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Lambing Season Started Today  RSS feed

 
Travis Johnson
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It is about 3 months late, but this fall was especially warm which kept the sheep from breeding. I am not too happy about that as we will miss the Easter Market, as well as 4H market, but it was nice to have lambing started at least. In any case started out 50/50; one ram-lamb, and one ewe-lamb twins. Now the race is on. No sleep for the next few months checking sheep every few hours!

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Tj Jefferson
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Well it has been fun reading your input on here. I live vicariously through your real farm adventures. My livestock consists of a rabbit.

When you are above water let us know the stats!
 
wayne fajkus
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We lost a sheep and her triplets this week. We are 0 for 2 with breeding. A couple months back we lost a calf but saved the momma. Horrible luck.
 
Travis Johnson
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Well it has been fun reading your input on here. I live vicariously through your real farm adventures. My livestock consists of a rabbit.

When you are above water let us know the stats!


You are in sorry shape if you live vicariously through me. What a CRAZY DAY!

We are getting a new Vet, and today he was coming over to talk sheep and look at the flock, mostly in a get-to-know you sort of way, but also because we are growing our flock by 300 sheep soon. So I started my day at 3:30 AM getting some statistics and mortality rates in order.

But I wanted him to get a look at our current feed, and of course we were all out so I had to get a few hay bales before the wife left to drop the kids off at school (we use our log trailer behind the Ford-Explorer to get hay). So I rushed to get that done

Then I had to rid my lambing pen of a dead sheep. The Federal Vet came out and got its brain stem for research and so it was pretty gruesome looking in the barn. In moving that outside I noticed the newborn lambs.

So we took care of them, moving the Ewe and two lambs into the lambing barn and then vaccinating them, giving them Bo-Se, tags, tail docking, etc.

Then the Vet came and we talked with him for 2 hours. It was good and we are going in a new direction there, kind of high-tech in ultrasounding the sheep and sorting by singles, twins, triplets for better nutrition. That was great, but not the $300 bill! Yikes.

We no more than sat down for brunch-coffee (my day did start at 03:30) when a coyote hunter showed up to grab the dead sheep for coyote bait.

Then Katie and I researched how to incorporate a vet are in the new barn. That took a bit, and then it was lunch.

Then we took care of our sheep, and discussed selling a few cull ram-lambs and a breeding stock ram. We had the latter on a for sale sight, but got no interest so we figured we would call the cattle dealer on Monday. Nope, the Cattle Dealer saw the ad and wanted to know since he was in the area if he could buy it on his way by. Sure, why not.

So he talked a bit as he always does and we got a better idea on whee to get 300 sheep of the breed we want and how much it will take to truck them here.

Then it was time to cut up enough firewood to go a few days as we were out.

Then dinner...

And here I am at 17:30.

As I said, a CRAZY DAY!



 
Tj Jefferson
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A dollar a sheep for an ultrasound is a good deal I would think. I mean the informed consent with each sheep must have taken all day!

Its what they say, young men dream of proving themselves in conflict. Middle age men dream of farming. Old men dream of urinating.

 
Tyler Ludens
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It's the "simpler life" people dream of, Travis! 
 
Travis Johnson
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Tyler I am laughing with you, in part because some days it is pretty chaotic. My wife had a friend, who through unfortunate circumstance ended up homeless, and so we took her in for a few months, and three days of staying here she was like, "Is your house this crazy every day?"

Kind of!

Honestly it is not always that bad, but lambing season is a huge question mark because we might be about ready to head to church, or go out on a date and suddenly have to deal with twins in the barn. More than once my wife, who likes to dress up when going out, has been in the barn in a miniskirt and high heels scooping up a newborn set of lambs. It is pretty comical to see.

I grew up on a dairy farm where life was pretty much work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, so I am accustomed to the workload of full time farming. So to that end I try to show others who may think farming full time is nothing more than picnics in the back forty with their families; is not reality. Full time farming is often very stressful, not lucrative at all, and requires a lot of labor hours. BUT, if I preach that message too much, while I am trying to be accurate, I am also doing a disservice to people because having time, we can literally enjoy picnics in the back forty.

