It is very hard to believe that this is the end of January. The weather has been incredibly mild. In the last 28 days we have gotten just over 4” of rain. We usually get 12” annually. The ground is so saturated that if you look out in this field, all the little brown spots are worm mounds from them surfacing to avoid drowning, that is a lot of worms! This is prime fencing weather but since I am supposed to be inside the house doing home improvement projects I don’t get to go outside and fence all winter long. Being able to fence all winter long is not a problem that normally occurs.
I have been working on the upstairs bathroom. I have the closet almost roughed in and finish wood on the walls. I still need to build one stem wall and a frame for the closet door. I am going to hold off on the rest of the closet build until I get the floor tile installed. I can do that while we are waiting on the plumber to come in and install the sink and toilet.
I was super stoked that I managed to get the closet floor cut and installed on the first try only using a tape measure and square to draw out the pattern on plywood. It just needed some judicious use of nylon hammer to get it into place. I am all ready to start installing the Hardiboard on the floor. Once that is in I can start painting the Red Guard on to create a waterproof barrier to set the tile on top of preventing any toilet water from ending up in the downstairs ceiling. Barring no complications I should have the Hardiboard down and the Red Guard done over the weekend and will be able to start laying tile next weekend. I am hoping to lay all of the floor tile in one setting. Once it has cured for 24 hours I will come back and put the floor trim tile up on the wall. I am not going to use pool tile grout this time. I am using an epoxy base but it’s not quite as sticky as the stuff I used last year. When I was talking to the tile shop I was told I should only have done about three square feet of grout at a time so I could clean it all up quickly. I am pretty sure we did about six square feet of grout at a time and it was painful. I am still cleaning up grout in some low traffic areas a year later.
Zeke is figuring out how to get out of the front yard again. He was jumping at the lower wire strand to make it loose so he could crawl under it but he has figured out how to get out without doing that now. I am going to drill through the 4×4 posts and string another wire through the posts and see if that keeps him in. It is crazy how hard it is to keep him in the yard. Mouse hardly leaves even if he front gate is left open!
My baby pullets just started to lay this week! Instead of getting three eggs a week we have gotten two dozen in the last four days. Our egg customers will be happy to get eggs as we were not selling any.
We did have another single lamb born this morning. Annmarie and I think the ram got tired when he was doing his job this summer. It’s like he had to save up energy before he could rush in for a few days then take a break to build up more energy, he is no Energize bunny. We are seriously considering a second ram to cause some competition between the two rams.
- Total lambs born (dead or alive): 28
- # of singles: 5
- # of twins: 7
- # of triplets: 3
- Stillborn lambs: 1
- # died without a tag: 4
- # bummered: 3
- # ewes delivered: 15
- # lambs alive on property: 20
- Birth rate (alive & dead included): 187% (goal>150%)
- Ewe productivity after 1 week (live lambs on farm): 140% (goal >125%)
- Lamb success (live lambs on farm after 1 week): 71% (max 100%)
We have had a hard time this year deciding when our lambing season was going to start. We have had an occasional lamb here and there. We are not sure if it is due to the fact that our ram had his very first season with ewes or if he was so fat to start with that he needed to lose some weight to be effective. We just know that the trickle of an occasional lamb is annoying. We opted to start counting our lambing season from November 1, 2019 for this reason. There is usually one day that defines the start of our our lambing season. We like to officially call this Lambaggedon, yesterday was the start of ours.
We had been having a steady stream of babies every 1-3 days for about 2 weeks. This led to us having 6 pens all over the barn as of yesterday. We were running out of panels and had ordered two more from Premier. They make an aluminum gate/panel that is modular. It is such an improvement over the old metal galvanized panels that used to be the only option. Now you can add sections together and make a 4’, 6’ or 8’ gate/panel. We had ordered two 6’ sections and a creep gate so we can start giving the babies an all you can eat buffet. The joy of the modular sections is they can be shipped UPS ground! The old heavy ones had to come via freight truck. I tried to put the gates together and discovered there is a left and a right and I was sent two lefts! I called the next morning and got a replacement sent and another right so we would have three panels not two. I also asked about our creep gate that had not arrived. Turns out someone left the creep gate on their truck and they brought it the next day. I had a ordered an ear notcher and a new ear tag applicator. We keep getting different brands of tags and I have three different applicators now. The new one is a universal applicator.
