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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our sheep!

I grew up with livestock on our farm, all kinds of livestock.  For me, that's what made farm life worth living.  Hubby did not, his farm was strictly grains.  I've told him, "Oh Honey, that wasn't a real farm!"  

In high school, my life goal was to be a veterinarian.  I loved animals, especially large animals, and I loved working with them every day.  

Hubby and I haven't gotten large animals until this point because we had three children in three years and that was enough to manage at that time.  But this is the first year we haven't had a baby, so it was time to get livestock!

I talked about our goat-getting HERE.  Hubby and I let the kids have a morning of fun at Grandma's while we went to pick-up the first batch of sheep.  


They are Katahdins which are hair sheep bred for meat and to thrive on grass which is exactly what we want!  These five wethers (castrated males) are going to graze and grow and will be processed in October for our customers.  Their hair is amazingly soft!  (They are drinking water here.)

These lambs were being fed some grain and were not on green grass, so to balance their diet and to prevent their little tummies from getting upset we are giving them some hay as dry matter to balance the lush green grass they are enjoying.  



The kiddos worked together to bring the lambs their hay!

 Our other sheep are Icelandics.  They were delivered by fellow grass farmers who wanted to see our chicken operation, so in exchange for a farm tour they brought us our sheep.  (I really wish the ewes were shorn, but I'm working on a way to relieve them of their very large fleeces.)


We have two mature ewes, one has twin ram lambs and the other a ewelamb.  



We also have a yearling ewelamb who was sold to us as "open", meaning she was not bred.  On Sunday we went to church and came home to a fantastic sight:  A brand new baby!!  He was about an hour old when we saw him.  When I was growing up, our ewelambs were difficult mothers.  They were scared, didn't realize they had a lamb, didn't know what to do with it.  We would put them into small pens so they could bond with their babies.


This little guy couldn't have a better mother!  She is so attentive to him and fawns over him, knickering and grunting with him, licking and nuzzling him.  With her heavy wool coat, I was keeping a careful eye to make sure he was nursing and knew what was wool and what was "dinner".  She did an excellent job of keeping him in the right place so that he could feed.


This is the only picture we have of him because she always puts herself between us and her baby!


This is our only ewelamb.  We have given her to our niece for her 16th birthday this month.  She will be an investment where our niece can keep or sell her lambs and fiber.  I must admit, she's a beautiful animal, with wonderful confirmation and a gorgeous fleece, I'm kinda sad that she's not ours.


Lots of people ask why we have animals.  Yes, they are very tasty, but we have them for a much bigger reason...soil health!  The impact of animals on a grass landscape is wonderful and necessary.  Here is a picture of the paddock the Icelandics are in just after they moved.

And here's what it looks like when they move out, just 24 hours later!
 The sheep eat about half of the grass and weeds and trample the other half.  That trampled vegetation feeds the soil microbes, shades the soil, reduces water loss and increases water retention (I could go on and on), plus the sheep leave excellent fertilizer!




2 comments:

  1. I am jealous! Those sheep look great. I'm interested in your pasture set up - it looks very much how we were thinking we would do it (maybe next year) - how easy is it to move them, since it looks like your fence is basically one piece of fence shaped into a paddock? It's great to see your example, because most of the set ups I've seen are for cattle, and for fairly large mobs of them, so it's hard to get a feel for how big the paddock should be for just a few sheep.

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    Replies
    1. It's a bit of a work in progress right now....OK, it a lot of work in progress right now. I'll share more specifics when we get a system down. But for now we've moved the "flerd" (flock/herd) together into one group and doubled the size of the paddocks. We kept them separate when they first arrived to get them used to the electric fence. Now they can get used to each other! Farming...we never stop learning!

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