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Snowman and his mother Fern

Snowman and his mother Fern

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Friday with little newborn “Mud”.

We had two single ram lambs born this week. Both were 12 pounds at birth and have a Texel father and the same Icelandic grandfather. They are also very different. “Snowman” born 4/14 was born on clean straw and received a little help coming out since I wanted to go to bed and Fern seemed to be at a standstill with some feet sticking out. Snowman’s mother, Fern is half Icelandic and the other half is longwool background. He has amazingly beautifully white curly fleece – almost glowing with opalescent whiteness. He really resembles his longwool heritage in wool quality, but has the basic Texel look. I am really eager to see how his wool looks as he grows.

“Mud” on the other hand, was born 4/16 outside next to our hay feeder and covered in ugly yellow stuff and mud. I saw him when I got home from work and carried him into the barn in my dry clean only pants very carefully.  His mother, Friday, following with loving concern. His wool is hairy looking and longish. Friday’s mother is 75% Texel and ¼ Finn and Friday grows a very long, Icelandic looking coat, but has a big build like her mother. Mud has the short tail and shaggy coat of the Icelandic, but the face, coloring and chunky build of a Texel.

Chicks are Here!

Chicks are Here!

We sent out some eggs to be hatched and they’re back. The mothers are mostly Black Copper Marans as well as a possible Black Australorpe, Splash Maran and a Cuckoo Maran. The father is a splash Maran, but we also have a Black Copper Maran who was with the hens for a while.

Shearing Day

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Pre shearing pic – Goldie is on the right (white scurred Icelandic). Black Tunis has her triplets and Cotton, the Jacob is in the background left.

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Shorn ewes having their breakfast. Zena, the yearling Icelandic ewe is on the right looking at the camera.

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Two of our Maran roosters enjoying the pleasant moring.

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These two are my favorites so far. They are half Texel and a quarter each BFL and Lincoln. We didn’t shear their mother Fergie today( That’s her butt on the right because I want to let her wool grow longer.

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Butters with Milkquetoast. I sheared Butters a couple weeks ago and Milquetoast should be pregnant by him. She is Kelly’s half Icelandic daughter from last year.

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Butters is our Texel ram. He is very friendly and likes to follow me around.

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Kelly’s lambs are 7/8 Texel and were 13 and 11 pounds at birth, a ram and ewe.

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Orca is half Icelandic, 1/8 Dorper and 3/8 Texel. She’ll be a year old this spring and looks like she’s probably pregnant, but not due right away. She’s very friendly.

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Black Tunis has triplets this year and Mamasita, the grey ewe, is her two year old daughter.

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Grizelda is Mamasita’s twin. They are half Icelandic, 1/4 Jacob and about 1/4 Tunis, with a little colored Romney. Both had large ram lambs last year and Grizelda was bred by both our rams and is due in a couple weeks.

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Checkers and Jason

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Bell our bottle lamb in the newly set up Creep area.

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Mini the Tunis and her ram lamb. SHe has a messy shearing job because I sheared her a couple weeks ago.

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Goldie and Checker with some other Icelandic girls. They want fed inside instead of outside I think!

Today we had our sheep shorn and even our llama, Checkers. It was nice out this morning, but now it’s snowing. They don’t look happy, but they got extra food and fresh/dry bedding so that helps! They do look clean though!

It looks like all but two of the yearlings are pregnant.  Our young Tunis and the smaller Icelandic yearling, Ella, don’t look pregnant, but all three crossbred yearlings and Zena (Icelandic) look like they are and all the older ewes are pregnant or have already lambed – so that’s 20 to go but we’ll be lambing through April most likely.

The two Jacob ewes, Lavender and Cotton, look like they could lamb any minute.  Lavender’s 147th day after breeding is Monday so we really do expect her to lamb soon.

Rocky the Suffolk Lamb

Kelly bought a Suffolk ewe from our neighbor this fall. She wasn’t supposed to be bred, but there was a slight chance and “surprise” she popped out two lambs in January on one of the coldest nights.

Her tiny ewe lamb only lived for 11 days despite us caring for her in the house and bottle or tube feeding her, but Rocky the ram lamb (now a wether) has been thriving and is a month old now. He broke his leg a few weeks ago, probably because his mother is really jumpy, but is starting to put weight on it now and is growing well despite his injury. We’ll probably put him out with the other sheep within a week or so, but wanted to keep his splint dry and clean while he heals.

