Sheep Portraits

I’ve been updating the Sheep for Sale part of the website. Here are some sheep photos.17029 Serrano-2                 This is the yearling ram, Cayenne. He is not for sale.17063-Gotham-2              Yearling ram, Gotham, is for sale.18006-head                Ewe lamb (Meridian Catalyst x Shadow Mountain Shelby).18026-head                   Ewe lamb (Meridian Catalyst x Meridian Delight).18046-head-2            Ewe lamb (bide a wee Buster x bide a wee Hallie).18031-head                 Ram lamb (Meridian Catalyst x Meridian Ava).18056-head-3                  Six-horn ewe lamb not for sale (bide a wee Buster x Meridian Jade). 18078 head             Four-horn ewe lamb, Janna, not for sale (bide a wee Buster x Meridian Janis)18025-head                   Oops! For sale, but not for breeding. Ugly-horned ram lamb. If you’re interested in lambs for meat see this link.


Evaluating Lambs

We had 81 lambs this year. I’d like to keep…well I’d like to keep a lot but realistically I should keep only about five. In fact since the JSBA AGM is here in August I should allow myself enough space to buy/trade from other people. So I have to narrow down my choices. I also have to figure out which lambs will be sold to other breeders and which may go to market. It would be nice to wait until they are all six months old or more to evaluate them but that is not realistic either. I am weaning the oldest lambs now and buyers want to take them home. (And I need to get them away from here because they are getting bigger and eating more.)

I take lots of photos of lambs as they grow to put on the Sheep for Sale part of the website, but sometimes I need to gather the whole batch to be able to make real comparisons. I did this about a month ago.2-horn ram lambs           First I sort and start narrowing down choices. This is two-horn rams.2-horn ram lambs-2           More two-horn rams. 4-horn ram lambs          Four-horn rams (except for the one I liked best who broke his horn this morning and I put him out so he would hopefully not keep knocking it on others). I bred to two two-horn rams and one four-horn ram last year. There are more two horn lambs than four. Some ram lambs are missing from these groups because I had already castrated those that I knew right away would not be candidates for registration (too much or too little color or horns that were too close). Time to narrow these into groups.4-horn ram lambs-3         These are rams who will be on the cull list. It doesn’t take much for a ram to be moved to that list. In this case two of these lambs (on the right) have wide spacing between the upper and lower horns. That seems like it would be a good thing, but usually those upper horns tip forward and sometimes there are other issues with them. I’ll report back with more photos as they keep growing. The lamb facing the photo on the left doesn’t have enough spacing between horns. His right side horns are already touching at the base leaving no room for growth. The other two both have a lot of freckling, although it’s hard to see without parting the fleece and one is scrawny.

4-horn ram lambs-2         Three of the potential 4-horn breeding rams. Nice horn spacing and shape so far. No sign of freckling. Color % OK. Nice looking fleeces. Britch wool not too high on back leg. IMG_7068             Out of two pens of ram lambs I pulled these four out as potential at this point. That is mostly due to the wide horn growth. There may be others in the pens but I won’t guarantee the horn spread yet. Of course, they all have to meet the other criteria mentioned above as well.IMG_7067           Here they are from the rear.IMG_7071           Another from the front showing the ram with the best horn spread so far.

On to the ewe lambs.4-horn ewe lambs            These are the 4-horn ewes. I will be less picky about the ewe lambs than the rams. The breed standard isn’t so stringent and each ewe doesn’t play as large a part in the flock as the ram. Keeping a variety of ewe lambs is a good way to maintain some genetic diversity (although that is a good reason to buy some lambs from other people in August).2-horn ewe lambs             The 2-horn ewe lambs.2-horn ewe lambs-4       Another view of the pen on the right. Notice the two lambs (sisters) in the upper left corner. Compare their horn growth to the others. All these lambs are about the same age. Those two are showing minimal horn growth compared to the rest. I don’t know if that is temporary and their horns will be just fine when they are mature or if those are scurs. This is another reason to look at the lambs in a group. All of the rest of these lambs look fine to me so it will be hard to narrow this down to only a few to keep.4-horn ewe lambs-2            These are some of my 4-horn choices. Preliminary selection is based on wool and lack of freckling in the lamb and the dam.4-horn ewe lambs-3              The same group from the rear.  I don’t fault the sheep for their rear leg position, but from this photo it would be the lamb on the left that I’d take to a show.2-horn ewe lambs-3            Two horn lambs that I like.2-horn ewe lambs-2          From the rear.

Uh oh.  I have selected a few more than my original five or fewer. There will be more selection work ahead.

Meet the Sheep

Meet the Sheep is our spring event when we invite the public to see sheep and watch fiber activities. I haven’t kept track of how long we have been doing this but I have pictures from 2009 and I think we’ve been at it longer than that. Meet the Sheep comes off smoothly now with Farm Club members handling all of the outside activities. I spend most of the time in the shop but I get out occasionally to take some photos.

IMG_6237             Farm Cub members are invited to be vendors. This is Jackie with Sheep to Shop.DSC_9492                       These are some of her handspun, handknit pillows.IMG_6241                   Colleen has Fiber Confections.DSC_9488                      She usually sells at the Davis Farmers’ Market.IMG_6242                   Gynna makes socks.DSC_9479                       Here are some of her socks knit from my Anderson Ranch yarn and Timm/Jacob yarn.DSC_9471                 Joy sells dye plants…DSC_9454          …ready to use for dyeing and ready to grow. Her butterfly is made from a Zoom Loom square.

