She’s gone to lamb heaven

The ewe who got sick with what was probably a very rapid E coli infection from being born in dirt is dead now.  She had a seizure and it was over.


So no baker’s dozen for us.  But we have a leaping, frolicking dozen lambs remaining, 8 boys, 4 girls.


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.

Wingus choked to death on electronet

I was able to bail him out a couple days ago, but today he snuck by and we just didn’t catch him in time.  He was tangled where there is a lot of bramble and it’s not easy to see if a sheep is actually tangled or not without stomping out there in the mud and thorns.

No more electronet for us.  This is the first (and hopefully only) death from it, but we’ve had so many close calls with our other sheep that we’re just going to have to put up something else that is higher-hassle to move around for our temporary fencing.

I know it’s our first year (from when we got our initial sheep), and my husband keeps saying that part of starting out even on a small scale is losing animals due to inexperience, but we were really hoping to eat Wingus, he was really massive.  And the punchline is that we don’t know enough about dead animals to know if the meat is salvageable, so he’s going straight in the ground as fertilizer.

I’m just feeling very overwhelmed right now.  My own child is gaining like crazy, if his current gains persist, I’d have a 90lb one year old.  So it’s hard to wait for the old energy levels to get back up.  But it’s good to have a healthy, comically large newborn.

Anyway, we have a lot to learn, and in the meantime our bellies will have to be filled with humble pie as we gain that wisdom from experience.

Shearing woes and a bummer lamb that is not a bummer

We had a shearer lined up, but the shearer lives on the closed-in side of the Oso landslide and couldn’t get out here.  The people behind the landslide aren’t at flood risk anymore, to my knowledge.  Life there is mostly back to normal given the situation, but still a lot of adjustments to make.  So we are likely to shear the whole flock ourselves.

My husband already did a first pass with the rams with a strong-backed relative stopping by to assist, and it looks ok.  We sheared after their wool break though, so we’ll see if it’s all felted up when I finally get around to that batch of wool.

Little Zuko is finally not so little anymore.  He is really amazing as a bottle lamb, I would go ahead and breed an ewe with the level of stamina and will to live and sheer strength and stubbornness he’s shown.  His weight gain is not what we’d hoped because we didn’t get the temperature right with many of his feeds.  We were usually doing room temperature, not body-heat warmth.  We were basically just confused and tired because his small size meant a lot more feeds than the feed instructions indicated.

But instead of failing to thrive, failing to gain weight or learn to walk, Zuko made it work.  He gained on feed that his tiny little body had to warm up first before using it for building muscle and weight.  And on the little bit he was gaining, he built enough muscle and fought to learn to walk, skip and run (lambs skip before running, as far as I’ve seen).  He got out there in the pasture with the smallest of the other lambs being twice his size and integrated himself into the flock enough to eat grass and start chewing cud.

I was worried he’d bond too much with us and not learn sheepy instincts, but he’s doing just fine.  He sees his bottle feeds as equivalent to nursing an ewe and doesn’t understand why the other sheep move away when we come out to feed him.  He also doesn’t run for any random human expecting feed.  He is tame, but totally remembers that he’s a sheep first, which is nice and not always what you get with bottle lambs.

He remains the runt of the flock, but after just a few days in the pasture, they are starting to sit next to him and let him graze in peace during the few times they are all flocking together.  We also corrected the bottle temperature issue and he’s gaining much better, with a good shot of tripling his birth weight by 4 weeks.  It’s still too early to tell what kind of fleece he’ll give as a wether, but his little sheep chest is filling out and his legs are strong, so he’s looking quite solid at less than three weeks old.

He’s an impressive and brave little lamb.

Fancy city thinking, fancy city problems

To keep this very simple, it is pouring rain right now, we’re utterly wiped out and we didn’t get everyone’s hooves trimmed.  Still two ewes and one of the rams left to take care of.  We will probably have to try tomorrow or even have to push it out to a random day next week.

But the way hoof trimming works if you don’t try to think like a fancy city person is that goats go in stanchions and sheep are sat up on their butts, either by a second person who isn’t the trimmer, or a sort of hammock/chair thing that does it if there’s no second person available.

