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)

 

20160804_190821

 

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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

We have chickens

A friendly acquaintance needed to find their chickens a more rustic home, so we offered to take them since we were wanting to try chickens over ducks this year.  Pictures hopefully this weekend, my husband is working out the final roaming/run area for them.  Right now they are parked in our front yard and getting stirred up by a very silly little big girl.

Speaking of, I might call her Ram Tamer, since that is what she’s done.  Our rams now will stand still for petting due to her valiant and persistent efforts at feeding them by hand.  They are “right” kind of tame, not the kind of tame where you can get head butted (which usually is from roughhousing with lambs too often).

1658635_977859728904860_8706805066754842898_o

Can you make hay while the sun shines?

We can’t.  No shame though, we only have 5 acres, and only 4 that can be used for the sheep.  My husband and I had a thrilling (to us) discussion about the process of haymaking.  I thought it was just like grass clippings, but it’s more complex than that.  You have to cut the grass a specific length and then stack it up and then turn the stacks so the cut grass dries evenly.  And only then can you make haystacks or bales.

There is no point to doing all this by hand unless you want a very special exercise program for the summer.  But for small holdings (under 20 acres), or acreage on a mountain/hill/etc., there are walk-behind tractors and balers that have lovely videos on youtube and produce some nice bales with not much physical effort.  And before walk-behind equipment and conventional tractors, there were horse-drawn options, which one could still use I guess, if you already have the horses.

The whole point of the discussion was to figure out if it was possible to hay a little to cut down the hay bill, since we are only going to keep a small fiber flock anyhow.  But as it turns out, the best way to reduce the hay bill is to continue the soil improvement quest so that we can cut down how much hay has to be available each year.  Right now we need about nine months’ worth with the number of animals we have.  Getting that down to the seven we originally figured on would save about what magically haying an acre would.

While this was in draft, I found out that while haying our own land is probably not worth it, it might be worth it in the long term to help out some of the neighbors by haying their 5-20 acres where those neighbors are not able to stay on top of the mowing year to year (such is life in the country!)  We would get a break on our hay bill, some much-desired exercise and the neighbors would get cleared yards without the hassle of running animals as lawnmowers.  So it’s something to mull over and think about in a couple of years.

Rams just won’t stop until they reach the top of the neighbor’s hillside

I am finally starting to feel rested after racing uphill to chase the silly stupid rams.  They have decided the electronet isn’t serious enough and just jump over it or barrel through, as the whim takes them.  So in less than an hour they tore across three different property lines and quite a bit of bramble in pursuit of whatever it is little rams are after when they go roaming.

I spent a good twenty minutes running around in the weeds and blackberries trying to find them and then I get back to the barn to see if some alfalfa will lure them and there they are right next to the barn looking at me like they’d been there the whole time.

So electronet and smart fencing will have to be for ewes only (they never wander, so it can be temporary or permanent for them), and we’ll have to rely on cattle panels for the rams.  Cattle panels are a little too high for them to jump easily, and they seem to actually respect them in general, so they don’t test them in the first place.

I thought I’d be saving my uphill runs for the third trimester, not the start of the second one.

Roaming Rams and Good Neighbors

As I’ve already noted, our rams are really prone to wandering.  They wandered very recently across three neighbors’ land, cheerfully squeezing through metal stranded fencing like they were two little goats.  Under that wool they are lamb-sized, only one is even mature enough to breed our four much mellower ewes.

Our neighbors were really cool about it all, though, and we hastily threw up some cattle panels that night, the only thing that seems to stop their wandering little hooves.  We had been putting them up already, we just have to go faster and order more than we thought this year.  The neighbors mostly couldn’t figure out how they managed to squeeze through with those massive and fabulous fleeces.

Anyway, the moral of all this is that since they have given way more trouble than the goats, we think the goats can live until spring, when the wethers are big and juicy instead of small and tender.  So their wandering ways saved their little buddies, probably.  The goats did push the double stroller over yesterday, so maybe they are still going down this month after all.  /petty, haha.