What happens to Sundry Working Expenses if a player owns no sheep?
Expenses fall into 2 categories. Expenses per pen and other expenses. Some expenses such as Control of Pests, are a fixed expense and the amount is set, regardless of whether you own any sheep or how many sheep you own. These expenses include Flood Damage, Control of Pests, Water Drilling Expenses.
Per-pen expenses do depend on the number of sheep you own. For example, in the case of sheep dipping ($10/pen), if you didn’t own any sheep then you would not have any to dip, and so there would be no expense. This is true for all the per-pen expenses, which include: Sheep Dipping, Jet Sheep against Fly Strike, Foot Rot Treatment, Drench for Liver Fluke, Vaccinate for Pulpy Kidney, and Shearing Costs. (There are some more in the Tucker Bag Cards). For these expenses if you have no sheep, these expenses do not affect you.
So one of the advantages of selling a lot of sheep (at a Stock Sale) is you reduce your running costs as you move around the playing board. However, Control Programmes are expenses that come with a benefit. One of these is Drench Sheep for Worms. If you have no sheep, you can’t acquire the benefit from the control programme. Therefore, it is worth keeping at least one pen of sheep, just in case you have the opportunity to receive this benefit.
What happens in Drought if a player owns no sheep?
You are required to sell at least half your sheep (if you are on natural or improved pasture). If you have zero sheep, a half of zero is zero, so you do not (in fact can’t) sell any sheep. If you own a haystack, but don’t own any sheep (on natural or improved pasture) you don’t need to return the haystack when you land on drought. If you have both improved and irrigated pasture, you can move your sheep around if you land on drought (or bore dries up), provided you no not exceed the carrying capacity of your pastures. If you are able to move all your sheep onto irrigated pasture, then you would not need to sell any sheep, nor return your haystack. However the restrictions would still apply to your improved pasture, and you can’t buy sheep for your improved pasture. Also If you have both some improved and some irrigated pasture, you can’t irrigate any of your remaining improved pastures while in drought. If you do not own any irrigated pasture when you land on drought, then drought applies to all you natural and improved pastures.
Is the player that owns no sheep able to upgrade from Natural Pasture straight to Irrigated Pasture or do they have to upgrade to Improved Pasture first?
You must improve all 5 pastures before you can commence to irrigate any. This is regardless of whether you own sheep.
To explain this a bit further, improving the pasture, in the context of Squatter, which closely mimics real life farming, means adding fertiliser and sowing more appropriate pasture seeds. As the quality of the pasture improves, the pasture is able to “carry” a higher number of sheep. Hence Improved Pasture can have 5 pens of sheep, rather than only 3 pens on natural pasture.
In real life, you might commence to irrigate before you improved all your pastures, but it is probably unwise to do so. You get a lot more for your money by improving pasture compared with irrigating, so it is more profitable to direct capital improvements towards the best ROI (return on investment). That is why in Squatter the rules state you must improve all pastures before irrigating any.
While the aim of property improvement is to increase maximum carrying capacity of your property; improving and irrigating can be carried out regardless of how many sheep you own at the time. Therefore you can improve/irrigate, whether or not you own any sheep, but logically the improvement sequence of waiting until you are fully improved before you can commence irrigating, would not be affected by the number of (if any) sheep you own.