9/8/12: Both David and I enjoy a good lamb chop, but have been finding it hard to consistently get high quality lambs to provide them. So we decided that it might be a fun, new adventure to try raising sheep. Our first try was not terribly successful in that we started with wool sheep that needed shearing once a year, which was a bit pricey. Plus one of the ewes stomped on my foot so hard that I required surgery to remove the bone fragments. No, not a great beginning. But now we have changed to Katahdins, a hair type sheep. Hair sheep will naturally shed their winter coat and don't need shearing. They are also smaller so, hopefully, my feet will be safer!
Our starter flock of registered Katahdins has now arrived and they are settling in nicely.
7/22/13: The sheep are being quite a challenge to say the least. In March one pregnant ewe prolapsed and despite our efforts to save her, she died. A month later another ewe prolapsed. This time we butchered her instead of working to fix that problem. We just do not want ewes that prolapse in the flock. As sad as I was to lose her, I have to admit that she was very tasty. One other ewe ended up not getting pregnant. But three ewes did lamb successfully, giving us 2 ewe lambs and 2 ram lambs. All the lambs are doing great and getting very big!
Two of our ewes are the remnants of our original wool sheep flock so they need shearing. In May we found someone to help us do that. But while catching the second ewe for shearing, David's finger got caught in the wool and with a loud CRACK the finger was dislocated. Stoically, he popped it back into place and we resumed our amateur attempt at shearing. Working with sheep is obviously not for the faint of heart.
We had a barn delivered in 2012. Part of the new barn is used for housing the sheep and part is a feed room for the sheep and for the hogs. It was a pricy building but we just didn't have the time or inclination to build it ourselves.
The sheep are now free range during the daytime and put in a large pen with access to the barn at night. So far that is working quite well and it's really fun to see the sheep out grazing.
The adventure continues with the hopeful purchase of some St. Croix sheep soon.
All in all, those are some mighty pricy lamb chops!!
New Year's Day dawned bright and cold. As I started on my morning rounds to care for all the animals I noticed that the sheep flock seemed a bit bigger. On closer examination I saw the two newborn ewe lambs frolicking with their mom. The lambs were still wet from being born, but they were sturdy and playful already. It's hard to believe that they were inside of their mom just moments ago.
The rest of the flock followed suit throughout the winter and spring - giving us healthy lambs that grew well. We had plenty of high quality lamb to put into our freezer. That was a really good thing since we were not able to get our 2 year old steer slaughtered this year. See our Cattle page for that story!
We did bring in some St. Croix sheep at the end of last year. But most of them tested as being suseptible to Scrapes so they were sold. We kept one ewe, Alice, that tested as resistant for Scrapies. She lambed in May with a singleton ram lamb that looks great (pictured on left above at 7 months old).
It was a ram lamb year which is just fine with us. We had 7 ram lambs and 3 ewe lambs born. One of our mommas had triplets - what an overachiever! The ewe lambs were sold along with our remaining St. Croix ewe to work at a sheep dog training facility. I liked Alice, the St. Croix, but she was pretty high strung which makes working with the sheep harder. The Katahdins are much more laid back and easier to work with. The wethered ram lambs will find their way into our freezer this winter.
Our "black sheep of the family" is Cricket, supposedly one of our barn cats. But Cricket would rather hang out with his sheep. He even sometimes goes out with them when they head out to graze.
Our flock leader, "65", started out the year giving us twin ewe lambs in January, and finished up the year giving us 2 more ewe lambs on Christmas Eve. She did get mastitis in one udder half but we treated her and she recovered fairly nicely. That half isn't as productive now, but she is still doing a great job of feeding her girls.
We did lose "Spot" this year after she lambed with triplets. After the birth she was lethargic but got her lambs fed their all-important colostrum. We treated her for milk fever and ketosis but nothing seemed to help. As it turned out, she must have burst a blood vessel during labor since when we did a field necropsy her body cavity was filled with blood. She was quite a goofball and we all miss her.
All the other ewes lambed easily and had a very good year. We sold all the lambs since we still had plenty in the freezer already.
We have now sold our entire flock of sheep due to downsizing the ranch. It's a bit sad not seeing them out grazing. Who knows, maybe we'll get just a few again sometime...