Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Dose of Cute: Down at the Sheep Barn

Down at the sheep barn (1) - FarmgirlFare.com
Great Pyrenees livestock guardian Daisy and nine-year-old pet wether Teddy.

Bye, bye, breeding season! These weeks are flying by so fast it's frightening. On August 27th we moved our six-year-old ram, Da Big Guy (born during the 'D' year) in with 15 ewes, and last Thursday we moved him back out. If all went (and goes) well, adorable bouncing baby lambs should start arriving the end of January.

A ewe cycles every 17 days, so we kept the ram in a pen with them for 37 days: two cycles plus a few extra days just in case. Hopefully, though, lambing season won't last nearly that long. Last year nine ewes had 19 live lambs (plus one newborn that died), which was fantastic, but they spread those lambs out over a month.

The idea is to have all the lambs arrive in as short a time as possible, although that doesn't always seem like a great plan when you're short on sleep and babies are being born every time you turn around. But the alternative—endless days of round the clock barn checks with nothing going on—is even more exhausting.

During the past few years we've significantly reduced our flock in an all around effort to simplify our lives and reduce expenses, so besides Da Big Guy and his 15 babes, we had a separate splinter flock this year of just eight sheep: three 2013 lambs that we'll have butchered next spring, three big old pet wethers (they also make great ram companions), my baby Cary (who I decided not to breed again after her first horrible experience), and nine-year-old Silly, a sweet old retired girl who is Da Big Guy's mother.

When we pulled Da Big Guy out last week, we put Teddy (aka Uncle Teddy) in with him and merged the rest of the flock back together.

We combined this merger with a sheep working session, trimming some hooves, running everyone through a zinc sulfate foot bath to treat foot scald (raw spots between the toes from moisture), and giving everybody a dose of organic garlic juice and apple cider vinegar as a natural wormer and all-around health tonic.

More photos and story below. . .













Teddy and Da Big Guy are now in a nice grassy pen along the driveway and adjacent to the big front field, and yesterday we put the rest of the flock out in the front field with the donkeys. This setup is fine with old Ted, as he has permanently bad feet and is grateful to get a break from traipsing all over the place. Plus, for a ram, Da Big Guy is pretty nice.

And now we start getting ready for lambing season. It'll be here before you know it.

More farm life tidbits? Here.
More sheep? Here.
More Daisy? Here.
Bouncing baby lambs? Here.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the upcycled foodie farm blog where empty Sriracha sauce squirt bottles make great dispensers for zinc sulfate or iodine—when you can nab one before somebody steals it out of the dish drain to use in his garage/workshop.

5 comments:

  1. After reading your tribute to Da Big Guy, I have recollection of a Charolais bull that I once owned. "Fritz" never found a fence that he didn't challenge. He was always on the prowl, even with 40 cows in his personal harem, the grass was frequently greener in the neighbors pastures.

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  2. Is it hard for you to butcher lambs that you helped birth, cared for and watched grow? I would think that after a year they would have names, personalities, etc., and given what loving souls you and Joe are, I was just wondering...

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    1. Hi Lisa,
      That's a great question. It was difficult for me at first - and I wasn't sure I would be able to do it - but now I wouldn't have it any other way. To us, there is no better meat than that which comes from an animal you know enjoyed a happy, healthy, natural, (dare I say spoiled?) life.

      Unfortunately, most meat animals in this country are not raised this way. Instead they spend their lives in horrid factory farm conditions.

      We feel very lucky to be able to raise our own lamb and beef, as well as purchase local, humanely raised chicken and pork from people we know and trust. (We also eat wild venison, which we process ourselves.) Otherwise I would mostly likely be a vegetarian.

      I know that we are going to eat meat, and being a part of the entire process makes me feel humbled and grateful.

      That said, some of the sheep have definitely crossed over to pet status. We won't, for example, ever be eating Cary or Teddy. :)

      You can read a little more about my meat eating philosophy in this post: http://www.farmgirlfare.com/2011/04/slow-roasted-greek-style-leg-of-lamb.html

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  3. Garlic and apple vinegar for worms. I have never used that and am interested if it works for goats also. I would love to have mixture and how you administer... it might be a good alternative or addition for us...

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    1. Hi WC,
      I think people are using it for goats as well as sheep. We buy Garlic Barrier organic garlic juice (http://www.garlicbarrier.com/), which is traditionally used on crops and in organic gardens, but has been found to work well against internal parasites in sheep. You can learn more and read some studies on the company's website:

      http://www.garlicbarrier.com/sheep.html

      We mix it 50/50 with Bragg organic apple cider vinegar and administer it with a drench gun. We give 10ml to 25ml of the mixture per sheep, depending on how red their eyes are and how they're doing overall. We've been using it for several years to help against worms and as an overall health tonic. We also give a couple of doses to ewes after giving birth, and to a sheep if they're sick for any reason (mastitis, hoof rot, runny nose, whatever!). Sometimes we'll do two doses a day for five days.

      We mostly use it as a preventative against worms - we've found that if a sheep already has a severe infestation (here in MO our biggest problem is the barber pole stomach worms), you need to use a commercial womer (we use Prohibit drench).

      We buy a case of four gallons at a time for a special sheep farmer rate. I'm sure you could call and ask if they would offer it to a goat farmer too. :)

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