Breeding began Feb 6 with Badgerface

We bolused the eligible ewes and put them in with Shaft, who completed the mission nearly instantly with Badgerface but who has been struggling to figure out the logistics with the other six breeding ewes.  I think he’ll be done by this weekend, but we’ll keep them all in another week at least.  This blog has been the best way to track breeding dates, so there we are.

Bark like blood, bolusing and breeding.

The ewes are stripping the trees of bark even though the grass is not that dormant and they have plenty of hay available.  This makes the trees look like they’re bleeding.

We’re going to journey into the world of giving minerals via bolus next week and do a very late, long delayed breeding then as well.  We will probably do this one in Feb with the seven adult ewes and one with Shaft’s daughters in October or November.  I think that’s just how it’ll have to be and then we can see how both Bucky’s and Shaft’s daughters produce before beginning the work of closing the herd.

It’s sunnier lately, we’ve been quiet because we went back and forth about whether to keep going with the sheep.  We will, but probably go with things like the staggered breeding plan above.

Late summer lambs will be challenging, but Shaft was one and he turned out great.

Humans 1, Possum 1, Chickens 0

A lazy possum got tired of fighting the cats for their cat food and went after our two free ranging chickens who sleep in a coop with a busted latch.  One chicken ran away to live to chicken it up another day.  The other did not.  The possum received a bite of chicken and two bullets from my husband, probably not quite the meal before a long rest it was hoping for.

So one chicken is alive somewhere in the trees and the other is dead, along with the predator that came after it.  We have the darnedest ill luck with poultry in winter.

No pictures, and I think that’s for the best.  The sheep are doing all right though.  They like the mild winter.

Built a shelter for the rams that made it through the recent windstorm

Here is the nice shelter.  The rams like it.  It currently (for a few hours at least) has some hay in the feeder.  It keeps the hay dry well and we’re already seeing a lot less waste.

The wind blew it loose in the back, but that’s getting fixed up this weekend.  Cattle panels+tarp=happy rams no longer shivering in the rain and wind.

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The foodies vs. the junk food eaters.

When it comes to sheep, some like to eat the tastiest and highest-nutrition delights, rich green leaves full of protein and chlorophyll.  Other sheep like to stand in a few specific places and eat down everything within easy reach, no matter what its quality is.  The foodie sheep in our flock are the yearling ewes Dottie and Lisa.  They are fearless in tearing through bramble and vines to get to the most delicious browse.

Our chubby-wubb mature ewe Grey and our petite prize Goldie are junk fooders.  They just stand around eating whatever is handy and try to avoid moving around too much.  And genetics really shows up here.  Grey is usually overconditioned while Goldie is usually just about right on the five point scale for body condition.  But Grey is our biggest ewe and she grows the lambs that grow superfast.  Little Dingus, her runt lamb, is now a yearling that will be quite worth the wait in slaughter because he’s caught up surprisingly well.  And her ewelamb Ripley is almost two weeks younger than Goldie’s lambs, but already as big.

Goldie, meanwhile, is small and produces small lambs, but is very well formed and efficient as a breeding ewe.  She doesn’t eat much, her ewelamb Azula never had any trouble making weight alongside the other ewelambs and right now her boy/girl twins Zuko II and Katara are giant and mighty.

And yet they eat the same ways, but have very different results in terms of their condition. Both worth breeding though.

The wetlands police, overstocking and husbandry issues

Not too far from us is a property on a major road we checked out but rejected due to the house being a structural mess and the five acres being true wetlands (one of the local rivers runs through the middle).

Anyway, in the last few months someone bought the property, which had turned into a mold palace and is currently overstocking illegally.  Due to the river issue, very few animals of any kind could be raised on the land.  But there are currently more than a dozen sheep, half a dozen alpacas, two dozen or more poultry, five calves, a dozen or so goats, and a few llamas, all on five acres of wetlands. There were some fencing issues, although the loose animals did not make it out to the street.  They did get hay for the animals, but it’s of poor quality and the sheep are wool breaking due to stress.  And the sheep are not a breed that sheds, so it’s pretty bad.  The calves are very skinny and so are the alpacas.

But they fixed the fencing and the animals have hay and water.  It’s not a situation where you can file a cruelty or neglect complaint.  They’re just bad at “having animals” and some might die, but the animals just might not.  Sometimes animals can get along for years on bad hay and generally poor forage.  And overstocking is a relative thing to most people.

The reason I’m finally writing this up even in passing is that the wetlands police are pretty ostentatiously not shutting them down or taking their stock away.  Even though with the overstocking literally in the flow path of a river, there is an actual case for wetlands policing.  Things are changing in this county, I guess.

I’m not sure what it means for the future.  And we’ll see in a few months if it’s just a delay in processing.

Breeding logistics begin

We moved the ram lambs in with the adults.  They formed their own little mini-flock far away from the big older rams.  Bucky sniffed Sokka, our recovery story and declared him in decent enough health.  Shaft is thrilled to have moved up three places in the pecking order.  Selecting for temperament really pays off when you do have to keep rams of different ages together.

Registration is what we’ve decided to pursue for the flock as a whole going forward, but it’s complicated to set up initially, so we’ll be breeding around Thanksgiving again or whenever day after I can get the registration people on the phone, whichever comes first.

It’s weird weather, wet and green, but cold nights, though not cold enough for frost where we are.  The sheep are ok with the new grass but like us they are not fans of the mud.  Straw-spreading season has definitely begun.  I hope the winter stays mild.