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Kadence's projects thread- Homestead Nowhere

 
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Sheep, wool, tanning hides, oh my!

I have a thread over in the natural fiber section but thought I'd make this thread for all the farm stuff and keep that thread to just the wool processing information. Here I will post everything I'm working on. To start I'll go over some background, pulled heavily from the wool thread, so if you've seen all that skip ahead after the next paragraph to the next post.

In 2015 I brought home my first sheep. I've learned a helluva lot since then and drastically changed the goals of my flock. Not changed exactly, but profoundly built upon and narrowed down. 3 sheep, to 6 sheep, to 9 ewes and 2 rams,... And now 19 ewes and 3 rams.
Last year I had several things all lined up to start changing the direction of the flock and got smacked around by the ever so gracious learning curve. I thought with the newly added paddocks I could get on top of the parasite issue. It wasn't enough. And it got compounded by coccidiosis in the lambs which I wasn't familiar with, and kept sneaking around unbeknownst to me without causing any symptoms other than the already existing parasite symptoms. Long story short, I had 22 lambs born, 1 stillborn, 2 water trough drowning, and the rest to parasite and cocci. I've had the same water setup and never had a lamb get in the troughs before this.
So this year I've dropped several dollar signs on now 6 electric nets (164ft each) and a charger.

~ This whole post is based on the doodles on the picture below. Let me know if anything doesn't make sense and I'll try to clarify. ~


I've writing out tentative plan for rotation the next year. Improving on my mistakes and adding new areas. I now have 6 electric net fence, 164'. Breeding groups have just been seperated and the ewes will be moved to the "~6acre" feild. It's a big area but not alot of growth so we shall see how long it lasts them. Hopefully winter doesn't swoop in too quickly. Then on I'll have to deal with them in the permanent fenced paddocks. It's not optimal but next winter things will be very different!
At the moment I'm estimating the ewes will go through one round bale in a week and that's how I'll rotate them. Set out each paddock with a round bale and when the bale's out move to the next paddock. Before the rotation is up set in new bales, off set from the previous bale placement. Hopefully I'll be able to put out bales for the paddocks on nicer days, then the rest of the time I can just open the gate and move them to the new paddock and bale.
Come spring these areas I'm going to seed behind them and get them into overgrown areas to clear out. Current estimations puts this at April 1 to June 8 to rotate through and seed behind almost all of it.
Come back to graze a few of the first paddock 75 days after moving the sheep and seeding.
The seed I'm going to order is two mixes, one for April to June, one for July to September. I will also be getting some buckwheat, I think it'll be seeded on the terrace with the mix. The fall seeding in the permenent fenced paddocks will try to hit it lightly and leave it for winter stockpile. If my estimates are close at all this would have the sheep on each area 4 times from April through October. Then the permanent paddocks about November through March until I can figure out more. Though I'm wondering if these new areas will kick up enough that I'll be able to keep grazing into December.
Red lines are permanent fence. Everything else is to highlight an area or show where I've been utilizing the netting up to now. IE, in the yard and to divide the bigger paddock. All acreage marked is estimated from the ODNR interactive map, I don't know if it accounts for slope but it's an estimate. The R paddocks is where the rams are, more on them later. Black boxes are barn or sheds.
The grazing plan is just to give me an idea of how I want to direct things. Even in making this up I edited it around to optimize easier moves. I'm shearing February and lambing March. So the plan starts April 1 in paddock 1 for two days and seed behind the sheep. On to paddocks 2, then 3 the same. Over to L1 using the netting, moving every day and seeding behind. This was hay feild but its weedy and at a bad angle to do anything on the tractor. Down to L2, which is yet to be determined how to divide with netting. It's wooded but not much brush and probably too thick of canopy to bother seeding. Over to 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
Now we get to the big changes. The g1-9 used to be goat pasture and has been left alone for years. It's weedy and brushy. The first time through will be mainly to knock stuff down so I can come through and beat down stems and hack at multiflora rose. So several days in, then hand mitigate, then seed. The pink lines are tentative divisions with the netting. G9 looks dumb, and it is kind of dumb. That is valley with a small seasonal creek, wooded, very overgrown weeds and brush. This is going to be my first silvopasture area. There is alot of nice big trees in there and I'll be thinning out the junk trees and brush. I think alot of it will be open enough to be seeded behind the sheep.
From there I graze the edge (right) of the "~6acre" feild to the terrace, marked with green approximate sections. Across there then grazing the edge (left) of the feild down to the little blue section which is a steep driveway bank. On to N3, 2, 1 which is the yard and of the few places I won't be seeding behind.
Which brings us to paddock 1 on about June 17th having had 75 days rest to end the first rotation. The second rotation we catch up on days, not needing to knock down weeds through the G1-9 sections and giving me 54 days rest by the end of it. The third rotation holds 54 days rest. That brings me to October and breeding groups and the end of my grazing plan.
On to the rams... I begrudgingly have to put them back in the R marked paddocks for winter. However next year my boys will be fat and sassy on more grass than they'll know what to do with. The ~6acre and ~4.5acre hay feilds have seen better days. At this time the ~4.5 feild is two-thirds brush hogged from it's plethora of goldenrod and ironweed. The ~6acre feild was mowed twice over the summer (before I finally got the electric net! Bad me!) to mitigate weeds seeding out more. This is going to be the rams job and I think I've come up with the perfect solution to work for me and Dad. He wanted to get a first cutting from both, hopefully by early June. Then I'd be able to graze it around August he thought. I thought on it a bit and we compromised by me getting the rams out on the ~4.5 feild starting in April, or whenever it's growing enough to get them on it and moving. I'll rotate them there and Dad can get a first cutting on the ~6 feild. About August or when it's grown back enough to graze, I'll move the rams over to the ~6 feild. Now the ~4.5 feild will be growing and see if he can get a hay cut from it. Four rams in netting, being moved every day across that big of a feild, it'll be growing in nicely already I think. I can't wait to see the changes in these feilds!
Also, in the plan the ewes will be grazing the terrace a bit earlier so they'll be there and gone before the rams are in that feild most likely, and not be back until the end of September right before breeding groups go in.
I didn't try to plan through breeding groups because I think so much is going to change before then and I'll be learning alot with this big rotation. Anything I plan now will probably be useless by that time. I have had some ideas on how to work it though. It's going to be difficult with 4 rams and I want them in single sire groups. Going forward I want to have at most two breeding groups but this is the base for my ewe flock I'm building. So more groups now gives me the replacement ewes I want, will make it possible to have the flock I'm aiming for, and be able to do two groups going forward. Big goals.
I'm planning some ruthless culling and plenty of replacement ewes kept back this spring. I tried CIDRs for the first time and I'm penny pinching to the max to get the ewes pregnancy scanned. I'm going to see if I'll be able to seperate the singles and twins scanned ewes at the end of gestation to be able to feed the twin carrying ewes a bit extra. And knowing a ewe is all done and not having to reach in unnecessarily. I've got notes on several ewes with checks against them. Anyone not bred, gone. Repeating singles, gone. The four-letter-words ewe that kicked me in the mouth and now has a big cott on her back for no reason, gone.
I have 3 ram lambs that were culls from a friend, real cheap to butcher. They are late lambs and mostly will be lamb burger. Then 1 of my rams that's a 2y/o that I don't need anymore and he wouldn't sell for anything at auction. He will make some nice cuts. I'm going to practice on some rabbit hides I'd froze and tan them. Hopefully I'll be tanning the rams hides later!
I put out feelers the whole past year and could not get anyone to respond to be on a wait list for a ram or ram lamb. I was preferring BFL but I put out feelers for 4 different breeds in multiple groups. Nada. Then magically someone lets me know they'll be at a fiber show that I'll be at in May, the price and cost to deliver to the show. Heck yes, finally! So in May I'll be getting a border leicester ram lamb from New Hampshire. And a plus, she has won ribbons for her fleeces. Her flock has plenty of multiples so I'm hoping that will also help me with my lambing rate. I'll ramble more on breeding plans in another post because this is getting quite long.. I'm afraid to look..
So I guess here is my current lessons learned...
~ parasites! Get off that same spot for crying out loud. You don't have it under control. It won't be fine until next spring. Don't keep back more animals. Don't bring in more animals. Either get in gear and have a plan to get the animals moved around in one month's time or sell down your stock, if not out, and deal with the issue.
~ I lost every single lamb this year because "I got it under control" with the barber pole worms... And ended up with loads of coccidiosis built up in my paddocks, the lambs were ill with worms symptoms but none of the additional symptoms of cocci. By the time I figured it out and treated for cocci I'd lost half. By the time the treatment was finished I had 3 lambs. Two days later I had none. This year the learning curve ran over with a bus. And alot of it I should have known better.
~ electric net and batteries. Why on god's green earth did I have to grow up with the dairy goats from hell? It took this much issue and learning curve for me to break down and try the net... And guess what... It is as amazing as it sounds! The sheep were trained to it in one afternoon! If someone develops a time machine, please go slap past me and tell me to buy the damn net!!!
~ A great deal is not always a great deal for you right now. I am a pro at finding deals and not having a damn thing prepared, crash course research, buy the thing/animal, and then figure out how to house and manage them. It can be done. I don't recommend it. I'm glad that I learned from these experiences but I have a plan now and I need to stick to it. Or take a step back and assess everything, does this really fit in the situation or am I making decisions based on "price reduced!" shoppers adrenaline? It's like auction fever!
 
