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. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Triplet Lambs Being Born

I knew Blackie as pregnant but didn't think she was due for another week or so, so I was rather surprised when I found her in the pasture with a newborn lamb.

The cool thing was that I had my camera with me because I was going to be taking some pictures of the other sheep, and as it happened Blackie lay down and had two more lambs while I was outside with her.

She had separated herself from the flock and was in a nice sheltered area of the pasture, I had seen her alone in the old barn earlier in the day so knew something was up.  How thoughtful of her to go out into the sun!

Within a short time of me being out there, a minute or so really, she lay down to have her second lamb.

Blackie started to lick it off, and before I knew it she laid down again.  Triplets I thought.  In the past Blackie has had triplets twice before but always lost one each time.  She did not strain with this lamb as much as the earlier one.  And was busy licking the first too at the same time.  I saw the third lamb come out most of the way (keep in mind they are born in a clear sack so you see the sack and lamb within it and fluid. 

This lamb was black so it was hard to see well, and there was no movement.  As long as the umbilical cord is still attached it is okay that the sack is not open because the lamb gets the oxygen from the blood in the umbilical cord. This usually breaks when the mom gets up or the lamb moves around.

 I was waiting for Blackie to get up and check the third lamb but she just lay there licking the first two. I am sure she was tired but I grew concerned.  I could only detect small movements from the third lamb from inside the sack.  I moved my position just a bit to go around to check closer, and in an instant the third lamb broke open its sack and started to breathe on its own.

Blackie was not really noticing so I moved this lamb closer to her nose and she did start licking it right away.

At that point I left her for a short time, I wanted to make sure I had a stall prepared for them.  It was warm and sunny outside, but it is best to allow small family groups to bond in the safety of a stall for a while, especially in the case of triplets - not to mention the fear of predators attracted by the smell of blood from the process of lambing.

See other pictures and read more at my original post, here.

For the record these lambs were born April 27, 2013.  I have Diamond sheep on my radar too, she is huge and expecting lambs now as well.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Katahdin Hair Sheep

Meet the Katahdin sheep, one of a few hair sheep breeds. They do not grow a fleece that would need shearing, and instead shed the thicker winter coat every spring.

Origins of Katahdin Sheep

Michael Piel, of Maine, USA, set about creating a breed of sheep to use for land maintenance, to control vegetation growth around power lines. In 1957 he imported three young African Hair Sheep, all of whom had been triplets but were not related to each other. Two were ewes, and one was a ram. From there he set about breeding them with each other and other select breeds including the Suffolk, Hampshire, and Cheviot.

He selected the sheep he kept for breeding based on "hair", fertility, meat type conformation, and flocking instinct. In the 1970's he named the new breed "Katahdin", after Mt. Katahdin, in Maine.

Michael passed away in 1976 and the breed went through some small changes, included an experiment in non-polled (horned) crosses, which was done away with in favor of polled (hornless) sheep.

A registry was established in 1986, under the name Katahdin Hair Sheep International.

Katahdin Ewe minutes after lambing, her back is good but the photo makes it look bad

Traits of Katahdin Sheep

The most obvious trait is that Katahdin sheep are covered with hair rather than wool, although some woolly hairs will still be present. This means they do not require shearing or their tails to be docked. The hair is somewhat coarse like that of a German Shepherd dog, and sheds in much the same way.

They are good mothers, often having triplets, although singles or twins are preferred for their first time lambing. Katahdin ewes are good milk producers, and seldom require assistance lambing (unless bred to larger breeds).

They are not a very aggressive sheep, and tend to flock moderately well.

An average Katahdin sheep ewe will weigh around 120 to 160 pounds, with the rams at 180 to 240 pounds. As such they are considered to be a "medium" size sheep.

Katahdin sheep have good parasite resistance.

The most common color being solid white, but Katahdins can also be brown or black, and occasionally are spotted.

Katahdin Ram, 1 year old


Uses of Katahdin Sheep

Katahdin sheep are terrific for hobby farmers looking for a low maintenance animal to control grass growth in their pastures. They will eat many weeds that other animals will over look.

Because they are docile and unusual looking, they also work well in petting zoos.

They are used in cross breeding programs to improve carcass condition, or for their mothering abilities.  Twins are common.

