A year has passed since I last wrote a News Page for my web site. It has been a very busy year for us but, in reflection, I should have found the time to write up some of our news and to have kept in touch with all of you.
The advent of the DVD has been a very positive move for us, to the point that we have now discontinued advertising any of our videos in VHS. Apart from the poorer quality of the VHS format, the cost of mailing a VHS tape was increasing every year, if not every 6 months. In the past year we have been subsidizing the cost of the mailing because of the disgruntled comments we were getting about the postage and handling costs. Of course, the main benefit to you, the customer, is the improved picture quality plus the menu for moving around the video information. All of our videos, from the Border Collie programs through to my other rural interest videos, sheep management videos, plus the different International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) Championships, are all on DVD now.
We haven’t moved into High Definition yet but it is just around the corner for us. With the many different production tools in the HD market that fit into our production world, some of it is starting to look both interesting and also reasonable. However, I rather feel that the majority of our customers are more rural and possibly less interested in the race for these latest technologies. No one has asked for HD anything as yet, not like 4 years ago when customers were starting to ask about DVDs.
This time last year we were starting to send out the 2005 ISDS World Sheepdog Trial videos and the 2005 ISDS Finals videos. Once again, the chance to use DVDs as our delivery medium encouraged us to reconsider some of our possibilities. Any business today has to find new ways to offer more to their customers and the DVD has given us that opportunity. Double packaging has offered us the chance to send out 2 DVD sets for the price of one, and at the same time keeping our postage costs at a reasonable level.
We have just started to advertise the 2006 ISDS International, held in Scotland. You can find it on our web site. Again, we have made it up as a 2 DVD set, with one DVD covering the Highlights and then the 2nd DVD looks at the Top 5 Runs and the winning Brace Run.
I have recently told the International Sheep Dog Society, the ISDS, that the time has come to let someone closer to the UK., geographically that is, to take over my job at their Supreme Championship event. Norman Lorton has been excellent to work with but the cost of the traveling, renting a car, etc., plus the time to complete the different aspects of production has been prohibitive for me as my contract work continues to increase, plus all of the work that has to be accomplished on our farm here. Apparently Norman has someone else in mind for the job!
In 2006 I was fortunate to have been given a large production project covering 10 communities in Manitoba. These videos are to be used as informational tools to encourage and enlighten certain folk as to the benefits of living in any of these communities. It has been a grand opportunity to see many different locations, meet some fine people and to learn more about our province. Rural communities have to work hard for their very existence in our modern times but I have been continually impressed by the work and the effort made by the folk in these small communities. None of these communities, that I have had the chance to work with, should ever feel that they are lacking in any way. The spirit of these small rural communities is alive and very well.
Projects are starting to come together for this year with the USBCHA, the United States Border Collie Handler’s Association, Cattledog Finals being my first trip away from home. That will be available in the fall as a 2 DVD set. That’s if everything goes as to plan. This year their Finals will be held in Wyoming.
We have a number of other ideas up our sleeves and working on our web site is at the top of the list.
Our one effort to promote our business each year is from our booth at the Manitoba AgDays, held in mid January. That’s just around the corner. It is a 3-day show, which always gives us a great chance to meet with the many people we have met since we moved to Western Canada. From our booth we also manage to meet up with some prospective customers plus discuss some different ideas with some of our existing clients.
Down on the farm, we have had a pretty good year really, albeit one of the driest summers on record. Our flock of Clun Forest Sheep did a grand job for us with both a decent lambing percentage and also with good weaning weights. We managed to sell about 12 ram lambs and then quite a few of our crossbred ewe lambs for breeding. On top of that, the market price for finished lambs was as high as ever and so we did well there to. I love my Clun Forest sheep. What a great breed of sheep!! On the cattle side of our farming operation, the calf prices were somewhat lacking but the increased weaning weights of our calves helped to keep our averages up.
After a lapse of a few years, I have started to use my chore horse, Tim, once again for my daily feeding around the farm. I drifted away from doing my chores with Tim a few years ago when my editing schedule was proving very time consuming. For this winter, although I have lots to do, I have decided that I have to make time for some of the good things in life, and working with Tim is one of them for me.
We have been able to sell a number of working Border Collie dogs this year and have the opportunity to sell 2 more, that’s if I ever get on with finishing them off. One is my 3-year-old Sam who started his life as Katherine’s 4H project and then became her lead dog in her dog sled team. Now at university, Katherine’s time with Sam has become very seldom and so I bought him from her and then started working him with the stock. He has proved a pleasure to work with and will soon be moving on to a new home, I hope. I read about these handlers with 15 or 25 or 50 dogs and just shudder at the thought of it. We have 6 working Border Collies and I know how hard it is to spend the valuable time with them that they need. I started 2 young dogs this summer on the sheep and now have them working on the cows. I video taped their first 3 or 4 sessions and will edit it down to a DVD length to add in with my training video, making it a double DVD set. The chance to see 2 more dogs starting out should be of some help to a novice handler. Now that they are starting to work with the cows I will do some filming of that as well.
Jane continues to look after the office side of our video business while I spend my time on the production side of things. It takes a special focus to successfully operate a small business from home. Some find too many other distractions, like my farm!! However, I am constantly thankful her continual help and having been able to work with someone as supportive as Jane. I also realize that without my customers I would definitely have had to find myself a day job, real work!! So thanks to you all for your support. I had a phone call from an 85-year-old gentleman from Texas, just the other day, who was asking what new programs I had available. We had a long talk about rural life and working with horses, etc. It made me feel good when I found out her had bought pretty well all of our videos over the past 20 years.
I mentioned my web site earlier. If any of you have a related rural business as ours, such as in the sheep industry, with Border Collies, working horses, etc., then we should trade links. Just drop us a line and let us know about your business and we’ll see if it would fit into our line of thinking.
I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2007.
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