kadence blevins
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The updated version of fence map. Without all the net cross fencing lines that will be in different place each time anyways.



Some examples of my handspun/knit/woven items. And some found wood buttons.








 
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WOW! So much excellent information! Thank you for sharing!

(so much pretty wool..... droooooool...... i love the blue and brown together. and the buttons are so gorgeous!)
 
kadence blevins
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Tereza Okava wrote:WOW! So much excellent information! Thank you for sharing!

(so much pretty wool..... droooooool...... i love the blue and brown together. and the buttons are so gorgeous!)



Thanks for taking the time to read I'll admit part of the reason I like to post is to share what I've learned and part is so I actually do more. I tend to plan and plan and have several possible alternatives.. I end up tying myself in knots with the plans and possibilities that I get nothing actually done. I'm working on it though.

I have several other 'gobs' of info and plans I'm working up to post. So there is lots more to come. I have rabbit hides in a bucket in the tub, soaking to dehair. It's forecast to rain all my days off so I guess that settles what I'll be doing. I hope they are ready to scrape by then.
I'm working up another post on breaking down my feed needs (grain) through the year. And the hogs I want to add in the spring. More on the work turning the wooded areas into silvopasture......
 
kadence blevins
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Happy New Year! ..yeah I know I'm late.. :P
Forgive me father for I have sinned.. It's been two months since my last post.. --UH WAIT-- *cough-cough*
Ahh, it's been a busy winter so far and I don't think it's going to slow down for me at all this year. November went alright, a few hiccups on my part and an unexpected trip out of state for a funeral. Sad but one of those that everyone has known was coming for a while. I rotated the sheep around the hay feild and they were there the 3rd to 27th. Due to the forage conditions of the feild, weather, family visiting for thanksgiving, etc, I didnt actually cover the full feild. Estimating with the forage there then and how many paddocks I can set up, now that I've set them up and can imagine the actual space of the feild and netted paddocks now.. I really think that will be more grazing time than I originally planned in my tentative dates. I can't be sure of course what the weather will do and I'll be grazing the ewes plus their lambs, which will have an increasing appetite. We will just have to wait and find out.

December brought crazy weather. Is it fall? Is it spring? Is it winter? No one can be sure.. It's gotten cold but not consistently and just when it does get cold several days in a row -kablammo- we get a day or several of 40s-50sF and rain! I'm either sloppin through the mud or tripping on it frozen up. We had a white christmas eve.. If you consider fog.. It was thick all day and through the night. Reminded me of that Scooby Doo episode where he takes a knife and cut a hole in the fog. I was antsy in the passenger seat of my sister's car watching the road slowly come into view right in front of the car. It was like playing Minecraft when it lags real bad when you fly and you fly right off the edge of the loaded world and -bam- suddenly everything loads around you. We almost missed a whole intersection! Couldn't see a darn thing!
Backtracking a little, I'd had someone lined up back in the summer that does ultrasounds. Messaging with her in November to set up a date, she says Dec 1st, okay sounds good. Week later she messages she has to cancel. I'm talkin to some local-ish sheep friends and they say they've heard the persons pretty sketchy and thats more odd because said person was just in another local town that day (that I was speaking with friend, days after being cancelled on) and scanned a whole flock. So I'm thinking to avoid this person being drama in the future and that sucks, no ultrasounds of the ewes. Well day or two after christmas I see a post in a local sheep group a different person doing ultrasounds! I message with her and she says no you can do it anytime after 30 days bred. Huzzah I could still get them done! Sunday (29th) evening she gets back to me that she could come do mine on Tuesday (31st)!!! Well that was great but also terrible because I wasn't prepared or setup for it! So I go ahead and set it up and work the next day. Come home and it's pouring rain and Dad's butcherin the two ram lambs (finally) and I'm tryin to get panels and gates moved to the barn and started to be setup. Tuesday morning I wake up.. Late of course, because I've got to be ready for her to be here in two hours.. Somehow, lord only knows how because I surely don't, but somehow I got everything finished setting up and got the ewes into the barn all ready. The machine is really neat. It's a little laptop looking thing and the wand just plugs in the side of it. Squeeze some goop on the wand and have a look.

I want to do ultrasounds again next year. Things I would do differently...
-setup a holding pen that's got the ewes really packed in close. Makes them easier to grab.
-consider trimming belly wool. You can't ultrasound through the wool so she had to do it over the udder or in the clean 'armpit' part of the back legs.
-borrow my friends 'sheep chair' which is an odd hammock chair you prop a sheep in to trim hooves. She told me alot of people use them because it immobilizes the ewe and gives you easy access to the belly. She said it doesn't interfere with the ultrasound. I had set up my panels to make a chute and a scrap wood headgate to hold the ewe. She was having problems seeing on some ewes with them standing. Some ewes wanted to lay down and were not cooperating. More than half through before she told me about the chair thing and if she couldnt immediately get a read I'd flip them and hold them sitting, like shearing position, and she'd do it that way. If I'd known it from the start I'd have done that with them all.
-have a helper standing there taking sheep name/eartag and writing down not bred/single/twin. I would call out of the barn to my dad the ones not bred. The others I thought I'd remember who she said looked like twins... Well I was wrangling and looking at what she did and at the ultrasound screen.. So a few I remembered.. But really kicking myself I wanted to write them all down.
-if I was doing this and had more than 25 ewes I'd have two pens setup to put the ewes in after ultrasound. Bred and Not. When it's done you can move the bred ewes where they need to go. Then the Not bred ewes, what's the scenario are you putting them in a cleanup breeding group or culling, etc.

