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!!

Seasonal Ram Changes

Autumn is here and that means we will be breeding our sheep soon.  I really find it amazing how rams change during the late summer and early fall in preparation for breeding.

Above are 2 photos of our newest ram, Raulie.  The photo on the left was taken when we got him in April and the one on the right is from yesterday (September 30th).  You can immediately see differences in his facial features – his face is more wrinkled and swollen now.

As soon as you come close to (most) breeding rams, you will notice a major change in them … their scent.  Most rams smell musky during breeding season (or rut) – and some smell more than others.  Sheep have scent glands between their toes and next to their eyes.  You can see in the above photo how the scent glands next to Raulie’s eyes have increased in size to produce the musky odor that comes with the breeding season.

The ram’s olfactory sense is heightened during rut so that he can more easily detect when a ewe is in estrus (heat).  To accommodate this, the nasal passages swell so that the surface area is increased.  Sheep also have a specialized organ above the roof of their mouth called the vomeronasal organ that aides in their sense of smell.  When the ram smells the ewe, he breathes into his nose and mouth.  Her scent is picked up by his olfactory cells and the vomeronasal organ and he raises his head and curls his upper lip (this is called the Flehmen response).

Isn’t it amazing how these animals were created so that their bodies change with the seasons?!

Where has the time gone?

It’s been too long since I posted last. Let see what’s been going on here… I got a part-time job at a store in the outlet mall, I started painting the living room and hallway and we butchered the turkeys for Thanksgiving (I was the plucker). We also have farm guests … well the sheep do. Two ewes from western NY are staying with us to “visit” with our ram – Karloff.

I’ll try to post again soon … with pictures of our newly painted walls!


Keystone International Livestock Exposition. We went to Harrisburg on October 2nd to see the National Tunis Show (and all the other animals). Hannah loved all the animals except for the pigs, which Noah loves for some reason. When we were looking at the Tunis sheep she decided she wanted to get in the pen with the “babies.” I told her, “no,” and she showed everyone how well she can fake-cry.Noah was going to help hand out awards to the winners, but the show was running late and he and Hannah were getting hungry and tired. He gave out a few awards then we headed home, making a stop at Perkins for ice cream on the way.

We also got to see Noah’s poster in person at the show…very cool! Oh, and the grand champion ewe at KILE this year was a Tunis ewe from Massachusetts. Yay!

Noah’s 1st Day of Preschool

Noah has been looking forward to preschool since we visited it last spring and today was his first day. He was so excited and had a great time. He goes Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 2 1/2 hours. Today I took Hannah to get some fall clothes while Noah was in school. I think she really liked have time alone with Mommy… and having all my attention to herself! Anyway, here’s a picture of Noah in his classroom.

A Great Week

This week has been sunny and warm…and busy! Dave stayed home with us on Monday and Tuesday because he had just finished a big project at work last week. On Wednesday, my dad came up to spend some time with us. We always love when he can visit because we don’t get to see him as much as we’d like.

We spent so much time outside enjoying the weather that we saw lots of wildlife and made many new discoveries this week.

Dave worked mainly on cutting up the Locust trees that fell in August on his days off. While working on the tree out front he found this pretty caterpillar. I researched it online and found that it is a Black-Spotted Prominent caterpillar (Dasylophia anguina). One of their host plants is the locust tree.

 I took out my tomato plants on Tuesday because they had become affected by late blight, a fungal disease. This year I tried a lot of different heirloom varieties in the garden and I found it interesting that the late blight affected the heirloom tomatoes worst than the hybrid grape tomatoes in the same bed. Some of the Brandywine tomatoes were actually rotting right on the vine, which attracted butterflies! I got some good pictures of a Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) feeding on a tomato.
 The different markings on the inside and outside of its wings are amazing. With its wings closed the Question Mark looks just like a brown leaf, but when the wings open they reveal beautiful brown and orange markings. In the fall the butterfly develops a violet margin on its hindwing.
Another fascinating new bug, er spider, I found this week was a female Spined Micrathena (Micrathena gracilis). She is very small and has a web near the lower part of our deck. I first thought there was a parasite or growth on the spider until I looked closer and realized its abdomen is very large and spiny. It was very calm and let me photograph her easily.
These interesting mushrooms are growing in my perennial garden near my rose bush.
They are about 4″-6″ tall, yellow-orange in color and have a slimy, black substance on the cap. They seem to only last a day, appearing in the morning and shriveling up by evening. After some research I found that it is a Stinkhorn mushroom (Phallus rubicundus) and it’s frequently found in mulch and wood chips. Its spores are in the slime, which attracts flies, etc. They get the spores on their bodies and transport them to new places.
Yesterday I took Noah and Hannah for a short walk up to the road.
There were lots of vultures circling above…probably checking out the field across the road. Our neighbor cut hay on Wednesday and some vultures were following the tractor all day, probably hoping for some casualties. Anyway, among the vultures was a Bald Eagle! I pointed it out to Noah and he thought it was cool.

I hope you enjoy all the photos. We had fun exploring and photographing around our little farm.