Archive for the ‘mule’ Category

Growing Lambs

We are in a holding pattern on the farm, waiting for our last two ewes to birth their lambs.  Both are first time mothers – a white Shetland Mulesheep who looks wide enough to be holding triplets – she must be having twins.  And our white Finnsheep Elina also looks wider than Emmi did, so hopefully she has twins waiting to pop out.

Lamb Growth

I thought I would post a few photos of our BFL X North Country Cheviot Mulesheep lamb.  We are calling him “Tank” because he is HUGE compared to the other lambs.  Last year Molly had a beautiful black Mule ewe lamb with a body shape similar to a BFL.  Helena has a long torso and neck, with longer legs.  It’s interesting to see the contrast between Helena and Tank.  (I will post some comparison photos when he grows a bit more.)  His neck and legs are shorter and he has a body shape more like the NC Cheviot.  He should give us some good weight for a market lamb.

NC Cheviot X BFL single ram lamb. In hi first six days he gained one pound a day, weighing over 17lbs.

2010 Shetland ram lamb size compared to 1/2 BFL 1/2 No. Ctry Cheviot (Mulesheep.) The black Shetland is three days older than the Mule lamb.

No. Ctry. Cheviot Molly with her single Mulesheep ram lamb "Tank" 2010

And since I am comparing sizes –

Here is a photo of Shetland Mulesheep Maliah’s huge bag (right) compared with Finnsheep Emmi’s more compact bag.  Mulesheep are known for their “milkiness” which they inherit from the Bluefaced Leicester breeding.  All that milk helps them easily raise a market lamb on nothing but grass pasture and milk in a few months.

2010 Finnsheep Emmi with her single ram lamb and Mulesheep Maliah with one of her twin 3/4 BFL ewe lambs.

Fiber Fun

BFL X North Country Cheviot in an exhausted food color dyebath

It’s snowing, blowing and cold outside.  We are in that monochrome time of year – white… gray…brown…black.  My last post, Friday’s Frosty photos not-so-vividly displays our winter colors in Minnesota.  Needless to say, I am in the mood for color!  I pulled up some photos of recent fiber adventures.

I love dyeing.  I enjoy seeing how the colors will reveal themselves; I also enjoy those “oops” moments when I don’t stir the dye well enough (see below) and the color separates.  I particularly enjoy working with food color because the only thing I need to worry about is preventing spills and cleanup.  No mask needed and I can use whatever pots and utensils I choose.   This BFL X NC Cheviot was dyed using blue with a few drops of black.  I didn’t stir well enough so the black separated out a bit.  This black has red in it so it leaned more toward the purple end of the spectrum.  The colors came out beautifully.  I am still spinning it so I will post a photo when it is all done.

BFL-NC Cheviot dyed and dried.

BFL X NCC Mule fiber. I carded this fiber, leaving in the short fibers for texture. This fiber is VERY SPROINGY! I am combing some blue to spin for comparison. I will post pics when done.

BFL-NC Cheviot dyed and dried. I used yellow food color with a few drops of red.  This fiber has a very nice, springy soft handle.

Last week I visited my llama mentor Sheila Fugina, of Shady Ridge Farm.  It was an enjoyable afternoon spent with our hands in fiber, chatting, and petting her lovely llamas.  I asked Sheila to share some of her knowledge of llama fiber and skirting techniques.  It’s always helpful to gather some tips from the experienced fiber person!  It was a wonderful afternoon.

Sheila showed me her new corespun yarn.  It can be used for weaving, crocheting or knitting, or whatever your imagination desires.  The llama was blended with sheep wool, in this case Shetland, and loosely spun around a twine core.   I will have some made this year.

Sheila holds a bump of Llama/Shetland corespun yarn.

Corespun Llama/Shetland yarn

‘Tis the Season…for Romance

The television advertisements for Christmas have started earlier than ever.  Displays in stores have turned to red, green and tinsel.  Thoughts and conversation at home and work turn to the Holiday season with all it’s activities, family and friends, food, fun and stress…   At this time of year, I am not yet thinking of Christmas, or even Thanksgiving, which is one week away.  As a Shepherdess, I am preoccupied with breeding groups, hay, pen configuration, hay, how to move the animals, hay, and setting up winter water troughs with the electric heaters.  And, oh yes – hay.

Normally, in Minnesota, we may have had a few snowstorms by now.  But the last few weeks, we are enjoying a warm Fall season, an “Indian Summer,” as it is called.  It has been very enjoyable working outside in the barnyard this Fall.  And I was outside for HOURS everyday last week.  We had thirty round bales of hay delivered and placed in the barnyard.  We got 23 of grass hay and seven of grass/alfalfa mix.  It has taken some work to get cattle panels or fencing placed around the bales and most of the bales covered.  We are trying the round bales this year in an effort to cut down on hauling hay in the winter.  Thus begins the great hay experiment…

After dealing with the hay, we put the breeding groups together!  Yeah!  Let the romance begin!