I did have 3 ewes not bred. And of the neighbor's ewes one was bred and one wasn't. They were all from the same breeding group and it was the bigger one, 9 ewes. I think with the CIDRs several ewes were in standing heat at the same time. So while the ram was chasing and breeding two ewes, there was another ewe also ready who didn't get any attention. The other two groups were 7 ewes and 5 ewes, all bred. I was worried about the 7 group because that ram was hangin out at the corner most of the time making moves on ewes other side of the fence instead of the ones he was in with. So we shall see when they lamb if maybe his ewes all cycled and bred in a short time, or spread out and he was frustrated waitin on them haha!

It was frustrating but I decided to go ahead and put the 3 ewes in a breeding group. I put them with a different ram and they'll be due very end of May to lamb. It's not what I was planning for but I don't want them to not lamb this year. So they will be an experiment because by then the sheep will be in rotation, and comparing the later lambs with the planned march born lambs. And of course if it was the ewes already on the poop list I'd be fine to send them off to the sale.. So obviously it had to all be ewes that I really want to build the flock from..
I'm trying to hold my judgement of CIDRs until I see how close lambing is. My thoughts at the moment is that for breeding groups I don't want to go past 7 ewes to 1 ram. Going forward my goal is to build up the flock and have most of the flock be in one breeding group with a few rams. Then for specific test breeding or cross breeding I can do smaller single sire groups, but mostly focused on the ewes being in one breeding group. It makes chores so much easier.

This year my groups were shetlands, crosses, lower priority. The spotted shetland ram isn't going to be staying and I wanted him bred to the shetland ewes and the spotted cross ewe. The shetland ewes will be culled and I'm hoping for several nice replacement ewe lambs. These will be my base for the shetland-border leicester cross. The cross ewes were bred to the home grown ram and it's going to be difficult but they will be culled as well and I'm hoping for nice replacement ewe lambs. That ram will also not be staying and I am really hoping for lots of nice ewe lambs to choose from. The lower priority group is ewes that got bumped to the bottom after the other two groups were decided. The ram was a late born ram lamb and I was a bit nervous if he was up to the job. But he looked promising and I knew I had to have another ram to make smaller breeding groups using the CIDRs. In hindsight I should have put two of the cross ewes with him as well and made it 7 ewes in each group.. Nothing to do about it now though. I have a friend that has a full cheviot ewe and if she has a ram lamb in the spring I've called dibs on him. If so the ram lamb will be a spring butcher. So 2020 breeding groups could very well be all new rams breeding. The border leicester ram lamb, possible cheviot ram lamb, and the shetland ram I got this fall after breeding groups.

I've emailed the shearer. He doesn't make his shearing scheduale until first of the year so I'm waiting to hear back for a date. I announced at guild meeting last month that I'll need some helpers for it and have 10 people interested. I don't need alot of help but it goes quick and it's nice to have a few to write names/eartag and fleece weight and stick the tag in the bag. With more people and a couple experienced hopefully, they can do a preliminary skirting and keep me from doing as much later going through them.
 
kadence blevins
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11.7.19 Ewes grazing in the hay field doing rotation with the electric netting.
2019 shearing, locks from some of the ewes fleeces.
11.7.19-ewes-rotation-hay-feild.png
[Thumbnail for 11.7.19-ewes-rotation-hay-feild.png]
2019-fleece-locks.png
[Thumbnail for 2019-fleece-locks.png]
 
kadence blevins
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I feel like I just made a post here but in reality it's been ages! Bleh time flies!

Jan 28- shearing! Due to timing and the shearer having alot of jobs lined up all at the same time, the height of shearing being right before lambing. So I opted for earlier date rather than later. The weather the week before was uncooperative but ended up being nice enough the day of. Everything went off nicely. The setup was more smooth this year, having already gone through it last year and altered some things to work better.

February- Suprise Papa is getting his other knee replaced right before turning 90! And lambing is less than a week away! Isn't that nice of people?!
March- Lambing!
3/1- One of the first time ewes lambed and I did chores to find a very small lamb, all cleaned but dead. Apparently I just have bad luck with the first of the year for some reason.
3/2- three single lambs
3/3- one single lamb
3/4- three singles, three set twins. The ones that twinned had very little or no milk. Very frustrating. Between the other ewes that had lambed milked out some, plus some colostrum replacer, and I got some into all the lambs. I ended up entirely bottle feeding all the twins. They stayed out with the moms  and I'd take out bottles through the day. It was annoying and my attempt to adapt a nipple-bucket from a cow nipple to a lamb nipple didnt work. The lambs wouldnt take to the nipple.
3/5- three singles
**WARNING DETAILED! BAD ENDING!**
3/7- very long day! One of the first timers'd had 'goo' just a little for at least the last two days. She had been the first to have a big full udder. I'd honestly expected her to lamb among the first. I decided to lube up and try to feel if there was anything coming. Fast forward from 9am to noon. Na-da. I've tried to be gentle as possible working a super lubed hand inside but only barely get up to my wrist in. My hand is cramping. I don't have huge hands but I do not have dainty lady hands at all either. And this is a first time shetland ewe only weighing about 60#. I'm calling my dad for his opinion and messaging back and forth with two very experienced people who have commercial indoor sheep barns, lambing three and four times per year, 100 to 300 ewes at a time. Fast forward two hours dad comes over and insists I let him try. I think we should put the ewe down and see if the lamb is alive. I've only barely gotten in there enough to feel the lamb, even though before reaching in I could feel it kick from my hand on the ewes belly. So I began with the assumption of a live lamb probably malpositioned. I let dad try. Needless to say his hands and arm is a bit bigger than mine. The whole thing just seems wrong, I've just got a gut feeling everything is wrong. Fast forward some more time. I pull the lamb out. Immediately following the lamb is the entirety of the uterus and vagina. Like a fleshy inside out sock. The poor ewe is in shock and now is just suffering. Even if she hadn't been through the ordeal of me trying to get a live lamb out, what is a fixable but very hard and difficult recovery. If she survived she'd never be able to breed again, IF she lived. And right at that moment she just needed to not be suffering any longer. The lamb was dead. There wasnt anything that I could say was the cause but it was definitely not alive when it came out. Put the ewe down.
By the time I got the deceased ewe and lamb, fluid and bloodied bedding, piled into the sled and pulled away.. bed up that area of the shed again.. Check the last pregnant ewe for signs of lambing.. Drag myself into the house.. It was about 10pm. A damn long day that I'll not likely forget. The next day while putting lamb records into my computer I'd find a note on my phone from 3/1 that that ewe had some 'goo' discharge. I could have kicked myself in the head were it possible. Somehow in the says after with the others lambing I'd forgot about it. And having no reason to expect an issue without SOME KIND of sign of her actually starting labor it had gone from my mind.
In hindsight.. I hypothesize that 3/1 or 3/2 the ewe started labor. The lamb was not positioned right and stayed deep inside. Not having a nose or hoof or anything to prompt me, and the ewe never showing signs of labor, no grunting, no bearing down, no secluding herself, no pawing at the ground... Not a single sign of it at all... Either her labor wasnt strong combined with a probably malpositioned lamb... Or a malpositioned lamb and after time her hormones and labor stalled out and basically stopped... Either way I had no way of knowing at the time. The ewe acted completely normal. It was completely out of my hands.

