Sheep sorting again, ram time

Yesterday was sheep sorting day. We have a bunch of skinny mommas and we need to wean off the lambs that are old enough, we need to worm everyone, create two herds (edible, keep) and turn the Ram loose in with the mommas (keep). This seems simple enough on the surface but nothing is ever simple when you are working with animals that have not been touched in three months. Most of the lambs have only been touched once in their entire life which makes them the most difficult group to handle. We started by having to dig trenches in the barn to be able to move the panels around and create chutes and three large pens in the barn. Once that was done I found the oral drenching tool and our wormer. I did not have enough oral drench so Annmarie volunteered to go to town and get more while we tagged and banded. I had about a 1/3 of a bottle so we could start while she was in transit. Mr Rainman and I then attempted to push the sheep into the barn. Nope, they would not go, no matter what we did, they kept breaking free of the pile and would not go into the chute into the barn.

Mr Rainman went and got Chance, border collie puppy, and he attempted to get her to move the sheep into the barn while she was on a lead. She would not really listen to him and since she is learning you have to be patient and strict at the same time. I took over and she was baling them up well but they would not go into the barn. She would be within four feet of them and they would not budge. One broke loose and she dived for it, I had a hold of the lead rope with just my hands, no gloves. I had to clamp down and grab rope to jerk her back for a correction. I ended up with a two inch rope burn on my middle finger! But I did get the puppy stopped and corrected. We had to go get Mouse also and squeeze the sheep from both sides and push them into the barn with the dogs. They just would not go on their own, and before that would work we had to open up the barn so they could just go through the door, once in the barn we pushed them to the far end so we could run them through the chute. We were still having trouble getting them into the chute so Mr Rainman started to just catch the little ones and then I could tag and band them. We had about ten lambs that needed tagged and banded still. On one of his snags he caught a pink tagged big lamb that was a ram! So it got banded, which was not easy as the testicles were so big I had to pop them through the bander opening one at a time. I have not made this mistake in years, so it was a great catch by Mr Rainman.

We used the oral drenched but the little clip that holds the bottle to the belt does not work so I tie it upside down under the belt with a piece of cord then it will work. It’s fairly redneck but it does the job and using the drencher hand pump is so much faster than having to measure out a syringe every time you need to dose a sheep. Once we had two groups of sheep we had to run them through the chute again to count them! Here are the final numbers: 46 ewes, 10 babies (too young to wean) , 1 ram in the first group and 40 lambs, 1 cull ewe, 13 eating size in second group for a total of 111 sheep. We are going to be taking the eating size ones to sale soon to see how they do. The ram is now in with the momma herd and we are keeping them in the orchard for now so he doesn’t have to chase them all over. We are bringing both groups into the barn lot every night to keep the predators at bay. One group in the front side and one group on the back side. They can see each other but not mix. There is an amazing amount of noise for the first few days once we separate off the lambs.

I hooked up the sickle mower onto the Kubota and tried to cut the orchard but the space is full of trees and metal rings around the trees. I did not even make it around the field once before I hit a cow panel and popped off a tooth from the bar. So I had to go put that sickle bar up and put the rake on the Kubota and set up the smaller sickle bar on the John Deere. We did not use it last year so I had to make some adjustments and get it all greased up. The Italians that designed it put one essential grease zirk where it is near impossible to access. It took me 30 minutes to get the thing into a spot where I could access it with a small grease gun and a 90 degree elbow. It is of course exactly where the bolt fails every time so it has to be done. I can pop the other mower apart and redo the rivets but that will take time. So it will be something I need to do after hay season. I had to pull the break away bar from the mower and beat on it with an eight pound sledge hammer to get it back into some semblance of shape and function. It’s not perfect but it is much improved. I am now ready to cut more hay today. The plan is to cut 1/3 of the leftover ground today and turn it on Tuesday. Then bale it on Wednesday. I will cut more hay on Tuesday, another 1/3. We have managed to bale 346/900 needed bales and 252/900 are in the barn. I was able to scavenge another 20 bales yesterday from the leftovers.