Finnsheep ram lamb Eino (brown) and ewe lambs Emmi (black) and Elina (white)

Finns enjoying their hay

Little Red Oak Eino is a sweet, mellow boy.  I absolutely LOVE the color, shine and crimp of his fiber.  He carries spotting genetics.  I am very pleased that he will be our foundation ram.

Ewe lambs Emmi and Elina are from Gale Woods Farm.  Emmi (black) was sheared so her fleece will be a bit of a surprise, but she feels soft, soft already and her fiber is staying black as it grows.  She is spotted, from brown and white parents.  Elina’s crimp appears a bit more open than what I want but she has a lot of lustrous wool, good conformation and a very sweet face!

They all have excellent lineage back to Wee Croft stock.  I am very pleased with the founding stock of our Finnsheep flock!


Little Red Oak Bella, Roundabout Acres Baab, and Little Red Oak Jellybean

Little Red Oak Lily(Moorit)

Yup, I know I said I wasn’t going to breed purebred Shetlands this year….  I changed my mind at the last minute.  I sold a starter flock of three black, spotted ewes and Baab.  The ewes have gone to their new home but his new Shepherdess does not want to breed the ewes until December.  He is the last ram on our farm from River Oaks Eli; I did not use Baab last year and really DID want to breed him.  He has nice conformation and a very lovely fleece that I am happy to breed into the flock.  He carries spots and modified genetics.  (Why, oh why, did I sell him????)  As you can see, he has two spotted girls to work on this year.  I still have one more Shetland ewe to put in with a ram.  Little Red Oak Lily (moorit) will soon be added to this group.

Bluefaced Leicester F1 Crosses (Mulesheep)

BFL Beechtree Dougal is lying down next to Mule Maliah. In the foreground is Mule Sasha and to the right is Roundabout Acres Lulu, a Shetland yearling ewe who has not bred before.


Shetland Nugget is in the foreground with North Country Cheviot ewe Molly in the back.

BFL Dougal covered Lulu within the first few minutes.  I saw Nugget get covered yesterday.  They are daughter and mother; each one has a beautifully soft, crimpy, dense fleece.  I will get two 3/4 BFL ewes from the Mules; the resulting lambs will not be F1 crosses but I am curious to see how closely the fiber resembles BFL.   Also, I have high hopes for another beautiful lamb from Molly.  I am quite impressed with the BFL x NC Cheviot lambs.  they have a dense fleece, and a sturdy confirmation.  I may add one or two NC Cheviot ewes to the flock in the future.

Did you notice that RA Lamb Chop is not included in the breeding groups?  Since I kept Baab to breed, I could not figure out who to put with Lamb Chop.  I can envision him with a few of the Mule ewe lambs next year.  I do not want to breed them this year as the only ewe lambs I am breeding are the Finns.  So lamb chop is sharing a pen with bottle baby whether Duncan.  Lamb Chop doesn’t seem to mind that he has no girls.  When not breeding, I do prefer three rams together instead of just two.  It seems to make for a calmer ram pen.

Lamb Chop's fleece - he is 1/2 BFL, 1/4 Shetland, 1/4 Cheviot

W i t h d r a w a l…

I am in withdrawal.  It’s been sixteen days… I’ve gotten panicked more than a few times already.  So far, I’ve been able to talk myself away from the edge.  The “edge” of what?  I’m not really sure, but that is the phrase.  The “edge” of sanity?  The “edge” of reality?  The “edge” of – THE EDGE?  Trophy Husband would say (tongue-in-cheek, I think) I have already been to the edge and back many, many times throughout the course of our lives together.

Imagine that you go to sleep one night and the world is fine – the crickets are singing, a cool breeze drifting in the window, and coyotes howling in the distance.    (Call me crazy but I like hearing their calls – but not too close. )  The animals have completed their lazy evening graze.  They’ve brought themselves in from the field and tucked into the barn – llamas, ewes and lambs mingled with each other.  Looking out the kitchen window, one sees a brown, tan, white and black patchwork quilt of wooly lumps.  Recently the lambs have taken to climbing on the backs of the kushed (sitting) llamas.  Amazingly, most of the llamas don’t seem to mind.  Oh, a llama might look to see which lamb is jumping around back there, but then returns to chewing the cud.  To me, this is a wonderful testament to how well they are all bonded as a flock, or in llama terms, a herd.

