Archive for the ‘2010 breeding’ Category

Meet the Shetland Ewes, Part 1

We have four Shetland ewes left in our flock.  When we made the switch to Finnsheep we were able to find new homes for most of them.  But we couldn’t part with Jellybean, a musket ewe who was of our original flock.  She is a very feminine, dainty Shetland with a wonderful fleece.   She has been bred twice.  She is an excellent mother who has given us two sets of twins.  This past year she became very very, very thin while nursing her lambs.  I separated her from the flock and gave her extra grain and hay, but that didn’t help; she still blew her fine, lovely coat.  I weaned her lambs as soon as able and she gradually bounced back.  I don’t know that I will breed her again.  She is such a dear sweetie in the barnyard.  She sticks a bit to herself and is very independent.  She loves a treat of bread or cracker and greets me at the gate when I enter the barnyard.

Jellybean’s white ewe lamb Phyllis was our first lamb born in 2010.  She is also the first lamb I’ve had to “go in and get.”  Fortunately we were both at home when Jellybean went into labor.  Long-suffering husband helped calm her while I pulled the lamb.  She quickly delivered a black ram lamb afterward.  We named the white ewe lamb Phyllis, after my mother-in-law who had recently passed away.  Of course, she will spend her days here on our little farm.

The Sheep Whisperer aka The Shepherd

Phyllis is a petite ewe, like her mother.  She loves to have her neck scratched.  I think I better stock up on treats!

The last two Shetland ewes are Bonnie and Glory.  I will write about them in another post.

Friday Farm Photo #7 – A Tough Summer

Finnsheep: ram lamb Esko (white), ewe lambs Katariina (black) and Leila (brown)

The Farm Photos today are not happy photos.  The above photo shows two lambs with bottle jaw.  You can see a swelling below the jaw of Esko and Katariina. From what I have learned, bottle jaw is the result of a high worm load, especially of the barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortis.)  This nasty worm attaches to the lining of the host’s intestine and sucks blood from its victim, resulting in anemia.  The protein loss leads to third-spacing of fluid and bottle jaw.  Once the sheep gets to this point it is a crisis – life threatening.

I discovered Esko after I found his twin Erno dead.  Erno had no signs of problems except for some scouring (diarrhea) two weeks earlier.  I treated him with wormer and he seemed to recover.  And due to the high temperatures, humidity and our rainy summer, I also treated the flock and llamas with a coccidiostat.  The treatment goes into their water for five days.

I was very upset when I found Erno.  We have not had lambs die on our farm and he was the second this year.  I know it happens and is part of being a shepherd but, still, I felt like I was doing something wrong.  I inspected the flock and discovered the mucous membranes around Esko’s eyes were WHITE and his jaw was swollen.  Katariina’s eyes were also white and she had a small swelling under her chin.   I could not believe that I had not noticed sooner!  Feeling very incompetent – (how could I miss those puffy chins?) – I separated them from the flock, along with Leila, whose eyes were a very pale pink.  I wormed them with a different wormer and have fed a high-quality grass/alfalfa hay.

In the past, we have been able to worm the sheep several times a year and support flock health.  This year has been different.  The weather have made it tough to keep up as the worms thrive in hot, humid, moist weather.  Unfortunately, the old barn on our property was built on the lowest area so it tends to hold the moisture.  And moisture encourages grass growth, which is good for the parasites.  Upon reflection, we probably need to make some changes so the flock is able to stay out on pasture during the summer.  As it is now, they may return to the barnyard at will.

It’s been a tough summer and we have been on a steep learning curve as new shepherds.  We lost Katariina a few days ago.  So we have lost three lambs – all Finnsheep.  This is a new breed for us, but I don’t think it is the breed.  I think we are having problems because we are novice shepherds facing a new challenge.  I have to believe it is our management that is at fault.  I am reviewing the worming schedule, pasture rotation and general housing/management.  I will keep you posted.

Finn lamb Katariina with swelling under her chin.

Less Sheep = Less Hay to Buy

The best laid plans…

My flock goal at the start of 2010 was to make the switch to Finnsheep but keep some Mulesheep and Shetlands for a lovely mixed fiber flock.  I could breed for purebred Finnsheep but also have some fiber crosses and meat lambs.  Sounds like a great plan!

But plans are subject to change…

Negotiations broke down between the Minnesota Nurse’s Association and the Twin Cities Hospitals.  The Union members voted overwhelmingly to strike.  I don’t intend to bring the specific issues to this blog as I want to keep the focus on farm, flock, fiber and family.  So how does this piece of news relate to the farm?  The economic future of the “city job” is uncertain for the next several months.  As much as I don’t want to sell many of our lovely ewes, I also can’t justify keeping them when it may be impossible to afford to feed them this winter.

A sweet 3/4 Bluefaced Leicester ewe lamb.

