Monday, February 29, 2016

And the Fun Has Begun!

Mama Sadie spent a good part of yesterday standing around and rocking back and forth on her hind legs. At 10PM last night more of the same. At 12:30 she looked a little wet on her vulva but was acting totally  normal, and she tends to get everything wet when she pees. So I went to check her again a little after 3AM. As I walked up to the barn I could hear that sweet nickering sound that new moms make to their newborns. Sure enough there were two wet lambs struggling to get up and placenta hanging out. I ran back to the house to get my lambing kit and towels and when I returned I saw a third lamb lying very still in the hay. I tried to resuscitate it to no avail. There was a little meconium on it and not so much on the other lambs, but Mama was doing a fine job licking her lambs so I don't know how much meconium there really was. I don't think the lamb ever took a breath since amniotic fluid poured slowly from its mouth.
Mama was very intent on cleaning off her babies, but not so much on letting them nurse. Each time a lamb would move towards her udder Mama would bat them away with her head. After the lambs attempted many times I finally haltered Mama and let the lambs get their colostrum. They were so happy to nurse and their little tails went crazy.
Once the lambs had nursed I needed to move the new family into a jug since where they were now was the section of pen I was going to fence off for my third jug and I have two other ewes who should be lambing any hour now. Mama wanted no part in following her lambs and just kept looking for them in the pen. I tried bribing her with some grain and that didn't work. Finally, with one lamb in my arms and the feed scoop, Mama saw a barn cat come into the barn and followed us with no problem. Did she feel threatened by the cat and moved to protect her lamb?

In the jug, a smaller space I was hoping would work better for nursing, Mama still would not let her lambs nurse. Out came the halter again. Mama had a nice drink of warm molasses water and some grain and hay and everyone was tucked in. The lambs found the heat lamp right away.
When I went back two hours later to check on everyone Mama had delivered the rest of her huge placenta and was laying in it. The lambs were crying to eat and I could not get Mama to get up no matter what. Back into the house worrying about milk fever. Grabbing the calcium gluconate and needles and syringes I ran back up to the barn to see Mama Sadie standing there looking at me like nothing had ever been wrong. Still she wouldn't let the lambs nurse so it was back to the halter. The lambs, a ram and a ewe, nursed for a good 10-15 minutes without much direction. Once their bellies were full the halter came off and the lambs went back under the heat lamp. I hope Mama figures out how to let her lambs nurse, she has had at least one other pregnancy and raised up two good sized lambs when we purchased her. So I know she can nurse.  
 Triplets explains why Mama Sadie was so big. She had 33 pounds of lambs inside. The ram lamb weighed 12 pounds and both ewe lambs weighed 10.5 pounds (yes I weighed the stillborn lamb.) 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Little Spring Upstairs

The seeds are up! Everything came up quickly, I have to love the seed starting mats. Spring is truly coming.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Tomorrow is three days before the first ewe's due date of February 27th. Everything I have read says ewes will lamb anywhere between three days before and three days after their due date. This is the first time I actually know when the sheep were bred so I don't know if the same date spread works for Royal Whites. Mama Sadie is the first due and she is huge.
She is already the largest ewe we own and she is even as large as our largest ram, Mercer.

Moose is due on the 28th and is quite large herself.
She is a much more compact ewe than Mama Sadie. All the sheep due in the next week do a lot of sitting around looking uncomfortable and groaning. Yesterday afternoon when I went to check on them everyone had no desire to get up. And if you saw how hard it was to get up you could see why they won't get up as often.

Everything is ready and waiting. Last Friday I cleaned out half the stalls and on Saturday, with Alan's help, we got the other half of the stalls cleaned out and the outdoor paddock area. The lambing jugs are ready, extension cords and warming lights in place, extra feeders and buckets for water clean and ready to go. We spent Sunday morning doing fence maintenance. The nearly two and a half feet of snow we had broke a bunch of insulators and the fences through the woods needed a bit of tending to. Everything is back up to 8000 volts and ready for grazing. Next up is pasture maintenance and seeding. But first, who's going to lamb first????

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Spring is Coming!

Mid February can be a dreary time, but then you get to start seeds. Today was all about seeds. I got all the seeds organized into what needs to be planted/started when. I also made up the seed starting mix from Eliot Coleman's Market Gardener book.  Nothing like working with peat moss and vermiculite and water to feel like spring.

I planted two large flats of onion seeds and a pack of leek seeds. I think alliums are my favorite veggie to grow for transplanting.  I also started some broccoli and cauliflower and a couple of tomato seeds. Last year I spent too much money on two grafted Cherokee Purple tomato plants that were supposed to be blight resistant. The only reason they were better was that they were bigger/older. The grafted tomatoes gave us tomatoes a good couple of weeks before the regular plants but I think it was only because they had a big head start. Once the blight hit they were worse than the regular tomato plants. I planted a few seeds of German Stripe and Pink Bumblebee to grow out into big pots to see if I can get some earlier tomatoes. Years ago I grew Siberian tomatoes and they gave us tomatoes about two weeks sooner but I wasn't thrilled with the taste. My daughter grew the Bumblebee varieties at Rodale last year and they were very tasty. And as a cherry type tomato I am thinking I can get them to fruit earlier. Between lambs coming in a week and a half and seeds being planted spring really is right around the corner! (Even if the ground is still covered in snow.)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mutton Ham

When we had Leda, a 2 1/2 year old ewe, butchered last fall I asked the butcher to smoke two hams. They were bigger than I anticipated and I was waiting for a special occasion to serve one. Yesterday, Valentine's Day, was my husband's birthday and he had been wanting to try the mutton ham. We bravely invited six others for dinner (hoping the mutton ham wouldn't leave us all hungry) and cooked a ham.

