The new year provides us an opportunity to develop some goals for self-improvement. Many of us set a goal to improve our physical, mental, or spiritual health. But how often do you take time to develop some goals for the health of your farming and ranching business?
I’d encourage you to set some big hairy audacious goals (BHAG) for your sheep and goat operation. The term BHAG comes from the 1994 book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. BHAGs are meant to pull people out of a slump and energize them to implement a big picture-type plan that could take a longer time frame, like a decade, to complete.
The ranching community is mostly comprised of conservative people with very realistic expectations. This gives us strength to endure hard times and protect the family ranching legacy. However, it is a weakness, if we are trying to aspire to new heights and change the paradigm that your ranching operations has become accustomed to.
You must have been living under a rock this year, if you haven’t noticed a marked increase in the market value of sheep and goats of all shapes and sizes. We all hope that these markets remain strong into the future and most indications are favorable to continuing this trend. But let’s not become complacent by a high market. Why not use this as an opportunity to set a few BHAGs to increase the productivity of your flocks and herds?
Texas is blessed with a mild climate that is very suitable to raising sheep and goats without excess inputs, such as winter dry lot feeding or birthing our animals in shelters. However, this blessing can also be a curse. Texas generally raises one of the lowest lamb crops per breeding female compared to other states. In my opinion, this is mostly a result of pasture-based management that increases the chance of predation, reduces our ability to prevent neonatal losses, and limits genetic selection for higher rates of fertility.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not promoting that Texas add significantly more labor to raising sheep and goats. But I am promoting producers to develop BHAGs that will increase your lamb and kid crop, with minimal changes to your overall management plan.
Obviously, predation is one of the greatest challenges that traditional sheep and goat ranches face. We must continue to employ a variety of lethal and/or non-lethal strategies to minimize the impacts that predators have on our industry. But we must not allow predation to limit what other management strategies we employ to increase the reproductive efficiency of our sheep and goats.
In my professional opinion, the simplest and most economical strategy to increase lamb and kid crop is to source rams, bucks, or billies from breeders that utilize NSIP to generate EBVs for reproduction and other traits. Not only is this a proven scientific process but I have seen this technology make dramatic improvements in lamb crop of my own operation as well as others. I must warn you that there are only a few breeders in Texas that have adopted this technology. However, as the demand for these animals grows, I am confident that more seedstock breeders will use the technology and improve the genetic potential of the Texas sheep and goat industry. My own professional BHAG is to have 100 sheep flocks and goat herds from Texas enrolled in NSIP by 2030!
Next, I would suggest to pregnancy ultrasound your flock or herds, especially for those that birth in the pasture. This allows for females that are not pregnant to be remove from the herd or lambing/kidding pasture. It also allows manager to sort females into different pastures based on litter size, which has several advantages. First, birthing the females in separate pastures allows for selection of replacements from more prolific dams. It also allows for improved nutritional management of females that require more feed to raise larger lamb and kid crops.
These are just a couple management strategies that can result in you reaching your BHAG to improve lamb/kid crop. We have helped develop 12 factsheets on this topic that can be accessed at http://lambresourcecenter.com.
Happy New Year’s and good luck as you work towards new heights with your ranching enterprise!
To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 325-657-7324. For general questions about sheep and goats, contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service county office. If they can’t answer your question, they have access to someone who can.