Kate has been jumping over the garden fence from atop my compost pile to get into my garden, and exiting from the corner of the garden behind the black composters. Noah and I reinforced those parts of the fence with cattle panels, but Kate had another hidden entrance, unbeknownst to us.
I watched her after letting the sheep out of the barn so she could show me where he secret entrance is. Good thing we have another cattle panel to block this part of the fence too!
We are often asked how the sheep in our flock are related. We keep many of our ewe lambs so most of our sheep are daughters, sisters or nieces to the other ewes in the flock. I can pick out familial traits in the sheep, whether wool texture or bodily features, when I am with them, but that’s because I see them daily.
Below is our Flock Family Tree. Names in parentheses are sires (dads). Rosy & Star were our first sheep purchased from a farm in PA and were half-sisters. We purchased Camille from a farm in Ohio, and Coco from NJ (but Coco’s sire was born here, to Rosy). For photos and ages of the sheep in our flock click here.
Not all these ewes are still with us or still breeding. Rosy, Star and Camille have passed, and Abigail, Annie, Bertha and Beatrice have been retired from breeding.
Please post any questions you have!
For our friends who aren’t on Facebook, here is our latest Virtual Field Trip. This time we talked all about eggs.
Please post any questions below in the comments.
This chick hatched on March 20th, and was one of 16 that we hatched in our incubator. All the eggs we incubated were produced by our flock and the chicks are mixed breeds or “Barnyard Beauties” (except for 1 Silkie chick that isn’t a mix). This time lapse video was taken over a 24 minute span.
Any questions? Please post in the comments!
With schools closed because of the Covid-19 virus, we decided to host a Virtual Field Trip to complement any learning your children are already doing from home. We broadcast the field trip live on Facebook Friday, March 20th, but also wanted to post it here for anyone not on Facebook.
We hope you enjoy this, and please post any questions you have in the comments below.
We will be hosting another virtual field trip on Wednesday, March 25th live on Facebook at 1pm EDT. The topic of this broadcast will be Eggs.
If you’ve been following us for a while, you may remember our Tunis ram named Raulie. Raulie was a special guy and lived out his days on our farm. I shared a little about his health is another post, but after finding a question about sheep spitting out cud on a Facebook sheep group I thought it might be useful for others if I detailed my experience.
In late November 2017, shortly after we started feeding hay for the winter season, Raulie began regurgitating large wads of his cud. He was born on Christmas and was just a few weeks from turning 12 years old.
I took this video of Raulie when he spit up his cud so I could send it to our vet before she came out to examine him.
After observing him and checking his vitals and teeth, our vet felt along Raulie’s throat. She felt a lump on his trachea and concluded that may be the cause of the regurgitation. Our vet mentioned the possibility of there being a tumor or growth in the rumen or other part of the digestive tract, but any further diagnosis would require more invasive, internal examinations. We decided we didn’t want to put Raulie through that.
Our vet prescribed 2 weeks of steroids to hopefully shrink the lump on Raulie’s trachea, but he bloated after a just a couple doses. We gave him a water and baking soda mixture by oral drenching gun to neutralize the gasses in his rumen and he recovered quickly but was unable to continue taking the steroids.
Instead of getting regular hay twice a day, Raulie was now to be fed hay pellets soaked in water 3 times per day. The hay in the pellets was chopped so small that we had no more issues with Raulie choking on or regurgitating his cud. He always came to us for his hay pellets and was in good body condition when we sheared in late February.
We did lose Raulie in March 2018, but he was active and bright-eyed even on the day he died. Changing his diet from hay to hay pellets gave him a few more quality months of life.
We want to breed for April lambs so we introduce our ram to the ewes’ pasture in early November. Prior to moving him to the girls’ field, we put a marking harness on the ram. This harness holds a rectangular crayon.
When the harness is strapped onto the ram’s body the crayon is held at his chest.
When the ram mates with a ewe, the crayon rubs against the ewe’s rump and leave a color on her wool.
When using a marking harness you need to change the crayon about every 2 weeks because a ewe’s estrus cycle can be last anywhere between 13-19 days, depending on the breed and individual sheep.
We have had a couple ewes that cycle every 14 days so we change the crayon on our ram’s marking harness every 14 days. The new crayon is always a shade darker than the crayon before, i.e., yellow is followed by orange then red. Changing the marking harness crayon to a darker color each cycle will indicate if any ewe is mated (or covered) during her second (or third) estrus cycle with the ram.
We leave the ram in with the ewes until there is a cycle where none of the ewes are mated again. Once the ewe is bred and the pregnancy takes, she will not ovulate (or cycle) again.
For example, on day 1 we put the harness with a yellow crayon on the ram and put him in with the ewes. On day 14 we change the crayon to orange. Say all 11 of our ewes are marked with the yellow crayon before we change colors on day 14. After we change to the orange crayon, we wait to see if any of the ewes are re-mated and marked with the orange crayon. If none of them have orange rumps after day 14, we would conclude that they were all bred and became pregnant during the first estrus cycle and it would be safe to separate the ram from the ewes.
If any of them end up with an orange rump (like the one above), we would change the crayon to red on day 28 (14 days after changing to orange) and wait to see if any ewes are bred once again.
By using the marking harness you not only know which ewes are pregnant, but you can also estimate due dates. As with estrus cycles, gestational periods vary by breed and can range from 144 days to 152 days. If you make note of each ewe’s breeding you can calculate her estimated due date and lessen your trips to the barn or field to check for signs of labor.