We keep thinking that lambing season is going to be over, but it has not happened. I went out one night and had five lambs running around and could not find all the mothers. Annmarie had to come out when she got home and discovered that one of the lambs from the momma/baby area had gotten out. She claims it was from me going through door, I attempted to deflect that to squeezing through the wooden slats but that has never happened before so it was probably me. I had been focusing on moving two others who were laying by the door a third one could have snuck by. They are sneaky little creatures. They are still coming in waves, I went out this morning and found two sets of twins. It took me a while to find the first mother and while I did that one of the lambs disappeared into the crowd. By the time I found that one I discovered its twin and found another mother with twins. Luckily, she had self isolated in a back corner so it was easy to to push everyone else outside. I put both new sets of twins under the stairs.
Yesterday we had one twin that was hollering so Annmarie brought it inside the house for me to feed before work while she finished up feeding and watering everyone in the barn. I sat on the hallway floor and convinced the lamb to drink a few ounces. It was not the best bottle drinker. It got better with practice. When Annmarie came back in she wanted to make sure it was topped off as she was going to take it back outside and put it in with its momma and twin. She took it out as the ewe had been head butting the lamb. They do this to knock them away when they think they are not their lamb.
When Annmarie came back from work after noon, she went out and checked on the lamb and it was hollering and cold. She set up a pen in front of our propane stove using the dog pen. Once the lamb was fed she just put the lamb in the pen until we could get the lamb to its forever home. We are going to leave the pen up for a couple more weeks until the lambing is complete. It works way better than a cardboard box or laundry basket.
The baby chickens have finally decided to start laying eggs. The mini eggs are coming a few every day now. I feel guilty about adding them into our selling rotation but everyone has learned that the chicks start small and get bigger. We have the same few customers so they are used to it. If it starts getting out of control I will switch to 18 packs and charge the dozen price. We have done that before.
We are going to work the sheep today. We need to touch and catalog every single sheep on the property today. We have a buyer for our butcher weight lambs and we don’t know how many there are. Annmarie has been working diligently on a free database and we are starting to use it faithfully. Today we ensure we have every single animal in the database and then we will be able to track and give accurate predictions. We looked at upgrading the database this week to allowing us to do calculations and reports but they wanted $250 annually per person! We would have done the $250 but not $500-$750 if we add Sarah. It’s not worth that. So Annmarie helped me with an Apple spreadsheet to do some of the calculations. We probably need to create an all encompassing report for the entire year next.
I stayed out in the barn after sorting off the two sets of twins under the stairs. I moved the other two mothers and babies into the momma/baby area. This allowed me to tear down all the pens inside the barn making sorting much easier. I moved the feeders out of the way of the sorting chute. I dug out a couple of paths in the straw covered floor to allow me to move the panels and operate a couple of doors in the chute system. The straw/compost/excrement can get 12-18” deep in the barn and the chute is mounted at barn floor height so accommodations have to be made the later into winter we use the system.
These were the two sets of twins I found out in the barn this morning. There really are four lambs in there. There are two brown ones up against that wall on the left side of the picture. Both of these ewes are older, their tags are so worn that there are no more visible writing on them so we use the tag color to guess their age. I change the tag color every couple of years on the females. Red was the very first color we used to start tagging the female sheep. I have used the same blue tag color since inception since the boys all get sold off.
My wife made spreadsheet. I scrolled over to just show the last entry and totals. I am going to mockup the annual one based on quarterly reporting from items we need for taxes and our annual USDA report we file every January. The USDA is very diligent about getting a hold of us and going through the report. They send a couple of paper requests then start calling us until we complete the report over the phone. I have yet to fill out the paper and get it in on time.
Annmarie goes out in the mornings to do the chores and she is a much better kitty whisperer than am I. This is a picture of our “barn kitty”. We have 2-3 barn kitties but this one is the most elusive. It is very hard to spot and runs at the sight of people. It will now come out when she feeds it and lets her see it! The fat orange barn kitty lets her pet it and I can even touch it now. It looks like Garfield and kind of behaves that way also.
We have switched to feeding out of the other side of the barn. The hay is of a better quality and we are using the lousy hay for bedding and filler. We are using around 10 bales a day now. I hope we can compost most of the lousy hay this spring and kill the weed seed that way.
I ordered a new battery for the side by side (buggy) and next week will be installing the new battery and trickle charger so the buggy will be ready for weed spraying this spring. I may have to steal one of the barn portable lights so I can see to work on wiring the machine shed after my paying job is over in the evenings. If I spend 1.5 hours a night I should be done in a week.
