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It’s always difficult to decide who I want to and can keep and who to sell or in some cases, even cull.  We have limited space and resources, but each year we always are hoping to improve our flock with the new lambs, but we need to make space to keep additional animals.  This year is the second year for both our rams and we evaluated their lambs last year and in Butters’ case some of his lambs had lambs so we evaluated how well they handled that.  This year, Butters is moving on to another flock.  He will be used in a more purebred Texel flock and I hope his new owners enjoy his curious and mellow temperament and his fine lambs as much as we have.

We are keeping one of Butter’s sons as well as deciding between two Suffolk/Hampshire cross lambs we acquired from our neighbor to be our sires for the crossbred flock next year.  Jason, the Icelandic ram, will be staying one more year, but I’m not sure who we will be breeding his 2014 daughters to this fall.

We have a lot of tempting youngsters this year in both the crossbred flock and the purebred Icelandic flock.  Brigetta, our favorite Icelandic ewe, had a lovely little black gray ewe lamb this year.  She was born late in the season, but we have high hopes for her.  Ella has a really pretty black mouflon ewe lamb too.  Alex has his eye on Fritzie’s ewe twins for his 4H project, who are both black gray mouflon and full of spunk – one has the frosted mouflon look.  Andromeda’s black gray ewe lamb is incredibly flashy this year too.  Rhoda and Midnight both have nice solidly build black gray ewe lambs.  Fiona has a healthy looking black mouflon and Ivy has a pretty black gray/badgerface ewe – although Ivy has problems with mastitis and her lambs are being bottlefed some and not growing as well as some of the others.

Our ram lambs are growing up  nicely too.  We have two black mouflons, 4 black gray/mouflons,  a black gray, a black badgerface/mouflon and a white one.  I’m considering keeping one over the breeding season to breed with his half sisters, and there is one who always seems to have a really good FAMACHA score, if I could just remember which mother he belongs to –  he is one of the many black gray mouflons.

I like to see how fast they grow compared to each other and how they look overall, but parasite resistance is a big factor for us as well as diversity.  We try not to keep the same ewe’s lambs each year, but we still have more of Andromeda’s progeny than others.

Black gray mouflon ram lamb

Black gray mouflon ram lamb

Black mouflon ewe lamb - Ella's daughter

Black mouflon ewe lamb – Ella’s daughter

Fritize and her two black gray/mouflon girls.

Fritize and her two black gray/mouflon girls.

2015 lambing plans

Athena 9-14

Athena, out young Kiko doe, was a year old in November. She is not a trouble maker as we had feared from bringin in goats, but has a charming playful personality.

I love so many things about owning/raising sheep and now goats too:

 
·         The appreciation they give when fed – They always respond positively when they see me coming!
·         The annual miracle of birth in early spring when I’m tired of winter and need some excitement
·         The entertaining antics of lambs as well as adult sheep
·         Their beauty and the relaxation I get watching them graze contentedly or interact with each other
·         Their wool, which I enjoy spinning and making things with.
·         The income they make, which may only cover their costs, but gives them a reason to take up space on my farm
·         Getting to know the different sheep as individuals
·         Even their manure is useful, although it takes work to get it where I need it
 
Most important to me though is the opportunity they give me to learn about them in many ways.
 
I love the sheep for who they are, but without the learning and trying new things, I’d probably want to try something else eventually.   I enjoy going to trainings/meetings/webinars with other sheep producers to learn about their health, economics of raising, reproduction, nutrition, genetics, parasites and pasture management, etc.  I’m not a real social person by choice, but I enjoy being and interacting with others who have a common interest, furthering our knowledge and learning from each other.  I go to these meetings and bring back ideas to try out with my flock.  Some work and I incorporate them into my repertoire, some cost too much or I don’t have the facilities or numbers to try, and some don’t work for me, but I still enjoy the learning/experiencing process and file these ideas away for the future.
 
Last fall Kelly decided to add a couple goats.  One we bought bred, but the other needed bred so I ordered some CIDRs (Controlled Internal Drug Release) an intravaginal progesterone insert, to get her synchronized to come in heat so I could take her to be bred by a friend’s buck on a specific date.  I had a pack of 20 so I decided to try them on some sheep as well. 
 
My Icelandic sheep typically lamb in April and sometimes into May, but my other sheep (various breeds/crossbreds) usually start to lamb earlier so I thought it would be nice to have them lamb closer together.  My goal was to get the Icelandics bred for mostly March/ some early April lambs.
 