Typically though, most lambs are raised for meat. They have a top quality carcass that is mild in flavor and marketable even past the "lamb" stage. The meat is also particularly lean.

Other Information

With wool prices falling, the cost of shearing often is more than a person can market wool for, as such this breed, is gaining popularity.

Katahdin sheep are now in Canada (I have some), USA, Mexico, Chile, the UK, and Central America.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I am a Farm Cat Parent

I have farm cats.  While some people think that all farm cats have ideal lives, the sad truth is that many farm cats are not generally well cared for.  Few farm cats are treated as pets.  Many farm cats are not vaccinated, wormed, or even spayed or neutered.  Few are allowed in the house; but rather forced to make due in a barn, even on cold nights.  A lot of farm cats are not even well fed as some farmers think they will be better mousers if they are hungry.

One of the "left behind" cats

I own several farm cats, and I do love them.

I moved to the farm with my own cat (adopted years earlier), the previous owners left their cats behind.  I had allowed this because I knew that they could not take them and that these cats had very little chance of being adopted (or even being put up for adoption).

 Over time a few other cats "showed up", and decided to make our small farm their home.

Kafka, who showed up as a kitten, at home on the farm

We have had all the cats neutered (oddly it has only been males that have moved in), vaccinated, and they get wormed regularly.  They stay outside mostly all summer; only my original cat shows any interest in being indoors at all in the summer, and even sometimes she tries to stay out at night to catch bats (I prefer to catch her and bring her indoors).

Many farmers treat injuries to their livestock seriously, but sometimes let "nature take its course" with their barn cats.  One of my cats recently had a swelling under his jaw and it was a few hundred dollars to fix him up, but he is indeed a "pet", and a very loved one too.  The pictures are a bit gruesome, you can click here to read what happened.

All in all the cats do have a pretty good life, I think they are happy.

Visit PetFinder, click here

I just want to change the perception that all farm cat parents are bad, indeed some of us do love our cats.

I do want to add though, that if you own a cat and cannot care for it, please do not abandon it on a farm.  Most farmers do not want more cats and many city cats will be chased off by the resident farm cats (or dogs).

If you are looking for a new cat companion, please check PetFinder, or your local shelter.  Adoption really does save lives (so does spaying and neutering).

Please check PetFinder's "I Am A Cat Parent" site, and tweet about your cat using hashtag #IAmACatParent

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Why You Should Not Abandon an Unwanted Cat on a Farm

When I was young our family had a wonderful Calico cat, her name was “Calico”. We went to live in another country for a year and could not take her with us. We were lucky to find a home willing to take an adult cat (we didn’t dump her). It was a farm home, which seemed like a great choice. But when we returned we found out that farm homes are not the ideal life for a cat.

Calico had been beaten up by the other resident cats, and was thin, due to the fact that some farmers do not feed their cats, rather insisting they catch mice. If not wormed, farm cats are loaded with parasites from eating the mice. But at least she was alive, many farm cats have their lives cut short.

The Typical Life of Some Farm Cats

Many farm cats die within their first 6 weeks. If their mother is not well fed survival for the entire litter is poor. Many kittens are killed by coyotes, raccoons, owls, and foxes. Intact male cats will even kill kittens in an effort to bring the mother back into heat.

But a worse fate than that is when the farmer finds “another” unwanted litter, he may dispose of them himself, often by drowning, or by placing the kittens in a bag and throwing it onto the road. 

Even if the kittens survive the first few months on a farm they are always at risk.

Farmers often do not feed the cats, they think the cat will catch more mice if it is hungry. Farmers seldom spend money to vaccinate, deworm, and so forth. Some farmers feel that these cats are not going to have a long lifespan, why spend money on something that a coyote is just going to kill anyhow?

What Happens to Abandoned Cats, Dumped on Farms

When a new cat shows up on a farm, as when one is dumped in the country by its owner, the farmer is not always welcoming. Sometimes it is the current farm cats, and farm dog, who may be less welcoming; chasing the new comer off, or even killing it. 

Okay, so let us assume it got by the residents and coyotes, now the newly abandoned cat faces the farmer. Most farms are already overrun with cats (due to many farmers resisting the expense of spaying or neutering) as such one more is a burden. Abandoned cats are often shot on sight, and this is legal in some areas.