Proud Mama

Proud Mama

“Black Tunis” is probably the most productive ewe in our flock and also the oldest. She raised nice big healthy triplets last year and hopefully is planning to do it again. Her father was a purebred Jacob ram and her mother was mostly Tunis with a colored Romney great grandsire. She isn’t impressive looking, but is a dedicated mother. Her lambs this year are sired by a young Texel ram. Born today, February 25, 2014 7.5 # black ewe lamb, 8 # black ram lamb and 9 # white ram lamb.
We have her twin two year old daughters in our flock as well – Grizelda and Mamasita. Sired by an Icelandic ram, each produced lovely large ram lambs last year and we have high hopes for them in 2014 as well.

"Butters" with Kelly, Milquetoast and Orca

“Butters” with Kelly, Milquetoast and Orca

Jason, surrounded by some of his ewes

Jason, surrounded by his ewes

As of Saturday afternoon of 9/28, we separated our flock and put out our two new young rams with their respective breeding groups. They first went through somewhat of a quarantine period while I did fecal egg counts on them before and after worming.   Jason, the Icelandic ram, still had a few lingering eggs so I wormed him again before putting him out in the front pasture with our 12 registered Icelandic ewes , including two 2013 ewe lambs.

The Icelandic ewes were probably not cycling that early, but I needed to get the crossbred ewes going because some were cycling already and I am hoping for some late February/early March lambs from them. The ram we are using for our cross/meat flock is a purebred Texel ram lamb, born late March of this year. My son wanted to name him “Butters” despite my thoughts that’s it’s not really an appropriate ram name, but Alex says it’s because of his butter colored wool when you part it.  So his name is “Butters”.  He is a very nice ram, both appearance wise, with the solid  and meaty build that his breed is known for as well as a calm and friendly demeanor.  We still keep an eye on him when we are in the pasture with him though.  He has been busy with the cooling weather.  His ewes are a rowdy bunch and I have at least one definite breeding date for Lavender, the Jacob ewe, and they seem to be constantly running around and playing with each other, although some have minor limps due to too much silliness so I’ve been trying to catch the limpy ewes to see if it’s anything I can treat. Other than a hoof that needs trimming they seem to be minor things.  His ewes consist of two 75% Texel ewes and three of their half Icelandic daughters, two are 2013 lambs.  There is also one black 75% Icelandic lamb with Texel/Finn in her.  We also have a Lincoln/BFL ewe and her half Icelandic daughter, two purebred Jacob ewes, leftover from when I bred Jacob sheep and a large black Tunis/Jacob ewe and her twin half Icelandic daughters.  My husband also is planning to bring home a Suffolk ewe soon from a neighbors, but she’ll have to spend some time in quarantine before going on pasture with the group.  We have two Tunis ewes who are being bred to a big Tunis ram belonging to another neighbor, but the Tunis “flock” are Jade’s FFA/4H show sheep.

Jason has been carefully watching his Icelandic ewes too although they haven’t seemed very interested in him yet and mostly are just begging for food when they see me – they have a much smaller pasture so I have to feed them hay.  I noticed what might have been some muddy hoof marks on the backs of a couple of my older ewes yesterday afternoon and think I saw Jason chasing Brigetta today.  Brigetta had late March lambs last year so maybe things are finally starting in that pen as well!

Violet Green Swallow.  This is also the Meadowlark's favorite singing perch.

Violet Green Swallow. This is also the Meadowlark’s favorite singing perch.

Last year we had a drought and our pasture was like a dead zone.  I remember walking through it hardly even finding a grasshopper and the dogs couldn’t find field voles, which are usually everywhere.  It was really barren of life .

This spring we added some new seed and kept the sheep off the pasture as long as we could and let them on to areas gradually.  Not necessarily managed intensive grazing, but at least partly managed grazing.  We have mowed about two thirds already since it’s starting to go to seed, and the sheep are working on the last un-mowed section while the rest of the pasture rests and regrows.

For some exciting reason, we have attracted a pair of Eastern Meadowlarks who have made their home in the NW corner of our small pasture.  I have not seem a Meadowlark since I moved to Ohio in 1995.  We have had Killdeer nest in our pasture almost every year,  occasional Bluebirds and Violet-Green Swallows and we do actually have a nesting pair of the Violet-Green Swallows in our remaining nest box.  They, and a few barn swallows, accompany me across the pasture each morning and afternoon while I check on the poultry who we move across the sheep pasture in summer.

I know Kelly wants to mow that last third of the pasture sometime soon, but I’d like to keep a section of the pasture un-mowed so we can protect our new Meadowlark family.

In the above picture, taken earlier in May you can see that our neighboring farm planted a cover crop of grass hay next to one side of our pasture last fall.  It’s now been cut, ploughed up, and planted in corn, but is shown in the above picture.  I think having this area nearby gave various small animals a good place to overwinter as well as looked nicer than bare soil.

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