Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 2-5

morning feeding

It would appear that this season is going to be all about the Winter that wasn’t. Ordinarily, by Groundhog Day, the awful cold and snow have gotten to us. We’ve been shoveling snow and breaking ice..and everyone is looking forward to Puxatawney Phil’s  prediction for an early Spring (which is, quite honestly, a load of hoo-ey, but that’s just my opinion) But, so far this season, we’ve only seen two teeny, tiny snowstorms, one batch of ice (that proved looks are truly deceiving as it was utterly treacherous) and one short-lived blast of cold air that didn’t even qualify as the Polar Vortex. 

Not much of a winter by anyone’s standards.

There are those who will suggest that by my mere mention of this fact that I have somehow “jinxed” us and “we’re gonna pay for it...just you wait.” That may be the case. The weather patterns do seem to have shifted so that snowfall comes later in the year. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in March...

heading out to town
Speaking of snow, we started out the week with a little dusting. Just enough to be pretty, but, it didn’t interfere with travel. And, it was gone by afternoon (that’s my kind of snow!)
coming back to Mbrk

hen gate in progress
talk about a shocker
it looks like a gallows at this point
The Boss took advantage of the snowy morning and finished up his hen-gate project. This (somewhat) portable unit makes it possible to have an actual gate to wherever the hens are pastured, eliminating the need to “hop” over the electro-net. This may seem superfluous to some, but you try “hopping” the electro-net with a bucket of feed...or EGGS. The potential for some sort of mishap is very real. And, if you’re somewhat “electro-net challenged” like I am, mishap can quickly turn to disaster. And, now he can check off one more item from his “to-do” list!
hen gate in place

that's a NICE lamb!
Unbelievably, it is already time to work the lambs for the first time. “Working” the lambs means we run the whole flock in the barn, and allow them through the scale gate one at a time. This time we got weights and gave them their first vaccination. This will protect them from several clostridial diseases. The organisms are found in the soil, so there is no way to avoid exposure, so vaccination is the best way to protect the flock. And, if you were wondering, tetanus and enterotoxaemia (the diseases we vaccinate against) do indeed kill the animal. Once they get the disease, there is little hope for any sort of recovery. Having seen this happen, I would much rather give them two shots (one now, another in a month) than watch them die an awful death.

By running them over the scale, we can get an idea of growth rates and get a sense of any lambs that may need special attention. 

this bent hoof will not straighten
One lamb was born with his front hooves turned under, a sort of clubfoot problem. Generally, this is a result of over-crowding in the womb and straightens itself out after a couple of days. All the lambs are given a selenium shot shortly after birth that helps any issues like this one. (Selenium is a mineral that affects bone and muscle strength and it is found in the ground. Our area is quite Selenium deficient and supplementation is necessary for good health and vigor) However, after a week this little guy hadn’t gotten better. As a matter of fact, he was wearing the fur off his legs by walking on his knuckles. We tried taping his ankles to give them strength.
taped hooves
The first time, he managed to pull the vet wrap off, so we covered it with electrical tape. That gave him some support, but his ankles were still very weak. So, the Boss cut some PVC pipe in half and we taped him up in little splints. This worked great and he was off and leaping around with all the other babies in no time!

So much so that I think he may have injured himself elsewhere. He will be under close observation for some time. But, his greatly improved mobility improves his ability to get to food which in turn increase his growth rate.

And, it’s pretty much all about growth rate when you’re raising food. So, I'm excited to see the lambs starting to use the creep feeders.

That’s one of the reasons we check weights at regular intervals. A single lamb should grow at a phenomenal rate since it has no competition for the calories. When this doesn’t happen, we know that there is something amiss. In the case of #321, it appears his mother’s milk supply has dried up. This is an occasional issue with older ewes, so she’s reached the end of the line around here. Once he started taking a bottle, he has increased in size and vigor. Then, #319 is very small as well, although she is a twin. On further investigation, we found the twin is nearly twice her size and beats her to the milk all the time. So…another bottle baby….(are you keeping count?)

this is a cold, under-nourished lamb

another bottle baby

But, the biggest surprise of the first lamb weigh-in was that the triplets (the tragic triplets that almost didn’t make it into this world) are all growing incredibly well. Their weights were 16.6#, 22# and 24.6# at two weeks of age. WOW! (you generally expect one pound for each day of life up to about 2 months old for twins…weights on triplets is typically far less) Until the day before yesterday, their mother was feeding all three of them without human intervention. At that point, one of them discovered that I was the source of some delicious nourishment for the other lambs. …and, you guessed it…another bottle baby.
Multi-tasking barn style
3 of my 4 bottle babies

We’re up to FOUR bottle babies. Which has proved more than a little interesting as I only have 3 baby bottles. (and two hands) Today, I will be rummaging through my supplies looking for more bottles and nipples. And, the Boss will be headed to the shed to recover the lamb bar he built a couple of seasons back. Did you read THIS one?

night sky over the barn
Making countless trips to the barn to feed babies also included a check on the one ewe due to lamb this week. Every four hours I checked, and every four hours I wondered why I bothered. She showed every indication that “something” was going to happen, but it didn’t.

Well, not quite true. Somewhere between Friday’s 2am check and the 6am check (and lamb feeding frenzy) she dropped two nice ram lambs. They were both vigorously looking for some breakfast when I arrived. Things got a little chaotic as the bottle babies were hungry too and not averse to taking a quick sip from the new mom. Poor, old sheep…she looked slightly overwhelmed when all those hungry mouths were headed her direction! It didn’t take long to sort everyone out and after a short stay in a jug pen, the new family will be joining the flock this afternoon.
new babies
mama sheep kept nosing into the photo

Now, we will wait for the ewe lambs to have their babies, hoping all the while that this time is a success, unlike the other time we bred ewe lambs. Oh, UGH! (read  this one)  I’m hoping that we’ve learned enough to avoid such issues again. But, we won’t know for certain until the end of the month…
pretty morning

Groundhog Day shadow or no, the first of February means it’s time to start the early spring brassica crop. And, that means I really need to get the greenhouses tidied up. (sounds like a good project for this afternoon) By this time next week, we should have some sort of germination and we’ll be off and running for another season. We also got an email from the hatchery that the first batch of chicks will be hatching (and shipping) in about 2 weeks…so, there is no denying it…the “off-season” is quickly coming to an end.  It also makes me wonder if we ever even had an “off-season”.

…and that was our week on the hill.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

Thanks for stopping by…come “visit” us again soon.


  1. I'm glad you have had a mild winter. That hen gate is perfect. I wouldn't want to be going over an electric fence with buckets of feed either! -Jenn

    1. Thanks, Jenn!
      I'm not quite sure if the mild winter is a good thing...guess we will see during the growing season.

  2. Hi Barb! I sure wish I had the Boss' talent for fixing things! I love the PCV pipe for lamb splints - genius! And the hen gate! What a guy! I have about 14 seasoned ewes ready to lamb at any time - and around 11 yearling lambs. I am hoping we have no issues - but I am ready just in case. God Bless!

    1. Thanks for reading, Tracy!
      Yes, the Boss is pretty handy. He's a big part of what makes this place work so well.
      Here's hoping for a great lambing season for you. All the best wishes!