We have been going to auctions a lot lately. Although we really have too many sheep at the moment – a situation made easier by our mutton wether spending the winter away keeping a ram company, we have been thinking of buying more sheep, with an eye on the future.
Our reasoning is this, we like mutton, and we like the idea of mutton too, a ewe or wether can be grass fed and have a few years of life, before making their way into the freezer. Sheep prices are fairly high at the moment, so buying lambs, or hoggs and growing them on is a good investment. In addition, we like the idea of moving towards even softer wool, and smaller sheep, as the business of turning our mammoth sheep is back breaking. We have ummed and arred over what to get. We went to the livestock auction at Exeter a few times and tried to grasp the prices, what lots they were sold in etc, and got the hang of having a good feel and a look at their mouths.
And this weekend we went to a small holders auction, always a good way to look at more traditional breeds, and besides we need to keep our ear to the ground regarding prices. We knew there were going to be some Shetlands, and they are smaller and have good wool, so we thought it would be a good fact finding exercise. And we took the trailer.
Can you see where this is going…
but it is better to be prepared, imagine if we saw something that was just right but we were not prepared…. So a good look at the sheep, a nice chat with the man with the pigs, a word in the ear with the auctioneer over how the sheep were being sold, a lot of hands on feeling and looking in mouths (of sheep that is.. not the pig man or the auctioneer…) . And we came to the conclusion that, although we really liked the Sheltands as a breed, there was nothing right for us this time… we didn’t want a ram lamb, those others were too small etc… so the only pen of interest were the older ewes and we are not there to buy older animals. We said we would bail and be glad of what we had learned so far.
Then I made the next mistake. I said ‘what if they are really cheap? Wouldn’t you kick yourself if they went really cheap?’
you can see where this is going..
So… we stood aside and conferred and came up with a ceiling that we felt was far too cheap and said we would bid up to that. So we stayed and waited, and listened with interest as we moved as a crowd from pen to pen. Then it was the ewes we were interested in. I waited trying and failing to look poker faced, whilst the auctioneer brought the starting price down and down. Someone else started, and I waited, then made my bid. Back and forth it went, I have yet to master the subtle half wink, or twitch that the farmers at the big livestock market did, but my bidding still worked. and then finally with a slap of his notebook , the ewes were ours. Half the cheap price we set.
But actually, once we had them home, a final inspection, a dose against worms a foot inspection and trim and himself was actually able to carry each one into their quarantine pen, and they had settled in, we like them. We liked them a lot.
I do wonder if they might be goats in disguise.. as they seem more interested in browsing than grazing. Shetlands are supposed to do this. Then again this
might be to do with their age and teeth. We shall see. but yes.. we like them.
They don’t seem too flighty, are already thinking we are not all bad. This is not a bad or uneconomic way to find out how we get on with the breed. Given they are knocking on, I don’t know how long we shall keep them, but so far we like the breed.
We have two grey katmogets and a black one, and have given them the names Duchess, Dorian, and Doris.