After the excitement of Logan’s little problem, its been pretty quite on the farm. Today we had our first sticking snow. It feels early to have snow on the ground already, I hope that this isn’t a sign that we are in for a hard winter. I personally hate the cold but more than that, snow on the ground is hard on the animals. In the winter they are still able to graze on the pasture, even if its mostly dead, as long as it isn’t covered in snow. With snow on the ground they are limited to hay and feed — both of which can be expensive and have to be manually fed to them at least once a day. Because we have a mixed flock– sheep, goats, llamas and pig all together– feeding can be difficult. The goats and pig are much pushier than the sheep and so if we want the sheep to get more than a bite full they have to be separated before being given grain. And the llamas are just incredibly picky eaters and will only eat pelleted llama feed, not the all purpose grain mixes we use for everyone else. Hay is a bit easier – its not generally woofed down the way the grain is so it lasts longer and everyone gets some- but is heavy to toss the bales around!! Not that any of my complaining will change the weather…
p.s. Logan is doing great and is acting totally back to normal. If it weren’t for the ear tag I put on him when he was sick I wouldn’t be able to tell him apart from his two half brothers! Its amazing to see him back to normal after he was in such desperate pain just a week ago.
Logan has recovered an amazing amount since last night. He went from writhing in pain on the ground to walking around with his mom like nothing ever happened. It blows my mind that improvement can happen this fast but I should know better– I’ve had kidney stones myself and its very similar– one minute you think you are going to die (or wish you would!) and then the stone passes and suddenly everything is okay!
I’ll be in touch with the vet to see if we need to do anything else to make sure he fully recovers (like give him antibiotics) and will look into what we can do to prevent future stones. Stones in sheep are often due to diet but Logan has never been on grain or feed– just pure pasture– so I’m not sure what to blame this problem on. I’ve heard that sometimes they just happen in wethers no matter what their diet is like. When they are castrated their hormones get shut off and they stop developing masculine characteristics. In most cases, this is a good thing and is the reason we castrate them! But one of the drawbacks is that their penises remain underdeveloped and small which makes them more prone to becoming blocked. Still, there are some things that can be added to their diets which can help prevent stones so we will look into what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Even if it does happen, now we know what to look for and what to do so our boys won’t have to suffer through a long day or more before we figure out how to help them.
p.s. I was hoping that after all of our bonding yesterday, Logan wouldn’t be as shy around me today. No such luck. I can’t tell he is feeling better because now he runs as soon as I get near him!
My wee little lambs aren’t so little anymore, in fact they are almost as big as their mommas! Still, as the youngest members of the flock they get pushed around a bit by the older sheep and because of that I have a hard time having one on one interactions with them. Every time I try to give treats of scratches to the lambs, one of the older sheep comes along and pushes them out of the way! The result is very shy, skittish lambs. This isn’t ideal for any of the sheep, but is a real problem with little ewes that will eventually be bred. I need to be able to easily handle them during their pregnancies and after lambing to make sure they stay healthy, and I need them to trust me to help out during lambing if they have problems.
Thankfully my mom offered to help me out with my shy lambs by taking two of them to her farm for lots of one on one attention. Hopefully this will make them more confident and friendly!
The lambs and their moms separated in the barn the night before their trip to make them easy to catch in the morning
Liisu settled in for the ride
Liisu and LeeLoo meeting their new flock
Settling in into their new stall
We want to explore our new pasture!!
It being a beautiful, sunny day today I thought I’d get some pictures of the flock. I wanted a nice “portrait” of each lamb for my records and I ended up with a “family portrait” of each little family as well! You can see all of today’s photos on Flickr. Here are a few of my favorites.
In the past, shearing day has always been very stressful for us. When we hire someone to shear the sheep we have to sit back and watch while someone else cuts slices into the skin of our flock. When we do it ourselves, we stress out about hurting them ourselves and then fail to actually get the shearing done because we are so anxious about it. The sheep themselves don’t seem terribly bothered when they get cut but it makes us sick and is so hard to avoid – their skin is so thin and the shears cut through any little wrinkle.
This year, shearing was delayed due to the heavy, extended winter. And this gave us plenty of time to think about how we wanted to approach shearing season this year. We knew that we didn’t want to hire someone this year. But we were also dreading the physical and emotional struggle of shearing them ourselves in the traditional manner. So we decided to try using non-electric hand clippers on a stand. Its slow but we actually enjoy the process and are happy with the results. We don’t harvest quite as much wool but we are okay with that. In fact, we kind of like leaving a bit more wool on the sheep – it helps them adjust to the sudden change in temperature. Plus it is something that two people can do at once- one on each side of the sheep- so Chris and I are able to work together. And best of all no one- not us nor the sheep- is stressed out! So far we have only shorn Elizabeth and Francine but hope to get the rest of the flock done this weekend.
Today, just before a huge storm swept in, we visited the sheep farm. I should clarify, this isn’t just any sheep farm its one of my favorites. The farm, Rarefind Farm is owned by Lynn and her husband and they raise the most beautiful Shetland sheep. They are as friendly as dogs and come racing over when Lynn calls for them– they get so excited that even the pregnant ewes leap like little lambs! And their fleeces. wow. Several years ago when I first had my hands on yarn made from Lynn’s fleeces I couldn’t believe it was Shetland. I thought she must have snuck some merino in it was so soft! All my previous experiences with Shetland fleece had been a bit, well, “rustic” would be the nice way to put it. I had no idea that Shetland wool could be so fine. She doesn’t have a sheep in the flock with a micron count of more than 30, and her average is around 22 (I think that’s what she said– I should have been taking notes). Perfect for hand spinning and the type of wool you’d want to have against your skin.
Because Shetland sheep are so small they are perfect for our small farm. We are planning to start with three this year but we’ll breed them in the fall and lamb in the spring, so we’ll have more next summer (and the next, and the next…) but they are small enough that it’ll take a while before we run out of space. And they are small enough that I can handle them on my own– larger breeds are surprisingly strong and when they are stubborn can be too much for someone my size/strength to handle. Plus they don’t eat as much as larger breeds which will be nice on our wallets!
After talking to Lynn I think our best choice is to buy three adult ewes who have already had at least one baby. This way we will know that they are good, healthy animals and they shouldn’t have problems with lambing. Sometimes new moms take a while to realize that the tiny creature following them around is their responsability, and they can have more trouble birthing, so a proven ewe will make things simpler for us and take away some of the stress of our first lambing!
I’d like to bring them to the farm in late May or early June. That will give us the summer to get to know them and get them settled in before breeding in the fall. Of course, that means that we’ll have to have the farm ready for them. Thankfully our trip to Lynn’s reassured me that setting our farm up for sheep is within our capabilities.
My dad has already told my mom that she can have a sheep…which would live at our farm, of course!