Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Out of the Jug & Llama Watch, Round 2

We haven't had any more lambs born yet. A few of the ewes are walking "cowboy" as their udders are swollen beyond belief! Those lambs will come when they are ready to be born, I guess.

Yesterday, was day three in the jug for BFL X Cheviot lamb Helena. It was time to leave the jug. We weighed her - she had gained 2 lbs. 2 oz. in just three days! We tagged her and then we did something we haven't had to do before. We banded her tail. Shetlands have naturally short tails and don't need banding. Sheep born with the long tails are prone to fly-strike, which is pretty nasty, from what I have heard. So the crossbred sheep will need banding. Basically it involves placing a very thick, strong rubber band on her tail which cuts off blood supply; the tail is supposed to fall off in a week or two. I have been told the lamb usually runs around for about ten minutes and then calms down. Helena handled it better than I thought she would. She jumped around in circles a few times and wiggled her tush a bit, then settled down and was greeted by the rest of the flock.

Long-Suffering Husband and Helena

Helena greeted by Nessarose and Mina. Mom is keeping a close watch.

Llama Watch, Round 2
And as a side note, Nessarose has not had a cria. We are thinking she did not hold her pregnancy. We will breed her this year and try again. She certainly is showing interest in the lamb. I think she will be a good llama mama when her time comes. So now we move to Llama Watch, Round 2. Karma is 1/2 sister to Nessarose. They have the same sire, different dams. Her earliest due date was Monday.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Roundabout Acres First Lamb of 2009!

This morning I arrived home from work, walked to the barnyard and started counting ewes. Cheviot ewe 23 was missing. I walked around to the back of the barn and there she was - with a just-delivered black ewe lamb. Yeah! Our first lamb of 2009 and our first BFL X lamb. Exactly 145 days since our Bluefaced Leicester Dougal was put in with his girls. I watched the little darlin' take her first steps, noting how long and gangly her legs are compared to the Shetlands. Also, her hooves are HUGE compared to the Shetlands! Mom didn't want to go in the jug so that caused a bit of stress. But I was relieved that she kept knickering to her lamb through the fencing. I called into the house to my husband; he came out and helped me coax her inside the jug. Little Helena found mom's milk spigot right away and that long tail started wagging! In the picture below you can see the white "teardrops" below her eyes. This from the BFL and is called the English Blue pattern. (Becky, please correct me if I have that wrong.) She also has white along the edges of her ears.

Ewe 23 is a first time mom. She didn't want me getting close to her lamb; she was already stressed from the jugging so I gave them a little time before I "clipped and dipped" the umbilical cord. Last year, I didn't weigh any of the lambs. This year I want to keep track of how they grow, especially since we are breeding crosses, some of which will be destined for the freezer. Helena weighed in at 11# even. I couldn't strip mom's teats because she was annoyed with me. Fair enough. I heard the little slurpy sounds from Helena while she was nursing. I gave mom some molasses water, minerals, hay and a grain mixture. She was hungry!

As the lamb's bleats grew louder the greeting party came running into the barn. Five llamas and 13 other ewes were crowded around one jug. Especially interested was Nessarose, our llama who has been due for 20 days now. If she IS pregnant, maybe this will give her incentive to deliver that cria! If not, that's okay. We will try again for next year.

After I came out of the barn, I looked around to see who would be next. I took this picture of Cheviot ewe #7. She looks like she is smiling. Perhaps she is planning on lambing next.... Also, take notice of that wide stance - no this is not normal. Her bag is growing, growing, and growing. I really like the North Country Cheviot ewes. They are sturdy, mellow and friendly. I had heard that they were flighty sheep, but so far, the Shetlands are much more flighty than these girls.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Just call me Madame Shepherdess

We have no signs of a cria from Nessa yet. Time will tell. We are on Day 15 of Llama Watch, Round 1. This is so different than watching and waiting for ewes to drop their lambs.

