Friday, June 5, 2020

Yes another sheep post.

Well it had to happen. It was time to start looking for another ram. The first daughters from Samson our White Dorper ram will be old enough to breed this fall.


We have been saving money to make the purchase and had plans to tour several flocks.
This was before the Covid 19 shut down.
The resiliancy of Agriculture came through as Online Auctions suddenly became more popular.
We set our budget and got a list of characteristics we wanted in a ram.
Then we watched sales. There were a lot in Texas, too far away. Some on the west coast, too expensive. Some didn't have ram prospects that suited us so we kept looking. 
Then we found a new sale in Missouri. Called the Show Me Classic Dorper and White Dorper sale. It had a number of very nice rams. 

So we studied them, they had photos and videos as well. Finally we called the consigner of two we really liked.
Talking sheep is almost as much fun as watching them.  I enjoyed the conversation and the honest information and assessment of the rams.

So we decided Lot #4 was our number 1 pick with #3 our back up.

Sale Day was June 3rd. Online sales run all day. This one from 8 AM CST to 7 PM CST.

Ralph worked out his  plan. He would watch the sale but not bid until the very end. The waiting made me a bit crazy. Then we placed our first bid. We watched our bidder number go up as our bid was the top.

Now this sale is what is called "Racehorse Style". This means when the main sale time has run out there is a last minute bidding war.

If there was a bid on any lot in the sale 5 minutes would be added to clock. We had no idea what to expect!

Well it got crazy. At sale close our bid was top bid. Below budget, we were confident. After about 20 minutes of Racehorse bidding we were NOT  confident. Two more bids came in on Lot #4. We bid again to stay in the lead.

The budget limit was close, very close. We watched the time counter go down to 50 seconds.....boom...someone would bid on a lot and the time was back to 4:45 minutes! We found the problem, a bidding war on another ram, a very flashy Black headed Dorper with an incredible pedigree.
It took almost an hour of extra time for the ram to sell.

By then Ralph and I were nervous wrecks and had been forced to bid twice more. This time we had gone over by $30.00, not too bad but we knew as each additional bit of time was added we would not be able to bid again. 

We set to make sure if we did not succeed in getting #4 we would be rrady to bid on Lot #3. (He had not had as many bids)

Well finally we watched the counter wind down to zero.  We held our breath and suddenly were the new owners of RRA 1889, a long yearling White Dorper ram.!

So here he is:

He is arriving on Saturday, we will meet the trucker north of here and bring this handsome fellow home.

The online auction was a repreive from the insanity going on in this country.  Agriculture, with its core of hard work to earn a living seems not to have lost its mind. These sheep breeders are positive and hopeful.

I hope the tale of this purchase made you smile and know there are still people out there with values and integrity. People who are betting on the future and trusting God to show us the way.

Be safe and God Bless all of you.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sheep Obsession

We are so behind due to rain and more rain. We have been spending a lot of time watching the sheep graze and dealing with the rapid grass growth from the rain. It is a wonderful predicament after last years drought. However we are watching our hay degrade as it gets too ripe with no haying weather in sight. Yes Sheep therapy is needed.

So here we go.
12 ewes gave us 26 lambs. 24 survived and are thriving.
   Two ewes had triplets, 11 who had hers all by herself when we didnt expect her to. She was early (we suspect because of triplets, they were very small). She loves all three and is a very good Mom.
Specks was overdue and had triplets. They were all big lambs and the first one was sideways. I had to help and The first lamb was stillborn. The other two were just fine. I think perhaps I delayed too long in assisting her and will know better next time.
Barbados had twins, a lovely ewe lamb first... with a normal delivery. Her second was dead and had been for some hours. Genetics amaze me because the stillborn lamb was the true Barbados coloring of brown with black accents.

It was sad to loose two but that is the way of livestock. The joy outweighs the loss.





                           The Triplets

                  #12 and her Twins

                      There is a lot of bounding to find each other in the tall grass.

As you can see we continue to be blessed. Our health is good and we thank God everyday for our farm and the life it gives us. It keeps us physically active and gives us mental peace. We pray everyone is safe and managing with all that is taking place.

God Bless you all.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Bit of Normal in Crazy times.

2020 has so far been a year filled with the bizarre and disturbing. Strangely however we are finding very little changed in our day to day existance but we follow news of a world of closures, self distancing and looming food shortages.

 I love the canning and food self sufficiency Ralph and I have achieved here and our stocks of staples that we have at our fingertips. To be honest I don't think I really beleived it would be put to the test, yet here we are...thanking God for our blessings.

We have been continuing our planting and lambing is almost done. The asparagus bed gave us our first full servings of fresh spears, heavenly. Our plum trees have set fruit and the apple trees are blooming.

We have leeks and onions well started but our Irish potatos are late going in...we have had so much rain the gardens were far too wet to get into.

We naturally self isolate as there is so much to be done it keeps us healthy, happy and busy.

Will this CPP pandemic make people look at the way food is grown and sourced?

Will families take the time to actually get to know each other better?

One can only pray this is the wake up call this country needs to face perhaps its greatest challenge.

God bless you and keep you safe and healthy.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Sheep Plans

Sheep were in our initial farm plan, we had researched goats as well, as a versatile small ruminant to run in balance with sheep. Our first choice for sheep was Barbados Blackbelly. Sadly the work finding them did not work out.

