Monthly Archives: March 2014

Oh so busy.

Last week I had to take a business trip. Kinda cool, but that meant being off the farm for a week. And unfortunately my company didn’t ask if any of my animals were giving birth at the time (why didnt they think to ask that before planning the trip?!) and as it happened several were scheduled to give birth. LUCKILY Blaze had hers Tuesday, and Monk had hers the night before I left. My mother came up to the farm to farm sit and was very worried we needed to intervene. little toes were sticking out of Monk and there was no progress. She was just standing and trying to eat everything in sight. I said, “she just needs to focus on the task at hand. Wait for a bit.” Finally she laid down.

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Out popped on lamb! She licked it right away, but wouldn’t let it get any milk. “do we need to do something?”

“No, she’s got another coming, wait until that one comes out and she’ll be so distracted licking the other lamb he’ll be able to nurse.”

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Sure enough, out came the other one and Monk started letting them nurse. There was some question as to the paternity of my lambs from these two ewes as their father jumped through the electric fence several times to reach them. I think, though, from the facial markings its pretty clear who dad is.

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Mooney and Monk make pretty cute babies, though Blaze’s Princess is pretty pretty, too. And she knows it! She has a throne underneath the hay feeder. End count of lambs that survived the birthing process: 5 rams, 1 ewe. Guess my flock isn’t growing this year!

So after staying with Monk I had to get up at 3 am to get on my plane to NJ so I could fly back to Ohio. Lots of sense. 4 1/2 days training.Fly back to Oregon ViA Duram, SC. What?! In the meantime we were down to basically 2 jewelers in a shop that should have 5, so i did some farm work then went into my job for a few hours the day after i got home.

Rosie was scheduled to farrow on Thursday and mom swears she was nesting, but i came home and nothing yet. She finally farrowed on Sunday-my “day off.” (It wasnt really a day off, i tried to throw a spring party an only one person showed after i sent them one last “are you coming” text. Rosie was kind enough to add some guests)

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Lovely day to have babies.

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Ms.Rosie was very tired by the end. She hadn’t eaten for several days. By the time she had her last one she was too tired to be careful. I saw her try to lay down carefully, and halfway through was like, “aw, screw it. I weigh 700 lbs, its too hard to be careful!” and flopped down. She ended up crushing 3 piglets in the next 12 hours. I didn’t sleep well that night worrying about the piglets. Once Rosie got a good sleep, though, she went back to being oh so careful. No injuries after some rest.

So, as I mentioned we were down a few jewelers. I had to go in on Monday, my normal day off. In the morning Dot was looking wistfully at the woods. We werent going to have a repeat of last time so I built a fence around the lean-to before going to work so she had a private space and was forced to stay out of the woods. Came home and my mother was around. “Hows Dot doing?”

“Eh. Shes not doing much. Just walking around eating, laying down…walking around somemore.” I went to check on her anyway.

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Uh huh. not doing a darn thing. Okay, at that point she only had six running around dry and nursing. I called mom over and she got to witness her first pig births a few hours later when she unloaded the second batch of piglets. The last one took forever to come out. it was a never ending umbilical cord…everytime shed push more cord would come out…occationally slip back in, then more cord. Like, 3 feet of cord. FINALLY the big girl popped out, but the veil didn’t break. I broke it around her face and cleared her nose. It took her a while to start breathing, but she finally did. I think if I hadn’t been there she wouldn’t have made it.

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Dot looks pretty proud of herself. She did a great job. No losses, no stillbirths, no crushed piglets or injuries. 11 out of Dot, 8 surviving out of Rosie. Ive got more pigs than I know what to do with.

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Anyway, then I worked my full week. I’m going into official overtime today. But I’ve been busy. Very busy and tired.

 

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Blazey Had A Little Lamb

I’ve been keeping a hawks eye on Blaze. She started balloning and I was worried there were triplets. She’s a little small, probably should have not bred her first year but I wanted to know how the breeding experiment of diary X heritage breed would go. So bred her I did with the knowledge I’d need to keep an eye on her during lambing. I’d started keeping her in a separate pasture from the main group with her sister so I could keep an eye on her.

Wednesday I came home and she greeted me, I noticed she had dropped, then walked me over to a pile of sawdust and plopped down to try and lamb.

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She was in the process, but I don’t know how long for.

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Two little feet were out. But the pushing didn’t seem to be making any progress.

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I don’t feel good…is it tool late for an epidural?

 

Since I didn’t know how long it had been going on I decided to wait for a bit longer before helping. I really want my animals to handle their lambing by themselves, and in my circle of farmer friends “helping” an animal is almost considered a sin as you help keep the weak alive. But, Blaze is young, so she gets a free pass. Eventually I had to pull the lamb. I’m not sure why it wasn’t coming out, it was positioned correctly, but it felt like possibly the next lamb was trying to come out at the same time. It was hard to pull out, even for me. I got it halfway out, but by the Blaze was so tired she didn’t want to finish pushing. So little lamb was hanging out squirming and Blaze was going in circles trying to see the lamb/whats going on back there. FINE DON’T DO THE FINAL PUSH.