Our loss is your gain.  I would rather see the ewes go to a good home on new pastures.  The reality of farm life is that they will be sold for butcher – but that is not my first preference.  The sheep and lambs are listed on our Sales Website; photos are throughout this blog and on the sale pages.

We are  almost sold out of Shetland ewes but we still have Shetland-BFL Mulesheep ewes, a North Country Cheviot ewe, and a few fiber crosses.  Also, we have three lovely 3/4 Bluefaced Leicester ewe lambs.  We can put together a fiber flock with one of the two Finnsheep ram lambs or Bluefaced Leicester Dougal.  And we have whethered BFL-Shetland Mulesheep boys with beautiful fleece!

Prices have been reduced on several sheep but feel free to make an offer.  Email is preferred at roundaboutacresAtgmailDotcom (replace At and Dot with the real thing.)

Rams Bluefaced Leicester Dougal (white ram - For Sale) and Finnsheep Eino (NFS)

“Where Did I Put the Ear Plugs?!”

Shetland lambs Curly and Phyllis. Curly is yelling for mom!

It’s that time of year when the blissfully peaceful country existence is set aside.  I know it’s coming.  I put it off as long as I can until it can’t be put off any longer.

Weaning.  Let the cries begin.

A 3/4 BFL 1/4 Shetland ewe lamb cries for her mom.

We left the lambs with the llamas and moved the ewes to the another pasture.  To help decrease the lambs’ stress, I gated the door from the llamas and opened a pen so the lambs can be close to mom.  However, instead of laying next to each other along the fenceline, they tend to stand apart and scream. Yes, sheep can scream…

Blue observes the barnyard chaos.

It’s amazing how much a lamb “baah” sounds like MAAAAAH!  Where are you maaahh??  Why aren’t you near me, Maaaahh?!  The ewes baah while they eat, looking for their lambs.  I have one lamb who sounds exactly like my daughter did as a teen.  Maaaahh!?  Sorry, Amanda but you know what I am talking about.  🙂

The llamas are always agitated when we work with the sheep. They like peace on the farm also!

It’s hot outside so the air conditioning is on and the windows closed.  We will be able to sleep without the noise.   In a few days, peace will again return to the farm for a short time.  A few cries will arise when lambs and ewes are picked up by their new shepherds.  New adventures await on different pastures.  Such is the cycle of a lamb’s life.

Rams Bluefaced Leicester Dougal (L) and Finnsheep Eino

The rams continued to graze as if nothing was new.  They are just biding their time until fall – breeding season!

Goodbye, Little Eeva

There are times that farm life is very sad.  It is always REAL – there’s no denying the muddy boots, the fragrance of barnyard wafting through the kitchen window, the aching back after shoveling manure, and the bruises after catching and vaccinating sheep.  Every day life on a farm is real.  And sometimes it really is tough.

Last Sunday morning, I went out to the pasture to check on the flock.  I walked through the flock, counting lambs.  Elina and her ram lambs were at the entrance but Eeva wasn’t near them.  That was unusual as the triplets still stay fairly close together while grazing.  Elina was calm so I thought Eeva was napping; I looked in the shelters and brush.  No Eeva.  I went back to the barnyard, looking in the barn.  No Eeva.  While a horrible knot grew in the pit of my stomach, I searched the pasture three times and the barnyard twice.  I had the thought that a bald eagle got her.  As the smallest lamb, she weighed just over 12 lbs.

With sadness, I headed toward the house to tell TH she could not be found.  As I turned to open the gate, I saw her lying in a corner of the barnyard.  The one corner I didn’t search.  I had the faintest hope that she was just napping but as I approached, she was completely still.  Little Eeva was curled up and looked as peaceful as a child’s stuffed toy.  She was dead.  I was devastated.  Sobbing, I scooped her up and brought her into the house.  We could find no signs of an animal attack, her belly was soft, no diarrhea, no cuts or injuries.  She had blades of fresh grass in her mouth.  So sad.

A few days earlier, we had weighed, vaccinated, tagged and banded lambs.  Everyone seemed to be doing fine.  Little Eeva was her spunky self.

I have read that lambs can suddenly die.  No symptoms.  After speaking with a few more experienced shepherds, we will modify our vaccination program next year, in case that was the cause.  This was a real aspect of farming which I would rather avoid.

I am a “glass is half full” sort of gal so I have been reflecting on all I learned from Little Eeva.  I learned that I can manage triplets and supplementally bottle feed a weak lamb.  I learned I don’t mind bottle feeding because I rather enjoy that little lambie running toward me when she sees me outside.  I experienced the immense satisfaction of aiding a tiny, frail lamb to make it through her first night when she likely would have died without intervention.  And I learned to let go of that one little lamb that I really hoped for – a brown spotted Finn ewe lamb.  Goodbye, Little Eeva.  You touched a lot of human lives in your short time on earth.  Thank you for all you gave us while you were here.

