Tag Archives: sheep

Goodnight, Sheep

I’ve been exhausted and fighting a cold this past week. It took me a few days to realize I was sick and not just unusually tired. I decided to go to bed early. Sheep could come in the barn and take care of themselves, I’ll mix up the pig food in the morning…. I decided just to put my head to the pillow at 8pm or so, not both with evening chores. Dancing between consciousness and sleep I was suddenly shaken by a chorus of screaming sheep.

Did they get out and can’t get back in? Is someone stuck n a fence? Is a coyote in the barnyard?! I hop out of bed and grab something to throw on. I look out the windows without my glasses to try and spot them. Where are they? Meanwhile, the cacophony only crescendos. I scramble, dizzy and half unbuttoned in a pink summer dress and rubber boots, towards the barn. I open the door and am greeted by my sheep right where they are supposed to be.

“You didn’t tuck us in! We want our grain! Lambs need to be locked up!”

So I fed them, locked up lambs, mixed up pig food and passed out scratches. As I left the barn the sheep all agreed: all was right with the world again.

Blaze is Sick

Saturday night I was out with my girls in town when I get a call from my neighbor that I had a sick sheep. I came home right away to find Blaze stumbling and dizzy. I first started approaching like bloat since they broke into the grain a few days before but when I looked at her side there wasn’t a bulge in her left where her rumen was.

I called an emergency vet who helped me over the phone. When I was able to get my thermometer to work her temp was 105.5. I started her immediately on a very high dose of antibiotics: penicillin 3-4 times a day and oxytetracycline once a day.  She was bad off that night and I slept in the barn on the floor with her, laying next to her so she felt a body. She seemed to respond positively to the physical contact.

The next day she was unable to stand, groaning, drooling profusely. Temp was starting to come down. Again, she liked having physical contact and I spent much of the day with her head on my lap

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My friend came over and baby sat Blaze for a bit and set her up with a pillow using a barn blanket. Smart and improved her comfort greatly.

What happened? How did she get so sick? I think when she got out she was one of the sheep who ate out of mouldy bucket in the corner and developed listeriosis which then resulted in encephalitis.

Monday I saw my heavy drug schedule was helping but not doing enough and two more sheep were starting to “off” I called several large animal vets and they were all slammed -lots of large animal emergencies thanks to the weird weather. I got a vet out in the afternoon. We dosed Polly and Mooney with a big gun antibiotic and they are back to being sheep.

Blaze however is permanently damaged. She’s blind and the likelihood she will regain vision after this is very low. She’s having a hard time standing and when she does she needs help. After the vet Blaze started improving

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Lifting her head, signaling she wanted something (usually water but having a hard time drinking). She started trying to stand but fell alot at first. Her feet were wobbly and twisting below her….but she’s a fighter and didn’t give up.  We walked together getting stronger through the day. A few times she was able to stand on her own without my support.

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Together we took a walk

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With my support to catch her before she fell

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All the way from the barn to grass

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She spent the evening sitting in the sun.
The likelihood of Blaze surviving listeriosis was incredibly low, so it’s amazing she came this far. She’s a fighter and has fire in her belly, thus her name. She survived hypothermia as a new born, came to me for help when her first lambing was breech.. she’s tough. And she helped me make this place happen by being my happy bottle baby when I was out of a bad engagement and I came back to to live on the farm alone that was meant to happen with my partner. She kept me going.
So I’m not giving up on her if she doesn’t give up on herself. One she gives up ill euthanize her,. But she’s doesn’t I will make her life as good as it can be. She’s improving and trying hard to stand and walk, trying hard to be a sheep again. But her motor skills are pretty bad right now, still not eating but very thirsty.

Today is day 4 of this adventure. I can only hope when I go out to the barn we will be feeling better today.

Thank God I had antibiotics on hand. She would have died that night if i hadn’t been able to act fast. No, I’m NOT organic. I’m here to give my animals the best lives I can.

Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival: First Time Showing!

I promised a friend I’d enter a local fiber festival with her. I entered last minute due to issues with work. I asked her if she was ready a few days before..oops. forgot to enter. So first ever fiber show I’m doing by the seat of my pants last minute. Day before I get my stuff all packed so i can roll out at 5 am. Before work I start backing my trailer up to the barn and gosh its backing up all funny. My neighbor came out and said “looks like your tires flat!” Well sure enough, it is! I have to leave for work in a few minutes. not enough time to fix the flat and get it backed up to the barn! What do I do?

I call my handy man…who was busy all day. so i go to work thinking up ideas involving cattle panel or last minute building rails for my pick up…oh wait, my pick up doesn’t have a way to hold it…humm.hummmm….all day im thinking at work when *ring ring* I pick up my phone and “You owe me. I got your tire fixed, backed it up to the barn and borrowed an air compressor from the neighbor so if its flat in the morning you can fix it. But you owe me.”

“Oh my god! Thank you so much! How can I repay you? How long did it take? I’ll pay your hou–”

“Shut up. Your neighbors wife….was topless when I walked up. I didn’t need to see that! I…I don’t know how you owe me, but you freakin do!”

haha, so I have to figure out how i owe the poor guy. Anyone know where I can get some brain soap?