Now..
Of the three ewes that scanned not bred.. One of them was a ewe that twinned. I had put the three into a late breeding group. The other two are now nearing due. Both are nice and round and making an udder. They are due early as May 26, so ten days from now. I had counted out the days from pulling CIDRs of full heat cycles, so that plus their udders, I'm hopefull that they will lamb on or soon after that date. It will be interesting since the others took so quick, to see if these two took right away or if they started to go off from each other. Since time had passed from pulling CIDRs and syncing them.
 
kadence blevins
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My review of CIDRs
In short- Very much worth the investment in the right management.
The whys and hows- I can see how they can be a tool or a crutch. I aspire to having a flock that meets (mostly) my other goals and that I can begin fine tuning. Having a base flock, especially a fair amount of breeding ewes, that you can then say ok now only keep ewes that breed in the first cycle. Whether that is: having a breeding group that's 34 days, a minimum two 17 day cycles, and anything that lambs after the first 17 days gets culled and all their lambs. Or having a 17 day group and scanning ewes, immediately culling all not bred ewes.
However I can see how they can be a tool. For small flocks you can easily CIDR 10 ewes, on day twelve you pull two, and following days you pull two. You should be mostly set up for lambing a couple ewes per day, not too crazy, while also being over quick and not having to make crazy all hour barn checks for a month. (Ahem. Speaking from experience.)
Alternatively maybe a small flock that shows or is working on genetics and you only have 10 ewes but you have multiple rams that will only have a few ewes to breed. It's alot easier if you are working off farm to take a week off and be done lambing, than to be insane with work and all hour barn checks for a month. (Ahem.. Again..) If you had that situation and have the paddocks or pen dividing area for so many groups, you could easily pull all 10 and have them together for 17 days and be as sure as is possible that you'll hit your planned lambing time.

So what does that mean for me now that I've tried them?
I'm going to do a saving jar again this year specifically for CIDRs and use them with the proven ewes. I've sold the ewes that had issues to a non-breeding home, essentially as lawnmowers. This brings me to 8 proven ewes and 6 ewe lambs that will be staying. The rest of the lambs I'll be feeding out to sell later, some to be butchered and packaged for sale and my own use.
I've decided that 007 (half shetland, half mini cheviot) will be staying another year for breeding. Most likely in the winter after hormones have had time to wear off after breeding then dad and I will butcher him. He is not so great to look at but his lambs are real nice and growing very well. (I'll post more about lamb growth later).
It also works out because I'm keeping 73 one of this years ram lambs. He is a son of Bingley, my home bred ram, and his mom is half shetland, half border cheviot. He is growing nice, looks nice, and shows promise to fill out as he grows.
This fall I'm planning to use 007 and 73 in a breeding group with the ewe lambs. So 007 is proven and will know what to do with the first time ewes. All the lambs will be cheviot-esque crosses.
In three weeks I'll be meeting up with the border leicester (BL) breeder who is making a transport trip since the fiber show is cancelled. I'm really looking forward to seeing the new ram lamb in person, I think he is going to be one of the keys to moving the flock forward.

I've also bartered with the neighbor, one of my ewe lambs for one of his ram lambs. So 87 is another son of Bingley, a twin from first time ewe lamb bred mom. The neighbor brought his two ewes over here to breed and one took, one didnt. They are market cross ewes and much bigger than my sheep overall. I'm interested to see how 87 fills out.
This fall I'm planning to use the BL ram lamb and 87 in a breeding group with the proven ewes. So the proven ewes know what to do and the rams will catch on. Also the BL sired lambs should have definite resemblance and be easy to tell apart.
On top of that my friend with the mini cheviots (MC) has a full mini cheviot ram lamb that she'll be selling in the fall. I've called dibs. I think she is planning to breed him to some ewes before selling so I don't think he'll be here for my breeding groups.

That will leave me going forward with a full mini cheviot ram and a full border leicester ram. Really depending on how 87 and 73 turn out will depend on if I keep them. And 87's lambs turn out since I'll be able to tell his apart from the BL's lambs, if he is worth keeping or if I should make space for a better future ram lamb to keep back.
I have several line and rotational breeding ideas. I'm waiting to see how these ewe lambs turn out before thinking too much on what future years will do. For example- If I kept 6 ewe lambs each sired by the MC and the BL.. Then bred three back to their sire and three to the opposite sire.. Compare the 75% MC to the 50% BL, 25% MC, and vice versa.
Or example- Keep back ewes from each sire and breed to other ram. 50% MC to BL and 50% BL to MC. Did one turn out better? If you do the next generation back again to the breed opposite of it's sire how do they turn out and are you retaining the wanted traits? Is it better to do like the previous example and then the 75% and 50/25% offspring retained bred to something else? I do know someone with a commercial flock and they have their own genetics based on dorset, ile de france, polypay, and south african meat merino. They sell ewe lambs for $350 each so I know a ram would be at least more than that. Or again with that kind of level of investment, I could look at polypay, corriedale, dorset that are from production flocks with some proven genetics behind the investment. But in a few years if I build up the ewe flock with these rams it would be well worth it to go for another investment to take another step up the ladder of better sheep, better growth, better production. Always lots to think about, keep the options open until you figure out what will fit best.
 
kadence blevins
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Lamb progress. This will be listed as: tag number- birth weight- 30 day weight (ADG)- 70 day weight (ADG). ADG is average daily gain. All in pounds. The * before it means was a bottle lamb.
70- 8.6- 23.8 (.434)- 41.4 (.462)
71- 7.5- 25.7 (.52)- 38.5 (.437)
72- 8.2- 20.1 (.34)- 30.6 (.315)
73- 7- 23.7 (.491)- 39.8 (.469)
74- 8- 20.9 (.39)- 35.8 (.403)
*75- 6.5- 16.6 (.306)- 25.5 (.275)
*76- 6.7- 9.... This is the idiot that would not take the bottle. Neighbor took her for free as a pet for the kids along the other sheep. Haven't heard if she's still going or not. I was mad because she was a color I would have wanted and from a ewe I wanted lambs from but just totally stupid lamb.
*77- 5.7- 13.8 (.245)- 21 (.222)
*78- 4.7- 13.2 (.257)- 19.2 (.21)
79- 6.5- 20 (.409)- 34.7 (.409)
80- 7.2- 18.8 (.351)- 28.7 (.312)
*81- 4.5- 13.7 (.278)- traded with neighbor, didnt get weight before left.
*82- 5.5- 14.2 (.263)- 21.7 (.235)
83- 9.3- 22.2 (.403)- 35.7 (.388)
84- 8.2- 24.9 (.521)- 40.6 (.476)
85- 7.4- 23.2 (.493)- lost to worm load. Things had got busy and the day before I could get the worms and ewes wormed I lost this lamb. He was destined for the freezer anyway but its always hard when I'm trying so hard and still lose them. More on internal parasites later.
86- 8- 24 (.41)- traded with neighbor, didnt get second weight before left.
87- x- x- 38.6 This is the ram lamb I traded with the neighbor for so don't have other weights. Will have to wait and see what the ADG is at the next weight.

