Archive for the ‘shepherds’ Category

Shepherd’s Holiday Weekend

A Shepherd’s Weekend

I was able to attend the Shepherd’s Holiday (SH) this weekend in Alexandria, MN.  SH is an annual conference for members of the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers Association.  The Friday and Saturday conference consisted of workshops, silent and live auctions, entertainment, great food, a business meeting, a Make it with Wool competition, and an opportunity to connect with shepherds from across  the state.  The final sessions on Saturday were held at the Rafter P Ranch which has a 1,000+ ewe commercial flock.  I carpooled and roomed with Becky Utecht of River Oaks Farm.  Gail Von Bargen of Little Red Oak Farm and Winnie Johnson were also in attendance.  It was wonderful to meet Winnie and I always enjoy spending time with Gail.

The session that was most helpful was the one led by Bob Padula on wool grading.  He had an OFDA 2000, which tests the micron count of wool samples.  Bob presented a nice explanation of how to interpret micron testing results.  I brought two random samples of Shetland which tested at 24.1 and 26.7 microns.  Of the samples provided by participants, the lowest micron tested was a Merino at 16.  Becky’s sample from her Shetland ram lamb, Greyson, took 3rd place at 22 microns.  Yeah, Becky!!  I also enjoyed the Make It With Wool competition.  The contestants, who ranged in age from 7 to 77 years of age, sewed an article of clothing or a complete ensemble which had to be 100% wool or a wool blend.  For many years, I sewed ALOT, so I can really appreciate all the work involved.  In the Decorative/Misc. category there were quilts, shawls, mittens, hats and a very large braided rug.  Perhaps I will be motivated to enter an item in that category next year!

A Greek Marinade lamb shank was served at Friday night’s banquet – it was delicious!  I looked for a recipe on the internet, I have included the recipe and the link below.  This is the most basic marinade that I found.  There were other marinades with more ingredients…but I would rather start with the easier recipe.  I will try it soon and let you know what we think.  Tabouli and a Gyro were served at the Saturday luncheon, again the food was excellent.  I was lucky to win a small Sydell hanging feed trough as a doorprize!


Greek Lamb Marinade from

This Greek-style marinade can be applied to any meat, but is particularly good on lamb. Let the meat marinate for a while so the flavors can infuse.  Prep Time: 10 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste


Combine all ingredients and mix well. Use this marinade on all cuts of lamb. Plan on marinating chops and small cuts for about 4 to 5 hours. Large cuts like leg of lamb should be marinated for 8 hours to overnight.  Prepare as you like.

Farm Tour

The weekend ended with a trip to the Rafter P Ranch to take part in an on-farm tour.  I looked at this as an opportunity to see how “the big guys do it.”   I spent most of the time observing Kelly, a veterinarian with H & H Vet in Benson, MN.  She was performing pregnancy checks with ultrasound.  It was fascinating to see the fetus’ in different stages of development.  I also was interested in the chute/handling system.  Click on the photo to enlarge.

Kelley, a veterinarian from H & H Vet in Benson, MN performs ultrasound on the ewes.

A very BIG barn for a 1,000 ewe commercial operation. (Sorry for the blurry photo!)

Ewes eating corn silage at the fenceline.

Welcome to the Board

Ooh, I almost forgot to mention that I was elected to the Mn. Lamb and Wool Producers Board of Directors!  I have been wanting to get involved with an organization at a higher level so I offered to fill an open position.  So I am now the Northeast Regional Director of the MLWP Association.  I look forward to learning more about the industry and working to help promote lamb and wool in our state.  Becky was elected to the Secretary position.  Congrats to her!


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.

Shepherding 201 (Part 1) or How I Became a Surrogate Mother One Day…

My name is Duncan. And this is my story. The Shepherdess will tell it for me.

Last week, Monday night at about 10pm, I heard a loud baaaa-ing outside in the barnyard. I shined the flashlight on Bunny to see that she was in labor. I was so excited that I would get to see my first lambing, from start to finish! I grabbed the camera, lambing bucket and several flashlights, put on a jacket and headed out to the barnyard. I positioned myself about 10 feet away, sat on my bucket seat and waited. Bunny grunted and made little “uunghhh” sounds as she pushed. I turned the flashlight on to get a better look at the progress every few minutes. After about 30 minutes a little black lamb came slipping out. She went right to the baby and started licking away the sack. It took about 10 minutes for the little guy to get up on his wobbly legs and start searching for mom’s teat.

I thought Bunny may be carrying twins this year. Sure enough she started pushing again and a white ram lamb plopped onto the ground. Bunny seemed preoccupied with the first lamb nursing, so I cleaned the sac away from the twin lamb’s nose and mouth so he wouldn’t inhale amniotic fluid into his lungs. Then Bunny found the white twin lamb and started licking him off and making her nickering sounds. I left the new family, going to the barn to prepare a jug with fresh straw, hay, water and minerals.

