Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sheep breeding

I am blogging on a nicer, more life-affirming topic today- sheep breeding!  I gathered up the rams today to get them ready for breeding.  I had to stop and admire Jocko's lovely wool once again.  Even at 8 years old he has my favorite fleece- it's soft, crimpy, golden and has the most lovely sheen.  Photos just never do it justice but I tried again:
We then had a visitor today.  Jackie, Marshall, Eric and Ondra brought Madison over to be bred with Lewis.  Madison was born here as Amanda.  She was named after the sister of a good friend of mine.  At the time Amanda the sheep was born Amanda the person was in the ICU with an undiagnosed blood condition and quite sick.  She pulled through that, was been diagnosed with a blood cancer and just in the last week is receiving a bone marrow transplant.  I named this particular sheep after Amanda since she's tall and has beautiful short brown hair.  I am still hoping that Amanda the sheep's obvious health and vigor (see photo below) will somehow influence Amanda the person's recovery.
I collected all of the ewes to be bred into a pen to get them and the rams sorted into groups.  The ewes are below except Jenny who managed to escape when we were moving Madison/Amanda in.
Below is Jocko's group.  He has Jenny the wild katmoget sheep (who is supposed to make mioget katmoget ewe lambs), Sheila the older shaela sheep (who is supposed to make shaela or mioget lambs with gorgeous fleeces like their parents) and Wink (who is supposed to make a gorgeous mioget ram to replace Jocko).
Below is Lewis' group.  You can see they aren't too interested in him so far.  There's Madison/Amanda, Monette the double-coated light grey ewe (who is supposed to make a light grey ewe lamb for the little girl Alice who lives down the road), and Daphnie the musket spotted horned ewe (whose supposed to make spotted moorit ewe lambs).  I will put Mona in next week.  She's limping a little so I want her to be walking a little better before breeding her.  She's the black ewe that made two gorgeous HST ewe lambs last spring, and I would like her to make some more!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Getting away

So I went to a conference for a week, and Tom joined me for the last 4 days. We had his son check on the place while we were gone. We received a text message that he found one of our llamas, Winnona, dead.  Tom then mentioned that she hadn't wanted to change pastures with the sheep the day before he had left but didn't think much of it. One thing I have definitely learned about llamas is that any little symptom needs to be acted on because they don't show any until it's late.  Anyway, we asked Thomas to find a tarp and cover her until we could get home because it was too much too ask him to bury her.

Then we came home Sunday night and found our littlest goat Esmerelda dead outside of the gate to the goat pasture. We briefly worried that Thomas had accidentally left the gate unlatched, but I walked the fenceline and found a very small hole under the far gate where the hay wagon had made ruts. I had walked that fenceline 1-2 weeks prior and felt this hole was not a concern, but I underestimated my little, escape-artist goat. There was one tiny bite mark on her, but otherwise it appears that dogs hadn't touched her so we think she died of stress trying to run from the dogs and get back in. I just wish we had been here to help her.

So now we feel sick that if we hadn't have left neither animal would have suffered or died. It's so hard to leave when you have animals. We try to do our best, but sometimes it's just not enough.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More autumn preparations

On this beautiful sunny October day we did more preparations for the upcoming winter.  While I was rotating the cows for the second to the last time, Tom pulled a homemade bridge from the back of the property with the tractor and placed it over our field ditch near a main gate.  This bridge had been built by my step son over the back ditch but wasn't being used.  I thought it would help keep the mud down if all the critters (including us!) used it instead of walking through the draining ditch.  As you can see below, the sheep took right to it.
Then I noticed that the goats were sneaking their heads through the hog panel underneath a rabbit hutch and eating the stored bales of hay there.  No wonder they are fat!   So while I was moving the hutch and getting tools, I noticed Candy was teasing our buck Cody.  Poor guy, but he'll get to entertain female goats soon enough.
So I put up another piece of hog panel over the old one with plastic ties (love those ties!).  Now the openings are smaller and so far the goat heads can't make it through.  So I am smarter than a goat still.
Then I tied the hay elevator onto the roof rafters.  If the goats do access the hay bales again there is a danger they could fall and the elevator with them.  So I use baling twine to tie it up so if the bales fall or are used for feed, the elevator stays put.
While I am doing this, the dogs are sunning themselves- pretty lazy dogs...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fall goat maintenance and breeding preparation

Fall goat maintenance involves the usual hoof trimming and worming but also evaluating condition, coat and conjunctival pallor to see whose in good shape for the long winter and for breeding.  The goats all look really good- some are fat.  Mr. Mahogany above particularly looks good.  He's very muscled with nice coat and size.  He also has a great temperament which helps.

Now is the time of year to make breeding decisions.  These decisions are based on avoiding genetic defects and birthing complications as well as producing the characteristics you want.  So I choose healthy animals with good conformation and birthing history and no known genetics defects.  Then I have to decide what else I am breeding for with regards to colors and patterns as well as conformation (and in the case of sheep horns, in the case of goats polled).  I also have to look at inbreeding issues.  This year I am trying to pay more attention to what will sell- given our tough economic times.  I also have to consider what genetics I want to keep (and am in danger of losing with the older animals).  So look at the hungry (and fat) goats below and think about breeding potential.  