The average of the lambs ADG is .355 (second weight) so you can see I have a bunch that are above that. Commercially the goal for lambs gain is .5 ADG and happily I have a few at and near that mark. The important thing though is to balance ADG with what the animal looks like. Looking at the top five ram lambs you would think it gives me room to be choosey. But it doesnt actually because of their other traits. One looks good but taking a close look and hands on you can see that he is big boned and moderately muscled. If I breed from him I'm going to get big lambs but less dress out. They are going to have more weight in bone, not muscle. Also that rams mom was culled because she always prolapsed the week before she lambed, not a trait I want to proliferate.
One of the rams is full shetland (not what I want going forward) and he is not actually as good as he seems at face value. His mom had twins last year that each weighed nearly as much as he does at this age. So he had access to her full production of milk to grow on his own. Then if you put hands on him you can tell he is not that well muscled. His loins are not very thick, his legs are not that well muscled.

Really it came down to two ram lambs that could have been kept. Both are sired by Bingley, my home bred ram. 70s mom is also of my home bred crosses, 41.4 (.462). 73s mom is half shetland/half border cheviot, 39.8 (.469). Looking at the numbers they are a close race. 70s mom at last weight was 55#, meaning she raised a lamb to 75.3% of her own body weight. Kudos to Lydia the ewe, this is the highest ratio of ewe to lamb raised weight. 73s mom at last weight was 62#, meaning she raised a lamb to 64.2% of her own body weight. Both good. So what do they look like? 70 has long legs and is not as well muscled. 73 has stout shape and well muscled.
Here is one of my instagram posts with video clips from weight day. 73 is white, 70 is brown, 87 is white with a mottled face. https://www.instagram.com/p/CAQzwgsJmYw/

73 is the one staying. He also has the added benefit of being less related to the other sheep, for long term genetics of the flock. And of course 87 is the ram from the neighbors ewe. Both have promising fleece as well.
 
kadence blevins
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Fertility and internal parasites are my next big crack down on goals for the sheep. I'll go into parasites after this because it leads into the other big thing I'm doing.
I put 19 ewes in to breed, ended with 3 sets of twins, 12 singles, 3 not bred. Two of the three not bred were put in the late breeding group and are the ones due in nine days. I'm hoping for twins from them!!!
So I am not happy with the fertility of the ewes this year. I've kept 8 of the ewes and sold the others to a non breeding home. (Sorry I don't recall if I said that already). I don't know if anyone cares but here is the full round up of the sheep that will be staying...

Midget- One of the foundation sheep I first bought, a mutt from a spinners flock. 5y/o. Lambing history single, twin, twin, single. Most recent weight 90#.

99- The only full shetland ewe I kept. Only because her lamb is so great and I like her fleece. Appx 6y/o. Lambing history single, single. Most recent weight 61#

Ayreshire- Born here. 1/2 finn-katahdin-romanov, 1/4 shetland, 1/4 cormo. Her mom was a cross of the three in unknown amounts. 2y/o. Lambing history single, single. Most recent weight 97#.

Mary- Born here. 1/2 mutt (spinners flock), 1/4 shetland, 1/4 cormo. Her mom was Pigpig. 2y/o. Lambing history single, and due soon! Most recent weight 93#.

Kitty- Born here. 5/8 shetland, 1/4 mutt, 1/8 cormo.  Twin of Lydia. Pigpig was grandma. 2y/o. Lambing history single, single. Most recent weight 60#.

Lydia- Born here. 5/8 shetland, 1/4 mutt, 1/8 cormo.  Twin of Kitty. Pigpig was grandma. 2y/o. Lambing history single, single. Most recent weight 55#.

184- 1/2 border cheviot, 3/8 shetland, 1/8 cormo. 2y/o. Lambing history single, and due soon! Most recent weight 74#.

185- 1/2 border cheviot, 1/2 shetland. 2 y/o. Mom of 73, the ram lamb I'm keeping back. Lambing history single, single. Most recent weight 62#.

007- Ram. 1/2 shetland, 1/2 mini cheviot. 1 y/o. Need to get weight on him but at four month old he weighed 40.5#. Sire to all the part mini cheviot lambs. The lambs are all 30-40# at 70 days so even better than he was.

Next is all this years lambs that are staying. I have added up based on their ADG and time til fall breeding groups.. They all have the possibility of being as big as their moms by fall! We shall see how they actually turn out, but I'm hoping.

72- Ewe lamb. 5/8 shetland, 1/4 mini cheviot, 1/8 mutt.

73- Ram lamb. 3/8 shetland, 1/4 mutt, 1/4 border cheviot, 1/8 cormo. Mom is 185.

74- Ewe lamb. 7/16 shetland, 3/8 mutt, 3/16 cormo. Mom is Kitty.

75- Ewe lamb. 3/4 mutt, 1/8 shetland, 1/8 cormo. Mom was Pigpig. Only staying because I really wanted to give her a chance so I can have more of pigpigs genetics, I'd like to have her color pattern in the flock.

79- Ewe lamb. 3/4 shetland, 1/4 mini cheviot. Mom is 99. I'm really happy with this lamb and if I can get this improvement in body type with a 1/4 cheviot it makes me really excited to see what future breeding will bring.

80- Ewe lamb. 3/4 shetland, 1/4 mini cheviot. Again, makes me really excited for future breedings.

84- Ewe lamb. 1/2 mutt, 1/4 shetland, 1/4 mini cheviot. Mom is Midget. I'm not sure how her fleece is going to turn out, I think she has 'awkward teen growin into it' fleece and next year will really show if she's going to be more
dual coated like her mom or more medium wool. I know Midget makes good growing lambs so I have high hopes for this one.

87- Ram lamb. 1/2 market cross, 1/4 mutt, 1/8 shetland, 1/8 cormo.

Ben- border leicester ram lamb. To be picked up in about three weeks.

mini cheviot- ram lamb hopefully going to be buying from my friend in the fall, to replace 007 after breeding groups.
 
kadence blevins
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Thursday I sold the two shetland rams and he ended up buying the shetland ewe lamb too. Guy I've sold sheep to before.
Have someone coming Sunday to look at Bingley, my home bred cross ram. Then this evening someone else emailed about em so they are in line if this person doesn't buy him. I let them know I have several ram lambs available, we'll see.

Ended up with 5 ram lambs left. At least two I'll keep and have butchered in the fall, for myself and to sell cuts to people I know. With smaller non-commercial sheep it's more costly to get it done but if I take them in then I can sell labeled cuts. We shall see how that turns out.

