I was born yesterday, mega sheep update

13987409_1220353764655454_1601393727707132599_oThis black badgerface ram lamb being petted by a mysterious stranger is Zuko IV, out of Brunhilde.  She had him Sunday afternoon right before my eyes.  She is going to be our first ewe cull for conformation defects, her teats are located in very poor positions for nursing lambs, equivalent to under the arms.  Her little guy is cheerful and of hearty spirits, but totally unable to figure out suckling.  He has the strength, but not the instinct.  She was one of the unexpected lambings.

 

So was Ripley.  Hers was sadder.  She miscarried 8/4/16.  (GRAPHIC FETUS PICTURE BELOW)

 

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So we are at 15 lambs delivered of 9 ewes and 13 live lambs, of which one is currently a bottle lamb.  9 live males, 4 live females and sex indeterminate of the miscarriage.  Still waiting on Toph and Katara to give us a sign they got pregnant.  Nothing yet.

We got enough fencing in place to keep the yearling rams from roaming.  And roam and roam they did, apparently in the wild it is normal for young unbred rams to find a little pasture away from the herd Rocky-style and train (via eating lots, the sheep version of lifting big and posting gains) to take down the Big Ram.  So that is what Clovis and Zuko II were doing when they kept busting out of the fencing.  But now they’re stuck in our roughly 4 acre pasture, until we can send them to freezer camp.

We met several neighbors, who were pretty cool about things and have really nice pastures, at that.

We are done with breeding for the next few years and will just focus on fiber.  We will probably just eat and/or sell all the rams.

 

 

 

Tear down these walls

The rams have twisted and bent cattle panels with their horns.  They also broke through the panels and are now hanging out with the ladies.  This is not really that bad, even though there are lambs there because it’s the tail end of the Icelandic breeding season and the lambs are unlikely to conceive anyway.

It wasn’t lack of food, it was hormones (they left their food to go do this).  Spring is a funny season.

The Adventures of Sokka, the latest flock fence fool

Sokka, in the eternal quest for that leaf on the other side of the fence, got his horns stuck overnight and couldn’t move for hours.  Ironically, if he’d had scurs, there is a good chance they would have just snapped off.  But he has true horns. I was not certain until this incident, but I sure found out right away.  Anyway because it was just his horns, his only problem was dehydration and fatigue.

I found him because I always make sure there are 14 sheep in the field when I give hay or pellets and go looking if they aren’t all there.  And there were only 13.  So I go up the mountain and find him stuck and breathing hard.  I got him some water and massaged his legs, which had gone to sleep when the rest of him hadn’t.  He had a lot of trouble standing upright, but still had an appetite and took the water, so we were optimistic.  He was scared, but willing to try standing once he had some water in him.

I stayed with him for a while, letting him try to stand and keeping him from rolling onto his back.  By the time my husband could be home to help, he was limp-walking on his own for a few feet.  We got some Nutri-Drench in him and he rallied after that, walking all the way down the mountain to join the flock.  They were solicitous and welcomed him back.

So far he is eating and drinking pretty normally, and spending a lot of time sitting around.  If he makes it through today, he is probably fine.  And as is always the case with the sheep, once he was walking normally, he moved away from the two-legs who saved his life as fast as his little lamb legs could take him.

 

Vaccinating little lambs and not-so-temporary fencing

We managed to get all the lambs vaccinated with their initial shots today.  As is the case with many folks who do not farm full-time, we have been trying to change our electronet over to other types of fencing, but we aren’t done yet, so it’s still up.  Our solution to the entanglement issue is boosting the charge with a plug-in charger instead of a solar one. And it’s only on one side instead of two, so that’s a sort of progress.

We also got the shearing for spring done, I may offer some of that in July, it looks much nicer than I thought it would.  I hope to have some more pictures up Monday of the sheared sheep. In the meantime, here is a picture of some ferns.

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Pretty cute ferns!

Homesteading Diary, Tuesday November 26

Husband and I: still working through a series of health problems.  It’s all the bare minimum to get to the next day right now.

Goats: the goats were contained with our last fencing efforts, but two of them got unhappy and now just crawl under the fence, careless of the shocks.  Hunting season has slacked off, so one of the local butchers said they did have freezer space next week, so hopefully we can just go with that option, since the health stuff has really made it impossible to set a date to do it ourselves, even though the weather is really great for it.  The escapee goats have started nibbling a neighbor’s trees, so it’s time for freezer camp.

Sheep:  Unlike the goats, Bucky and Shaft are perfectly contained and happy to hang out eating hay and grass with the ewes and don’t even try to test the fence now.  So once the goats (even the sole non-escapee, little tame Taco) are turned into deliciousness, there should be no further misfortunes with stray livestock eating the wrong trees in the wrong yard.