Finnsheep Ram Lambs

Elina’s five week old triplets are really growing and their wool is coming in nicely.  I was able to get a few photos this morning and wanted to post them before I head off to work.  We are keeping the brown spotted ewe lamb Eeva – she is exactly what I was hoping for in lambs this year!  Her brothers Esko and Erno are both for sale.  They carry brown and spots.  Looking at Elina’s pedigree she has more brown in her background than black.  I hope to add more detail to her genetic information this week.  Also, I will be weighing them sometime in the next week and will post the numbers then, but Esko is the larger of the rams.  There is also a photo with Finn ram lamb Elias, black and spotted, carries for brown.

(Click on the photo to enlarge.)

Finn ram lambs Esko and Elias (black)

Finn ram lamb Esko

Finn ram lamb Esko

Finn ewe Elina with Erno and Eeva

A Surprise Visit

We had a delightful surprise visit from our “second son” Mark this week.  Mark is our daughter’s best friend from childhood; and his parents, Robbie and Frank, consider Amanda a daughter to them.  As fate would have it, both Amanda and Mark live and work in the Washington, D.C. area.  Mark and his partner, Troy, hosted Amanda and Kisu’s wedding at Troy’s lovely home last summer.

Shetland ewe lamb Phyllis nibbles on Troy’s arm while he gives her a scratch.

Mark and Troy were in Minneapolis visiting Mark’s parents when they decided to drive up to the farm for a visit.  It’s an especially fun time to visit the farm now that there are lambs romping in the pasture.  And the llamas always enjoy visitors!  It was a brief but very enjoyable visit.  Thank you Mark, Troy, Frank and Robbie for stopping by!

Mark and Troy being greeted by llamas and Finn ram Eino

After we showed our visitors around the farm, Troy and I caught a few ewe lambs to cuddle.  Troy has a small acreage of his own and recently started raising chickens.  I could tell he has had practice “catching” because he quickly caught a lamb.

Troy was a natural with the lambs!

Mark is holding Finn ewe Eeva

I love this photo of Frank holding Eeva!

At the end of our sheep cuddling session, Finnsheep Emmi walked through with her ram lamb Elias.  He has good growth and confirmation.  He is FOR SALE.

Finnsheep ram lamb Elias with his mother Emmi.

Lamb Photos – Can We Ever Get Enough??

I love looking at lamb photos!  Today I will share some recent shots of our adorable lambs, mostly Finns.  Enjoy!

Finnsheep trip. ewe lamb Eeva

Eeva is no longer receiving a supplemental bottle.  She is a very friendly ewe lamb who runs up to me anytime she sees me.  She loves her chin scratches!  This photo clearly illustrates the color difference between the brown hair on her head, face and legs and the lighter brown of her fleece.  Her fleece color is consistent from tip to root.  I’m not sure of modified colors in Finns yet.  When I compare her color to her sire Eino, she is much lighter; I wonder if she carries a modifier gene and is a fawn color?  It will be fun to watch her color as she grows and I’m anxious to see what she will pass onto her lambs.  I have read on several websites that brown Finn lambs are less than 2% of the Finn population.  I don’t know if this is true and I am looking for a report that verifies this.  When/if I find that information, I will pass it on to you.  I am going to concentrate somewhat on the brown color, not just because it is rare but because I love it in it’s natural state and I’m anxious to try some overdyeing!

Finnsheep trip. ram/whether lamb Esko (For Sale)

This photo was taken right after I removed his fleece jacket.  He is growing nicely and looks to have nice fiber and confirmation.  He is FOR SALE as a breeding ram or he could be whethered.  He carries BROWN and spots.

Finnsheep single ram lamb is spotted and carries brown (Aa/Aa BB/Bb Ss/Ss)

I still haven’t committed to a name for this black Finn ram lamb.  He is growing nicely, is respectfully curious but not overly so, just as a ram should be.  He is spotted black and carries brown and is FOR SALE.

Shetland twin ewe lamb Phyllis loves her chin scratches!

Shetland ewe lamb Phyllis is the one that I had to help deliver.  She and her brother Curly are very friendly; she also runs up to me and waits for a chin scratch.  Her fiber is coming in with a consistent wave – it doesn’t look very crimpy at this point.  Her dam and sire both have great fiber so I’m sure she will.  She will be one of the few Shetlands we keep on our farm.

Finnsheep triplet lambs with shetland mule ram lamb in the background.

Finnsheep lamb Eeva (Aa/Aa Bb/Bb Ss/Ss)

And finally, another photo of Finn lamb Eeva.  Three of her four feet are spotted white and she has the white spotting on her head.  She does not have spotting on her tail.  To me, this is the same type of spotting that Shetland breeder Nancy Krohn defined as HST (Head, Socks, Tail) spotting in Shetlands.  Nancy’s thoughts on the subject may be found here.

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