Rooing the day

Recently we rooed one of the ram lambs, Dingus.  It was a pretty successful experiment, we got a lot of fleece off him.  We are going to try rooing the entire flock and shearing whatever doesn’t roo off ourselves instead of doing a professional spring shear.  This will avoid the “carpet” look of spring fleeces and also provide more open locks for spinning instead of a more felting-friendly dense wool.

I also snagged a few locks from the other rams while feeding them.

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Locks from Scottie, Dingus and Bucky, from left to right. The crumbly bits at the bottoms of the locks are mostly dirt or skin flaking. Both wash right out and are not a processing problem.

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Rooed fleece from Dingus. Looser and more open than if we’d sheared, as it’s the natural wool break, so the denser new growth stays on the sheep instead of matting.

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More of Dingus’ fleece. It looks a lot more like the fall shearing this way, which is why if an Icelandic shepherd can roo their flock, it’s really a great way to collect the spring wool.

 

 

Quick updates

  • Updated the pictures of our flock.
  • Updated fleece sales page for the current year.
  • Ewes are looking on track for late April through mid-May delivery.  Grey, our biggest, fattest ewe is favoring a back leg, but is not off her feed or showing any other signs of weight or health trouble.  She’s always a little overconditioned, and the whole flock is about a month off from when we wanted to get hoof trims done, so we will take a look at her this weekend and try to tackle that maintenance with the others as well.
  • I’m back to working with the fleeces again, but I need a (cheap) camera to do closeups, the old cameraphone isn’t able to do that.  So I’ll pick up a little point and shoot so there can be more and better pictures of all those different processes.  A record as I go would be really useful these days.
  • The kids are coming out of sick season and our latest arrival is struggling to learn walking as soon as possible.  Hopefully this tires him out enough to start sleeping more than an hour at a time.  We are still awaiting the arrival of his first tooth, he has three buds right now, so it could be any day.

 

Sheep are good, weather is not

It’s all soggy and and swampy.  The sheep are looking ok, but we’ll have to watch out for worm load.  With all the rain we are definitely learning what all needs to be fixed/patched during summer when it’s drier.  Still not sure how to deal with some of the soggy areas near the barn.

Everyone’s settled into the sniffles, and the baby has settled into not sleeping at night because that’s what little babies do best.

That’s all for now, I should try to get more pictures even with the rain because I need to set conditioning baselines for future lambs and pictures will help more than my soggy memory.

Sheep roundup

The pregnant ewes are finally all together with their daughter lambs, and all the rams are together, which will make management easier.  The breeding pen was not really set up for hay feeding, but now we have two groups with access to the hay feeders, so that will go easier.

It’s been a really mild winter, grass is already coming up.  We should have fairly rich pasture this year with the extra time.  Still had to order more hay though, and we also have to fix a barn leak so we can safely use the remaining hay.  That’ll be fun.

We’ll try to get some hoof trims and worm checks in this month, while the ewes are not too heavily pregnant and then just focus on minerals and adequate hay until lambing season.

Homesteading Diary, Thursday, January 8

Husband and I: Coming off a very sick holiday season, but doing better and may be up and about this weekend.

Sheep:  Pregnant ewes are pregnant, looking ok, we just have to find a Saturday to move them back in with the ewe lambs, hopefully it can be this one.  Scottie is bold as brass, which will make sending him to freezer camp easier, but that’s probably still a couple weeks away.  All the sheep are miserable about the rain.  We have to order a ton or so more hay and a bunch more straw this week.

Kids: It’s a rainy enough winter that even they don’t want to be outside constantly.  But they do want to run around and finding places for them to do that has been a bit of a challenge.

That’s all for now, next week should be more normal and busy.

Quick year end notes

We’ve decided to pursue fiber sales, but not meat ones.  Pursuing meat sales is something we’ll worry about once we’ve made it through enough breeding seasons to have extra lambs at all.  And the economics of a fiber flock work out better for the current life circumstances we have going on.  With a fiber flock, you can always skip a breeding season and focus on only breeding the ewes that will give great fiber and good-enough lambs for slaughter.  Then they eat way less, but still pay their hay bills.

Selling fiber is ok, it just tends to be more of a slow trickle than a burst.  And we have to be open to the entire country to get reliable sales.  I don’t mind shipping though, and we’ll certainly explore sending fleeces to the mill once we get into 20 or more fleeces regularly. Fiber milling is an interesting field, given that as infrastructure goes, nobody is really taking it up, so there will be lots of machinery available as the mill owners, who are generally like 70+, retire or pass on.  Something to think about in a few years, maybe.

Preparing fleece is a lot of work.  There are ways to cut down the workload, but sheep grow that stuff pretty long because they need it, so it’s always going to be a bit of work, even if we ultimately send everything to a local mill and focus exclusively on high-value yarns, roving and felting batts.

And next year, since I won’t be growing any babies myself, we’ll go ahead and put in a real garden, finally go back to having poultry (going to go all-in and get ducks, chickens and geese) because the eggs really are Just Better and hopefully have a successful second lambing season.

I hope to post more to this blog and get more pictures up in the new year.  It does help to take little snapshots of how things go.

Slaughter success and breeding victory

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Skinning Bart. He was very bony.

 

With the help of some relatives, one of the ram lambs, Bart, was finally slaughtered, skinned and broken down over the holiday weekend.  It didn’t take very long and we now have some Icelandic lamb in the freezer.  We should have Scottie and Dingus taken care of in the next week or so.

As for breeding, all the adult ewes are finally in with Shaft and hopefully everyone gets pregnant.  Due to the ewes’ cycling not being synchronized, they’ll be in there until January, or when they show conclusive signs of pregnancy, whichever comes first.  So we are going to have May lambs, which means April spring shearing.

Bart was a light yield, about 15lbs of finished cuts including the organs we kept.  That is a hanging weight somewhere past 20lbs, but not much past.  He weighed more before the weather got colder, but he was in fact weaker than Scottie and Dingus and lost some weight the last month.  Dingus has inherited excellent parasite resistance, as he was stunted but has a well formed, meaty frame.  He is smaller physically than Bart’s rangier, lankier frame, but will give more meat.  So that’s good.

My husband feels pretty good about his ability to slaughter sheep going forward.  Bart was stunned unconscious and then had his throat slit.  It all went very quickly.  The cold weather has helped a lot.

Now that Thanksgiving festivities are over (we celebrated with friends and family and it went pretty well and was delicious), I have to get back to the fiber prep.  Speaking of weight gain, we have a baby that went from 16 to 17lbs over the course of Thanksgiving week.  And still waiting to hit three months old.  I guess he’s taking lessons from the lambs.