock at a reasonable price and we do have plenty in the freezer but at what cost? For two thirds of the year we are buying hay, oats or sheep pellets. I know that we’re going out of pocket but what’s the alternative?

If I planted a crop I would need to employ someone to do the work. I could buy a heavy-duty lawn tractor and spend a considerable amount of time mowing or I can get smarter with what I’ve got.

I’ve made a start by halving the numbers and by removing the ram. I’ve made the decision to borrow or lease a ram for joining or (dare I say) buy sheep meat!

But for now I’m still buying feed and running an additional freezer to accommodate the eight sheep that we had killed.

Yes; this pair of former city-slickers, out at Gerogery West, are still learning the lesson the hard way!