Most of the recipes online call for boiling, but I just didn't want to do that. I finally found someone stating they just put the ham in a pan, added about an inch of water, then covered the whole thing in foil.
The ham going in:
The six pound ham went into a 350 degree oven for three hours. For the last 20 minutes I removed the foil and coated the ham with a mixture of brown sugar, stone ground mustard, and apple cider vinegar twice.
Everyone loved the ham! It had a different hammy taste but was very good. We will definitely make mutton ham again. Next to try is "macon." It's bacon made from sheep's belly.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Beyla came to us in November of 2014 with her two-day old twin ram lambs.

One lamb was very ill and nearly died but was able to be nursed back to health and grew up to be an impressive butcher lamb like his brother. Beyla had horrible feet and had multiple abcesses on her nose last spring. I planned to cull her last fall but then gave her a reprieve, remembering what a great mother she was. It took multiple sessions but her hoofs improved greatly. She still had some cracking in the hooves and limped occasionally though. Her limping became worse over the past month, would improve with treatment with zinc sulfate, then worsen again. Last week her back left hoof was very sore looking, smelled bad, and I feared she was getting hoof rot. It's been really wet first with rain and warm temps then the 2+ feet of snow. All the sheep were moved into the barn, blocking all access to the outside pen, and Beyla was quarantined. I've been treating her hoof with zinc sulfate, a dilute bleach solution, a coating of LA200 (oxytetracycline) and packing it with iodine/sugar soaked gauze. The hoof looks so much better and she is only limping a little. I need her to be able to raise her lamb(s) to weaning then she is off to the butcher. Unfortunately, she is more of a liability than an asset at this point. 

All of the research time I've spent on Beyla has reminded me of the works of Pat Coleby and her mineral supplementation. I have ordered the minerals and need to get some multiple compartment troughs for the barn and something to put the separate containers into in the pasture. Her theory goes something like this: a sheep (or any animal) knows instinctively what minerals they are lacking and will choose the appropriate ones given the choice.  Pat recommends keeping six compartments with a single mineral in each. Copper sulfate, sulfur, seaweed meal, dolomite, salt, and ground limestone are a sheep mineral buffet. I was very interested in reading about sulfur's use in improving skin and fighting lice; maybe it will help Moose's mites and itchy skin.  I am still debating the copper sulfate. The research on copper boluses is encouraging and our Coopworth yearlings, Hazel and Ruth, came from a farm that used the boluses. I haven't yet found any information on offering copper sulfate supplements when using copper boluses, so I don't think I will offer copper as a supplement if the sheep are getting copper wire boluses.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Getting Ready for Lambing

Our second season of lambing feels so much more prepared than our first lambing season. First off I actually know when the ewes were bred therefore I can calculate due dates. Once I have due dates I can plan for all those things a shepherd does before lambing; like worming, booster vaccines, etc. The older hair sheep are all due from Feb 27th to March 5th. Clara, our hair sheep yearling is due March 23rd and our Coopworth yearling ewes are due the second half of April, if they are pregnant.

The hair sheep are all looking very pregnant and their udders are beginning to swell.
Mama Sadie, our hair sheep cross, is absolutely HUGE! She came with two-month old twin lambs when we bought her so we never saw her pregnant. She has to have at least twins in there now.
From left to right above: Mama Sadie, Clara and Chloe (Clara's mother.)

The older ewes received their CDT booster vaccines last week and had FAMACHA and body condition scores this morning. All the hair sheeps' FAMACHA scores ranged from 3-4. Chloe was nearly perfect with a FAMACHA score of 4 and a body condition score of 3.5. Lucky girl got a pass on the worming. The other hair sheep had either a 3 for their FAMACHA score or were a little low on the condition score so were dosed with levamisole.  Poor Clara got both the wormer and the CDT booster. 

Last year I could not have imagined doing all this work by myself.  But the sheep have become more used to me and I have gotten so much better with handling them. They, and I, are getting used to using halters. Most of the sheep stand still and put their heads down as soon as they feel the halter going on. All the conferences and classes are starting to paying off. 

The Coopworth sheep have an appointment with the shearer in March and will have their booster vaccines, FAMACHA and body condition scores, and hoof trimming done at that time. It will be nice to compare my scores to the shearer's to see how I am doing with my accuracy. Still so much to learn!

The lambing tray is getting restocked, out dated items thrown away and replaced, and everything organized. I have a huge pile of old towels from cleaning out my husband's aunt's condo. The last thing we need to do now is set up a couple lambing jugs and wait.