Friday, January 10, 2014

Katahdin Hair Sheep Ram Cross

Rams, male sheep, are sexually mature at five months of age.  They are not physically mature for another six to twelve months, as some sheep breeds grow faster than others.

Katahdins are relatively slow growing sheep, the rams mature slowly in terms of their physical size and appearance.  By the time they are a year they are pretty impressive, but at the age of two they can be quite stunning.  I remember at one auction a 4 year old Katahdin ram entered the ring and people gasped as so few had seen anything like it, he looked like a miniature cow, wide nose, strong appearance, and he was brown too. 

6 month old Katadhin cross ram. 

This (photo above) is a young Katahdin cross ram, he is not purebred, his mother is a Barbado hair sheep cross.   Hair sheep have many advantages and they are becoming more and more popular in the United States and Canada, where wool is generally not as valuable as it was even 20 years ago.  The photo gives you a good idea of how hair sheep look in the winter - as he does have a thicker coat.  He is only 6 months old in this picture and will get a longer mane as he gets older.

You can see his tail is a bit shorter than the natural tail of a wool sheep breed. Hair sheep do have shorter tails, and they are less likely to become dirty with feces.

Hair sheep do not need their tails docked, do not need to be sheared, are more parasite resistant and there are claims that their meat tastes superior, even in older animals.  I personally do not eat lamb or mutton, this is just what I have heard and read.

I try not to treat the rams as "pets" as I find if they are too friendly they can also become dangerous.   I like my ewes to be tame and friendly, but if a ram is a little bit scared of me that is okay!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Most Money Spent on an Auction Trip Without Buying Anything

What a year!

Normally I would post an ad for sheep for sale and they all would be gone in a matter of weeks.  This year was a funny year.  The hair sheep ewes sold very quick but the rams were just not selling.  I had some people call and claim they were going to come, then cancel for one reason or another.  I had a lot of people call and ask if they could "butcher them on the farm" which I do not allow.  So as such I had 6 ram lambs and 3 ewe lambs left to sell. 

With only ten acres and a small barn it is not possible to keep more over winter and the rams were fighting each other as it was.

The only other option was to go to the auction.  Every Easter and Canadian Thanksgiving (October) there is a large 3 day auction about 1.5 hours away from where I live, Friday is sheep and goat day.  So we made plans to take the sheep down to the auction, but there was a small problem; the truck was not wired for trailer lights.

So.. first thing we had to do was to take the truck fitted with a light plug for the trailer.  We took it on Monday but the mechanic was busy so we did not get it back until Tuesday.  Fine.. great.. ready to go!


On Wednesday we hooked the truck up to the trailer and noted that the lights were not working on one side of the trailer.  It has been at least 2 years since we have used the trailer so we hauled it to the mechanic on Thursday.  He phoned to say the wires were a mess but since it was an old trailer he would do a "cheap" repair rather than putting too much effort into it.  Well the cheap repair was not cheap, $250.. but at least we were ready to go!


As we were driving to the auction something caught my eye, It looked like the tire flap was shredding and falling off, but soon I realized that it was something different; a flat trailer tire!

We pulled over, being in the middle of nowhere.  We had no idea how to lift the trailer to change the tire so called road side assistance.  They came and put the spare tire on.  But it was flat - so they pumped it up and we were on our way.

By the time we arrived at the auction, already late but at least they had not started selling sheep yet, we noted the tire had gone flat again.  We unloaded the sheep and went straight to the nearest tire place.  They got us fixed up, the spare tire was not even repairable, so we had to buy 2 tires as we did not want to drive home without a spare!  That was $300+.

Now we still do not know how much the sheep sold for and just are hoping it was a good price - but what a heck of a time that was.

All told, plus gas and lunch, I think we spent over $700 just to get the sheep to the auction!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Benefits of Breeding to a Hair Sheep Ram

Fall is typically when sheep producers look for a new breeding ram.

Unless a person is set on breeding sheep for wool (which has lost its value in some areas) or they insist on breeding purebred sheep, there is no reason why a person with wool ewes should not select to breed to a hair sheep ram, in fact there are many advantages of breeding to a hair sheep ram.

Katahdin hair sheep ram

Easier Lambing

Hair sheep tend to have slightly smaller birth weights, which makes for easier lambing and fewer complications.  The lambs are still healthy and strong and, especially with a good milk producing ewe, will grow up well.