So Friday morning I took the one 6’ gate outside and finished assembling it. I needed a rubber hammer to nudge it into place. When I went out to the barn there were babies everywhere! I had a set of triplets by the door, one was stillborn and the other was flat like a pancake to the floor and could not stand, all four legs out away from its body. I got that ewe and her two babies in a small pen. I had three other babies and only one mother was claiming one baby. I got everyone out but two ewes and then went and got a bottle. I bottle fed three of the babies and they all drank even though two of them kept laying in weird positions.
I then worked on tagging and banding the lambs in the momma area (five of them), the triplets under the stairs and the single baby with the hairless mom. This lamb had a tag but the old applicator cracked the female portion of the ear tag which is why I got a replacement. Learning to use the new tag applicator took a few tries and I had to finally use a practice tag to figure out what I was doing wrong. It makes a clicking noise when you get it together right and the others do not.
The triplets are all girls and we will be keeping every one of them to use as replacement ewes. Once I figured out who belonged to who and tag and banded them I had to bottle feed the babies again. Sarah came out and bottle fed the lambs again while I fed the main herd and we let the tag and banded sheep back out into the main herd. We put the two new mommas into the momma area. The little splayed triplet would not take a bottle the last time and its belly was full, the only problem is that set of triplets is tiny! We then rearranged all the gates and panels, buckets, bungees and bucket straps. I spent over six hours out in the barn getting it all put back together then went inside, showered and went to work, two hours later I was back home as Sarah had to bring in those three babies. We had one die in the house and got the other two bummered off.
We went out this morning to check on the babies and found only one lamb with a first time ewe, nice big lamb. We got the pair under the stairs, moved the twins and ewe at the far end of the barn into the momma area and are now down to two areas for babies. We are discussing how to divide the herd into the haves and have nots (babies) and divide the barn also so we can track the babies being born better. We will probably do this on Sunday.
I have sat down with our new Airtable spreadsheet that Annmarie made and added up all of our lambs. I will update it as we go. It’s kind of depressing currently, we are looking at nutritional causes and the age of our herd. We have a lot of older ewes and are going to swap them out this spring.
- Total lambs born (dead or alive): 27
- # of singles: 4
- # of twins: 7
- # of triplets: 3
- Stillborn lambs: 1
- # died without a tag: 4
- # bummered: 3
- # ewes delivered: 14
- # lambs alive on property: 19
- Birth rate (alive & dead included): 193% (goal>150%)
- Ewe productivity after 1 week (live lambs on farm): 127% (goal >125%)
- Lamb success (live lambs on farm after 1 week): 70% (max 100%)
We put off taking the cows in to be slaughtered for a week due to the snow and ice on the road. I did not want to pull that horse trailer in that type of weather and the college was gracious enough to allow us to put it off. I needed to be at the college between 1630-1700 on Thursday so they could kill on Friday. There were to be no more delays, the wagon train must go on! So we planned out the week, so that the cows would be moved to the corral on Wednesday and I would come home early on Thursday and load them and go to college, this seems fairly easy.
On Wednesday it started raining in the morning and proceeded to rain all day. The barn lot is mostly dirt. I came home a little early so I could work the cows in the daylight. I decided that I would need some assistance which means letting the dogs help me. I went into the Alcatraz area and managed to sort off the three steers I wanted in 10 minutes alone. Once I got them out of the pen and the gates latched I needed help. I brought the border collies over to help me. This did not go as well as I wanted. The steers kept going into the corner of the field nearest the Alcatraz fence and would not leave. If I tried to get one dog to go in and root them out then I had to turn my back on the other dog. This seemed to be a signal for the second dog to do whatever they wanted, which equated to balling the steers up into a corner and not letting them get out. This meant that I started to holler and swear at the dogs. It took 75 minutes for us to get the steers into the corral. 68 minutes was spent trying to get them past the first gate. I was making the dogs lay down in the mud as they assumed that a crouching position meant they could move whenever they wanted. I could hardly talk when I was done. Luckily, for the dogs, it was 45 degrees outside. I washed all the mud off of them in the outside faucet. The pictures below are of the two of them just after we came inside. They don’t look very contrite. I could hardly talk the next day, everyone at work thought I was sick.