I cannot count the number of times we have done just that. It is one of the things we want to teach our four daughters, that while we are not rich, we can do other things others cannot; like build fir bough forts in the middle of winter, get water from a nearby stream, and have cocoa over an pen fire. Or my wife and I can have brunch beside a big round bale overlooking the valley. Or have the kids go and discover geostones out in the woods. So life does not all have to be about work and worry, there are good points too.

Everyone has 24 hours in the day so Katie and I are not any busier than anyone else, we just fill those hours with life.
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David Livingston
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Fun and Games  What type of sheep are you after ?
 
Travis Johnson
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Tj Jefferson wrote:A dollar a sheep for an ultrasound is a good deal I would think.


I wish it was $1 a sheep, more like $4000 for 350 sheep. I did not have that done, but he wants me too. At first I thought it was a good idea, but now I am not so sure. I am kind of dumb, and am more of a "chewer", it takes me awhile to think things through completely.

By that I mean knowing what is in your lambs would be nice to know, so that during gestation would could seperate them depending on singles, twins and triplets, BUT...that is a lot of money. At $100 per sheep profit, that means 40 lambs go to slaughter just to pay that once a year vet bill, and its something we cannot change. By that I mean, the lambs are what they are, singles, twins or triplets. Paying $4000 does not let me adjust those percentages.

My thoughts on this now is, rather then spending money on testing sheep, why not get a nutritionist to set a ration based on the assumption ALL sheep are going to be twins? Most do anyway, and we would not be saving enough on feed from what little bit we are over-feeding the singles. In other words, lets say Katie and I over-feed the sheep with singles by 5 tons of extra feed, even though we produce it ourselves that feed has a cost. Its around $20 a ton, so I am only talking $100 in extra feed. At $20 a ton I can feed a lot of feed out versus a $4000 ultrasound bill.

Now we run the risk of losing triplets, but we have few triplets anyway, so what we would gain in a few extra lambs would not justify the cost of ultrasounding. I think a ewe with triplets would get enough nutrition anyway at twin rate to sustain it, it just would knock it down going into lactation. But we could always bottle feed them. That would ease the strain on the mother during lactation.

So that is a long way of saying I think investing in a good nutritionist would be the best course of action. I think we would get a lower mortality rate that way, with the least expense. I am not saying we are going to kick the Vet to the curb, oh no, but at $200 just to show up for an hour, its going to be a limited amount and done for vaccinations and spot checks. I think the money should just be invested in nutrition.
 
David Livingston
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imagine they are all having twins ? ( That was the advantage of those Icelandic sheep I mentioned before )
David
 
Travis Johnson
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David Livingston wrote:Fun and Games  What type of sheep are you after ?


Corriedales. Maybe Tunis, but I am not sure yet. Corriedale's in large numbers are often hard to find, kind of like finding Montadales east of the Mississippi River. They are more of a range sheep, they had their issues as well, but I liked them.

I have tried just about every breed there is:

Hampshire
Suffolk
Montadale
Blue Leister
Katadin
Tunis
Romney
Corriedale

I think that is it, but I am probably missing some. Anyway I just always end up getting rid of them and sticking with the Corriedales. Right now I am impressed with the Tunis, but I have have yet to see any of their lambs and that is where a breed is won or lost. Mothering ability, milk production, lamb weights at birth, etc.
 
Travis Johnson
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I am more stunned then anyone, but the credit goes to my wife.

We had twin lambs born last night and it was -5 degrees out, the ram-lamb about 3 pounds and the ewe-lamb about 2 pounds. I had just checked for lambs at 3 PM, and at 5 PM they were so cold their ears were blocks of ice and their hooves were frozen to their knees. Both were limp and lifeless and if it had not been for their chest moving, I would have thought they were dead.

So we bring them into the house which is standard protocol. Naturally you cannot warm them up until you deal with kytosis or you will put them in antiphelic shock and kill them that way. So I inject them with 3 cc of A and D and 5 ccs of Dextrose as the wife rubs them dry with a towel and gives them enimas. Sitting next to the wood stove they start to thaw, but their mouths are closed tight, so we just wait. By 7:30 PM they are starting to bleat in pain (a good sign), and then by 8:30 PM they are tossing their head about in spasms (another good sign).