Three of the ewes look pretty pregnant and one looks maybe sorta pregnant.  I am beginning to think we might actually have an out of season conception on our hands, but things will be more obvious around Christmastime.  Getting the sheep to notice where we put the minerals has been hard, they’ve only eaten a little and I worry about that one and have to hope the hay and alfalfa treats are good enough.  I still have the expectation that seven lambs are most likely if the ewes carry to term successfully and nothing about their growing size suggests fewer or more right now.

The hay situation is miserable, our homemade manger leads to spilled hay like whoa and the only reduction in lossage is by giving 1/5 or less of a bale at a time and “fluffing” the hay in the manger a few hours later so the fresh bits are back on top.  We ordered a bunk feeder, but it’s backordered and who knows when it will turn up with the holiday.  Until then, small amounts and lots of fluffing and sighing at all the hay on the ground.  The goats jumping into the manger doesn’t help.  I am writing this post so I will remember to try putting a screen on top in the next day or so and see if that helps reduce the lossage.

Ducks: Down to 2 eggs a day the last couple of days, if we stay on the mend, we’ll probably move them at long last into the barn this weekend.  They have ridden the frosty mornings and nights out like gangbusters, happy as anything even when their swimming water is frozen and their waterer is crusted over with ice.  Due to the health stuff, they haven’t been moved like they should have been and are down to mostly bare earth, so I am going to give it a try with my little arms today or tomorrow.  I’ve been keeping them on 2 quarts of feed, 1 in the am and 1 in the pm.

Kids: Not sick as far as we can tell, just a little stir crazy with the cold and rain.  It’s been warmer and sunnier this week, so we’ll get them both out more.

It’s been a hard week and is likely to continue being hard for another week or two.  But we’re all still here, the animals and kids are healthy and ridiculously well fed and we don’t have to cook Thanksgiving dinner, so that stress is off our minds.  We are going with these neat people who like to source local and organic and sustainable whenever they can.  They used to be a nice local go-to for us when we were living in suburbia and they are always worth the custom.

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.

Homesteading Diary, Monday October 21

Husband and I: both tired from having to unload hay, straw and cattle panels this weekend since the co-op’s delivery truck broke down and we had to pick everything up ourselves.  This meant we couldn’t put up as much fencing and do as much patching as we wanted.  We’ve made some good plans though, and we appear to be getting physically stronger anyhow.

Goats: STILL ALIVE…for a little longer.  We have to do a bunch of maintenance with the sheep, so the goats get to stay alive probably another 2-3 weeks.  We will try to time butchering them so they don’t get any of the hay, but they might get some, since it’s getting towards that time of year.  They are giving less trouble, mostly eating a lot of grass and hanging out near the sheep.  Not so bad right now.

Sheep:  We have six now instead of four, and the new sheep have wandering feet.  Their bloodlines are IIRC from the original Icelandic imports, before Icelanders started altering their breed for maximum meat production, tameness and white wool output.  Our new sheep are named Bucky (white badgerface) and Shaft (moorit).  So there is a lot of curiosity in the new guys and a certain amount of skittishness that isn’t present in the other four, who are more mellow and happy to respect nearly any kind of fencing with or without electricity/hotwire.

I’m currently on sheep patrol, until we can patch enough boundary fence to let them roam during the day and not wander into the front yard.  Gotta round the little guys up every few hours until evening, when the whole flock gathers near the barn to eat.  Predation is not an issue right now (thankfully), but we do need to set a real boundary fence line, our current one fizzles out halfway across our back woods.  Shaft, the most wanderlusty of the two new guys, got tangled in some bramble yesterday and then decided to compound the problem by getting tangled in the SmartFence today, bramble, legs, head and all.  He ran away yesterday before I could really tell how bad the bramble situation was, but today I was able to use the tangled fencing to catch him and keep him from strangling himself and a lot has shed off or fallen off, but there’s still one clump we’ll have to hack out tomorrow, maybe today if I can do it by myself.  His fleece is pretty thick and awesome and low-lanolin, a shame I’ll have to hack it up.

Ducks: Still laying pretty steady, but we’re seeing the winter slowdown.  Will probably put them in the barn next month and possibly use a lamp, haven’t decided yet.

Kids: The eldest loves to spend her days as a ballerina alicorn princess and the youngest has decided crawling is not the only way to get around and is walking more than two steps AT LONG LAST.  And both kids love oatmeal and duck eggs, just not together.

General local stuff:  We made it to Fiber Fusion Northwest over the weekend.  I got to untangle the mysteries of how thread is made, and feel a bunch of raw fleeces.  I ended up with a light coat of lanolin for my troubles, but it was good to sample how a variety of other breeds’ raw fleeces feel after being sheared and minimally processed (quick rinse, trimming of poop and burrs/etc).  Eldest child was quite delighted at the fiber animals on display, especially the ultra-tame alpacas, freshly sheared and ready for treats from anyone.  Also got some information about machinery for fiber processing.  Nice little informative festival, hope to spend a lot longer there next year!