Bunny followed her twins into the lambing jug. I had both of them in my hands, held together at her nose height so she could see them. She was very loud with her disapproval of my taking her lambs into the barn, but once there she settled in with the boys. I stripped her teats to make sure the milk was flowing, clipped the umbilical cords to about one inch, and dipped them in iodine. Next, I weighed the boys. The black twin weighed 6 lb. 10 oz., the white twin 5 lb. 8 oz. Both ram lambs nursed and the new family settled in for the night. It was about midnight when I got back into the house.

The next morning, all was peaceful with Bunny and babes. The black lamb has white on his face, neck, ears and white frosting on his sides. The white lamb is all white. When I went back out to check on the family, around noon, I was dismayed to find Bunny slamming her white lamb into the side of the jug. She wouldn’t let him nurse or get near her or his twin. I took him out of the pen and put him in the next pen. I checked his teeth to see if they were sharp and needed filing. No, they were fine – and his mouth was warm. That was a good sign – he had been able to nurse and get some colostrum from his mother. It had been about 13 hours since he was born. I headed for the house to get my sheep book so I could see what was suggested when a ewe rejects her lamb. I went back to the barnyard to find Cheviot #7 in labor (see Sneak Peek post.) I checked on Bunny and the white lamb to see how things were going. The poor little guy was crying and crying for his mom. I tried bringing him close to her and she continued to butt him. I decided then that we had our first bottle baby. Shepherding 201 had begun. Meanwhile Cheviot #7 was in labor, Baab was rudely sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, the little white lamb was crying, we had to set up a pen for him in the house, and I had to rest for work. Oh, and I forgot to mention that hubby hadn’t slept yet from working the night before!

Hubby set up a dog kennel in the laundry room and went to bed. I put the white lamb, who we named Duncan, into the kennel and mixed up two ounces of powdered colostrum I had on hand. At first he didn’t know what to do with a Pritchard nipple on a soda bottle, but once I squirted some of the warm liquid into his mouth, he figured it out!

It is now 10 days later and Duncan is doing great. He weighs 7 lb. 10 oz. and is receiving five feedings a day. We should be able to decrease that to four in a few more days. We still have him in the kennel, but we get him out with the rest of the flock in the barnyard for a good portion of the day. Next week, we plan on putting him in with the flock again and bringing his bottle to him.

Thanks for telling my story, mom! I’m sorry the Shepherdess didn’t have time to tell you about Cheviot #7 and her ewe lamb. She’ll tell you next time, okay? I need to be fed – and then take another nap!

Roundabout Acres’ first Shetland Mule Lamb!

Little Red Oak Lily is the (fiercely) proud mother of our first Shetland mule lamb out of Beechtree Dougal. The lamb is beautiful…and a boy! Oh well. His fleece looks purly like his sire; he will make a great whether for a companion or fiber pet. He has the most lovely face and eyes. LRO Lily (moorit, scurred) is our “wildest” Shetland. She does not seek any attention from humans and she is extremely protective of her lambs. Last year she gave us a single white ram lamb with a big moorit spot. He had wonderful fleece but tight horns. He went to the freezer. So, this year she gave us another boy with fabulous fleece. At least, with the Mulesheep, we don’t need to worry about horns. This big lamb weighed in at 10 lb. 7 oz. Below are a few pictures of Danny-Boy.

Also on Friday, our Mulesheep Maliah (from Psalm 23 Farm) gave birth to a black single ram lamb. Maliah is a very friendly ewe and she had no problem letting me handle her boy and stripping her teats. The BFL mules do have a HUGE udder! Her lamb should have no problem getting plenty of milk. He has white hair on his face and ears and a spotted nose; he is 1/2 BFL 1/4 Shetland 1/4 Cheviot. This boy weighed in at 10 lb. 3 oz. I don’t know if I can get grey out of this combination and we have plenty of black right now; pending fleece evaluation, he will be a freezer lamb. His name is Lamb Chop. Enough said.

And finally, I have to share a few pictures of pregnant ewes. Cheviot ewe #7 is so wide and flat, her back is like a table top! I’m hoping she has two lambs in there. Her udder is filling more, so maybe she will lamb in the next few days. She is bred to BFL Dougal for BFL-Cheviot lambs.

Below is Chev. #7 in the feeding area I made for the ewes. It is not visible in the photo, but the left side of her is just as wide as the right. She is moving slowly the last few days. To the left of her, you can see a stile I made out of tube panels so the llamas couldn’t get through. The llamas love grain but they don’t need much, if any. It just makes them fat. Llamas will spit at each other to get the choicest spot at the feeder. I got tired of being caught in the “spitting wars” while I was trying to feed pregnant ewes their much-needed grain! It works very well for the ewes. As for the llamas, I think they have finally accepted that I am smarter than them. (Maybe…?)

And below is Little Red Oak Bella, a moorit, HST ewe. Her bag is expanding and she is widening out. She is bred to BFL Dougal also.