I'm working on typing up another post on what my next steps are right now and this year. Big plans, cross your fingers haha. Everything plays into each other so I want to get it in one post and check it over. So there'll be more detailed stuff coming soon!
 
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Ok I think that brings everything up to speed. The next stage of things is... A canvas tent! I ordered a Sibley bell tent from canvascamp.com and a frontier camp stove. The stove came Monday and the tent came Tuesday. I unpacked the stove and set it up, played around for a bit. I really think it will work great. It's already nice out so I think I'll have it and a little fire pit set up in front of the tent. I won't be terribly far from the house but I want to do some of my own cooking.

The tent came in while I was out doing sheep feed run. Third time I've left the farm since all the panic, two months, yay. Nothing exciting it was just nice to be in the car and about for a while. I'm knocked. It's raining, been raining, and chance of rain the next few days. I'm making plans for the small retaining wall and filling in an area where the tent will be setup at. It's a spot kind of midway in the field. Nothing here is flat of course! Ha! I'll need to make a spot in the other field as well but I'll have some time grazing the first one to get that set up. I have some old metal roofing I'm hoping will work. There is an amish family with a sawmill down the road. Enormous pile of sawdust. Thinking to fill it in with sawdust. Not sure if I should mix it with anything. I'm sure I'll have to top it off next year. Depending on how things go I was thinking of how to make a platform where I could have something like two half circles.. and be able to bolt them together.. Then in the area I'll have it set up I could have posts put in. That way I could pack up the tent, unbolt the platform, move to the next grazing place, setup the platform on the posts, setup the tent on the platform. I'm not sure how that would work exactly, just a thought for the future.

I've been thinking over the bed situation. I've always wanted to make my own mattress. I'm pretty crafty. I had a place saved (homeofwool) that I thought to save up and buy a wool mattress. However having just invested in the tent and stove.. And having other things I need to be putting money to.. I priced out and did some searching to make my own mattress. For cotton ticking, yes ye o' fashion blue striped ticking, it'll be about $70. And from the website list of sizes and weights I estimated 40# of scoured wool to stuff it, $255. A big long tufting needle is like $6. I think some of the heavy cotton I have will work to do it. Then I just need to figure which side to put the zipper ($?) and I'll come in at around $350 for a double bed. Wool mattresses do best on a slat frame, being able to breath. I want to get some wood tools anyhow and I've access to wood so that'll be ok too.
 
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184 lambed this morning about 8am. 10# ram lamb. His weight surprised me. I'm usually good at guessing their weight but I guess looking at the rest of the lambs grow and being used to 25-40# older lambs.. He is so small compared to them right now..
My instagram post finding them this morning.

With these two late ewes I'd put them with 007 then after a week or so put in the other bigger ram too, to be sure they'd get bred. Well tomorrow is the due date so he is definitely the dad. Mary, the other ewe bred late, looks ready to pop. I checked her before getting ready for bed so she may go tomorrow. Nothing certain to show she's about to start labor, like imminently, but I've been checking back ends of these two and Mary looks ready to go very soon.
 
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Gosh yall I promise I'm trying to keep updating here.. Bad me..
Ok so the following day of my last post Mary lambed: https://www.instagram.com/p/CAq6nM-pOc9/
Both definitely sired by 007 (half mini cheviot). Here they are June 3: https://www.instagram.com/p/CA_RrGmJGmJ/
Here they are at 3wks old, June 16: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBgh3KWp-72/ They were 22# and 26# weighed that day.

Here is Benny the Border Leicester ram. Est 85# the day I picked him up, a month ago. I have to get the new platform scale useable, build a base for it so the sheep can actually stand on it. So no new weights til then.
https://www.instagram.com/p/CBHM6wyJt0U/

Here is Chonk the mini cheviot ram. He is my new definition of meaty! And at 3 months old (month younger than my lambs) entirely on grass! Swoon!
https://www.instagram.com/p/CCRk7V6pzuE/

This is what I was doing tonight... https://www.instagram.com/p/CCUpRR8J2DH/
Washing wool! I got one fleece done and have one to do tomorrow evening. I was talking to a friend (also sheep farmer) about sending wool to the mill for processing and she said hey we ought to go together and make a trip of it, take both our wool and save cost that way. Heck yeah! So this last fleece to wash, then I have one bag with two fleeces in it to skirt and add to a bag of alpaca. Then it will all be ready for this weekend and our girls day trip to the wool mill drop off.
Mine will be about 80# total in 9 different batches. Estimating costs to finish about $650 for processing. Estimating 50-60# roving back.

"Talking with a friend yesterday we got on topic of sock yarn. I got quick pics of one of my handspun socks. These are my favorite pair yet.
This is the kind of yarn I'm aiming to create with my flock. Soft and durable. This yarn is a blend of border cheviot and shetland wools. Processing and spinning this was part of a fleece judging class I took as part of my guild.
I have two daughters of the ram the border cheviot fleece is from. Today I'm adding five granddaughters.
And on we go with another years work. Another years fleeces. Another years offspring. Another year closer to the goal."
https://www.instagram.com/p/CBgB0UHJrxN/
 
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You know what that means?... New lambs! I bought five ewe lambs from my friend. Same farm 184 & 185 are from (half border cheviot, half shetland). These ewe lambs were sired by a half brother to 184 & 185 bred back to shetland ewes, so these are 1/4 border cheviot 3/4 shetland. They've been here nearing a month now and seem to be doing well. The day they got here I weighed them. I was going to weigh my lambs next.. the first one I did the case of the scale popped apart.. Oops. It's supposed to go up to 50# but I guess that really means 40# and with no movement, let alone a kicking 40+lb lamb... Ooooops..
https://www.instagram.com/p/CBgi-VTpJCi/
https://www.instagram.com/p/CB52huTpBfl/

I did get the new ewes weights though so when I get to weigh them again I'll be able to get avg. daily gains for them and 87.
225- 41# moorit, small white spot, we shall see if she carries spotting.
228- 37# moorit, light katmoget, so her wool is a creamy color and her face markings are much lighter.
229- 42.5# white.
230- 37.5# black, odd grey patch on her right front leg so we shall see if she changes color at all and what she might carry pattern wise.
231- 41.5# white.

Did you scroll back and count? I had to recount.. This brings me to 8 proven ewes and 12 ewe lambs.. 20 ewes! I juggled pros and cons for a full day before settling on buying the new ewe lambs. The final decision came down to growing the flock and culling hard. But you ask, how the heck do you grow the flock and cull hard? If I have 10 ewes I really want to keep all the ewe lambs and all the ewes. If I have 20 ewes I'm already on the way to a larger flock more quickly. I have more ewes so it's easier to say, hey self!, I have a bigger flock and get rid of the worst 2 or 3 producing ewes every year.. I am making room for keeping more ewe lambs from the rest of the ewes who are doing better. This increases the flock size and keeps daughters only from ewes that are doing the best. Commercial farms it's a 'rule of thumb' to cull the bottom 15% of the flock each year and breed the top 30% ewes to your choice ram for replacement ewes selection. Just like you wouldn't coddle one plant through a year and keep seed from it. No, you plant a bunch and keep seed from the plants doing the best. Same idea here.