First time ever loading these sheep into a trailer and–they went in beautifully! Chores were all done and I headed off to my first show. Of course, once i got there leading them to their pens was more of a difficulty. I..maybe didn’t halter train anyone. I tried dragging a few to the pen with the leash i had on hand (rats stole my sheep halter! I had it hanging up in the barn and now its gone! I once found it halfway down a rat hole, now i can only assume that is its present status.) they…did not lead. they kicked. they bucked. the buckeled their knees and I got tired of it. I picked two up and just carried them to their pens while people looked and laughed, Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
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Precious was immensely curious about the whole thing. Sheep everywhere, people everywhere, sexy rams getting their fleeces spruced up next to us (she seemed to take interest in the white Romney boys). Whenever I walked away i could hear her bellowing across the fair grounds. Yes, I recognise the voices of my sheep. Sometimes i could see her craning her neck looking for me. As soon as I’d approach she’d quite down and go back to happily watching all the hubub around.

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My first show ever and I had a lovely yearling ewe in the color competition and two ewe lambs. Last place. All of them. There were some other folks who showed a East Fresian crosses so i could only assume  the judge had something against EFs.  Well, bummer but nowhere i can go but up!

I went back to the pens with my sheep and sat for a while. A lady came by and we talked. In the end she bought two of my ewes! So its not a total loss, right?

Then I got to talking with other farmers, got ideas on improving my cross. They were very kind and supportive. Next day I went and got Precious sheared.
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This is the girl who walks through fences because her lovely fleece protects her from the charger. Shes been a pian for months, shearer was there and so i took advantage of it. 10 lbs later I had a different sheep. So spotty! People started falling head over heels for her. She had a grand time being the center of everyones attention.
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I showed the fleece to some friends and despite the last place in the show ring they encouraged me to sell it for $80! well….it was totally raw and unskirted so I decided i’d rather see it go so i priced it for $50. Within an hour it was sold and the woman was ecstatic! All the color, so soft! so long!

After shearing Precious I could see a big reason for my low score: my sheep, as most dairy breeds do, have very shallow loins. Her conformation was good for a Jacob and an EF, but paled in comparison next to the meaty Romneys. So breed in bigger loins, breed for lower “britch wool” keep pluggin along.

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So I didn’t take home any prizes, but I sold a few sheep, l met people, got inspired, found out that yes my wool has a market and so i don’t have to be shy about selling it. It was a great experience and I’ll do it again next year.

Its Baby Time!

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I’ve been waiting on lambs all month. I put the ram in for early Feburary lambs…I’ve been waiting. And waiting…Finally came the lambs! Polly went first. I went to bed know she was in her last 24 hours. I was late to the barn in the morning and found her finishing up. She looked at me a little incredulously that I was late, but she knew she didn’t need me anyway. Still its the thought that counts and clearly i don’t think because i was late, harumph! I had a first! An all white ram! And a ewe lamb. Lovely!

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Off I went to work, but not before Peppercorn began to nest. I saved wool from skirting fleeces for her in a bag (as she was so fond of Blazes virgin fleece that she used it in her first nest) and as i was pulling it out of the bag she motioned “gimme gimme gimme!” so i gave her another bit of fleece and she looked at me “gimme gimme gimme!” *Shrug* I gave her the feed bag full of fleece and she happily dragged the bag to her nest and proceeded to happily fumble with the bag until I left for work. Weird pig.

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I came home and she’d done her job nicely. I’ve even got an Elvis impersonator piglet!

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Two days later Ash lambed. Again, boy and girl.

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Glam, a ewe lamb, might be as cute as they come.

The next day Monk went. She did quite fine…

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3/3 ewes and rams.

Today Leche pigged. 7 piglets and all pink.

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Lastly we have Blaze and Princess. Blaze is getting so big I thought she was going to lamb first but shes just growing and growing. Hopefully it all goes well for my big girl!

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And soon! she looks miserable! Though shes walking around with sass so i guess shes not too bad.

Suprise!

Do do doo….off to do my morning chores. Doot de doo de—hey pigs! how are you! hey,, hold your horse, I’m making your breakfas–oh my. What do we have here?

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Oh. A lamb. In August. I was thinking the ewes were looking a little shapely.

Well, congratulations Ash!

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(and Khoresh whos on a vacation at a friends pasture)

The ram is excited to be the proud father of a ewe lamb!

The ram is excited to be the proud father of a ewe lamb!

Healthy little ewe lamb, and you had it in time to get bred again for spring lambing. Very good!

Now, if you’ll just let your udder fill up and feed the baby so she’s fat I can sleep. ‘k. Thanks.

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.

The Waiting Game

It was clear when Ash was bred. I went to work and the ram was chasing her and she was starting to stand. I came home from work and she was stiffly grazing, the ram was laying on the ground, resting his head on his horns, panting with his tongue out. I marked it on the calendar.

 

147 days later she should lamb…but sheep have a 5 day window of when they lamb and Ash seems determined to hold it in (like last time) Last year her udder was considerably bigger. She should have lambed Thursday. Its Saturday and we’re still waiting.

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She IS starting to act jumpy, so thats a good sign! Her udder is also filling up more. It will happen. Until then, I guess I just need to love on these two:

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Happy

 

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Daze