The black goat on the left is not flashy, but she has gorgeous blues eyes.  So am thinking about breeding her to my flashy red black and white spotted buckling.  He's only a year old but since Saphie is a little on the short side I think he'll be able to breed her.  The black and white goat next to her is related to two of my bucks so I have to use Mr. Mahogany with her for that reason.  They both carry spots so produce nice kids.  He's polled so statistically half of his kids should be too.  The little red goat next is one year old and only 42 pounds so I am thinking about waiting another year to breed her.  I would love to breed her now though, but she's also related to two of my bucks so will have to be bred to Mr. in the future.  The next goat is a pygmy.  She has produced gorgeous kids in the past- cross bred with my Nigerian buck, but cross breeds are not as desirable as registered purebreds so I will hold off.  The next goat is a great doe but is going to be 13 this next spring so is too old to keep breeding.  The spotted doe on top is related to two of my bucks so will also be bred to Mr. to bring out her spots.  A goat who did not come for the hay party is Cally- she's 9.5 years old so this is her last year breeding.  She's a tan and black buckskin so would combine well with my red and brown buckskin- he will also help to elongate her body a little.  So this gives you an idea of the thought processes that go into breeding decisions.

 At this point for the sheep I am trying to limit my breeding this year.  I think I will breed Sheila again to Jocko to produce her gorgeous dense crimpy fleece in modified colors.  She's going to be 10 next year so this is my last chance to preserve her genes in my flock.  I am going back and forth regarding breeding Monette again.  She is a double-coated grey ewe who carries spots.  I would like to preserve her (and her mother's) genetics because I love their personalities and their fleeces- soft and wonderful to spin.  But she produced one cryptorchid ram in the past so don't want that in the future. If I do breed her, I'd like to use Lewis to try to produce spots. People seem to like the light grey lambs as well as spots.  I am thinking I will breed Mona again to Lewis to try to make some more HST lambs.  They are gorgeous and desirable for selling.  This does involve inbreeding though so I have to be aware of producing unwanted genetic recessive defects.  I am considering breeding Jenny again, my grey katmoget ewe.  Her and Jocko have produced some gorgeous lambs in the past with fleece to die for, katmoget markings and one was also mioget to boot.  I wish I had kept that lamb!  So if I can produce another I will keep her.  I am thinking about breeding Wink our mioget double coated ewe with Jocko again.  Jocko is getting up there (8 now) and I would really like to get a replacement mioget ram.  My best chance is with Wink but would prefer Jocko's fleece type to Winks for a breeding ram. So I am not sure I want to take the chance.  Finally I am thinking about breeding Daphnie again- our fawn horned ewe that carries spots.  I am going back and forth about using Lewis to bring out her spots or Jocko to bring out the fleece quality.  It seems like the lighter colors are more desirable to people but spots are a real selling point too.  I have scratched Lizzie and Heidi off the breeding list (for now anyway) because although they are gorgeous ewes who produce great lambs- the brown lambs don't seem to be selling.  I've also decided not to breed Sadie one last time.  I already have her genetics in Miss Lizzie and don't need more moorit right now.  So she can go into retirement.  I also go back and forth about using Wilma instead of Wink.  Wilma's fleece and color are nicer but she also produced one cryptorchid lamb so Wink is probably the better choice.  So if I stick to this plan there's 6 ewes to breed- I was hoping for 5 so need to keep looking at my decisions.

I also have to get facilities ready.  I'll need three pens for the goats and three fields without shared fencelines for the sheep.  I am considering butchering the other three rams we have, but if I don't I will need a pen to keep them in so they aren't on a fenceline with the other rams (and thus destroy it).  So in preparation for all this breeding next month I replaced the tarp on the ram shelter.  I cut it from a heavy duty truck tarp that Tom found along side the road.  It looks like it will hold up nicely- hopefully through several winters.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Raisins, Rug, & Fall Sheep Maintenance

The first batch of raisins are done and now I'm working on the second batch,
the Lincoln lock rug has been started,
and the Fall Sheep maintenance was completed today.
This involves penning the sheep in the barn, catching each sheep and trimming its hooves, clipping the wool around the butt (crutching), worming, and giving nasal vaccine.  The nasal vaccine is Nasalgen that I give to the animals to prevent pneumonia.   The remaining vaccine I gave to the cows and goats.  This is the first year I have had help with this task...much appreciated!
Since we have 37 sheep, 16 goats and 4 cows this is quite a task.  Now I am tired and am going to watch baseball!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Harvesting and warping

Last week, we got a little farm stuff done.  On Wednesday, Tom mowed the back field (behind the fenced pastures) while I did animal chores and then we replaced the rotting wood posts in our fencing.

For a few months I have been slowly finding time to wind cotton yarn onto a warping board to create a rug warp.  I finally got it done and this last week have been threading it onto my loom (sleying the reed and threading the heddles).  This morning I got it onto the loom and wrapped on (beamed the warp).  I need to get it tied on the front apron and then I can start weaving!!  I plan on finally make a rug with locks from a grey Lincoln fleece I bought years ago for this purpose.  Then I plan on making another rug with our natural colored Shetland rovings.  Then I should have more warp to make something else (haven't figured out what yet).

Before the storm hit today I managed to look at our pitiful garden (thanks to our lousy spring).  I pulled up the remaining tomato plants and hung them upside down  to try to ripen the green tomatoes.  I did manage to pick one red tomato (our entire tomato harvest for the year).  I picked the last of the green beans and picked some small but ripe ears of corn.  Most of our corn hasn't ripened yet (and probably won't) but at least we have a little to eat and freeze.  I then picked the grapes.  We actually have a surprisingly good grape harvest this year.  The grapes came with the place, and I don't know what kind they are.  They aren't sweet enough to eat, and there's not enough to make wine so I make raisins with them.  The raisins turn out really tasty from these green sour grapes.  So I have the first batch of raisins started now.

Shaun the Sheep "Off the Baa"

Shaun the Sheep clip "Save the Tree"