The math goes along the lines of...
-2020 cull down to 8 proven ewes, 12 ewe lambs.

-2021 est 22 lambs born. Cull 2 worst ewes. (125% lambing rate of proven ewes)
18 proven ewes, 8 ewe lambs.

-2022 est 33 lambs born. Cull 4 worst ewes. (140%)
22 proven, 10 ewe lambs.

-2023 est 43 lambs born. Cull 4 worst ewes (150%)
28 proven, 10 ewe lambs.

-2024 est 52 lambs born. Cull 4 worst ewes (150%)
34 ewes, 14 ewe lambs.

-2025 est 72 lambs born. Cull 8 worst ewes (160% proven. 125% first timers)
40 ewes, 20 ewe lambs.

-2026 est 88 lambs born. Cull 8 worst ewes (160%, 125%)
52 ewes.......

Of course this is all variables. I might end up that this spring all the ewes do great but 2 to cull. Might have several with issues that are known to repeat and there is 6 to cull. Leaving me with either 18 or 12 proven ewes that fall. Maybe one year is a ram year and keeping the best ewe lambs means only 4. Maybe it's a ewe year and they are pretty much all doing great and I keep 10. Maybe my lambing rates aren't as good? Maybe my lambing rates increase faster? You never know until it's all finished and you have all the numbers in. That's why I like to doodle out lots of possibilities. When things change I will already have thought about a lot of different options.


84 and her mom, Midget. 84 is 1/4 mini cheviot. She looks the most like Chonk, the new full mini cheviot ram.
https://www.instagram.com/p/CBTpebkpIhf/
 
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Ok tent update.. I setup the tent and slept in it for two weeks. Using folded pile of quilts and comforters as a bed. Then thy back doth protest too much... And since my grazing plan got thrown out the window, and the sheep have been rotating in the permanent fence paddocks still.. I've been sleeping in my regular old room about three weeks now. The tent is still set up on the hill and doing well. Been through a few storms and one night I was sleeping in it we got some rain overnight then a soft drizzle in the early morning.

I'd been waiting for a few things to line up and get paid so I could order the ticking for the bed. Finally go to order it and joann fabrics was out of stock and it wasn't available for pickup at the closest to me store. So I go searching around and find some at actually a little cheaper price, From a shop in a historical town only about half hour from me and they sell most things you need to have your own tick and rope bed. I guess they are only online and do tours during the towns living history events.. Darn, I couldn't go pick it up.. Shipping wasn't bad so it evens out to the same price as just the fabric cost if joanns would have had it. Except I waited and waited and it was nearly two weeks before I got an email that it was being shipped. Urgh but ok fine.. This darn fabric went from half hour away, clear up to Cleveland, and is coming all the way back here to get to me. Cue my thousand mile stare...
So finally after all of that shenanigans it should be delivered tomorrow and I can finally sew up my mattress! After thinking about it I realized I'm going to need to fill it with straw. For one it will be lighter to move it. Secondly, since it's going in a tent, heat, humidity, lots of changes in temperature every day/night... Straw is affordable and wool will mold in those conditions. So for now I buy some straw and we see how it goes, then in the future or maybe this winter I can order the wool and replace my 'regular' mattress with it in the house. I ordered a yard extra than how much I thought I needed so hope to make some matching pillows. I have access to free buckwheat hulls I just have to finish cleaning them myself.

Monday the local auction is having a sheep/goat emphasis sale. It's the usual sale day but they try to do these 'emphasis day' thing to get more of certain animals on the same day. Since it's a smaller auction it helps bring more people in who want to buy or sell something. Usually you never know if there will be any sheep or goats. Might be tons of rabbits.. or none. Might be lots of calves.. or three. Since it will make it easier to get there early for check in and I only have 7 to take I decided to just take them there. Sometime I want to get to the big auction and check it out. It's an hour away but it's the big place to go in Ohio. Best prices. Next year I'll definitely be taking my lambs there.
That will leave me with the base flock 20 ewes, 3 rams. And the late ram lamb to be butchered. I thought it over a lot and it just doesn't make sense to keep 007 with Chonk here now. There is one version of breeding groups I could do and use him on the ewe lambs. Which would be good. But it would mean I'd have to have three paddocks with groups, plus section off half the barn for a small group, plus section off half the shed for a small group. In reality that just does not make sense to do. I'd have sheep in almost every permanent paddock and have two groups stuck in pens that I'd need to keep up bedding and water and make temporary hay feeders... Nope, not workable. So 007 will leave with the other ram lambs and just the breeding boys will stay.

Wool!
Tonight I finished washing the last of the wool. There are 9 batches total, 4 of which I've washed the wool. Saving me about $200. I'd love to be able to wash all of it and be able to pay myself instead of adding to the processing cost. But with taking it this weekend I don't have time to wash another batch of wool, let alone five more batches of wool. So it is what it is. This has been two years in the making plus all my work to get this far to be able to do this. So I'm trying not to harp on myself too much about it. There will be more wool. It's kind of amusing because washing is not a step that I would say is of the most fun. But laying out that clean wool to dry.. And gathering up the dry sparkly clean wool.. *Swoons!* Where's my fainting couch* And honestly I would really like to be able to pay myself for washing the wool. The more steps I can do and pay myself for instead of eating into costs, the better.
When I talked to the woman at the booth last year's fiber show she said usually 12 week turn around for processing. That would put it at being shipped back to be as finished roving in early to mid October. It seems like a long wait on one hand but I also know time goes so fast. It's already July and it feels like last month was shearing and lambing. I've got so much to catch up on anyways I'm sure it will feel like plenty quick by the time it comes back.
 
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What was that I said about being done washing wool? Last night I wasn't able to fall asleep, as usual, and my mind was circling the last bag of wool. Two fleeces from the neighbors commercial cross ewes. My best guess is dorset/hamp and probably some other cross, if not just totally a club lamb line that's had alot of different breeds crossed in. The wool is nice. The typical meat sheep wool I'd expect most larger scale flocks these days. The kind of wool people say "oh thats meat sheep wool, you don't want that". Well let me tell you those people have no idea about fiber. It's very useful wool. If the sheep are kept decently clean it's no different than the finest merino. Just a different wool suited for a different use.
Anyways.. Back at shearing time these two fleeces were bagged and I knew I wanted to spin some sock yarn for myself. Fast forward to this past few days I'd considered putting it with this brown alpaca I have. But that would make it about 50/50 wool alpaca which isn't suitable for the sock yarn I wanted. And I'm not set on the idea of how that wool would blend with alpaca. Hmm... So here I wonder at two in the morning when I should be sleeping... I have most of my stash going into these batches for processing, what the heck do I add to this wool? What would fit the same qualities and make a nice sock yarn? Better yet what the heck do I have left that isn't already in another batch of wool?!
........Eureka! I plod back down to the craft room, shuffling around nine bulging bags of wool nearly waist high in the dark to reach the light. More shuffling and ta-da there it is! The answer! I have a gulf coast native fleece I was going to spin when Shave 'em to Save 'em first came out. (See the american breed conservancy website for info about that I believe.) And a nice charcoal black border leicester fleece. It's real clean and the length isn't real long like longwool breeds can be. Probably a lamb fleece. These fleeces will blend nicely and make a nice sock yarn! I'll have to check after I skirt the cross fleeces and wash all of them but I think this will end up about 4# commercial cross, 2.5# gulf coast native, 2.5# border leicester.

