Racking Horse Business Now Counting on Sheep
Cedar Ridge Stables is as the name implies - primarily a horse facility near Reform. The owners, Jimmy and Tammy Doughty, used to be deep into the Racking Horse business with champions in their barn. However circumstances changed the way Racking Horses were shown and the Doughty’s interest in showing decreased. They still have their horses and board a few for customers, but their focus has changed to sheep which went from being pets to a business for them. Tammy is retired from the United States Postal Service, while Jimmy is employed by Peco Poultry, delivering feed to poultry growers in the area. They love animals and wanted to utilize their farm in a way both enjoyable and profitable.
Tammy, how did you become involved with sheep?
"Well, I acquired three Suffolk ewes from a friend about six years ago. The ewes had been club lambs, shown by 4-H or FFA members, and they were pregnant. We already had goats, but sheep were new to us. I began to read, ask questions and attend seminars to learn all I could about these cute creatures.
"Attending field days and meeting sheep producers, I learned a lot about the wooly animals. After the ewes had lambed and the lambs became old enough to be sold, the customers who bought our young goats began to buy the sheep and wanted more. We decided to buy some more ewes and a ram to see if we could make them a viable enterprise.
"With wool sheep, you have to shear them and our first shearing was truly an unforgettable experience. The wool has a lot of dirt in it because of the lanolin in the wool, so the clipper blades became dull really quickly and we weren’t using the correct blades anyway. Since the wool was dirty, we decided to wash the sheep to make the shearing easier, which it did, but it takes a long time for a wet sheep to dry. The shearing is now done by Charlie Meeks of Lauderdale County who shears sheep for a lot of sheep producers in North Alabama.
"We appreciate being able to call Mr. Meeks and have him take care of the wool removal."
Tammy heard about hair sheep while attending seminars and was interested in them because they do not have wool to shear. They also have higher resistance to disease and parasites than the wool breeds. They now have two breeds of hair sheep on the farm, Dorper and Katahdin ewes with Dorper rams, and have phased out the goat production on the farm.
Jimmy, what are your plans for the future of Cedar Ridge Stables as far as animal production?
"We hope to eventually increase to 150 Katahdin ewes with Dorper rams to breed back on them to produce lambs that grow well and reach the optimum sell-weight of 80-100 pounds in a shorter period of time. We are also going to incorporate beef cattle production into the farm program to be somewhat diversified in what we raise. Angus and Bramvieh heifers have already been purchased and they will be the foundation of our cowherd."
Tammy, how do you market your lambs and will that change as you grow?
"We have never taken lambs to a sale barn, word-of-mouth and creative advertising have worked well for us so far. Selling our lambs on the farm has really been easy, we have repeat customers and they tell their friends. Our customer base consists of ethnic groups including Hispanic, Muslim and North African. We have flyers and business cards printed in Spanish which we post and pass out in towns and cities in our area, and this has helped us immensely.
"Lamb sales are heaviest from just before Thanksgiving until the first of the year, but some lambs are sold all year for special occasions like Easter, birthdays and social parties. We are also members of the A+ Cooperative of which I am the secretary of the southwest division. This organization promotes the growth of sheep, goat and rabbit production by education and development of markets for each species. We may have to change marketing strategies as we grow, but we will determine that as we grow."
The Doughtys rely on the staff at Fayette Farmers Co-op for all their needs and, if the Co-op doesn’t have it, they will gladly order it for them. Manager Lance Ezell and his staff are always helpful and ready to help their customers attain their production goals.
Your local Quality Co-op is always willing to help and we appreciate your business.
If you would like more information about Cedar Ridge Stables or you want to talk about sheep, you can reach Tammy or Jimmy at (205) 270-6633 or (205) 270-6696.
Don Linker is an outside salesman for AFC.