I came home at 1500 on Thursday to load up the cows. I felt so bad after getting the cows into the corral the night before that I did not hook up the horse trailer. I had plans to do it but I was cold, wet and muddy and was not going to do it. Why do it then when you can put it off until the next day?
Our housekeeper was just finishing up and offered to stay and help. Things never go smoothly when you are on a deadline so I accepted. I drove over and tried to hook up to the trailer and realized that I needed a smaller 2’ hitch ball. I found a triple one in the machine shed but it had a straight stinger and this was going to cause the trailer to be canted to the rear pretty severely. So I ran back to the old house to find a 2” ball already attached to a 2” drop stinger. We got that installed and after the trailer was hitched Tisha asked me if I wanted the bad news. I am on a deadline, there can be no bad news! I had a flat tire on the rear right side. Mind you a few months ago I had the other flat and the spare tire fixed! So we pulled the trailer up onto a wooden block, elevating the flat tire so it could be changed. I tried to put it on backwards in my rush, luckily Tisha caught it and told me so I could fix it. Once the trailer was officially hooked up and ready to go I jumped onto the tractor and pushed the calf table out from in front of the chute.
Tisha backed the trailer right up to the chute opening and we have an sliding half gate so the openings lined up perfectly. I just jumped in the corral, opened the chute gate and pushed them into the the chute. Their horns kept hanging up on the walls so they had to concentrate on moving forward so they did not fight the transition at all. Once they got into the trailer I chased them to the front half and closed our divider gate. These are really handy as it keeps the cows in the front half so they cannot move around as much.
I was headed to town when I noticed the junk in the passenger floorboard and seat. Annmarie was supposed to jump in and show me where to go when I got to the college. She thinks the pickup should always be cleaned out. I believe that it is a working vehicle and when stuff starts falling out when you open the doors then you need to clean it out. A small difference of opinion. As I was pulling up the college hill I messaged her. She said she would meet me just outside her office building. Well I had two cars behind me as I came even with her building so instead of just stopping in the road I kept going up and around the corner. She called to ask where I was going and then we had a long discussion about being a farmer and how when you are hauling a trailer it is acceptable practice to just stop in the middle of the road. She even argued that it was commonplace (hard to refute that) and I should have joined the club. I made sure to take the extra time it took her to walk to my stopping location to move trash and stuff from the seat and floorboards so that nothing would fall out when she opened the passenger door. Nothing fell out but she was insistent that I needed to clean out the pickup. We got the cows unloaded without incidence and went home. Once they give us the hanging weight I will send bills out to the three buyers.
I went out this morning to do chores in the barn and discovered a two new lambs. The only real problem with this is I spotted another ewe with her water sack hanging out. I tried to get everyone else out of the barn and keep the new momma and her in the barn. She panicked and leaped past me and out with the main herd. I tried to corral the new momma and babies under the stairs by grabbing both babies and sticking them under the stairs, but every time I turned to leave one of the lambs kept following me out. The other lamb could hardly stand so I wanted her in a confined space so it could have a chance to nurse. I finally managed to get her confined and then set a timer for two hours to come back out and check on the twins and see if I could spot the water ewe. I was wondering if the weak twin was really the water ewe’s baby, but the other ewe took both babies so I was unsure. Most of our sheep will not take a stranger’s baby, except for #1 ewe, she will nurse anything. I went inside to start doing more planning on the upstairs bathroom.
I went upstairs to draw on the wall. Annmarie and I looked at it last night and decided that at a bare minimum I was going to have to move the light location above the mirror, maybe a power outlet also. So I figured I better draw it all out on the wall so I could see where everything goes and make sure it would all fit. I do need to move the light over the mirror. Luckily, its not very far so I won’t have to run new wire.
When Annmarie, got back from church we went out to the barn to check on the sheep. I was pleasantly surprised when we looked under the stairs. Annmarie said there were triplets!! I had to look as I didn’t believe her. I had pictures to prove that there was only two when I left two hours earlier.
I went back upstairs to do more planning. I hate planning but at this point I need to get it all down on paper and cemented in my brain so I can get a seamless install. I moved the light box and started to look at how to alter the dresser to accommodate plumbing and a new granite top. Annmarie helped me trace out the top of the dresser design onto plastic and then we went downstairs and ordered the sink, drain and picked out our single hole faucet. We had to email an inquiry about the faucet as it is not in stock in most stores we found. We want to get the sink and the faucet here and I want to get the countertop ordered so they have time to finish it as the front and sides are scalloped gently.