Cat Abandonment is Illegal

In most areas taking your cat out to a farm is illegal. This falls under animal cruelty and is Animal Abandonment. Few people are charged because few people are caught in the act. Regardless of this, it is a cruel, and cowardly, thing to do to a pet cat, or any animal.

What Should be Done with an Unwanted Pet Cat

If you cannot keep your cat, or do not want it any longer you should return it to the breeder, or to the animal shelter if you adopted it from. If this is not an option it should be surrendered to a local animal shelter, rehomed carefully (Free to Good Home Pets often do not find good homes), or euthanized humanely.

Some Farm Cats do have Good Lives

To say “all” farm cats have bad lives is not true. I live on a hobby farm, my cats are all spayed or neutered, and get wormed, and vaccinated. However, you must remember, I am a city kid who moved to the country and my views of cats are as pets not as “mousers”. I keep my cats in my house when it is cold, they get plenty of cat food indoors and outside.

Farms are interesting, and potentially fun, places for a well cared for cat.  If you have a cat you cannot keep and have found a farm home for it, make sure the farmer is willing to feed the cat, and does have shelter for it.  A declawed cat has no place on a farm unless it is going to be kept indoors only.

Where I live there are farmers who might keep one cat as a pet, but have others around the farm that are not treated with kindness or respect. You cannot blame the farmers for this attitude, after all their life revolves mostly around feeding you!

Other Reading:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lambs Born on St Patricks Day

March 17 was St Patrick's Day and the day Patsy sheep finally had her lambs. Patsy is an unusual looking sheep, she is part Jacob, part Barbado, she use to have 5 horns but knocked one off leaving her with 4. She is part wool sheep, part hair, so she sheds – sort of.

Three other ewes had their lambs last week, when the weather was good, but a nasty storm had blown in a few days earlier, dumping new snow and sending temperatures well below freezing. At night the moms with lambs are in a stall in the barn, the other sheep are loose in the rest of the barn, and I would let them outside for the day, while leaving the moms and new lambs in the barn. 

I knew Pasty was due any day, but in the morning she was eager to go outside.  She ate her oats and then snuck away as I was putting hay out. I noticed her standing in a shed to the back of the pasture. Sheep are herd animals, they do not go off on their own except for when they are lambing. I had to bribe her (with oats) to get her back into the barn because at -15 celsius it was much too cold to have lambs in a three sided shed.

I left the mom to be alone for a while going out to check on her a few times. At about 11:00 her amniotic sack was out (you can see it in the picture). I left her alone again, going back at noon. At noon I walked into the barn, Patsy was standing near the back of the barn was having contractions, her head was held up and she was straining. Having seen ewes give birth before I noted she looked to be having a harder time of it, so I turned to latch the barn door shut behind myself so I could get a closer look, but in the moment it took to latch the door, by the time I turned around her lamb was out!

Patsy stood up, turned around, and started cleaning off her lamb right away. I waited at the far end of t the barn for a few minutes. Her location at the back of the barn was not great, there is a gap around the back door which let in a cold draft so I wanted to move her, and her wet lamb, to a drier stall. I picked up the lamb and carried him to the stall and Patsy followed. I gave him a quick drying but mostly left the rest up to Patsy and I went back to the house.

I returned an hour later (bringing water with me as we do not have running water in the barn) and as expected she had an other lamb with her. The second lamb was larger, and white. Although Patsy has had lambs before I think this was her first solid white lamb, most have been spotted like her.  The brown lamb does have white spots on his side.  Both lambs are male, ram lambs.

After another three hours her placenta was shed, I picked it up and took it to a place away from the barn area where I know ravens will come and gobble it up, and then added new dry straw to the stall. 

All sheep are doing well and hopefully the weather will improve.  

Click here to shop for Farm & Ranch Supplies!

Other Reading

My Husband's Account of the Lambing  - with some information on lambing in general

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Four New Lambs in Two Days

Yesterday, March 5, 2013, I was home and expecting that one of our sheep would have her lambs soon.  I was on the computer helping a worried girl whose dog was showing signs of going into labor.  At one point I told her I knew what she was going through because I was waiting for a ewe to lamb.

Two Lambs

Not long after that, around my lunch time, I went out to check and sure enough there she was in the shed with two new lambs.  I went out to get her and bring her into the barn.  The weather was just around freezing and there was a breeze, no place for wet lambs to be outside.  I got them in and dried them off.