Okay, now it’s time to cue the music from the movie “Psycho” – the shower scene specifically.  The next morning I woke up to find – insert music here – that my laptop screen had died!  MORE MUSIC, MORE MUSIC!!  My laptop is about eight to nine years old.  A Compac Presario with an Intel Centrino processor.  It has been very trouble free for all these years.  TH also has an HP that has given him no problems.  So I have been researching a new HP laptop.  Right now my laptop is hooked up to our old desktop monitor.  TH says I need a 12-step group for my computer addiction.  I admit it…but I’m not in any hurry to go looking for that group!  I can hadle it…really…I can.

I will finish this post with a very fun picture of our guard llama Rudy with his charges.  These two girls are Little Red Oak Lyra’s twin Bluefaced Leicester-Shetland Mule ewe lambs.

Rudy and lambs 2009

Shepherding 201 (Part 2) How I Became a Midwife

If you read the last post you may remember that while Duncan was being rejected by his mother, Cheviot #7 was trying to have her lamb.  We sequestered Duncan in a separate jug from his mother and went back to watching Cheviot #7.  She labored for about 45 minutes with little progress.  She was outside the ram pen; those darn rams kept poking their heads into her business, if you know what I mean.  As a mother myself, I’m pretty sure that hubby didn’t have quite the same empathy as I did.  I was hurtin’ for the poor ewe!  She was straining and straining.  She stood up (grunt) and lay back down (groan.)  Grunt…groan…uungh…umph.  I flinched each time she pushed.  She was working so hard and making so little progress.  I moved closer to check that both hooves and a nose could be seen on the lamb.  Yes, the baby was coming out hooves and nose first, as it should.  But then I noticed that the tongue was sticking out and looked purplish.  Yikes!  The sheep books say to wait at least 45 minutes before intervening.  Now a purple tongue on the baby had me completely worried.  (I have since learned that this can happen and is not abnormal.)

TH (Trophy Husband) helped me place a halter on #7 and we brought her into a lambing jug.  TH held the ewe while I put on gloves and a little lube (just in case I needed to help loosen a shoulder.)  With the next contraction, I held the lamb’s front feet and pulled down.  The lamb was out to it’s back hips.  It hung there, half in/half out, while mom took a break.  She was exhausted!  At the next contraction, I pulled again and the lamb flopped to the ground.  It laid there – motionless – for what seemed like 10 minutes, but was most likely only five seconds.  It’s dead.  I was sure.  Then, all at once, the clouds parted and angels started singing!  Well…at least it felt like they were singing…  The lamb started twitching and struggling to get out of the sack.  Yeah!  It was alive!  Ewe mom was licking the lamb while I cleaned the sack off its nose and mouth so it wouldn’t inhale any fluid into it’s lungs.

Chev 7 lamb 2009

Now I was so excited I couldn’t stand it.  The lamb was white… now I checked the back end… and a girl!!  I checked three times to confirm that she was a girl.  Little Fiona is beautiful and weighed 11 lb. 5 oz.  at birth.   So my North Country Cheviot ewelings delivered well for the Shepherdess.  We have black and white Cheviot Mule ewes to add to our flock here at Roundabout Acres.

Chev 7 and Fiona in jug 2009

I now feel like I am becoming a true Shepherdess and we indeed, are learning how to be farmers.  This, our second lambing season, has presented us with a few more challenges which we have been able to meet, thanks to the help of books, Yahoo groups, and knowledgeable shepherd and llama friends.  Thank you to all!  However, we are not done lambing yet.  We still have about four or five Shetlands left to lamb, sometime around the beginning of June.

Chev 7 and ewe lamb Fiona 2009

In the next post, I will give you an update on Duncan, our bottle lamb; Lyra and her lamb (lambs??); and the final statistics for BFL Dougal’s Mule lambs.

Meet some of the ewes

This is Shetland ewe Nugget and her ewe lamb Lulu. Nugget is one of my largest ewes; she has soft, crimpy musket (oatmeal grey) fleece. Lulu is a wonderfully soft, crimpy white lamb. And Lulu is a big girl!

These girls are taking a break in the barn. Shetlands Lily (moorit), Nugget (musket) and Lulu (white) are on the left. One of our two Cheviot ewe lambs is on the right.

This is a good picture to illustrate the size difference between the Shetlands and Cheviots. Nugget (Shetland ewe) is on the left. She is a little smaller than the Cheviot ewe lamb on the right. We bought the two Cheviot ewes from Kathy and Al Munkelwitz in Isle, Mn. The Cheviots will be put with a Blue Faced Leicester ram in December. In the spring, we will have our first Mule Sheep from a BFL-Cheviot cross!

Here is another picture of a Cheviot girl. I still can’t think of names for the two girls. Ideas anyone??

Roundaboutacres also added two BFL-Shetland Mules to our flock this year. These two lovely ewe lambs – white and colored Mules – were purchased from Laura at Psalm 23 Farm. On the right is a Shetland ewe lamb.

This is a close up of the colored Mule’s fiber. Purly and lustrous!!

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