 Deciding not to get goats  has been one of the most interesting modifications to the farm. The change  from goats  actually started when we bought a Jersey milk cow, we had the most amazing milk and a source of beef through the jersey calves.

Then the re-evaluation of our land, extremely limited browse but a lot of grazing land to be utilized. The sight of hair sheep flocks in the area got us thinking, to be honest I do prefer lamb to goat as far as meat goes,  research also showed sheep milk quite versatile for home use (just a bit more challenging to get).

I started to watch craigslist and we talked to our feed guy about Amish sheep breeders. Initially  we were looking into Registered Dorper. They are lovely meaty white sheep with startling black heads. They are also quite pricey.

We found a small flock for sale and went to see them. They were lovely. There were 6 bred ewes and one ewe with twin lambs at foot. The price tag floored us... $8000.00 was just too much so we thanked the breeder very much and went home trying to figure out a realistic method to get this breed of sheep. Then I saw a photo of a White Dorper Ram. Just as meaty but not that amazing color combination.

This got interesting, White Dorper are considerably more affordable. However we could not find any close to us.  At times we wondered if we were ever going to get sheep.

Of course between Craigslist and Flock for sale signs at the feed store we looked at lots of sheep. Then one day I cam across a listing for 12 ewe lambs of Katadin X Suffolk parentage. They were really nice and very affordable. By now I was desperate to have sheep, the fences were ready and we had lots of grass. So Ralph and I loaded up and went to look at them. We planned on six head.  Of course I should have known better, Ralph love’s  a deal, we arrived to find 11 very very nice lambs and 1 dreadfully lame one. We toured the Rams and ewes to see good feet and good conformation sheep, who were quiet and friendly. So Ralph got a deal on 12 lambs. Plus delivery and the seller would show us feet trimming and give them their CDT boosters.

The lame lamb responded to foot trimming and her lameness disappeared, they all settled in quickly.  It has turned our extremely well. Not Dorper though, I thought you might notice that. Last year we found a very good White Dorper Ram. Not cheap at all but we felt getting a good ram would get us the replacement ewes we want.  We do know one reason we got such a good deal on our little group....they do not all shed! Hand clipping is not fun but I got it done.

The first lambs arrived last July and August. Samson left his mark and we have 6 beautiful replacement ewe lambs. The off season breeding was not a huge success with only 4 ewes settling in lamb. The amazing thing was we did get all girls.

A good start to building our flock. We are aiming for 25 ewes and the ability to sell lambs to pay winter feed costs.  Our next breeding cycle was this past November, we turned Samson out on November 15th. Two ewes snuck by and got bred earlier so we have 4 lambs now. Redlegs had two more Samson daughters and Katadin had our first ram lambs. Katadin lambs are not Samson babies but from a Katadin Ram lamb we bought to butcher. We thought he was much too young to breed and found out differently.

Twin ram lambs...pure Katadin.

Samson sired ewe lambs.

It is quite interesting to see the breed differences. The Katadin lambs have longer tails and are very hairy. They are shorter backed and not as wide. The Samson babies are quite leggy and have short wool mixed with hair. They are heavier boned and have much wider backs. They look like their sisters did. We like all the lambs but it is going to be a learning experience watching them grow.

  The last summer lambs have turned into stocky, deep bodied young ewes. Very much what we had hoped for.

The replacement ewe lambs

The young ewes seem to have more hair sheep characteristics with the exception of my favorite “Mocha”, she is wooly all over! The rest have little to no fleece on their bellies and are starting to shed. They have the Dorper disposition which is much calmer than Katadin. We bought a Katadin ewe lamb with the two ram lambs, she is much more flighty and nervous than the Dorper Cross.

Mocha, a Samson daughter. 1/2 White Dorper, 1/4 Katadin, 1/4 Suffolk. Lambed August 6th, 2019

April will see the rest of the lambs arrive, we had 3 ewes bred in one day and all of them bred in 15 days so it will be busy and exciting. Overall the sheep have been very satisfying. We spot worm during the summer and have several ewes that did not need worming at all. In winter we worm everyone in March unless their eyes are exceptionally good color. Samson shows good worm resistance as he did not need worming from his arrival last February until last week . He did have signs of worms and when we checked his eyes he was paler than we like to see them. 

From our experience so far the sheep fit our farm very well. Ralph has them trained to follow for food and they are easy to move around. They come when called and we put them in at night, we prefer them to be secure and sheltered. They worked wonders on the grass last year, following the cows. This year with less cows it will be another learning experience, the drought last September/October showed us things we need to change and how critical rain is to this country. 

We have been feeding average quality hay and recently added a sheep specific mineral lick tub, we think that will help ease their need to graze as we do not want to put them out on pasture until it is well started. Our pasture did get stunted from the fall.(we have been here 5 years now and every year it is different!)

If your considering sheep for your small farm or homestead, we would recommend Dorper or White Dorper, at least as a terminal cross. Their easy keeping nature is well suited to small production.

God Bless and keep you safe.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Lambfest it begins

Lambing is such a joyous time of the year. I think if everyone got 15 minutes of lamb watching in during the day....we could have world peace!
Okay I do suffer from severe Lamb Cuteness Addiction but does the heart good to watch them play

Redlegs gave us twin girls sired by Samson. Then Katadin delivered our first ram lambs. These two are sired by Rudy....a Katadin ram lamb we bought to keep Samson company when he is not with the ewes.

#12 is restless tonight so I will be night checking.

Its better than Christmas!

God Bless you and keep you safe.