We have one week before the first lambs are due; our barnyard is stuffed with groaning, waddling ewes. Well, I imagine they are groaning...they certainly are waddling! It brings to mind a "home for unwed mothers," as they used to say. The girls seem to be a bit testy with each other; there has been a bit more head butting between the ewes. As I wait for lambs, I invent stories about the ewes... Perhaps head butting is their way of taking out their frustration and jealousy over "their ram." It's barnyard trash-talk... . I put together three breeding groups, with expected lambs from the end of April through the end of May. Since I put the groups together, doesn't that make me the Madame? The Sheep Madame. Yes, every breeding season, you may call me Madame Shepherdess.

The first breeding group was put with Bluefaced Leicester ram Beechtree Dougal. We purchased him from Becky Utecht last November. He has a lustrous, purly fleece which is just luscious!! My goal with Dougal is to add his fleece qualities to our flock as well as more size for market lambs. He was put over four Shetland and two North Country Cheviot ewes. By putting a BFL over these girls we will get first generation crosses which are commonly done in the United Kingdom. The crossbred Mules, as they are called, can then be put to a terminal sire ram for a larger market lamb. I'm not sure that we will add the terminal sire to the mix next year. I want to see how we do with lamb size this fall. We will hopefully get at least a few Mule ewes to retain, and the rams which aren't whethered for fiber pets will be a nicer size market lamb. All these ewes appear to be pregnant; right now it looks like one of the Cheviot ewes and Roundaboutacres Bunny will be the first to lamb.

Beechtree Dougal

Little Red Oak Lyra (iset) and Roundaboutacres Bunny (black krunet.) To the right is Little Red Oak Bella (moorit HST - two rear socks)

Our two NC Cheviot ewes, #7 and #23. Bella is in the back. I really like the Cheviots ewes. They are larger but calm and mellow with the other ewes. I still haven't named them! I want a theme for the NC Cheviots - constellations, flowers, jewels, etc. Any suggestions??

Little Red Oak Lily (moorit) in front and one of the Cheviot ewes in the back. In this picture Lily is about 18 months old and the Cheviot is about six months. The Cheviots are definitely larger and blockier than the Shetlands. And their fleece is dense, dense, dense!

In the next post I will have pictures of the other two breeding groups. In the meantime, I am looking forward to more barnyard trash-talk!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

He is a Very Clever Man

The pictures say it all!

Last fall, I took this picture of Long-Suffering Husband and Shetland musket ewe Nugget. He was tipping her while we were having a "Spa Day" for the flock. You know, trimming nails, checking fleece, worming, shots, etc. The sheep don't really seem to mind too much but it is really tough on human backs. Tipping a sheep involves flipping them on their butt into a seated position, which subdues them. Of course, we have to catch them first. We don't quite have the technique down yet so our backs ache afterwards. WE need a spa day after the sheep have theirs!

Long-Suffering Husband (LSH) isn't crazy about the sheep. Actually, he much prefers the llamas but suffers me the sheep because I enjoy them and their woolly little selves. Sigh... In spite of this fact, he does help out ALOT, doing 95% of fence building, barn repairs, dirt moving, ALL the manure shoveling, most of the water hauling and a good percentage of the hay feeding. Because he and I sweat and toil on the farm and work off the farm also, I thought it would be wise to perhaps try to save our backs.

To that end, I purchased a portable head gate so we wouldn't need to tip the sheep as often. It came from in southwestern Minnesota. It's portable, lightweight and affordable. I will add more chain or bungee cord to make it work a bit better for our situation. It fits the Shetlands and is adjustable so it will work on the larger sheep as well. I think if I put a bit of nice hay down, the sheep would have something to much on and hardly notice they were restrained.

We used the head gate to restrain two of our rams, Roundabout Costello, a musket flecket, and Roundabout Baab, a white spot carrier. In mid-March, we rooed these two boys. They both have nice, soft, crimpy fleece and they were starting to lose quite a bit of their lovely fleece on the fences. I checked out a few websites on how to roo (hand pluck) a fleece. It only took a few minutes and LSH had the technique well in hand (so to speak.)

