When Abortion in Sheep Can be Prevented

This is Duffy’s story:

Duffy

Duffy was born to Rosy in 2010, our only triplet birth on the farm so far (you can read about it here).  She was due to lamb for the 1st time in early March, 2012.  About ten days before she was due she went into labor – on February 25th – and I was the only one home because I was sick.  I went to feed hay in the late afternoon/early evening and found Duffy in the back of the pasture by herself.

I got her into the barn but her labor did not progress so I tried to assist.  She was hardly dilated and I couldn’t get to the lambs.  Plus there was an odor… a bad odor.  I called our vet, Dale (who is now retired and missed dearly), and he and his wife got to our place about 45 minutes later.  He pulled twin lambs with a lot of difficulty and gave Duffy antibiotics and other medications.  He estimated that the lambs had died a day or so prior to her aborting them.

He told me to call him if any other ewes aborted because if the cause of Duffy’s abortion was infectious, it could go through the flock.  Over the next days and weeks I watched the other pregnant ewes closely and researched causes for abortion in sheep.  I learned that a large percentage of sheep abortion is caused by non-infections diseases – read: injury, rough handling, poisonous plants and inadequate feeding.

Causes of Abortion in Sheep in N Ireland

During this time I began to consider that Duffy had been injured prior to aborting her lambs and tried to remember any incidence of injury.

Two days before Duffy aborted her lambs we vaccinated the pregnant ewes.  I remembered that Duffy had gotten pushed into the stall doorway on her way out of the barn when we led the sheep back to their pasture.  The doorways had O-rings on them from when the barn housed horses and I believe that is what caused her abortion.  I immediately took the O-rings off the doorways of any stall that the sheep would enter.

stall doorways - before and after

Our other 5 ewes lambed normally in March and produced a total of 9 lambs (4 sets of twins and a singleton).

Please look all around your sheep handling areas to be sure there are no potential hazards.  We used this stall without any trouble for 6 years, BUT it only takes 1 second for a freak accident to happen.  This time it cost us 2 lambs.

Felting Soap – A Tutorial

Felted soaps are easy and fun to make, plus they can be wonderful gifts!  The felted wool (or other fiber) acts to exfoliate and gently scrub your skin as you wash.  As the soap gets smaller the fiber will continue to felt and also shrink.

I’ve detailed the steps for wrapping the fiber around the soap below.  I’ve also included a video at the bottom showing how to felt the fiber onto the soap.

Below are the supplies you will need to make your felted soap: wool (or other fiber suitable for felting), soap, knee-high nylons.

Felting Supplies

Step 1 – Gently press the edges of the soap so they are rounded (if necessary).

Rounding Edges

Step 2 – Draft out some fiber so you can wrap it around the thin edges of the soap.

Drafting fiber

Step 3 – Wrap fiber around thin edges of soap.

Fiber Wrapped Around This Edges

Step 4 – Prepare fiber to wrap around the wide sides of the soap by drafting it to be wide but sheer.  Felting is easier when you work with several thin layers of fiber instead of a couple thick layers.

Fiber for Wide Sides

Step 5 – Wrap soap with fiber, alternating directions so that the fibers criss-cross.

Wrap 1 way

And the Other

Continue until you cannot see the soap through the fiber.

Ready for Decorations

Step 6 – Decorate with other color(s) or create a pattern/image if desired.

Ready to Felt

Step 7 – Put nylon knee-high over your hand.  Place fiber-covered soap in your nylon hand and turn the nylon inside-out over the soap.

Wrapping Nylon around Soap

Soap Wrapped in Nylon

Step 8 – Fill sinks (or containers) with hot AND cold water.  If you are felting scented soap and are using containers, use glass or metal because plastic one may absorb the soap’s fragrance.

Hot and Cold Water for Fetlting

Now your soap is wrapped in fiber ready to be felted.  Please watch the video below for the felting instruction.

 

Your soap will take a day or 2 to dry… then enjoy!

Oops… or, Another Lesson Learned

We have bred our sheep and had successful lambing seasons for 6 years. This fall breeding season, however, turned out to be a learning experience for us.

Usually at 3 months our lambs are separated from their dams for weaning. After 2-3 weeks we move the ewe lambs back to the pasture with the adult ewes. The ram lambs go in the pasture with our adult rams and wethers. For some reason (I can’t remember why right now), we let ALL the lambs go back to the pasture with their dams for the summer.

On October 13th, we took all the ram lambs away from the ewes because we saw some *frisky* behavior going on.  We had decided to put our rams in with the ewes in early November so that we wouldn’t have lambs until April.  We separated our rams so that Ezra and Camille we together in one field (Camille is our only ewe that Ezra is not related to), and Raulie was with Annie, Abigail, Bertha, Beatrice, Erin and Esme.  We put all the lambs in a 3rd field with our wether BFL and goat.

{Some background info on sheep breeding… We put breeding harnesses that hold crayons on our rams each breeding season.  When the ram mounts the ewe the crayon on the harness rubs on her rump.  We then have  visual evidence of breeding and can mark our calendar accordingly so we can calculate when any lambs will be born.  Sheep cycle ever 14-18 days, therefore, you should change the color crayon in your ram’s breeding harness every 14-15 days.  If a ewe is marked with the second color, this means she did not conceive during the 1st cycle.  Any ewe that did conceive in the 1st cycle will not cycle again and the ram will not have any interest in mounting her.}

After 2 weeks of rams and ewes together, not one of the ewes was marked with color on their rump.  We usually breed in October, I started to wonder if we missed our window of opportunity, but I didn’t really think that was the case because we have had rams breed ewes though December.  Since none of the girls were marked, I didn’t bother changing crayon colors for their next cycle.  Two more weeks with nothing, and during that time I started thinking that we left the ram lambs in with their dams too long because the adult rams were not mounting the ewes at all.  You’ll remember that we did see some frisky behavior earlier in the fall, but we didn’t witness any actual breeding.

Now that we’re in the New Year, we are anticipating a surprising lambing season because we think our ewes are pregnant, but we don’t have any idea when they are due.  We guess that any lambs will be born BEFORE mid-March since we took the ram lambs away from the ewes in mid-October.  Unfortunately this lamb crop will not be able to be registered, but we will look forward to the lambs anyway!!

Making Gnocchi

Gnocchi can be made 2 ways… with potato or Ricotta cheese.  I use my grandmother’s recipe to make mine and use Ricotta.

What you’ll need:

3 lbs         Ricotta Cheese

2lbs+        Flour (you’ll need to add more than 2 lbs so that the dough isn’t sticky and also for rolling the dough)

3                eggs

handfull of parmesan (I use Locatelli instead)

Gnocchi boards or forks

gnocchi1

Step 1 – Put wax paper on cookie sheets.

gnocchi2

Step 2 – Measure out ingredients and make “well” in center of flour.

gnocchi4

gnocchi3

Step 3 – Mix together eggs, Ricotta and parmesan.

gnocchi5

Step 4 – add wet mixture to well in flour and knead dough (don’t over-knead or the dough will become tough).

gnocchi6

gnocchi7

Step 5 – Wet a towel with water, wring it out and cover dough so it doesn’t dry out.  Cut of small amount of dough off.

gnocchi8Step 6 – Roll into long “rope” and cut into small pieces.

gnocchi9

gnocchi10

Step 7 – Roll pieces of dough on gnocchi boards or forks.

Step 8 – Freeze gnocchis on cookie sheets then put into freezer bags (you can also cook the fresh gnocchis).

Step 9 – Cook in boiling water until they all float.  Serve in a dish with gravy (we don’t call it sauce!) and enjoy!

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