Meat Quality

If a person is wanting to sell lambs for meat their are many advantages of selecting a hair breed ram including the fact that ethnic buyers tend to prefer to buy hair sheep because that is what they are more familiar with.  The carcass quality of hair sheep is very good and the flavor is said to be better as well.  Even older hair sheep can be easily marketed for meat.

Less Work

The lambs of hair sheep, and hair sheep crosses, do not need their tails to be docked.  They tend to be shorter and will not get as wooly.  Ethnic buyers prefer to buy lambs that did not have their tails docked.  The ram itself will not need to be sheared in the spring, instead he will shed his hair and be ready for summer.

Hybrid Vigor

By breeding to a ram of a different breed than the ewes a producer can take advantage of a genetic benefit known as hybrid vigor.   This means the lambs are usually genetically more healthy than their parents, and tend to be better sheep.

Health Benefits

Hair sheep tend to be more parasite resistant, and seldom suffer from hoof rot.

Hair sheep x lamb

Hair Sheep Breeds

There are many different hair sheep breeds some of the most common are the Katahdin, Dorper, St. Croix, and Barbado.

Each hair sheep breed is slightly different, some have more color than others, and some have horns, but all have the advantages as listed above and should be considered when selecting a new ram for breeding season.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Jeopardy Jumping, the 2013 Telus Battle of the Breeds

On September 5 my husband and I took a break from work and the farm to go to the Spruce Meadows “Masters”, a horse show of international acclaim. Held the week after the September Labor Day long weekend, there is plenty to see and do, and horse shows all day long.  This is really a great family event, with things for kids too, assuming they like horses.

One of my favorite events is the Telus Battle of the Breeds. This is where different breeds compete against each other in different events, earning points by proving their versatility. We arrived too late in the day to see the compulsory skills class but did see the Jeopardy Jumping class in the afternoon. 

In Jeopardy Jumping the riders direct their horse around a course of jumps, but unlike regular jumping events there are 2 jump choices, a lower one and a higher one. Each one is assigned points according to difficulty. If the jump is cleared the horse earns those points, if not no penalty is given.

12 breeds competed, with 2 horses of each breed.

Saddlebred Valenfire's Attractive Image

Immediately after completing the jumping course the rider was given the option of attempting the Telus bonus jump, worth 100 points if successfully jumped, and penalized -100 if not. Most riders did not attempt this jump and of those who did only a few went clear. The jump was a vertical but had phone booths on either side and I think the reflection might have distracted the horses.

Shetland Pony McLeod Creek Baby J

It was great fun to watch and to see the different breeds compete. The small Shetland ponies proved how brave and hardy they were. While some of the larger breeds, such as the Friesian and Gypsy Vanner struggled.

Team Appaloosa won the Jeopardy Jumping class and team Arabian was second.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fall is Ram Lamb Selling and Buying Time

I find that lambs tend to sell best in the spring.  People either want them for Easter, or other religious festivals, or they want them for pasture control.  Breeding in order to have spring lambs means lambing in the winter which is hard work but profitable.

Normally I breed my sheep for spring lambs and have them sold quite early in the summer, however this summer was crazy and I only started advertising them a few weeks ago.  I had one fellow call and say he wanted all the ram lambs.  He was busy and asked if I could hold them for him for another week. I agreed, but after 10 days passed I got a hold of him and I guess something came up and he could not make it.

Normally I get tons of calls for lambs, but normally I advertise them a lot earlier than I did this year.  I am in Canada and find that is a good place to advertise livestock for sale, however they list sheep in with horses and get a lot of horses, so my sheep ad was soon bumped to page 7 and appears to be lost...

Another site I use to advertise sheep for sale is Ropin' The Web which is strictly for buying and selling livestock in Alberta.  I use to get a lot of inquires from this site, however it seems to be less popular now than a few years ago.
Above is one of my more interesting looking ram lambs.  The angle of the photo is awful, please forgive me for that as it does make him look a bit distorted, but his coloring and markings are cool... too bad I have a shadow on him too, I really must get better pictures!  He is a Jacob x Katahdin. 

I am hoping to get some inquires soon as fall is typically the time of year when people buy rams for breeding.  Sheep are pregnant for 5 months and most ewes come into season only in the fall (from early August to December) so now is the time for breeding.  Next year I will not put off advertising them for sale so late!  At least the pasture is good this year as we have had loads of rain, so their is plenty for all to eat. 