I am going to have to alter the top drawer so the we can use half of the drawer and move out and in easily. I am going to have to buy a few pieces of finish wood to get the drawer redone. I will be gluing, screwing and using finish nails to get the pieces in nice and tight.
When we fed the sheep and locked them in at night we did not have any new babies and there were still only triplets under the stairs. All three triplets are girls and they are all doing well and nursing. We will keep all three as replacements for our herd. We also just ordered an ear not her so we can start marking ewes to cull. We are going to start swapping out some of the older ewes.
It has been a long day, we had another snow day so Annmarie went out to check on the sheep this morning and discovered a couple of things. Our isolated ewe and her baby were cold, the ewe has no hair, for what reason we are not sure but the ewe is not weak or sick, just missing about 60% of its hair. She also noticed that a bunch of the sheep had milky eyes. The hay is full of cheat grass, Our fields got flooded last spring and we did not get our mower for the hay until too late. By the time we got it I knew I needed to practice bailing hay as a learning event. Once I had it all bailed I did not want to throw it out. The sheep have been eating it but they are shoving their heads in the feeders and getting stickers in their eyelids. So we ran everyone through the chute and I dug stickers out of eyes. Some have cataracts from the irritation, we have two that are blind. They get in and out of the barn with the rest of the herd. So next weekend we are going to run them through the chute again and this time I will check them again and use a couple of gallons of warm water to wash all their faces really well. We have also altered our feeding routine. No more using the feeders. We are going to toss the bales out on the ground so the sheep will be reaching down and stand less chance of getting a sticker. This will waste more feed but its safer for the sheep.
Annmarie has vowed to help me watch the grass in the spring so I know when to cut it to prevent this again. We have replanted 14 acres of fields and are hoping to not get any cheat grass. I have fields with grass that is already a couple of inches tall. Annmarie pays better attention to this stuff than I do. I can check on them, feed them, water them, grain them no problem, but I tend not to notice stuff. We have had the sheep for over ten years and I am still learning and realizing that her passion will always supersede mine. It took us about three hours to get everything done in the barn this morning. The feeders will only be used for the nightly protein supplement.
I fed the cows another giant bale. The alpaca mobbed the machine shed hay room when I opened it to get hay for the cows. Now that there is snow on the ground its harder for them to find something to eat. I left the gate open tonight for them, tomorrow I will start tossing them hay from the barn.
We moved the ewe and baby down to the other end of the barn hoping to get her away from the wind. Annmarie went in to the house and stole one of my T-shirts’. It is now a sheep covering, the neck hole is for the head, the two front legs go through the arm holes and she cut a small hole at the bottom of the shirt and pushed it over the sheep’s tail to prevent it from creeping up the neck. We moved panels around, deciding we need about four more panels, a creep feeder for the lambs and about 8 more wall eyelets. I may just use eyebolts instead of buying the special ones from Premier fencing. We have had approximately 9 lambs so far and while moving panels around today we discovered a dead baby lamb. We never saw it. I usually find one or two every season buried in the bedding. I also found another dead baby chicken. It will be time to make another trip out to the boneyard after a hard freeze or snow melts off some. This slick top mud is not conducive to getting up the back hillside.
Zeke keeps getting out of the yard. We thought that he was going over by the tensioner but it looks like he may be crawling between the wires again. I really need to add a wire that goes through all the 4×4 boards so he cannot crawl past. It is so infuriating to find him outside the fence. He hates the wind and has been panicking in his kennel so he has gotten to sleep outside of it several times in the last two weeks. Last night after about 10 minutes he tries to dig to China through his kennel in an attempt to get let out. I told him he was full of shit and to settle down cause he was not getting out of that kennel as there was no wind! He settled down and slept on the breeze porch in his kennel all night long.
I did have to order a new tile border for the upstairs bathroom. We waited over a year to order the tile and our old choice would be delayed by 3 months. So we ordered one similar and should have it in a couple of weeks. My new eye glasses are coming in another week hopefully. I waited too long in between sets and I keep having to take my current ones off and shove the screen up under my nose to see.