We put sheep in the stanchion and oh how we paid for it.  In the stanchion you have bucking, frightened sheep that you have to hold down in addition to the stanchion.  Sit a sheep down, though, and you have a calmer animal that is UNABLE to freak out enough to cause trouble and you have an opportunity for the animal to know that you aren’t a predator or a jerk so they will be easier on successive maintenance days.

For some crazy mixed up reason we thought since the stanchion works awesome for goats it would just be dandy mcdandy for sheep.  Even though I can’t recall anyone local using a stanchion for their sheep and none of the sheep books mention stanchions for basic maintenance like hoof trimming.  Yeah, when your references don’t say to do a thing you think is more “logical” and provide an alternative that is easy and fast, they know of what they speak!

We were quite foolish to think changing it up would be easier or better.

Anyway, of the goats and sheep trimmed, the goats were easy, the sheep were hard until we sat the last one down and then it was easy (last one was little bramble-filled Shaft, his hooves were in nice shape and there wasn’t much bramble left to clear, but his fleece has a few burrs in the top layer, not near the skin, that will make spring skirting an adventure).

One sheep got cut (our gray with one udder because a shearer took out the other nipple), and she also has some kind of hoof issue on her front left hoof.  It is neither red nor stinky, the twin signs of rot, but there’s a lot of random hoof badness that isn’t hoof rot, so we’ll have to include her in the roundup of the three sheep remaining and get a better look at it.  It may just be a lot of impacted material from delaying a trim so long.

So we’re not done yet and we may be stuck waiting until next Saturday to finish the job, but we will definitely try to carve some time out ASAP and then we basically have to be very treat-happy for several weeks straight to get everyone used to us, since, you know, we (possibly) knocked up the ewes already and then proceeded to spaz them out.  We really planned this one out with thought and care, you betcha.

We found the hoof trimming shears…at the feed store.

Yeah, we searched everywhere and as it turned out, they can’t be found anywhere in the house, barn or garage.  So I picked up a new pair and we will do the deed for all the animals on Saturday.

Having the goats and sheep contained together is pretty nice.  They are not as a group racing through the hay right now, but in fact are still working on their original bale, so I’m hoping we are good to go for the time we need to give hay.

And that is a thing we’ll have to figure out. We have a ton (literal ton) right now, we’ll see how it goes.  We’re getting in more fencing so we can expand their range.  Right now we’re not going to obsess about the best grazing strategy, we just want to get onto a maintenance schedule and hopefully make it to a lambing season with a half dozen or dozen lambs (the latter would be a banner crop of pure tripletness).

Unfortunately, because of our own illnesses and the whole fencing fiasco, we have to trim this weekend when the ewes might be a little bit pregnant, which is not the best time to do it (right before, but not once they conceive).  OH WELL.  Chalk it up to a learning experience.

Hopefully it goes ok, we get all the animals caught up on trims and the ewes conceive and carry to term with no hassles.  They’ll be on deep litter as we head into winter, so that will help reduce stress around first time pasture lambing.

The goats have got to go

Their herd is too small for them to be relaxed about staying within sight of the fencing.  A herd of 3 is, in fact, too small to contain.  A few more goats and we might be able to rely on the shyer ones keeping the bold ones from straying too far or testing the fence excessively.

But it is not worth getting more goats to test the theory.  The sheep are perfectly contained and don’t test the fence or try to eat greener grass through the fence.  They are completely uninterested in doing such things.  The sheep are not low-grade stressors.  The goats have become such with their excessive wandering and pooping near the house.

So they’re going in the freezer at the end of the month.  The two young wethers will be very tender and delicious and the doe, despite her mediocre breed conformation will be muscular and tasty from all the diverse forage she runs around nibbling.

When all is said and done, we got $500 of brush clearing out of the goats, at what is likely to be a final cost of $700-800 for buying them, plus minerals and sundries and butchering costs.  They will yield 65-80lbs of meat (we are keeping heads and organs, so not sure what the final tally will be when that extra is added in).

It’s not great math, but it works for us.