How to Become
A Better Sheep Manager

By Helen A. Swartz,
State Sheep, Goat and Small Livestock Specialist

In any livestock enterprise and especially in a sheep operation, management is the name of the game. Good management involves more than raising sheep, selling lambs and wool, and paying bills. To be profitable, it requires a method of controlling production factors all year and being prepared to be flexible to meet change that is always inevitable.
Good sheep management is a process of goal setting, developing plans and organization. Management requires knowledge of specifics about a sheep operation such as feed costs, lamb gains, wool weights, lambing rate, number of lambs marketed per ewe, interest rates, selection, reproduction and health. The first step to improved management is goal setting.

Goal Setting

Now is the time to set your goals for 19978 Determine your present lambing rate, weaning rate, 60-90-120-day weights, present marketing strategy, feed costs and health program. Put your goals into writing. Set goals that are achievable in 1998. Calculate your present lambing rate, feed costs, weaning weights, etc. Then set goals to raise those that are reasonable. For example, if your lambing rate is 125% in 1997, set your goal for 1998 above that with a reasonable increase, let us say 135%. More than likely, your lambing rate is high enough but you lost too many of those lambs and your weaning rate can more easily be increased in 1998.
Look at your feed costs. Plan to lower these costs by selecting feeds that are lower or projected lower in 1989. If you are paying $100/ton for alfalfa, consider meeting the NRC requirements of the flock by substituting corn and soybean meal and decreasing the alfalfa fed per day. Other feedstuffs may be available that you have grown, such as milo that can save on feed costs. Decrease feed costs by timely purchasing at harvest.
Writing goals results in three things:
1. It forces you to identify each component of your sheep operation.
2. It requires that you know where you are going, like a road map. You look at a map from where you are presently located to determine which road you will take to get where you want to go.
3. Goals provide you with a foundation which can be revised to. help build future goals beyond 1989.
Goals should consider the economics and quality of life provided for the family. Consider how these goals will affect your family, both positive and negative. Determine how you will prioritize your time and carry them out. Consider how these goals may affect employees if they will be necessary to reach your goals.
Now is the time to set goals for 1998 because you will be selecting your replacement ewe lambs, purchasing rams, culling ewes and starting your fall lamb crop by turning in intact rams.

Plan Development

Once you have set your goals, you know where you want to go, like your road map. There are many roads that lead to most destinations. Most people take the Interstate. Other like the scenic route, the quality of life route. Perhaps in your family, raising sheep to teach children responsibility, sharing and meeting people at shows and fairs is more important than an increase in economic returns. That is for you to decide. However, make your goals realistic and the plans will succeed.


Organization is the name of the game in any livestock enterprise. Organize your plan. Put it on the calendar. Develop your own calendar to follow your plan and help achieve your goals. Making plans and not carrying them out will result in very little change. Define activities clearly and who should do what. A division of labor in a sheep operation is cost effective. Decide who is best at what and then agree that they will do that job.
Sheep raisers need a record of how well they are progressing toward their goals. With specific information on lambing rate, weaning rate and weight, herd health problems, feed cost, income per ewe, both lamb and wool and quality of meat and wool, the sheep producer can measure progress toward the goals set in an operation at a particular time. Then you can reset your goals to optimize profits in you sheep operation.

Lincoln UniversityAgriculture and Extension Information Center
900 Moreau Drive, Jefferson City, MO 65101
Lincoln University at Jefferson City, University ot Missouri, and the
U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Rufus Jones, 1890 Administrator,
Distributed in furtherance of Food and Agricultural Act, 1977 Pl 95-113 Sechon 1444 and 1445,
as amended by PL 97-98 December 22, 1981. Publications are distributed without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, or handicap. (573) 681-5554

May 1989 EP203