We went to see the Wensleydales yesterday. They are lovely sheep, the wool is luxurious for certain! The animals had sound temperaments, they looked healthy, and the one I was able to catch had good feet and teeth. They weren’t quite as big as I expected based on photos I’d seen, but when I caught one, it was still a substantial and tall sheep. They were mildly flighty, but not freaky; they’d be easy to work with.
I pressed a little for more details on how much, precisely, the owner makes on an average year from this flock; but she seemed reluctant to talk specifics, as many people are when it comes to disclosing income. But, in a roundabout way, she cited expenses, how much she gets for wool, how much others have been getting for lambs, etc. So, I think (I hope?) I have a pretty good picture. I think that this may be a good wave to catch–while this breed is early in development here, it’s in high and growing demand. That may change in another decade, but there is a certain fad phenomenon with new breeds, I think, that can be most profitable at the beginning.
The biggest snag is this: I was hoping the owners would be willing to part with one or both of their livestock guardian dogs. I was figuring that since they are liquidating their livestock, they might not mind throwing a dog into the package too. But, when I inquired, she indicated they are very attached to the dogs, and had already decided not to sell them.
This is a conundrum for me: if I’m going to buy really expensive sheep, I want the best insurance policy against coyotes I can get. I had originally planned on trying out a llama or donkey, and I’d still do that if I were buying $100 sheep, because I prefer those to dealing with a big dog. But I think it’s too much to risk with expensive animals. And, it doesn’t appear that you can just pick up an adult, trained, fully-functioning LGD just anywhere. I think you pretty much have to buy your own pup and raise it up (and thoughtfully too, so it doesn’t learn bad habits).
So, I think I may have to tell the seller that one dog is a required part of the deal for me. I don’t mean to drive a hard bargain, but it’s a lot of money for me to lay down knowing that coyotes or loose dogs could destroy a large part of the investment in a one-hour spree.
I have such a hard time making big decisions, I’ve been waffling back and forth on this, dreaming about it, boring other people with the details about it! 🙂 But, I think my mind is made up that I want to at least make an offer on them, so the only thing left to decide is how much.
As a side note, the town where the sheep owner lives is a very tiny, old Northwest town. We had a greasy, but tasty lunch in a hole-in-the-wall diner there where the waitress sat down with us at our table to take our order. I was highly amused to observe and overhear some locals talking loudly and with strong opinion about the presidential election. It made me smile– a real piece of Americana– very ordinary people talking about their main concerns over the candidates. They weren’t discussing foreign policy, health care reform, the national deficit or the war– they were mostly concerned with Obama’s former pastor, Palin’s five kids and past beauty pageant win, and to which church denomination each candidate belonged. I love it.