We are still lambing. It has been ten days since I posted the last updated birth statistics. Since that time we have had 8 more ewes deliver, for 14 more lambs of which 13 are still alive and 12 of those babies are sets of twins.
Umatilla County has had record setting runoff in the Umatilla River causing water levels to be the highest ever recorded in history. Large chunks of towns are under water and at least 6 bridges have been damaged and closed. We have it better than last year. None of our fields have flooded and our back runoff creek is already lower than usual for this time of year after we had the flash runoff on Wednesday. I wish those people luck and the perseverance to hang on and build back up. This is really going to strain the ability of our county to get projects completed due to the sudden demand for contractors to fix all of this water damage.
- Total lambs born (dead or alive): 42
- # of singles: 7
- # of twins: 13
- # of triplets: 3
- Stillborn lambs: 1
- # died without a tag: 5
- # bummered: 3
- # ewes delivered: 23
- # lambs alive on property: 33
- Birth rate (alive & dead included): 183% (goal>150%)
- Ewe productivity after 1 week (live lambs on farm): 143% (goal >125%)
- Lamb success (live lambs on farm after 1 week): 79% (max 100%)
We have had 23 ewes deliver their babies but it looks like at least 10 more need to have babies. We really need to to run everyone through our chutes and do an individual count of all involved parties so we know exactly how many animals there are out in the barn.
Our three cow carcass weights were 386#, 338#, 325#, we shoot for 330# so they were right there. We are going to hold our price to $2.50 lb/hanging weight for all of 2020 again.
The chickens are making me crazy, we have 32 now and the babies keep trying to decide whether to lay or not. We were getting 7 eggs a day and are now down to 2/day. I keep hoping that as soon as the weather warms up the chicks will take off laying and we will be buried in eggs.
It snowed yesterday and then rained all night. I of course had not taken the fence out of the creek crossings yet. I had been talking about it for the last two weeks and just never seemed to get around to it. This morning while it was still dark I told Annmarie I was going to have to come home early and get those fences out of the back runoff creek.
As I was headed out of work early this afternoon, a coworker texted to remind me I was going to show him around the farm so he could come out and shoot coyotes. I had of course forgotten this and had told him he would need to send me said reminder but this dovetailed nicely with me needing some help to get the panels out of the back creek.
My Doppelgänger came out and proceeded to help me pull the panels out of the now raging back creek. It has rained 0.68 inches in the last 24 hours and has rained 5.63 inches since Jan 1, 2020. We used to get 12” of rain annually.
We pulled the fence out of multiple crossings and at one point I noticed my Doppelgänger was bleeding all over the fence. He managed to cut himself on the very first piece of panel we moved. This did not slow him down and I managed to not fall into the rampaging creek. I escorted him over the property and showed him where the coyotes were most likely to be hiding and were it was safe to shoot.
Best last minute didn’t know they were gonna help, help I have ever had. I would have been at it for at least a couple of hours trying to wrestle those panels out of the runoff by myself. On the way back to the house we stopped off at the barn and Mr Doppelgänger and his girlfriend helped me feed the sheep while they played with the lambs. Lamb snuggles are worth the wait.
My baby chickens have not been liking the rain and have started to protest and not lay eggs. They need to just get over it and start laying consistently.
These are not Siamese twins, some sheep are just greedy. They were trying to get more grain than was their due and figured that crowding their way in would work. Sarah wanted to know what to do about them. She thought that she would have to cut the feeder apart to get them loose. I told her to just ignore them and continue feeding, they would get themselves loose. They figured out how to get out of the feeder on their own with no human assistance. Just like a cat figuring out how to get down from a tree!
On Sunday, Sarah and I went outside and worked the sheep. We tagged and banded all the babies and turned everyone loose into the main herd. It took almost three hours in the barn to get everything done. I even hung some hooks for the buckets so you can now find a needed bucket quickly and they are out of the way.
It seems like a fairly simple idea, but not one we had put in place. I blame all of the LEAN projects I have been doing at work on getting the right supply to the right place as fast as possible and as conveniently as possible.
I am still working on the upstairs bathroom. I really want to get it to a place where I can lay down tile. I cut the first piece of hardiboard with the skilsaw and had dust everywhere! It took 20 minutes for the dust to settle down on the breeze porch and I still had to open two windows to get it. I switched to a utility knife and breaking it along th escorted line afterwards. It takes longer but there is no dust. I just need to get the 3” tall wall pieces installed and the bathroom backsplash done and I can start painting the Redgard water sealant on. That is going to be key to making it waterproof.
Annmarie and I are tired of lambing season dragging out. The ram was definitely taking his time. We have been lambing since Christmas and are just over half way done. We are in serious discussions on getting a second ram, maybe that will spur some competition?
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.