Total for all the batches is 90# now. Then of course I realized I have a shetland fleece and a mutt half a fleece that would go really nice with the brown alpaca. I skirted and bagged it up too. That I won't wash. I haven't got the hang of alpaca yet. That batch will be 50/50 alpaca/wool but those fleeces will blend much better together.

Holy toledo you guys my craft room is going to be empty after this wool goes! Really really! I may reorganize... Maybe...
I'll have two fleeces left that are tagged for sale.. Two odd partial fleeces.. Two small bags of washed ready to process wool.. The last of the never ending scottish blackface roving for my eventual weaving a rug.. Two totes of yarn stash..
Geez how will I ever get by! Hahahaha...
I've just finished washing the cross fleece and the border leicester is soaking. Note to self, I need to try and get skirting done before it gets hot out. Blehhh. It's 88*F feels like 98*F. I have a box fan to blow across the wool drying rack so it should dry fine. It will be a little piled on more than I usually do, to get all three fleeces washed and out to dry today. Then I'll be done... With the wool anyway...
 
kadence blevins
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YESSSSS the wool went to the mill!!! *Happy dance*
Last minute plans changed last night and I had my sister come pick me up and crammed 90# of wool into her little civic car. That was.. entertaining.. in the dark.. So I stayed at her house so it would be closer for my friend to pick me up and transfer the wool to her (larger) car and go. My house would be an hour+ out of the way. So whatever I crash at my sisters house and get scolded by her fat cat on my lap, quite upset that I was not sleeping and everyone else was in bed. But to no avail, and as usual I couldn't sleep and finally fell asleep around 5am.. And my sister woke me up while she was getting ready to go at 7:30am.. Ohhhh yesss 2.5 hours of sleep..

The rest of the day was great. It was 3.5 hour drive there. My 10 packed bags and my friends 2 only full enough bags. Of course we get to talking about wool and sheep. And me and my friend each is our own wool. Then hearing about their icelandics. Then of course covid and how it's affecting their businesses. Then into meat processors. I knew some people were planning way ahead just in case but wowww... Apparently a lot of places don't have openings for processing until mid 2022! So if anyone is planning on taking animals you better make sure there is spots. So an hour and a half later the lady says hey what's the time because she had something she had to go do and me and my friends stomachs were growling in complaint.

So about 7 hours driving time and lots of really cool conversation. Large part of it about wool and sheep. Wool is expected back after halloween! Yay I'm so excited! This also means I need to keep occupied with grazing and breeding plans so I don't start counting down.. (*cough* 101 days *cough*).. With all the other things I'm catching up on hopefully that won't be too hard to keep busy!

Breeding- I've scribbled and scribbled. I think I've come to the final, or close to final, version of breeding groups for fall. The proven ewes will be CIDRed and in with Benny (BL). Two of the proven ewes will be in with Chonk (mini cheviot). All the ewe lambs will be with 87 (half meat/club cross of somekind). After the decided amount of time for the proven ewes to all be bred (should be bred anyway), *then* all of the proven ewes will be with Chonk til the end for possible clean up breeding. When they are moved then also Benny will be added to the ewe lamb and 87 group. The idea being to have both rams to cover the ewe lambs and have the best chance of them getting bred. This also keeps the ewe lambs from being bred by Chonk who is like a brick with legs (in the best way of course haha). Chonk will have plenty of breeding in the future but not with ewe lambs. At least not with what I have now.

2020
Benny- proven ewes/ ewe lambs clean up.
Chonk- two proven ewes/ proven ewes clean up.
87- ewe lambs.

The idea is to do what's called rotational breeding. After this year the ewes will be sorted into groups A, B, C. The ewe lambs I keep will go into the next group with a different ram.
2021
Benny- group A
Chonk- group B
87- group C
So any ewe lambs I keep that are from group A get put into group B. Any kept from group B get put into group C. Any kept from group C get put into group A. This way if you follow offspring: 2022 Benny daughters, 2023 grand daughters, 2024 gr-grand, 2025 gr-gr-grand daughters moved to group A being bred to Benny. And the same goes for each ram. This way even if I kept and bred Benny for the next 12 years he would only have four cycles of his own gr-gr-grand daughters and they would only be 14.25% his genetics.

I'm also keeping 87 on as a 'to be determined' spot. He looks ok but I'm not real attached. I sold his dad and was really curious how he will turn out, and what his wool will look like. I also know next year and going forward growing the flock I need a certain amount of rams for an amount of ewes to get lambing to happen close together. We shall see how he fills out. If nothing else the neighbors are still bringing their couple ewes down to me for breeding so they go where I want. And next year I'd be real interested to put him to his mom and the other meat cross ewe. It'll also be a lot on how many ewe lambs he breeds and what those lambs look like. If it's a flop then he'll go to the freezer and I'll have got a fleece from him.

Speaking of.. I weighed all the sheep, all 30, on Sunday then Monday morning the 6 extra ram lambs plus 007 the yearling ram went to the auction. So I got fleece close ups and realized Midget, 99, and 79 (99s daughter) could all be shorn. Mid August will be the half way date between this year shearing early (jan 28) and next year probably shearing early to mid March. Midget and 99 have long, open fleeces. Midget does fine with a full year fleece. 99 however starts to become a mess and her fleece is either really tedious to work or a total loss. So given that 79 is long and open too, and also really soft, I'm going to plan on just doing those three myself. We will see how their fleeces are spring/summer versus summer/winter.

So now the flock is at 3 breeding rams and 20 ewes. Plus the late ram lamb who soon enough will be getting weaned from mom and put with the big boys. He will be my freezer lamb this year. I'm not sure if yall care about this stuff so feel free to let me know anything you'd like to hear more about.

Weights
Proven ewes:
Ayreshire 126#
Mary 121#
Kitty 83#
Lydia 78#
99 66#
184 108.4#
185 87.3#
Midget 88.5#
Ewe lambs:
72- 40.5#
74- 55.3#
75- 40.9#
79- 47.4#
80- 41.6#
84- 60.7#
89- 32.6#
225- 36.6#
228- 40.4#
229- 42.4#
230- 40.8#
231- 45.4#
Rams:
87- 50#
Chonk- 66.8#
Benny- 71#
88- 41#

Since I culled most of the shetlands and problem ewes, and my last weight for them was last year, the proven ewes average 95#. We shall see what the ewe lambs weights are in the spring after lambing. I hypothesize that 225-231 ewes will trend close to shetland weight because they look very shetland type. My ewe lambs I think will trend a higher adult weight like my current proven ewes.

Check came back for the rams I sold at the auction. Decent prices. Next year I will definitely be taking them to the bigger, farther away auction, better prices there. But not bad and with how things are we would not have made it to that auction on time for drop off and I didn't want to keep all of the extras until fall. This will make the rotational grazing simpler with just the breeding rams.
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