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.

 

 

 

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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.

Breeding logistics begin

We moved the ram lambs in with the adults.  They formed their own little mini-flock far away from the big older rams.  Bucky sniffed Sokka, our recovery story and declared him in decent enough health.  Shaft is thrilled to have moved up three places in the pecking order.  Selecting for temperament really pays off when you do have to keep rams of different ages together.

Registration is what we’ve decided to pursue for the flock as a whole going forward, but it’s complicated to set up initially, so we’ll be breeding around Thanksgiving again or whenever day after I can get the registration people on the phone, whichever comes first.

It’s weird weather, wet and green, but cold nights, though not cold enough for frost where we are.  The sheep are ok with the new grass but like us they are not fans of the mud.  Straw-spreading season has definitely begun.  I hope the winter stays mild.

No new lambs

The two ram lambs are growing about 1lb per day per lamb, based on the weighings we were able to manage.  They are increasing in vigor and size visibly.  They’re also darkening up, with a lot more brown than when they were newborn.  They are not likely to have much white, that is both recessive and not heavily selected for in the American Icelandic genetic pool.  As far as I’ve seen, shepherds of Icelandics in America cater to wool buyers who want a range of colors and not just white dye-friendly wool.  White wool isn’t rejected, it’s just not necessarily as sought after by people who want this fleece.  Also, many Icelandic-raising shepherds like working with wool themselves and also have a personal preference for the color variety of brown, black and spotted that is typical for the breed.

I think the other ewes must have been covered later than my recollections.  I looked back at my posts around that time and it looks like the first week of November might be when they were bred and not the very tail end of October.  The grey ewe was settled very quickly, which is surprising given that she remains our most skittish and feral ewe herself.  But I thought the gap between her and the others was just two or three or maybe four days.  If it was a week or so, then we could be waiting until the first few days of April for all the lambs to finish making their appearances.

We’re going to see if we can put together a permanent ram pen rather than a temporary one.  Even though Icelandics are not prone to out of season conception, their season goes through April, and they return to fertility during that time.  So it will be easiest going forward to keep the rams completely separate from the girls, especially since it will mean less work separating ewelambs from breeding ewes.  It’s too bad, it would be easier if they could stay in all summer with the ewes and the new lambs.  But our rams do better without the distraction of the ladies, surprisingly.  No dominance fighting, sharing food occasionally, and generally calmer.

 

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.

Pale ewe problems

Our four ewes are all heavily pregnant, but the three dark-colored ones look a bit on the pale side with their muzzles.  As it turns out, the last few days one of the rams has been leaping onto the mineral feeder (sometimes knocking it down) and peeing on the salts within.  So the girls haven’t been getting minerals to the extent they should.

We started offering minerals with the alfalfa pellets they get and the three dark ewes ate some.  Paleness is a potential sign of copper deficiency, as is coarsening of the wool and shedding.  But the latter are also signs of advanced pregnancy for some ewes and not by themselves a bad sign.

I’m not really sure what else to do except keep offering minerals 1-2 times per day with their pellets.  The light colored ewe is fine, but then her copper needs are lower, same with the rams, their fleeces continue to look great and their faces aren’t lightening at all.

The lightening of the three dark ewes is very recent, just the last week, and we started providing minerals over the weekend.

I have no idea how to solve the peeing ram problem, I guess we’ll have to put the minerals really high up this weekend.  Which we thought we had, but we were clearly wrong.

I’m not quite as nauseous of late, so I can spend more time with the sheep than just tossing some hay in and running away before I get sick in the barn.