Just call me Madame Shepherdess

We have no signs of a cria from Nessa yet. Time will tell. We are on Day 15 of Llama Watch, Round 1. This is so different than watching and waiting for ewes to drop their lambs.

We have one week before the first lambs are due; our barnyard is stuffed with groaning, waddling ewes. Well, I imagine they are groaning…they certainly are waddling! It brings to mind a “home for unwed mothers,” as they used to say. The girls seem to be a bit testy with each other; there has been a bit more head butting between the ewes. As I wait for lambs, I invent stories about the ewes… Perhaps head butting is their way of taking out their frustration and jealousy over “their ram.” It’s barnyard trash-talk… . I put together three breeding groups, with expected lambs from the end of April through the end of May. Since I put the groups together, doesn’t that make me the Madame? The Sheep Madame. Yes, every breeding season, you may call me Madame Shepherdess.

The first breeding group was put with Bluefaced Leicester ram Beechtree Dougal. We purchased him from Becky Utecht last November. He has a lustrous, purly fleece which is just luscious!! My goal with Dougal is to add his fleece qualities to our flock as well as more size for market lambs. He was put over four Shetland and two North Country Cheviot ewes. By putting a BFL over these girls we will get first generation crosses which are commonly done in the United Kingdom. The crossbred Mules, as they are called, can then be put to a terminal sire ram for a larger market lamb. I’m not sure that we will add the terminal sire to the mix next year. I want to see how we do with lamb size this fall. We will hopefully get at least a few Mule ewes to retain, and the rams which aren’t whethered for fiber pets will be a nicer size market lamb. All these ewes appear to be pregnant; right now it looks like one of the Cheviot ewes and Roundaboutacres Bunny will be the first to lamb.

Beechtree Dougal

Little Red Oak Lyra (iset) and Roundaboutacres Bunny (black krunet.) To the right is Little Red Oak Bella (moorit HST – two rear socks)

Our two NC Cheviot ewes, #7 and #23. Bella is in the back. I really like the Cheviots ewes. They are larger but calm and mellow with the other ewes. I still haven’t named them! I want a theme for the NC Cheviots – constellations, flowers, jewels, etc. Any suggestions??

Little Red Oak Lily (moorit) in front and one of the Cheviot ewes in the back. In this picture Lily is about 18 months old and the Cheviot is about six months. The Cheviots are definitely larger and blockier than the Shetlands. And their fleece is dense, dense, dense!

In the next post I will have pictures of the other two breeding groups. In the meantime, I am looking forward to more barnyard trash-talk!

He is a Very Clever Man

The pictures say it all!

Last fall, I took this picture of Long-Suffering Husband and Shetland musket ewe Nugget. He was tipping her while we were having a “Spa Day” for the flock. You know, trimming nails, checking fleece, worming, shots, etc. The sheep don’t really seem to mind too much but it is really tough on human backs. Tipping a sheep involves flipping them on their butt into a seated position, which subdues them. Of course, we have to catch them first. We don’t quite have the technique down yet so our backs ache afterwards. WE need a spa day after the sheep have theirs!

Long-Suffering Husband (LSH) isn’t crazy about the sheep. Actually, he much prefers the llamas but suffers me the sheep because I enjoy them and their woolly little selves. Sigh… In spite of this fact, he does help out ALOT, doing 95% of fence building, barn repairs, dirt moving, ALL the manure shoveling, most of the water hauling and a good percentage of the hay feeding. Because he and I sweat and toil on the farm and work off the farm also, I thought it would be wise to perhaps try to save our backs.

To that end, I purchased a portable head gate so we wouldn’t need to tip the sheep as often. It came from in southwestern Minnesota. It’s portable, lightweight and affordable. I will add more chain or bungee cord to make it work a bit better for our situation. It fits the Shetlands and is adjustable so it will work on the larger sheep as well. I think if I put a bit of nice hay down, the sheep would have something to much on and hardly notice they were restrained.

We used the head gate to restrain two of our rams, Roundabout Costello, a musket flecket, and Roundabout Baab, a white spot carrier. In mid-March, we rooed these two boys. They both have nice, soft, crimpy fleece and they were starting to lose quite a bit of their lovely fleece on the fences. I checked out a few websites on how to roo (hand pluck) a fleece. It only took a few minutes and LSH had the technique well in hand (so to speak.)

Above is Roundabout Baab and his lovely, soft, white fleece

Above is Roundabout Costello in an interesting pose… I think he is musket flecket. His fleece is very, very light in color with just a hint of grey and very creamy white at the base. Any opinions?

One thing I learned while rooing the sheep is that I was skirting at the same time. I only rooed what you see in the photo. I let the shearer finish the rest. The rooed fleece is very clean. I haven’t gone through the sheared fleece yet so I will see then how much more usable fleece is left. Next year I will roo again. It didn’t take long and it was enjoyable!
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