Lambing update week 7

This weekend I had to spend some quality time in the barn again. The mother/lamb area needed to be expanded. It now covers 2/3 of the barn. The rope we used to tie one side of the creep gate in place is getting stretched by the ewes and the thin ewes are able to crawl through the side. This morning one of the ewes was stuck in the creep gate. She got stuck right in front of her back hips and could not move. I had to pull the pins out of the gate and drag her back out. It took her about ten minutes to get her sea legs under her. Her lamb was glad to see her and kept nursing as much as it could. This has prompted us to get bigger eyelets so that we can stick a 1” rod down through the right side of the gate. We are out of the skinny rods so the bigger aluminum ones need to be used. I am afraid to use an eyelet that just gets screwed into the wood. I am afraid the ewes will just tear it out by pushing on the gate. I had four of them pushing on it Saturday as they were able to get their noses into one of the feeders. They could barely reach it with their tongues but they were not giving it up! I had to lean over the gate and hang in the air to push it away from them. They would not let me pass. I have a bolt on eyebolt that will fit and now just need to install it.

We are now certain that a second ram is needed. We have been lambing for seven weeks and we are still not done. So this spring we are going to keep the sheep in a small contained area when we introduce the ram. NO more letting the sheep run over 40 acres and the ram having to chase them all down.

  • Date of update- Mar 12, 2023
  • # of Lambs born – 48
  • # of ewes who have delivered babies – 30
  • # of ewes still pregnant – 12 in area, I don’t think they are all pregnant
  • # of single lamb births – 13
  • # of twin lamb births – 16
  • # of triplet lamb births – 1
  • # of bummer lambs – 5
  • # of lambs who died in first two weeks – 3
  • Total # of lambs on farm -40
  • % birthing rate- 160%
  • % production rate -133%
  • % survival rate at birth – 100%
  • % survival rate at 2 weeks (bummers count as death as they need help and leave the farm) – 83%

We had one of the traveling staff from Florida come out for a few hours on Friday and see the lambs and ewes. She got to pet everyone and tour the house. We then fed her leg of lamb for dinner! It was amazing as always. She wore her snow boots out in the barn. Being a city slicker she had never seen anything like it before. She kept marveling at the fact that there were no neighbors.

It’s the little stuff

Annmarie had a discussion with me about her loom. Now mind you I had to move the loom to paint the entire ceiling after doing the small repair in the craft room. What I did not know was that before you move a loom that is warped up you should relax the warp. Otherwise, you can throw off the tension and alignment, not that I did that. Annmarie was able to fix it because not only did I have to move it out to paint, I had moved it back in place afterwards! She is back to working on our woolen woven hallway old ice fridge cover. She has about 24 ” done and it needs to be 54” long, so almost halfway. Basically the takeaway is ”Don’t touch the loom”.

Since the weather was so nice and Annmarie wants me to catch up on all the little things we spent Saturday fixing the new round planter in our back garden. It needed to be filled with gravel, then soil, Mr Professional filled it with a lot of gravel, some sheep manure compost then we topped it with some good planting mix soil. We topped off all the other bins with extra soil also. It does seem odd to be doing garden stuff in mid February.

The old ram bolted through the gate when we were hauling gravel around, he promptly ran for the main herd of sheep and started sniffing tails. This caused some consternation from Casper, the new ram, so much so that after we got the old ram out of the herd Casper had to mount a couple of ewes just to establish his rank. This is a good thing, as we have seen some breeding activity but not as much as we would like to see. I personally would like to see him lose 10-15% of his body mass due to an unrelenting focus on getting everyone bred as quickly as possible.

I spent an hour grooming Gizmo. It has been a long time since I have taken the time to totally strip all of the loose hairs off of him. He looks great! I should probably do it more often but he doesn’t particularly love this endeavor and I feel like I am picking on him when I do it. Which would be why he does not get stripped very often.

On Sunday I spent an hour and sanded down a piece of maple for Annmarie to practice the laser farm pictures on. We are going to laser engrave all of the turn of the century farm photos we have onto wood and mount them on the dormer in the kitchen. We are hoping to do around 20-25 pictures. So I have a lot more wood to sand!

Making babies

February 5, 2022 is the day that our new ram, KRK2 was turned loose into the main herd. Annmarie has nicknamed him ”Casper” as he is very friendly with long white hair. Within five minutes of arrival he was already trying to do his business! He is small compared to his counterpart but getting the job done is what matters. We should have babies June 27-July 7 according to the online calculator we consulted. We had a discussion on whether we needed a second ram but Casper is going to get a crack at everyone this first time and we will see how he does.

I had to go out and rearrange the barn to open it all back up so the sheep are mixed together. I kept the two going to slaughter off in our momma/baby area but they are going away in 12 days. We normally keep that area closed off when not in use.

I saw some Dorper rams for sale this weekend on Craigslist but Annmarie reminded me that we had one Dorper die in a year and the second one was so mean he had to be put down because he was not safe to be around. I am still finding billy clubs stashed all over the barn from our precautions when he was alive. Our ram before Casper had injured his back leg and is unable to perform his job. He is super nice, great temperament and very large bodied just unable to do his job. He is going to be ground sheep for a family who does a lot of Andalusian cooking. They will appreciate him in a different way.

