Tending his flock by birthright
A 4-H project in the late ’60s led Verney Voth to maintain a commercial sheep flock today.
“My neighbor gave me a couple bottle-lambs,” Voth said. “He was raising sheep. When you have sheep, you always have some bottle-lambs, so he gave them to me to feed them.”
He sold the sheep because they conflicted with his father’s dairy business but picked sheep-rearing back up when he got his own home 41 years ago.
His flock is 125 ewes and 140 lambs, most of them twins or triplets. Ewes and single lambs go to what now is his son’s homestead, which Voth gave him five years ago.
“He owns half the herd,” Voth said. “I’ve had both places, so I’ve always been splitting them to take them elsewhere. It’s easier with two people…it doesn’t rely on just one person to do all the work.”
Before his son started helping him, Voth managed the flock on his own.
“We like to graze a lot of wheat this time of year, because then the chores are easy,” he said. “But if the weather or the wind is strong, we’ve got to feed them indoors, and that makes for more chores.”
He also needs to split mothers into smaller pens before they give birth so they can get accustomed to their lambs. Heated waterers make chores a bit easier, however.
Voth raises sheep for their wool or their meat, depending on the state of the market.
“We sell the wool every year,” he said. “Some years, it barely pays for the shearing. Some years ago, Australia dumped a lot of wool on the market, and that kind of killed our market.”
A few stray lamb tails lie around the sheep pens. Voth bands the tails shortly after the lambs are born so they fall off, making it easier for a butcher if he sells veal.
“Right now, the meat is worth more than the wool, but we raise them for both,” he said.
Having a commercial flock means Voth doesn’t sell live sheep often — with one exception.
“My grandson, he’s in 4-H, I don’t know if he’ll have a lamb this year or not,” he said. “If he wants one, I’ll provide him one.”
Last modified Dec. 15, 2021