The mom is a Katahdin sheep, her sister was the ewe that gave birth only two days earlier.  I moved the sister and her lambs into a larger stall and put this new mom into the small stall.  Of course I got some new lamb pictures too!

Sadly she did have a third lamb, I found it dead in the stall later that afternoon even though I had been checking regularly.

New Lambs!

Then today, March 6, I went into the barn in the morning to find another ewe had lambed.  I was a bit surprised, we knew she was pregnant, but I still thought she had a few more days to go.  I moved the other mom into the large stall with her sister to open up the small stall for the new mother, Dark Brown Barbado, and her two lambs, one girl, one boy.

This is the ewe lamb. As you can see, she is still a bit wet, I dried them off more.

This is the sleepy ram lamb.

Well now we have just one ewe left to lamb, that being Patsy the part Jacob ewe with 4 horns.  I think she will be another few days, but she might surprise us too.  Today is a bit chilly so I do hope it warms up for all the ewes and their new baby lambs.

Join WebAnswers and get paid using Google Adsense, to ask and answer questions, as I was doing the day I found the first lambs.  Click here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cute Lambs Born in March

We have had mild weather for several weeks so we have been keeping our sheep (and lambs that were born in October) were outside all of the time, but on this particular day (March 3, 2013) it was a blizzard, with some wind gusts and 6 inches (15 cm), so decided to move the sheep into the barn for the night.

We knew that four ewes were expecting lambs.  We had bought a ram in October, ewes are pregnant for 5 months.  We did not think he had bred the ewes right away, but apparently he had.

As I was bringing in the sheep I noted one ewe was missing. If you have sheep it is very important not to assume all are there because it is sometimes easy to miss one, and a ewe that is thinking about lambing will separate herself from the others so might not come when called.

I went looking for the missing ewe, Mrs Brown Katahdin, a Katahdin (her breed) hair sheep. I found her standing in the old shed. She stomped her foot to try to keep me away, but I had no choice, she could not lamb out there in the cold. She was clearly in the process of delivering, her placenta was already out. I got her into the barn and left her.

After about an hour my husband and I went out to the barn to check her.  Sure enough there she was in a back corner with two little, and damp, lambs.  We had to hustle to get them into a private stall away from the other sheep.  We set her up in the stall with hay and water, and made sure the lambs were dry.  I took a few quick pictures, and sexed the lambs (both ewes) and left them alone for the night.

Cute Lamb Pictures!

Above is one of the ewe lambs, she is still a bit damp and you can even see the umbilical cord hanging down.  She is probably only an hour old (at most) in this photo.

Below is her sister, although these pictures were the following day, with this lamb being about 22 hours old or so.
She is perky and alert but still a bit wobbly on her feet.  The ewe and lambs will stay in the stall another day, they we will let them run around the whole barn, but it is much too snowy for them to go outside right now.

I will let you know when the other three ewes have their lambs.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

About Cruelty to Livestock

One of the biggest debates in the food industry is around the cruelty to livestock. Vegans, vegetarians, and animal rights activists, often condemn the livestock industry as being cruel. Livestock keepers, and those involved with livestock, often deny any cruelty. In a case of one extreme to the other with neither one willing to bend it is hard to see sense of it all.

I feel it would be better if the livestock industry were honest that some cruelty does exist and that there may be room for improvement. It should also be noted that a lot of the cruelty is related to keeping costs low and this is in fact being pushed by the consumer.

It should also be noted that most of the incidences of cruelty are not simply the result of a farmer wanting to cause pain and suffering simply for the sake of causing pain and suffering to the animal. While this sort of thing does occur on occasion it is rarely by the farmer, or owner, of the livestock, and is more often done by employees.

Since I keep sheep I have taken a part of an article on cruelty to livestock and reposted it here with a link to the whole article below.

"Sheep are one of the few livestock animals not commonly kept in a factory type setting, they usually are kept on pasture had have a fairly ideal life, although often cut short for lambs headed to slaughter.
Their lives are not without some cruelty, the worst of which is mulesing. Mulesing is common in Australia and done to Merino sheep. The lambs are hung upside down by their feet and a dinner sized chunk of their rump is cut off without painkillers or antiseptics.