I went to bed, but at midnight the wife notices they have their heads on the floor and their tongues are no longer flicked back against their esophagus (which is why you NEVER give a feeding tube to a cold lamb), and makes a bottle. Both suck it down, and with warm milk in their rumens they perk up and stand. At 3 PM when I get up for my lambing shift and to check the sheep for more lambs, they are walking all around.

A complete and amazing recovery. This is on par with some other amazing recoveries, but it never ceases to amaze me when it happens.

For other sheep farmers; never assume a cold lamb is dead. They come back from near death for a full recovery.

 
Travis Johnson
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Lambing season is now in full swing. We are averaging about 3 lambings per day so Katie and I are busy tending to them all. I go to bed from 8 PM to 2 AM and she goes to bed from Midnight to 6 PM, checking of course every 2 hours for new arrivals.

So far we have only had a few lambing deaths so the mortality rate is really looking good this year. There is a saying, "when a Shepard gets sleep during lambing season, lambs die", and that has been the issue here. Yesterday I awoke for the 2 AM feeding, but was so tired I fell back asleep...not intentionally but exhaustion does that, awoke at 4 for the 4 AM feeding and went out and found a lamb frozen to death. That sucked, but for the most part they have been big and healthy, singles mostly this year, and a lot of ram-lambs, about 60% ram-lambs and 40% ewe-lambs which is okay. More ewes means a bigger flock next year, and more ram-lambs mean more profit this year. Since we got some big brawny lambs, we might keep a few, since we are in hopes to buy a few more sheep this year so we can use our rams for breeding them to get the genetics we are after.

So all is well here, churning along nicely. VERY exhausted from the lambings, logging in waist deep snow, tending to 4 daughters...but it is lambing season, this is the best time of year on a sheep farm!
 
Travis Johnson
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Drat...should have kept my mouth shut.

We had a newborn lamb this morning that would not stand well enough to suckle off its mother. Polio I think. Too bad, it is a very robust lamb and really might thrive at the right place. It can stand, just on very wobbly legs. I stomach tubed the first feeding, then tried the bottle for the second go-round and was surprised when he sucked it right down. I'll feed it for a day or so, but if it does not get better I will see if anyone wants a pet bottle lamb. You would be surprised, people like these pet projects, taking a weak animal and nursing it back to health, then giving it back when they are done because they don't have room for a grown sheep.
 
Dana Jones
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I'm a sheep newbie on my second lambing. I love reading about your adventures. It's great when everything goes well, it sucks when you lose them. Keep posting!
 
Travis Johnson
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Thank you, and yes it seems there is never a dull moment around here. Awhile ago a friend of my wife’s ended up in a homeless shelter, and so we took her in, and on the third day she asked, “is things always like this here?” yep, kind of crazy most of the time.

I should have probably updated this thread as I went, but lambing season just rolled along, and continues too, with a lamb or two every day, or every other day now. Not so hectic, but always a surprise, like yesterday when we got a all black lamb, and an all white one…from the same mother and father! The mother rejected it so they are in the house now…yeah.

Overall, I think the success of any farm is remembering where you came from no matter how big a farm gets. I started out with only four sheep…yes only four, and I remember those early days. Being afraid to give injections, nervous about pulling lambs, scared to death to give feeding tubes; those are real concerns when you care about your sheep and do not want to mess it up. But a person learns, things become easier, you adjust your methods to your farm, and you get better.

I realize for some people they are holistic and my farm is not. Even if a farm is organic, under the National Organic Standards a farm must treat a sick animal with antibiotics if required. That is why I try to be specific on sick livestock, giving the names of the injections, the amounts and even where to get the stuff in case a person does not have it at the house.  I understand if a holistic farm does not use them, but at the same time, for everyone that posts, they say there are ninety nine lurkers who do not, and sometimes search engines take people to forums for their questions. If they can read what to give, where and when, then maybe my experience can help someone that has a troubled sheep. More importantly, I can tell a person what NOT to do!

Katie and I also just try and make one big farm improvement per year so that we do not get burned out. It might be buying a piece of equipment, or clearing forest into a new field, or building a barn; something so we make things a bit easier on ourselves. We also track everything, from sheep traits, to production per day, to hours spent farming, finances, everything. That keeps us on the efficient side.
 
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