Another lamb was on the way, but again I tried to let her do it. She had no interest in birthing anymore, just licking her little lamb. That one was huge, but freshly dead. Clearly, I should have assisted sooner. I figured I’d loose a lamb from Blaze, anyway, so I’m happy to have one girl.

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I believe “Princess” to be the right name for her. Blaze is a good momma. Her face looks a little different to me. A bit more grown up.

Next up we have Monk.

On the pig front Rosie is bagging up. She looks soon. Dot looks like shes a week or two behind, though that doesn’t make sense since they got bred I think at the same time.

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I’ll be gone on a business trip next week. My mother is coming up to watch everyone. Shes praying everyone pops this weekend…I think they are going to wait until I’m gone and give her some fun. Wish my mother luck!

Milking Method

Last year when I started milking I had no one to show me how. I had to figure it out on my own. I started off wrestling sheep who did not like being touched and was generally skittish due to the trauma of seeing her whole flock killed by coyotes and being the lone survivor. For 45 minutes Ash and I would tie her to the band wall and struggle as I held her like a Roman wrestler and tried to milk. She would kick and frequently stick her foot in the bucket. So I switched to milking one handed into a jar. You can move quickly with a jar and keep your milk pretty clean if you tilt it towards the udder rather than up to the belly like a bucket.

Thus, I developed my method for milking once handed into a jar. Anything that gets mud/dirt/poop in it can be discarded without ruining a whole bucket of milk. If a foot does make it into the jar that milk goes to the pigs (no waste) and I can get a new, clean sanitized jar to finish with.

After I got a stanchion our milking relationship improved greatly. She now happily munches away as I milk her only kicking when shes out of food. I feed nice organic alfalfa hay to her because a) its organic b) alfalfa pellets get inhaled in a matter of seconds c) the hay takes longer for them to eat and the stems act as roughage to keep their rumens healthy. Still, sometimes she’ll knock her straw out of the feeder and demand more! now!

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This is Ash in the morning. I separate the lambs at night so her udder fills up. At this point she wants to be milked. I take a can of grain and shake it next to the stanchion and she hops up. A little grain treat and we can get started.

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Her bag is pretty clean but I still wash her udders off with warm soapy water. Before that I take a comb and brush all the straw and dirt off her belly. This cuts down on chances of contamination. At this point shes run out of grain and starts getting handfuls of alfalfa.  I sanitize my hands with a gel sanitizer before I start and get to milking into my jar one handed.

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I tried for a more artistic shot with the sheep in the background, but i guess that didn’t happen! One clean jar of milk with alfalfa leaves everywhere! See why I like to use a jar and not an open bucket? I then pour the milk into a clean bucket with a lid and get on milkin’ on.

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Ash is almost empty at this point and I could keep milking her..and possibly should do so. But I like to save a little for her lamb. Shes done and I give her back to her lamb. Muttonchop has learned when I’m done with “mom” I let him in the milking pen so he jumps up and runs to the gate whenever he thinks/hopes I’m done. The other two lambs still have to wait their turn but they TRY to get in.

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Dang. looks like theres milk in there again already!

Next its Pollys turn. She knows when Ash gets off the stand its her turn (sheep are VERY trainable, if you haven’t noticed yet.)

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Shes nice and full. There is a reason I call her “Polly Parton.”  A quick brush, a wash, sanitize my hands and we are off!

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Theres still a bit of milk in there, but its getting to be a pain to get so at this point I give her back to her lambs.

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Who happily finish milking her for me. Of course they don’t stop when she thinks shes done…

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By the evening Polly moves herself back into her nighttime pen away from her lambs, happy to have a little “personal space.” At this point the girls very willingly work with me. We no longer fight. Their udders and in good health (last year Ash bruised her udders and was very sore from the get-go). Now I have to train this years first timers to know this is normal, okay, and rewarding. Milking time is the only time they get grain or alfalfa. Otherwise its pasture or hay.

If case you are wondering: with once a day milking I’m getting about a quart and a half off each ewe. Together a little over half a gallon a day. If you wonder why prices for sheep milk tends to be high thats why. Some of the top milkers make 1 gallon a day. Of course, the milk fat content is higher than it is for cows (3.5%-5%) or goats (5%-7%) at a whopping 7%-9% milkfat. I was actually getting something like 15% for a while. One quart of milk was making a whole pound of cheese! Normally it takes 2 gallons of cows milk to produce a pound of cheese. So while the volume is less it is more nutritionally dense.

If you are ever interested in trying some sheep milk I have plenty on hand. Stop by and meet the girls.