Docking of a lamb's tail is not particularly cruel, in fact because of the social uses of a dog's tail, docking a dog's tail can be considered more cruel than dockinga lamb's tail with the note that docking lamb's tails is done to keep flies away from the dirty tail. Flies can cause fly strike and can kill a lamb. Mulesing is done for the same reason but takes off the rump of the lamb.

Pregnant Karakul ewes are reported to be kicked to induce abortions or early labor. Others are slaughtered right before lambing so their fetal lamb can be harvested for its pelt."

For the record I am not a vegetarian and I am not against the meat industry as a whole, but I strongly dislike some of the “factory farm” methods of keeping other livestock, such as chickens, swine, and dairy cattle.

Cruelty can be reduced and one way of reducing it is to spread awareness to the consumer so they demand better treatment of farm animals and become more knowledgeable about where the meat they buy comes from.

Please use the comments area to share your opinions on cruelty in the livestock industry and how we can improve things.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Great Way to Stay Safe when Riding Horses at Night

When you ride your horse in the evening you might think you are safe because you can see the headlights of oncoming vehicles. You might even wear a reflective vest, but it should be noted that a reflective vest is useless until vehicles are close too you, and at times drivers have been known to drive around at dusk without turning their headlights on at all. Reflective vests are not great on foggy days. 

The best way for you, as a rider, to be seen is to be lit up in some way. 

Carrying a flashlight is a good idea, but not always practical at all times. Instead if you are going to be riding in the evening you may want a light that can clip onto you, the saddle, or part of the bridle itself. These lights alert drivers more effectively than a reflective vest (which is still a good idea too) and are also good if your horse spooks and runs off in the dark, as it will be easier to see where your horse went. 

Nite Ize offers really cool products for dogs, light up toys, collars, and even lights you can put on the collar itself. These clip on lights are great for riders too as they can clip onto your saddle, reins, or bridle (but do not clip them too near to your horse's eyes).

Click on the image below to learn more and see other products...

These lights are ideal for people who go out for a ride in the evening because even if you start your ride when it is light it can get dark fast, or bad weather could change visibility, making you and your horse harder to see.

These lights are great for:
  • Riding in the Fog
  • Packing in the Mountains - as you might not reach your camp when you think you would
  • Riding in the Snow – in case the weather turns bad
  • Putting on your Dog's Collar – as when your dog tags along for your evening ride

Nite Ize has several different light up products that would work for any horse rider.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mysterious Hair Loss on Lamb's Ears

I seldom blog about health worries, I once had a lamb blow up to the size of a balloon with bloat, I was too scared to take a picture thinking that if she died it would be too sad to look at the picture (yes I was not born a farmer and my sheep are more like pets than livestock)... That lamb did live and in fact is Blackie sheep whom you may have read about.

I have an odd health worry now, but not one that is too serious, it is mostly just puzzling. 

As you recall I had 7 lambs born in October. It is now January. A week or so ago I noticed two lambs (different moms) had some hair loss on their ears, just about where their ears attach to their heads. No other lambs had any such problems. The only thing the two lambs had in common was that they were white and black;  I also have 3 other lambs that are all black, one white and brown, and another black and white (unaffected at that point).
I thought.. hmm, maybe they need a new mineral block, so got that, but nothing seemed to change. I do not know if the lambs even lick it.

Well a couple of days ago the other black and white lamb also is showing some signs of hair loss on the ears, and he is also showing small areas of hair thinning on the sides of his nose.

The other 4 lambs are fine and show no hair missing.  There is no hair loss on the ewes either..  They are all wool sheep x hair sheep.

The areas of hair loss are too even and symmetrical to be anything such as ringworm or mange. 

I have found nothing online except one post that suggested an allergy to food combined with sunlight.
I should add that it is winter here, temperatures have been below freezing, we have snow and the sheep are getting hay and grain (oats). 

If anyone has any ideas I would love to hear them. My vet is not as familiar with sheep as he is with cattle and nobody else here has a clue. 

I have not been out with the camera (when it is cold the battery freezes too quick and I have just not thought about it), but I have used a picture of a different sheep and drawn in the places of hair loss.

Update - Below is a picture I took today, it's pretty hard to get a good picture of a goofy lamb with a crappy camera, but I gave it my best shot - note that the lamb's are not itching.  It actually seems like maybe the hair is growing back in, it's hard to tell.