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