Keep a Few Sheep

They pay better than any other class of farm animals.   That was the headlines in an Arizona newspaper back in 1893.  Why would an Arizona newspaper print such a story if sheep were not an important part of the economy of the territory, as we were a territory at this time? In its entirety with no editing expect what is in parenthesis.

A writer who appreciates sheep, and who succeeds in making a good profit on them, writes the Wisconsin Farmer, and says: I wish to impress upon my brother farmers, through the columns of your valuable paper, the importance of keeping at least a few sheep for several reasons. One is that they are such scavengers that they readily eat the seed of the vilest weeds and they are not like other farm animals, nothing grows after passing through them. Anyone traveling through the country can tell at a glance the farms that have a flock of sheep on them, by their neat appearance, no rag weed, the scourge of almost all of our cultivated land, is seen. I might go on and tell of other bad weeds, for their names are legion, but the sheep will in every instance annihilate them.

One other good reason is that they pay better for the food consumed than any other farm animal, and I now speak without fear of contradiction. No kind of stock will pay such profits on the cost as a flock of well-kept sheep. To illustrate: Two years ago in buying some feeders I got among them a rather small-sized ewe, and in sorting them out in the late fall I thought I would keep and breed her, for there was something about her that I liked. Her cost price was two dollars; the next spring she brought me two ewe lambs which she raised splendidly. She then met with an accident and had to be fattened, weighed 120 pounds, for which I got four and one-half cents or $5.40. Now I have sold to an Iowa man the two yearling ewes with sixty others, at $8 per head. So her increase brought me $16, making in all, $21.50. I think that the three fleeces of wool amply paid for their keep. I never got a chance to get much education and don’t presume to know what percentage I realized on the investment. (If my math is correct, I believe that is a 970% profit on just one ewe).

Another reason the sheep farmer has more time for recreation than the man who follows dairying, for instance, no matter what happens, rain or shine, that milk must be delivered on schedule time or there is a ruckus. Another reason is they are so docile and harmless, requiring less fencing and if by perchance they should break into the corn, they are not such gluttons and will not, like cattle, eat till they kill themselves, as is often the case. Another reason is that no stock, if properly bedded will make as much valuable manure and everyone knows that manure from sheep is the best. I might go on and state other advantages, but these will suffice. Don’t understand me that the sheep is everything and it needs no care. There is nothing to be without close attention, and sheep breeding and feeding are no exception to the rule.

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