Well one would think that spring was in the wind, but winter is not quite ready to let go. Two weeks ago we had snow on the ground! It snowed three days ago at our house but did not stick. We have now started the constant daily rain. This is going to make the weeds and hopefully the grass we planted grow.
Unfortunately, the Coronavirus is slowing us down. I am working way too much at the hospital getting ready for our Surge. This has left very little time for me to work around the farm. This is going to cause us problems if I cannot figure out how to balance a work/life ratio. I realize it is probably necessary for my health but I continue to work and worry and plan for something that I hope never comes. This is causing me to not have the time or energy for the blog. I will keep at it but there will be a noticeable dip in the quantity of posts I make. As I use this medium for my official farm history to pass on to the next few generations I felt it necessary to add this in here.
The thing about Spring Winter is you get used to warmer weather so when the Mother Winter snaps back and reminds you she is still in charge it just feels colder! Annmarie still persists in her belief that we cannot sleep at night without two windows open in the bedroom. This is in blatant defiance of the outside temperature. Our master bed looks like a blanket display at a market, dominated by Pendleton Wool Blankets. We have decided that we don’t need a weighted anti anxiety blanket as we sleep under multiple wool blankets.
Our sheep continue to have babies!! Just when we think it is all over someone else pops out another lamb. So the ram is still stuck in with the bull and a couple of steers. There is hope that in a few more weeks they will all be done, as a five month lambing season is brutal. We want two months only for lambing season. We need to give him two months to get at everyone. There are too many ewes for him to service everyone in one estrus cycle. He is fat and needs to go on a diet anyways. This will make him work off some of that extra lard.
The sheep are not really any smarter than normal. I had to let this lamb out of the feeder. It managed to get into it but spent the day inside as it could not get out. We have noticed that the brown and white lambs are probably the cutest we have but definitely the weakest. We had another one die this week. I had to put it down. This has caused us to rethink the lambs that we will be saving when we cull this spring. We are going to have to avoid the brown and white ones. The weirdest part of this is that the color is what is separating them out. It makes it easy to pick and choose but it is kinda weird that the most deaths this year have been those sheep with those color markings. We were going to cull out the older ewes anyways and have lots of lambs to choose from so picking won’t be a problem.
It has been an incredibly long lambing season, over three months of trickle babies the entire time. The ram was totally slacking this last time around and us not having everyone synced did not help matters. We have one last go around to do out in the barn. We still have about 8 babies in the momma/baby area that need to be tagged and banded. Once that is done we are absolutely done. I will go out and lock the cows out of the orchard this week and let it start growing back again so in 2-3 weeks we can sort off all the old ewes we are culling and all the female babies that we don’t want pregnant and they can live in the orchard away from the ram. He better be too busy to worry about those ewes once we turn him in with the main herd. Our last set of twins was incredibly tiny and they have spent a week in their own pen growing. They are now in with the momma/baby pen because we got tired of carrying water every day to them. Now we just open the gate and they go get their own water.
I was headed to work last week and spotted mouse down by the creek avidly staring at something. When he pays that much attention to something it is usually bad for the other thing. It turned out to be a little lamb that stuck its head through the fence to get to the green grass and then when the dog scared it, it stood and could not get its head out of the fence. Once all the dogs figured out the lamb was stuck, they all wanted to go over and lick its head which just freaked the lamb out more. Once I forced its butt down it slid right out of the hole.
We have one brown and white speckled baby that keeps making these weird sounds. I didn’t notice it (I never notice anything weird in the barn) but Annmarie said it was making these grunting sounds and trying to poop. So I was out in the barn getting ready to feed and while chasing everyone out heard this weird noise. I started looking around and spotted that baby ewe trying to poop. I could not get a hold of it before it ran outside. I have been paying attention to it ever since. It is a little girl and it has a sweet tooth! It keeps eating at the molasses licks in the barn and getting constipated from them. That is some dedication to your passion.
These are are final numbers for winter 2019. We actually did pretty good compared to the big farms. We only had a 16% lamb mortality. We almost had 150% productivity when you counted live lambs at a week and when you just counted births it was almost 180%! We are super stoked about those numbers and hope to keep up the average on the next go around. The best part was I did not have to pull a single lamb this lambing season.
Well, we keep after it and it seems like another set of lambs pop out every other day. We have had two sets of twins and another single this week. We are getting so desperate for it to be over that we went out and counted every ewe we had. Annmarie made a database with all the ewes in it so we can mark them off after they have their babies. We needed to know when we are going to be done. We have 7 ewes left and as of this morning we still had seven ewes to deliver for a total of 38 ewes delivering.
We started to ask around about survival rate on the lambs. One old farmer told us anything over 75% was acceptable. I did an internet search and found a study out of Canada from their country agricultural department and they said anywhere from 10-30%. They wanted all farms to be <10% but in the study the average was 16% and as high as 33%. Since this is the first year we have tracked it we are just going to have to watch it from year to year and see how we do. They did say that if you have a single lamb then the survival rate is >90% and twins its >70%. So it varies dramatically by how many lambs your ewes are producing. The other interesting fact was the males die at a higher percentage than female lambs, males are the weaker gender. We have had 11 lambs die and one of the oddities we have started to notice is that >50% of them are brown and white in coloration. We have about five distinct colors among the new lambs but over half that have died are brown and white. The other thing we have noticed is that if the lambs are screamers, even if they nurse, they still have a tendency to die. We are not sure what that means other than males are the weaker gender. We have not been checking genders on the dead lambs, maybe next year.
Mouse looks so peaceful here. He is all about working when he is outside. He wants to move animals all the time.
I have been working on getting the upstairs bathroom ready but caught the plague from Annmarie and have been out of the picture for 36 hours. I need to order the tongue and groove boards for the walls and ceiling this week. I have still not done that and keep saying I will.
This is what the floor looks like before it is all dry. The dark red is the dry area. It paints on pink. I tried to use foam brushes but discovered that they tear up and it takes me 3 brushes to get a single coat on the floor. I want to do one more coat and am hoping to do it this afternoon. After this last coat dries I will have a waterproof membrane down and it will be ready for tile. This needs to be done as spring is coming and I will be stuck outside for months on end trying to keep up with the spraying and haying. Our new battery for the buggy is here and I need to install it and the trickle charger, then mount the sprayer so it is ready to go this spring.
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.
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%)