As my regular readers know I have mostly hair sheep as I find them a better sheep for the hobby farmer but they are also becoming increasingly popular for meat too.   Hair sheep tend to have a better resistance to parasites and they do not need shearing which can be a lot of work and a major expense which is not justified in areas where wool is not valuable.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Nine Bantam Dorking Chicks Hatched

Hens lay eggs with, or without a rooster.  If there is a rooster present the eggs should be fertile and will hatch only if a hen sits on them for 21 days to incubate them or if the eggs are placed in an incubator.  Not all breeds of hens are broody, which means not all breeds of hens will sit on their eggs, however Dorkings are a broody breed and our hens sat on their eggs without any encouragement.

The first hen was on a large brood of eggs but only two hatched.  This may have been due to the awful spring weather at the time.

Our second Dorking hen started to sit on a smaller clutch of eggs in July, and on August 2nd they hatched out. There were nine chicks total. One egg never showed any signs of hatching and one egg had just started to hatch but the chick died while still inside.

Our bantam Dorking chickens are silver grey, which is a color that indicates male and female chick right at hatching. The hens are dark or black, and the cockerels are lighter, often with stripes. Because of this we were able to determine that four of the tiny chicks are hens, including one who is chocolate brown, and five are cockerels (males), including two which have very pronounced stripes rather like a chipmunk.

These chicks are tiny. Bantam chickens are smaller than regular, or standard, chickens. These little chicks are only about two inches (5 cm) tall. 

The hen stayed in the nesting box with them for the first day but the next day we found her with a few of them on the ground. Four more remained in the nesting box area, unsure of how to get down, they huddled together. I picked them up to put them down with the hen.

Young chicks are amazingly smart. Recent studies have suggested that young chicks are as smart, and capable of doing things, as a two year old child.

Mother hens are always clucking to their chicks, making different sounds to indicate different things; “Come here”, “Danger”, “Let's eat”, “It's safe to wander around, but here I am just in case you want me”.

The rooster wanders around and makes sounds to alert them to danger or food (as when I throw in some chicken scratch or small bits of brown bread). He will not harm them and acts as a guardian, even though he is pretty small too.

For now the chicks stay very close to their mom. She sits down with her wings spread out to make room for all of them to find shelter and warmth underneath her body. As they grow they will continue to follow her and learn from her. They are already “scratching” the ground to find food. The chicks will start growing different feathers and will not be as fluffy in a few weeks time.

Update.  Sad news, the brown chick died two days later.  We found it in the nest, not sure why it did not survive.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Three Different Lambs, a Summer Surprise

Last fall, in October, three of our ewes gave birth to lambs.  We knew that two of them had been rebred and they had their lambs in April, but it did not look like the third ewe had been rebred.  Sheep are pregnant for 5 months and we had been told the ewes of most breeds only come into heat in the fall, so the fact that we had October lambs was already a surprise.

At any rate, we thought we were in the clear with the other ewe and as such were just getting on with the summer.  We have had rain almost non-stop and the pasture has grown so tall we almost do not see the sheep at all.

We went away for four days and when we came back I noticed Girlie sheep suddenly looked different.  While she did not look pregnant, her udder seemed fuller.  The next day I was out filling  up the water and she was missing.  I found her in the old barn, she had three little lambs with her.

I went to get my husband to help me get them into the barn, I also wanted to grab the camera!  My husband picked up the lambs and carried them towards our larger barn, which I thought would be a better place for them to spend their first night.

Girlie has had triplets in the past but never produced enough milk for all and we have always had to supplement one by bottle feeding.  As such it was a good idea to get her into the barn so we could check that too, and give her a bit of oats.

She has a black ewe lamb, a brown ewe lamb (the smallest lamb) and a larger white and brown ram lamb.

Well that was all just over a week ago.  She is so far doing great with the three lambs.  I did have a bit of an awkward moment though...

On the second day I noticed a bit of her placenta was still hanging out of her (and covered in feces too).  I called the veterinarian.  It was July 1, which is Canada Day here (a holiday).  He suggested I could fix this myself, I just had to wash my hands really well, cover one hand with vegetable oil, and go insider her to gently remove it, and to feel just in case she had another lamb still inside.  He said since she was still eating and acting normal it was not an emergency in which he needed to come.  So... ya, I did that, while my husband held her, and thankfully there was no fourth lamb and I got the placenta out okay.