We have our kill dates for the animals starting this month, it was later than anticipated. Due to the rising prices of meat in the grocery store, people are starting to go back to the farm for their meat. This is good for us but bad for getting animals processed. I tried to call and make an appointment with our old processer. A slot in their calendar is 14 months out! This would mean feeding the animals through the winter again. I found a place in Lagrande that would do it at the beginning of September, so I signed up for four cattle slots and I will have to deliver the cows to the abatoir.

I was able to go buy 4-5” wooden posts x160 on Friday from a salvage company at $4/ea. Heck of a deal, I may go back in a few weeks and offer them less if there are still posts available. Its enough posts to build 50+ H braces for fences. I need a bundle of railroad ties still. We are going to finish the corner fence down by four corners. This will mean installing four H braces and one corner brace out of railroad ties. This is to match the current fence that is up. I will install one 12’ gate and cross one water drainage ditch with cable and panels. That project needs to wait until the ground softens more and the ambient are temperature stays above 45 F all the time. I don’t like fencing in the freezing wet weather, it is not pleasant.

I am ordering a banding tool today. I have located a chain saw with a large enough bar to use salvaging a downed tree. I want to take the tree to the custom sawmill and have it sliced into lumber. It will need to dry for a bit but I want to get it into the old chicken coop and then band it all up to minimize the warpage. I also need to order baler parts to fix it also. I am not a fan of digging through catalogs to find part numbers but I am going to have to do that today. I also got all the parts for the diesel fuel pump and filter to be installed on the tank. Once that is all assembled I will call and get signed up with a fuel delivery company. I will most likely only need to be filled up twice a year as the tank will hold 100 gallons. This will be so much nicer than dragging five gallon cans to the gas station.

The barn cats will actually let us see them all the time now. I think Annmarie can touch both of them, I cannot. We have a photographer friend who takes abstract pictures, I thought I would show him up with my ”Cat eating” mashup. I was fumbling the phone and trying to take the cat picture but my hands were cold and the phone is new, it took the picture as it was tumbling to the ground.

I have a new Companion!

It has happened, my new tractor has arrived and was delivered on Wednesday. I was given the safety speech and how to operate it instructions so once the papers were signed it was all ours. Yes, I opted to go with a Kubota this time around. So we are going to see which one I like better, the John Deere or the Kubota. They both have advantages so we will see how they compare over the next few years. It was very easy to get the new sickle bar mower off so I could go out and play with my new Companion for a few hours. I spent the next three hours moving gravel for Mother-in-law’s new shed. I managed to get the tractor to rock front to back pretty easily with a full bucket of gravel even with 300# of ballast in the tires. At one point I had the tractor on two opposing tires, one front and one back wheel, the bucket movements need to not happen suddenly and during a turn. The five foot vs four foot bucket makes a huge difference when moving gravel. I parked the Companion under cover and left the Mistress out in the weather. I need to clean up the machine shop again and make more space to park equipment.

I had plans to go pickup two new rams, one for us and one for Pahlow Farms. They bought a bunch of ewe lambs from us this year and plan on growing their own flock. We had the mellowest batch of lambs ever this year so they are starting out great. I had to clean out the pickup, gas it up and install the animal racks into the bed. The racks can be leaned back, driven up to then drop the front onto the tailgate and then lift and slide them in. This is possible to do with one person but it is a lot of work and not easy. I need to make a rack that stores them up in the air and you just slide them in and out of the pickup using a rope. Since I don’t have this fancy tool I muscled it into place. I had three tie downs so I tied it down on three of the four corners. Sarah had volunteered to go with me in the morning, we were going to near Canby, OR.

The trip is almost a four hour drive each way. We went around Portland but still saw homeless camps along the freeway, while traveling I-205. The traffic is terrible, we went from 15 mph to 65 mph, up and down for no apparent reason. Luckily, the child is used to me hollering and talking to myself which was in abundance once we got into traffic.

We got there 7 minutes late and had to wait another 10 minutes so she could sort the rams off of the herd again. They kept sneaking back in with the mommas. They both look great, we love the temperament and size of all her rams. These two are only about six months old. They will add on at least another 100-120# as they mature.

Once we got back we just parked the pickup in the orchard and opened the gate on the animal pen. We figured the new boys would get tired of hanging out and decide that jumping out to see the four sheep in there would happen, it did later.