Monday, June 22, 2009

Looking at rams

This is a good time of year to evaluate your rams. They've had some time to bulk up, after the long cold winter and they haven't grown into their full fleeces yet.
Echo HMRR 917T is the oldest ram on the farm, only 2 years old this spring. he's from Hawks Mountain Ranch in Oregon. I really like him. He is maturing well. Nice muscling, with a wide rump and chest, very mild mannered, rather shy, wide horns. He could be a little longer, though. His lambs have been exceptional. He passes along both solid colored lambs as well as spotted.

Finn RBR 76U is just a yearling. His breeding is from Tongue River, in Missouri, thanks to the late Susan Briggs. He is just exceptional! His fleece is unbelievably silky and soft. Very muscular, beautiful wide horns, and a mild manner. I put a bell on him, because he's always around me. He never bosses the ewes around or show any signs of aggression. Since we run the rams with the flock this time of the year, I just want to be safe. His bell lets me know he's near. He's not shy, and wants attention. I don't like to make friends with my rams. That can lead to problems as they mature.

We will certainly use him in our breeding program for another year or two. He has thrown some nice spotted lambs this year. It looks like his lambs have inherited his wonderful silky fleece.

Fudge RBR 74U This is another Tongue River breeding. His mother is Dalla, our AI leader ewe. Consistent with most leader sheep, he has a finer bone. He was terribly thin after this winter, but has bulked up considerably. I used him on some of our meatier ewes, but he managed to break into another pen and breed a few more. I have been (very!) pleasantly surprised at the quality of his lambs. As a whole, they are more muscular than he is, and they've all inherited that cute nose crease! He has retained his nice solid moorit fleece, and hasn't silvered. I hope he passes along that trait, too.

Fable RBR 68U is a black mouflon triplet yearling ram that we held over from last year. He is really maturing well. He has the same body type as his sire Echo. Wonderful wide horns, and a very mild manner. He is for sale this year.

Heat Wave!

We're now into our first heat wave of the season. 90+ degree weather, with near 100% humidity! Miserable! Especially when you are wearing a wool coat.
Despite the heat, the lambs still snuggle up with their siblings or their mommas. Above, Claire's twin lambs.

Moorit Badger triplets, lined up along the barn...

Charlotte and her triplets, dozing on this muggy hot day--you can see how they just love their momma!

Delphine and her ewe lamb, having a snack...

Garland, one of Pippi's twin ewes. I think she's my favorite ewe lamb this year. She's short and as wide as can be. Wild as can be, too...
Another favorite, Dalla's ewe Glimmer, another wild child...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Duckling update

We decided to round up the first batch of hatched ducklings to raise ourselves. In the past, we've let the mothers raise them, and typically lose 80% of the hatch. We gathered up the 40 or so ducklings, and put them in the barn with a heat lamp, food and water. That worked out fine, except for the fact that our turkey was sitting on a nest in the same area. She saw those ducklings and decided to heck with those eggs! I'll take care of those ducklings. And, so it goes.She's a good momma, and they range far and wide, eating all of the bugs in the lawn and gardens. We give them a little cracked corn, which they adore. I guess we'll be eating duck for Thanksgiving instead of turkey!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Icelandic Sheep cross the Bridge of Peril

It has taken awhile, but now the sheep can't wait to "cross to the other side"...the bridge of peril! yes, my husband is a Monty Python fan. Here is the original Bridge of Peril...

Stella, our oldest ewe still won't cross. She hangs on the other side with Salem our llama. The other 60 or so bound across eagerly! What a bunch of gluttons.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Garlic Barrier, Minerals & Kelp

We are trying a new product this year to fight the never ending battle of sheep worms. Garlic Barrier, a natural product that shows some promise. Instead of drenching, we are providing a "free choice" mixture of kelp, soybean meal, salt and garlic barrier. The sheep love it. We plan on giving them this for 3 days in a row, once per month. That way, they should all get a good dose. If it saves on using chemical dewormers, it will certainly be worth the expense. No one enjoys deworming, that's for sure. We will continue using the Famacha method as well, deworming only the sheep that need it. Don't try using this method unless you've taken a class.
The mineral mixture that sheep need is complex. Every farm is different, and every breed is different. We sent in livers from sheep that we had butchered, and found that we need to do some adjusting on our minerals. Icelandic sheep need more copper than most other breeds. We are now supplementing with goat protein buckets as well as 1/3 goat loose minerals added to our sheep minerals. If we get our copper levels adjusted correctly, we won't be fighting the parasite battle as much. Another bonus, if our copper levels are right, we won't have so much silvering in our dark colored sheep. This spring, this is what we are using for our mineral mix:
8 lb. loose sheep minerals
4 lb. loose goat minerals
4 Oz. Vit. E/Selenium Premix from Pipestone (Icelandics also need ALOT of selenium)
SelPlex—this is a more natural form of selenium. Several Icelandic breeders swear by it, so I’ve started using it is this spring.
Decox--I add this as a preventative before lambing. Sometimes I'll add this early summer to the minerals for the lambs. Also, from Pipestone.
Next to our mineral mix, we have kelp, also offered free choice. Kelp, more commonly known as seaweed, has many benefits:
Improves feed utilization
Excellent source of iodine which helps regulate metabolism
Improves overall production (e.g., milk, weight gain)
Reduces or eliminates breeding problems
Reduces the incidence of white muscle disease in lambs
Prevents wool shedding and increases wool quality in sheep
We are now heading into the hardest time of year to raise grass fed sheep. Vigilance is the most important tool.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rotational Grazing

To keep a flock of our size, we have to be creative with our grazing. We are blessed and so lucky to have farmers who will let us graze their waterways. This gives us many extra acres to work with. Our creek borders our property on the north. Across the creek, there is an additional 10+ acres available to graze. We put up a little bridge, but the sheep were reluctant to cross. Suddenly today, they decided that it was OK. The yearlings and babies were the first to cross. The older sheep stood gazing at the lush foliage, licking their lips, knowing that a feast awaited them. Finally they bounded across the bridge to join the rest of the flock.
It was so much fun watching them!
This is Delphine's moorit ewe. We lost her brother at birth, he was breach, and inhaled too much fluid and we couldn't resuscitate him. Being raised as a single, she is growing like crazy, with all of that milk to herself. She is going to be a wonderful and prolific ewe, and will be for sale this fall. I wish we could keep her, she's so pretty!
Deidra and her triplets are doing well.

She is such a wonderful momma!
This is my little orphan ewe, Godiva. She has finally learned to (reluctantly) drink from a bottle, but prefers eating the goodies I give her and her brother in the lambing jug, a mixtue of sheep pellets, rabbit pellets, soybean meal, cracked corn, and calf manna. I never could convince her brother to accept a bottle, but he is doing well on the mixture that I've been feeding.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A bittersweet day...

We sent our first starter flock of 2009 off to their new home on Saturday. It always makes me sad, to see my sheep leave their home, but happy to know they have a wonderful new place to live. This flock is moving to a century farm not far from us, beautiful old barns and outbuildings, ample pastures. They will be so spoiled! It's especially fun to seen new shepherds, how much they enjoy the sheep. When we first moved into our home 15 years ago, there were sheep living across the road. I thought they were serene, but they just didn't catch my interest much. Looking at a flock of white sheep is so blah, compared to looking at a flock of sheep with a multitude of patterns and colors! Icelandic sheep are the best!