Above is Roundabout Baab and his lovely, soft, white fleece

Above is Roundabout Costello in an interesting pose... I think he is musket flecket. His fleece is very, very light in color with just a hint of grey and very creamy white at the base. Any opinions?

One thing I learned while rooing the sheep is that I was skirting at the same time. I only rooed what you see in the photo. I let the shearer finish the rest. The rooed fleece is very clean. I haven't gone through the sheared fleece yet so I will see then how much more usable fleece is left. Next year I will roo again. It didn't take long and it was enjoyable!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Llama Watch, Round One

Today is Day #3 of Llama Watch, Round One. We have two fabulously woolly llamas which we purchased from Shady Ridge Farm in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Sheila and Britt Fugina have been breeding Argentine Llamas for a number of years with a focus on conformation and fine fiber. April 7th was 345 days of pregnancy for Nessarose. Any time now, say within the next 21 days or so... she will hopefully deliver a healthy cria!

On our farm, we have had one lambing season. I now feel like I know more what to expect this year with our lamb crop, due to begin in two weeks. I am not overly confident, just a little experienced. We have no experience with the birth of a cria (llama baby.) Unfortunately, llamas don't "show" like sheep. They typically don't give the obvious signs like wide bellies and huge udders. We could have had her checked by the Vet with ultrasound but we did not want the expense. So we wait. She looks, perhaps, a bit larger in girth than last summer. But couldn't that be wool? Her prize-winning coat has lengthened over the winter. Hmm.

DH doesn't think she is pregnant. She may not be. She could have lost the pregnancy early on due to stress of the move to our farm. If she is not pregnant, she will be re-bred this fall. So we wait. Why Llama Watch, Round One? This Round belongs to Nessarose. Round Two will be when it's Karma's turn to deliver, which is at the end of April. Below is a picture of the Roundabout Acre llama herd. Nessa and Karma are on the right; in the center is gelding Rudy, with Mina and Pogo to his left.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Shearing Day on the Farm

Yesterday was a busy day on the farm. We had hay feeders to fill, straw to place and 20 sheep to shear. Our shearer arrived, set up and got to work. We had penned the ewes in the barn the night before, so they were dry and close at hand. On the left is a picture of BFL Dougal.

Our girls aren't due for another three weeks, at the earliest. Lambing will go until the end of May or early June. We intentionally bred a little later this year. We wanted to ensure that there was plenty of green grass for the ewes. It's tough to wait for our lambies when other shepherds are posting lamb pics all over their blogs! Below is a picture of a few of our girls after shearing. Overall, I was very happy with the condition of the sheep. We have bought our hay from the same place the last two winters and the ewes have been in good condition in the spring. One less thing for this new shepherd to worry about! I will start graining the ewes though, as the lambs gain more weight during the last six weeks of gestation.

Below is a picture of our two polled rams, Bluefaced Leicester Dougal (right) and BFL X NC Cheviot ram lamb Doogie. They look just fine after spending a few months with their girls!

After all the barnyard work was done, I was rewarded with 20 colorful fleeces. While waiting for lambs to arrive, I can at least soothe my anxiety by playing with fleece, right? I have a nice variety this year - single and double coated Shetland in a variety of colors; a white Bluefaced Leicester fleece, white and black Mule sheep, a BFL X NC Cheviot, and two NC Cheviots. My goal is to produce fleeces for a variety of handspinners. To that end, I have crossbred most of our sheep this year with the BFL or BFL X NC Cheviot. I am hoping for purly or crimpy luster added to the Shetland color; and more crimp and luster added to the NC Cheviot.

I have much work to do with skirting. I will have a booth at Llama Magic this year on Mother's Day weekend, May 9th & 10th. Llama Magic takes place at the same time/place as Shepherd's Harvest in Lake Elmo, MN. I placed a link on the sidebar for you to check it out! I will post pictures of the fleeces as I skirt them. Most fleeces are available for sale. Call or email for more info.

And, of course, there was snow on the ground this morning! But it is now 1pm and the snow is already melted. Is it really spring?