Monday, April 24

Daily Farm Photo: 4/24/06

Sheep Freedom Day 2 Begins. . .

And Ends

It's all about the food. And fortunately a fantastic thunder/wind/hail/rainstorm dropped an inch of much needed rain on the farm last night, which means today the grass is growing even faster than everyone can eat it.

Lamb Report: I guess when Serena (who is Bruisie's mother) tried to run through the side of the barn rather than let us catch her up on Saturday, her baby decided that it might be just a wee bit safer out in the real world. So yesterday (while we were gone, of course), she came out to have a looksee. Mother and daughter are doing fine and are ensconced at the Bonding Suite Inn next door to Bruisie and her spotted darling.

Darling isn't doing much dancing, and we're having some trouble, but I'm hoping Serena will tell her daughter (whose full name is, appropriately, "Bruiser"--did I mention our heads collided on Saturday and hers is definitely harder?) a few things--like the fact that if you nuzzle Baby too hard with your nose, Baby tips over and cannnot get up. And that nursing is a very good thing.

I know they can't all be easy. But I definitely think we should have done what we did when we named Serena--come up with the most calm sounding name that we could! Current Lamb Count: 18.


  1. Wow - are you saying those sheep stripped out all that grass? How long did that take!?!?

    And at what age do you dock their tails? (Did a little research - we were wondering why the lambs have long, odd looking tails)

  2. Congrates on the Newbies and I wish continuted safe times for the flock.

    When I sae the photo of the grass I said to myself, "My God, I'd never have to mow again!"

  3. Thems some fluffy sheep. When is shearing day? We got rained out again this weekend so it got rescheduled for Monday, May 1. Sadly, I will be the only helper. Everyone else has a "real" job. So we will see how long I hold up skirting fleeces.

  4. There's something very peaceful about seeing animals cropping away. Are your sheep meant for wool?

  5. I need my lawns mowed - how much an hour for the sheep to come around. *lol*

  6. Wow! That's amazing. So do you just keep moving them around to new grassy areas?

  7. All that rock n' roll is probably making your flock a bunch of stress eaters! Look at that buffet! GONE!

  8. They all seem to love their big "salad bar"! Lucky sheep! Can't wait for the next baby lamb picture.


  9. I love the juxtaposition of the two photos. And am wondering the same things as other commenters - how long did the grazing take? when are their tails docked? are they for wool (or will you sell them and not ask what the buyer will do)? For the lawn mowing query, geese do a neater job.

  10. Juliar,

    Geese leave a nasty mess when they're done!! ;-) (Altho I'm guessing sheep gotta go too!)

  11. Hi Jeph,
    Yep, the sheep ate all that grass. They munched the majority of it down in about 3 hours. This was a small pen, though (about 65 feet by 65 feet), and we put 34 sheep and 16 lambs on it. That's pretty densely populated.

    Apologies for not getting back to your earlier question about the tails. Glad you were able to learn about docking in your research. : ) We usually dock tails when the lambs are 1 to 2 weeks old. We'll wait until there are several to do, so that's why the age variance. You can do it later (we have), and some experts say you should do it before they even leave the bonding pen (2 to 3 days old), but we don't do it that early. For one thing, when they are that young, some of the tails are so tiny, the band (we use an elastrator which puts a tight rubber band type thing on the tail) isn't on tight enough. When they get too big, though, it's not good, either, as it takes much longer for the tails to fall off.

    Hi Yellow Dog,
    Thank you. And yes, you're right--a few woolly munchers and you'd never have to mow again! In fact, many years ago The White House lawn was kept trimmed down by sheep.

    Hi Alisha,
    Yep, it's definitely better when the lamb count goes up rather than down.

    Hi Vickie,
    Shearing day should be soon--just need to get in touch with the shearer (and cross my fingers he's shearing this year). Yes, rain is a factor when shearing, as the wool cannot be even the littlest bit wet. We're finally getting some much needed rain, but it'll be a bit tough to schedule the shearing around it.

    I bet you're going to have a lot of fun helping out on shearing day. You won't believe how fast a professional can shear a sheep (as opposed to a total pathetic amateur like me, LOL). Talk about some bad hair days!

    Hi Anonymous,
    Yes, it's very peaceful watching the sheep happily munching on a big field of fresh green grass--especially after they've been penned up for over two months. Our sheep are meat breeds rather than wool breeds, and I'll go into that a bit more in response to Julia's comment.

    Hi Abe/Happy,
    Believe it or not, you're not far off track asking how much per hour for the sheep to come mow. It's the new "in" thing--renting out sheep to graze large areas--and was even mentioned in a recent copy of Sheep Industry News. If you want to read a little more about this concept (and how goats are getting in on the action, too), click here to read a recent lighthearted post on my garden blog, In My Kitchen, where I discuss it.