I have some issues with keeping two separate breeding pens outside so decided to keep the Icelandics inside in our two barn stalls.  Because they tend to cycle later, I didn’t necessarily bring them all in at once.  I kept ewes with inserts in in one stall and moved them to the stall with the ram after pulling the inserts.  I put raddle/marking powder on both my rams so I would know when the ewes were bred and after each Icelandics ewe was bred, I waited a couple days and put her back out with the crossbred flock.
 
I used CIDRs on all my mature Icelandic ewes and a few of the crossbred ewe lambs who were of a good healthy size for breeding.  I didn’t want them to lamb all at once so I staggered how I did it – trying not to have more than two bred per day.  I left the mature crossbred ewes out with their ram to breed on their normal cycles, but recorded the dates they were marked, except for five ewes who were bred before I started using the marker.  Those 5 have already lambed at this point.
 
Right now, I’m at the point right before I started using the marker/CIDRs.  We have 9 lambs on the ground from the five ewes who bred early and have definite breeding dates on all but a few (younger ewes who may not have been bred or bred later or black crossbreds where I couldn’t see the mark as well.  Waiting for my final results!  First estimated due date is “Black Tunis” for 2/19/15.
 
name
CIDR use
Insert date
Removal date
Days in
Breeding date
Days after
145 day due date
Breed
Black Tunis
2/19/2015
Jacob/Tunis/Romney
Friday
10/9/2014
3/3/2015
Texel/Icelandic/Finn
Milquetoast
11-Oct
3/5/2015
Texel/Icelandic/Finn
Mamasita
10/13/2014
3/7/2015
Icelandic/Jacob/Tunis/Romney
Grizelda
10/15/2014
3/9/2015
Icelandic/Jacob/Tunis/Romney
Brigetta
1
10/13/2014
10/18/2014
5
10/23/2014
5
3/17/2015
Icelandic
Fiona
2
10/18/2014
10/23/2014
5
10/25/2014
2
3/19/2015
Icelandic
Belle
10/25/2014
3/19/2015
Texel/Dorper
Ivy
2
10/20/2014
10/25/2014
5
10/26/2014
1
3/20/2015
Icelandic
Midnight
2
10/20/2014
10/25/2014
5
10/26/2014
1
3/20/2015
Icelandic
Juno
10/23/2014
3/22/2015
Goat-Kiko
Rhoda
1
10/13/2014
10/22/2014
9
10/28/2014
6
3/22/2015
Icelandic
Zena
2
10/18/2014
10/23/2014
5
10/28/2014
5
3/22/2015
Icelandic
Fritzie
2
10/24/2014
10/29/2014
5
11/2/2014
4
3/27/2015
Icelandic
Athena
1
10/18/2014
10/24/2014
6
10/29/2014
5
3/28/2015
Goat-Kiko
Andromeda
1
10/13/2014
10/18/2014
5
11/3/2014
16
3/28/2015
Icelandic
Primrose
2
10/22/2014
10/29/2014
7
11/3/2014
5
3/28/2015
Icelandic
Orca
11/3/2014
3/28/2015
Texel/Icelandic/Dorper
Goldie
1
10/13/2014
10/20/2014
7
11/7/2014
18
4/1/2015
Icelandic
Ella
1
10/13/2014
10/20/2014
7
11/7/2014
18
4/1/2015
Icelandic
Toasty
3
11/7/2014
11/12/2014
5
11/16/2014
4
4/10/2015
Texel/Icelandic/Finn
Bunny (sold)
3
11/7/2014
11/12/2014
5
11/16/2014
4
4/10/2015
Texel/Tunis/Jacob/Romney
Fern
Icelandic/BFL/Lincoln
Raven
Icelandic/Texel/Finn
Vanilla
Texel/BFL
Saphire
3
11/7/2014
11/12/2014
Texel/BFL/Lincoln
Tubby
Texel/Finn
Jacob/Texel triplet (sold)
3
11/7/2014
11/12/2014
Texel/Jacob
Hermione's ewe lamb, 3 days old, Texel/Tunis

Hermione’s ewe lamb, 3 days old, Texel/Tunis

So far this spring, we have had 7 lambs born with no issues.   All but one of the mothers was experienced and I found all the lambs either just born or already cleaned and nursing.  All 4 ewes managed to have their lambs on nicer weather days, despite it being January and February. That’s the way I like it!