Farm Club members also demonstrated fiber activities. Alison and Doris were processing fiber, Laura was weaving on the inkle loom, and Lisa wove a tapestry on the Lilli loom.

DSC_9397                Of course, it’s all about the animals, especially the lambs.IMG_6230          Betsy, Mary, Sue, and Marina helped children pet lambs.DSC_9520              My little goats were an added attraction this year since Julie, who usually brings goats and bunnies, couldn’t be here.  DSC_9405                 This fence helped keep the kids in one place. Moms could relax temporarily.DSC_9417                  I saved the small field behind the shop so that the sheep would be enticed to come to fresh pasture for the weekend.

An new activity was Running Through Puddles. This activity is not offered every year, but the children enjoyed it this time.

Bronagh Lambing

While I’m working in the barn I often take photos of the lambing process–partly to amuse myself and partly to use as a resource when new sheep raisers ask about the lambing experience. It is useful to know how much time there is between seeing a ewe in labor and when lambs are born, time between deliveries of twins, time it takes for a lamb to start nursing. There are wide variations in these figures, but I like to be able to show a “real-life” scenario.

This is a ewe named Windy Acres Bronagh who lambed a week ago.Bronagh lambing-1                   I saw her at about 7 a.m. and knew that she was in labor. The first sign of labor is often just behavior. You have to know what normal behavior looks like to know when something is different. I spend a lot of time looking at my sheep.Bronagh lambing-2                   A more obvious sign is seeing the sac emerge when the ewe has contractions. Bronagh lambing-3                  The first lamb was born about 7:20 and I brought the lamb inside the barn.Bronagh lambing-4                   It sometimes takes much longer before the second lamb is born, but this one was coming within five minutes.Bronagh lambing-7

Bronagh lambing-8                     That’s the first lamb getting up within ten minutes of birth.



Bronagh lambing-10            Both lambs were nursing within a half hour.IMG_5464                 This is the lamb board. These lambs were #49 and 50.

18050-5                       This is one of the lambs one week later.

Lambs, Lambs, Lambs

Are we getting tired of lambing posts? It only happens this time of year.

IMG_5308               Do you remember this lamb from a couple of posts back? Trista had a 10+ pound lamb and then almost two hours later a 5 pound lamb. She didn’t want the little one and I struggled to get it to nurse. I ended up milking Trista and tube feeding the lamb colostrum. I left the lamb with Trista but she became increasingly less happy to have it around and more hostile.

The lamb wouldn’t suck on a bottle and I was getting very frustrated. It’s one thing to have to feed a lamb every four hours, but then when it doesn’t suck it’s maddening. You get the nipple in the mouth, the tongue hangs out the side and the precious colostrum goes everywhere. (This brings back frustration of trying to get Brown Swiss calves on a bottle. The Milking Shorthorns were fine, the Brown Swiss were not.)

A solution presented itself the next day.

IMG_5361                    I saw this in the barn. This lamb was standing hunched up like a lamb does when it doesn’t feel good. This view from the top down shows how large it’s belly is and it was tight as a drum. From previous experience I suspected intestinal atresia, a malformation of the digestive tract where the intestine is not complete. The lamb eats normally at first and then there is no where for the milk to go and this lamb was already over 24 hours old–it didn’t have long to live and was in great discomfort.

When a lamb dies if you put the fresh skin on an orphan lamb sometimes you can trick the mother into thinking that it is her baby.  I went to the house for my new knife (purchased for when I need to necropsy or skin something and the sharpest thing in the house has been a pocket knife). By the time I came back to the barn the lamb was dead.IMG_5310                In addition the lamb had stopped nursing so the ewe was at risk of mastitis as her udder filled, even though there was a remaining twin. One side had started to fill more and become uncomfortable. That starts a vicious cycle where the ewe won’t let the lamb nurse and that side of the udder gets worse and worse. This is a photo of milk from Trista, the orphan’s mom. I got over two cups of milk from the ewe with the baby who died.

The trick was going to be to get this lamb who had never nursed on her mom to nurse on this mom.

IMG_5364                  I made a little lamb jacket out of the skin by cutting a neck hole and leg holes. It’s kind of hard to tell if you don’t know that’s what you’re looking at. IMG_5365-2                 The new lamb was smaller than the one that died so this jacket was a little large. The mom wasn’t convinced at first that it was her baby, but she didn’t outright reject it. The lamb had eaten (been tube fed) just two hours before so it wasn’t hungry. But later that night it was hungry. It was on it’s feet and when I held the ewe still it nursed! 18028                  The next day the jacket was beginning to smell. The idea is that at first the mom smells her baby and eventually gets used to the new lamb smell. So our transition was original lamb smell mingled with new lamb smell, new lamb smell mingled with dead smell, all new lamb smell. I had cut a portion of the skin off to get more of the new lamb smell and because I wanted the lamb to be able to adjust to the cold when the second skin came off.  But this skin jacket was so big that at that point it got tangled up and I took it off.

I kept the ewe and the lambs in a pen for several days so that I could watch. The ewe slept with her lamb and not the new one. She would stomp when the lamb tried to nurse but if I went in the pen she resigned herself to it (almost rolling her eyes) and stood there.

Mae-18028              We have success. I haven’t had to hold the ewe for a few days while they have been in a group pen. They will go out tomorrow and I’ll keep an eye on them. But I think the baby has a new mama.