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.

Advertisements

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.

Breeding by halves

10450829_858941647463336_3127338040059528221_n

We’re breeding Shaft to the four adult ewes.  This is him trying to persuade Goldie that now is the time for all good ewes to get bred and bear a pair of wonderfully fleecy twins next spring.

She’s not a fan.

Badgerface is in there too, those were the two ewes we managed to move over to the breeding pen.  We are going to get our two largest ewes, Black N Tan and Grey, moved over sometime this week, as weather and ability permit.

Sheep genetics are tricky

Our rams are both yearlings now and it’s interesting to see how different they look.  Shaft is a giant brown puffball who will produce a long, soft, really nice fleece for the fall shearing.  Bucky is a big hunk of ivory colored muscle and density, who will provide an excellent dressing percentage when his breeding days are over.

Even though both rams were “bred for good fleeces and solid meat conformation”, they each clearly favor one trait over the other.  Wool and meatiness as traits are sadly not all that complementary.  A lot of breeders spend years on end and multiple breeding groups trying to thread the needle and get a Bucky-level of meatiness with a Shaft-like soft, high-value fleece.  Sometimes they get there, but just seeing the starkness of the difference was valuable.

The two traits work against each other to some extent because growing lots of wool takes away from building up muscle, as both require protein.  Milkiness or milkability (not the same, the latter is a group of traits really) are more complementary, as we have some serious milkiness in our ewes despite fleece quality ranging from felt to possibly fall-level ok in a spring fleece.  And temperament is much the same– Bucky is a very gentle ram and we will totally work to keep that going in the flock, as a jerkish ram is a lot more trouble than a jerkish ewe.

So while we have breeding goals, we aren’t expecting to get exactly what we want with a specific trait just because we picked stock with “good genetics”.  It’s also been instructive to see Bucky’s offspring and the range there between his genetics and those of the mothers.

Tricky stuff, genetics.

Homesteading Diary, Monday October 28

Husband and I: completely wore ourselves out putting up fencing this weekend, eight hours of manual labor.  We also went ahead and put the hay out.  Timing was pretty good, we’re getting frost warnings this week, and my husband wanted the hay out with the first real frost or a little before.

Goats and sheep: Now that we’ve got the fencing in and electrified, neither the goats nor the sheep have tried to set themselves free.  So in all likelihood the goats will stick around until spring and lambing season.  But it’s only been a couple days, we’ll see where the week takes us.  The goats were sad, but they get to eat hay during midday while the sheep hang out in the pasture being relentless in their consumption.  The sheep eat a bit of hay in the very early morning and later in the evening.  Due to exhaustion and not knowing where the trimming shears are, we didn’t get the hoof trimming and wool trimming in, but Shaft’s wool has in fact almost all the bramble I was really worried about.

The girls are calmer around Bucky and Shaft.  Shaft has not gotten the memo that he is too immature to breed and keeps trying to make it happen.  We will have a ram pen and stricter breeding protocol next breeding season.  But it is highly unlikely that Shaft at 4mo is going to father anything this year.

Ducks: Cayuga still not laying, greatly hoping it’s not a drake.  The other three lay just fine, but cannot decide whether they should lay in their nest or in the mud, so I have to walk carefully when taking care of their food and water to avoid stepping on the egg(s) they lay in the mud before I gather them.

Kids: They enjoyed a recent visit to one of the local pumpkin patches and acquired two adorable little pumpkins.

General local stuff:  We ordered more fencing and price-shopped a little and found a better deal with a local branch of a megachain of farm stores.  Said branch also has more reliable delivery than the co-op.  We’ll still use the co-op for hay and some other things, their prices are good for a lot of basics, they just have elderly delivery truck issues right now and can’t do the big stuff deliveries we really need this year.

Also, cattle panel fencing is ugly and this makes me sad, but it would make our neighbors sad if our livestock kept getting out because we chose prettier fencing that was less reliable.

Well, off to find those shears so we can get our hoof maintenance and condition checks on.