Number 8 decided to come on a single digit temperature day.  I could tell his mom, a three year old Tunis ewe named Mini, was getting ready to lamb soon, with a full udder and swollen vulva, but not acting like it yet.  At 7 am, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go in and have to deal with a cold wet lamb.  My fingers were too stiff, and Mini was happily and calmly eating breakfast in the maternity stall, so I decided to wait.  I took an early lunch hour and went home to check her, hoping the lamb had already arrived.  No such luck. She looked ready, but not actively laboring so I gloved up.  No lamb in position at the opening, so I had to reach in a bit to find the little guy and figure out how he was positioned.  At first I found some random legs and was confused and stopped to think.  I tried again and after locating the top of a head with ears, I pulled his snout up towards me and into a better position, but he was slippery and I thought I’d see if Mini would take over.  I had tried to position his legs better, but he pulled them back from me (a good sign of life), but there was enough wiggle room so that I thought he could probably make it out even if not perfectly positioned.  I fed the other sheep an extra bale of hay and got some more hay down for later and when I looked back in, she had a little lamb just out, but was laying down.  I cleaned his face up and moved him to Mini’s head to  let her lick him a bit while resting.  When she got up and fussed like she was uncomfortable or straining, I rubbed him down with a towel to try go get him dry, warmer and invigorated and left them alone again.  I went inside and brought out warm water and the little one was up trying to nurse.  I checked Mini and her teats had some wax plugging up the holes, so I cleared those up and the lamb started to suck better now.   I realized I needed to get back to work.  I decided to let things go rather than waiting to see if she had a twin or going in.  I didn’t want to interfere with their bonding time and it was so cold, I though it would be better to let her work on one at a time anyway.  Also, Alex gets home around 3 and could check on things and let me know if all seemed well.  Of course today, he had a ton of homework and never made it out for chores until I got home anyway.  I was greeted by the site of Mini and her TWIN rams nursing happily!

Lamb Number 8 for 2015.  Texel/Tunis ram all fed and cleaned up.

Lamb Number 8 for 2015. Texel/Tunis ram all fed and cleaned up.

The three Texel/Tunis lambs.

The three Texel/Tunis lambs.

Goats!

Athena 9-14

Athena, out young Kiko doe, was a year old in November. She is not a trouble maker as we had feared from adding goats, but has a charming playful personality.

It’s been a while since I updated this page and our newest additions this year are two Kiko goats. We bought Athena as a 4 month old this spring. She was born in DuBois, PA but her mother died when she was only a month old and the lady who rescued her originally wanted to cut back on meat goats and focus on dairy goats so we were able to buy her. We health tested her and kept her in quarantine for over a month and I was afraid she’d get out of the fence when we let her out with the flock, but luckily she shocked herself several times and quickly learned not to mess with the fence. At first, the big ewes were rough on her, but she’s grown in size and confidence over the summer and seems to be right in the middle of the flock pecking order. We took her to one of Deb Gray’s (of Harvest Hills farm)  Nubian bucks to be bred and she should be due late March.
More recently, we brought home another Kiko doe who was supposed to be bred and was more mature – 2 years and had a kid this year. After coming out of quarantine we discovered that she was in heat thanks to the observation of Butters. our ever attentive Texel ram. I hope I was able to rescue her in time to avoid any cross species accidents, but we are planning to arrange a date for her next weekend with a goat buck when her next cycle is due.
At this point, we are not eager to own a goat buck. Our rams are not aggressive to people ,get along well with each other and don’t destroy property. I’d hate to ruin the positive dynamic they have in the flock by adding a third male.

After last year having disease problems in my tomatoes, I’m excited with how my garden looks this year, despite a few weeds. We have lots of cucumbers and the yellow squash is just starting. The pumpkins and winter squash are getting out of control and the corn and tomatoes are looking vigorous, but not really ready yet. Garlic is already harvested and I have a few onions that need brought in still. I actually made a batch of dill pickles this weekend with our bumper crop of miniature white cucumbers!

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Our small back garden. The squash are moving into the cabbage area.

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We put in a whole two rows of sunflowers, some for seed and some decorative.

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The flower and herb garden.

Mexican Black Sweet Corn

Mexican Black Sweet Corn

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Cucumbers in foreground and the big squash is growing up our compost pile.

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Tomatoes and peppers.

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Miniature white cucumbers.

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.

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