    Hi Sunidesus,
    You asked if we just keep moving them around to new grassy areas. In a perfect world, that is exactly what we would do. We would have about 30 small fenced pens and the sheep could spend one day a month in each. Of course while I am dreaming, there would be some kind of enclosed alleyway that ran from the barn to all of the pens so that the sheep would be forced to go into the pen you wanted them to.

    In the real world, our fencing sucks. And the way steel prices have skyrocketed, unless we win the lottery it'll probably be a long, long time before we can set up anything like that. Better perimeter fencing is first on the list, and we need a few miles of that. Right now I think to have someone come in and fence 1/4 mile is somewhere around $1,400 or $1,500. It might be more.

    In the meantime, we have a few fenced pastures (the llamas are in one now), and we're talking about looking into the newest innovations in portable fencing. You can use this to make little pens for the sheep to graze in. It used to be mostly electrified, and that doesn't do much on thick woolly coats. Also, you still have to get the sheep where you want to pen them up. If you have cattle that aren't locked in a barn at night, you can simply put them in a field, fence a section of it off with the portable fencing, then when you want to move them, you just open up one side of the fence and move it forward, then move the other side up so you have then in a new section. You can work them neatly across a field this way. (Hopefully my explanation made some sense.)

    Anyway, right now the sheep are just on the loose, roaming around wherever they want to go (except in the hayfield which we finally got fenced off). This is the least efficient way to utilize your pasture, but right now we aren't facing an overgrazing problem. If we had cattle, it would be a different story. Intensive grazing (using the small pens for a day or two) allows you to get much, much more food out of your fields. Um, too much information, LOL?

    Hi Girlonaglide,
    LOL, you crack me up. Nah, they're not stressed from the music. They always eat like that. : )

    Hi Felice,
    Another lamb photo already up! : )

    Hi Julia,
    Okay, I think I covered the tails and the time between the before and after buffet photos.

    As far as the sheep, we are raising them for meat. I usually sell whole lambs to individuals in the late spring. They decide what cuts they want, and I deliver the lambs to a small local Mennonite processor. When the buyer picks up their lamb (or I deliver it to them) it is frozen in small packages wrapped in white butcher paper and labeled.

    We have been holding back all of our ewe lambs to increase the size of the flock (this is the best way to do it, rather than buying animals from someone else--except for my rams, I've kept an entirely "closed" flock since 1995).

    As far as what breed they are, my original flock of 32 sheep was a real mixed bunch, so we're still getting a little of the Heinz 57 in there. I bought the "culls" from a good sheep producer, meaning I got the ones she didn't want to keep, but the culls from a great flock are much better than the "best" of a bad flock. Also, what we mainly got were older ewes and that was perfect because even though we had no clue what we were doing, they did, LOL.

    For the past 3 years I have used a big Suffolk ram (the black faced sheep), one of the most popular and prevalent meat breeds. He has given us excellent height and bulk in our lambs. And we are also at the point where we are seeing uniformity in the lambs (which means that even to me, they are starting to all look alike). The two years before that we used a shorter, stockier Hampshire ram. He helped add lots of bulk to the lambs--most of the daughters we held back are much bigger than their mothers. Since these are both meat breeds, their wool is very coarse and not popular with hand spinners and knitters. It isn't really good for anything except maybe horse blankets.

    Before that, I had a black ram, which explains the black sheep that pop out once in a while--plus all those chocolate chip spots.

    There are other breeds that have much finer, softer wool (we had a few of these in the original flock), and my original plan was to learn to spin my own wool. I used a black ram so I would have naturally colored wool. But there is never time to do everything on The Big Original Plan, and so at this point all I've learned to do is spoil my sheep and eat them. : )

    As for geese, no thank you! : )

    Hi again Jeph,
    Yes, "sheep gotta go, too," but their manure comes out in nice tidy pellets. It is fabulous in the garden, and can actually be used right away because it is not "hot" like chicken or cow manure. Hot manure will burn your plants if it isn't aged first. The other nice thing about sheep manure is that with manure in general, most of what you are smelling is sulphur that is coming out of the animals, and the sheep actually utilize sulphur to grow their wool. Hence, very little odor! And llama pellets have virtually no odor at all. Which is good and bad--they are such prima donnas that they act like their s@#$ doesn't stink, and, well, it doesn't! : )

    Okay, I think that about covers Barnyard Basics for the day. Thanks, as always, for all your questions and comments. I enjoy reading them and appreciate the feedback (both positive and negative), so keep it coming. And remember, if there's something you'd rather not put in a comment, you are welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

    Now I'm off to count some sheep!


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