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.
Lambing lasted about a month this year. We had 12 lambs (plus one stillborn lamb) born to 8 mamas.
Kathleen was the first to lamb with her first lambs. She had twin ewe lambs on April 3rd.
Fiona and Bertha both gave birth on April 7th. Fiona had twin ram lambs…
…and Bertha had a single ram lamb.
Erin gave birth to a ram and a ewe on April 11th.
Esme waited until I was in Allentown setting up for the Allentown Fiber Festival on April 12th to have her twin rams.
Coco had her twins the next day, on April 13th, but the ewe was stillborn and only the ram survived, despite our efforts to revive the ewe lamb. With everything happening so fast, I never took a birth photo of her lamb but did get this one with our barn cam.
Kate gave birth to her first lamb – a ewe – on April 17th. We were so happy that she lambed before Noah was at school since Kate is his sheep.
Izzy was our last ewe to lamb and she gave birth to a single ewe lamb on May 5th.
Kathleen’s ewe lambs, Coco’s ram, and both of Erin’s lambs will be available in early – mid July.
If you are interested in purchasing any lambs please contact us by email or phone, or on our farm Facebook page for more info.
If you’ve been following our farm for a while you probably know about Kyle, our lamb that was born without wool on his body. He was born on February 25, 2017 to Annie and sired by Hurley.
Over the summer I decided I wanted Kyle to move south because I didn’t want him to suffer through our cold Pennsylvania winters. I found a wonderful woman in Texas who fell in love with him from my various Facebook posts about him, and in October 2017 he moved to Texas! God provided people who were moving other sheep from Virginia to Texas and agreed to bring him along. I drove him to Virginia where he was cared for by a friend and fellow Tunis breeder until the couple arrived to pick up their sheep (and Kyle).
Kyle arrived safe and sound in Texas and settled in right away.
He made friends right away with his new owners dog …
and became buddies with her cow.
He got a nice sweater to wear when temperatures turned chilly.
The winter of 2017-2018 brought snow to parts of Texas that hadn’t seen snow in 30 years! I joked that Kyle brought the cold weather with him. He was prepared for the weather with his new coat to keep him warm, though.
I keep in touch with his owner and Kyle turned 2 years old last month. He’s such a big boy and looks so happy soaking up the sun!
His owner also tells me he has a mischievous side and sometimes joins the donkey in chasing the cat up the fence posts.
We learned so much from Kyle being born with hypotrichosis, and I’m so glad that I met his owner and we were able to transport him to Texas. He’s been a blessing and I hope he has many healthy years ahead.
~all photos are from Kyle’s new owner~
Our sheep were scheduled to be shorn last weekend but with a cold snap this past week, we decided to postpone until this weekend. All the sheep were cooperative and were shorn without a hitch.
Here’s a timelapse video I took of shearing (about half our flock – I didn’t move the camera when we moved to the opposite end of the barn).
I will be skirting fleeces over the next couple days, then sending wool to the mill for processing into roving and yarn. Like us on Facebook or favorite us on Etsy to get updates on when we have the finished roving and yarn available for purchase.
Kate is Noah’s yearling (lilac, 4-horn) Jacob ewe. He decided that at least for her first breeding he wanted to breed her to Jacob Ram.
We are borrowing a ram from our friends and Noah decided which of their rams he wanted to use last Sunday. Sebastian arrived at our place on Tuesday morning. The first 24 hours with this guy was interesting to say the least….
Kate was nervous around him but distracted by all the fresh grass. As the day went on she seemed more stressed about being taken from her flock, even though she could see them (or maybe more so).
I brought them in the barn the first night so she wouldn’t keep our neighbors awake with her constant crying. Wednesday morning while I was feeding the other sheep she escaped from the barn and was running around the pasture. Poor Sebastian looked so confused when I coaxed her back into the stall.
I had decided Tuesday night that if she didn’t settle down I would add one of our other ewes into Kate’s & Sebastian’s field. I chose Kathleen since she was already bred by Kai and because she and Kate have been together from last summer until 10 days ago.
After introducing Kathleen to the group in the barn, I let them back out into their little field around my garden. Kate settled down pretty quickly and the girls are getting used to Sebastian.
Both ewes are still a little wary of Sebastian, but we have seen them grazing together and sleeping relatively close to each other.
Let’s hope for a healthy Jacob lamb or lambs this spring!
When we first got into sheep, in 2006, it was recommended to (de)worm sheep at regular intervals then move those sheep to a “clean” field (one that sheep had not been on in at least a couple weeks). There are 3 classes of parasite drugs, each targeting certain types of parasites, and it was also suggested to use a medication from a different class at each interval.
From research and from many farms dealing with parasites that are now resistant to certain anthelmintic drugs, recommendations have changed over the past few years. Shepherds are now advised to test sheep for parasites and (de)worm after sheep have been in an area for at least a few days so that any parasites that aren’t killed by the medication and are expelled from the animal’s body will have a better chance of breeding with “normal” parasites instead of other resistant parasites. Testing can determine what parasites are present and, therefore, what class of drug (if any) is needed.
With this new info and advice about parasite resistance to worming medications, I have been doing fecal tests every 3-4 months on my flock to see if I need to treat them. If I notice certain sheep are acting off I will do individual fecal tests on those sheep. My ewes were last wormed in Jan 2017 and my boys were wormed in the summer of 2017.
If there are obvious signs like pale eyelids (indicative of anemia), I worm with cydectin right away instead of waiting for a fecal because barber pole worms can become a fatal problem very quickly. In this case, I would run a fecal 1-2 weeks after treating to see if a second treatment is needed.
I have noticed that some of our lambs have issues with parasites over their first summer and autumn, and need multiple treatments. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that they will always be susceptible to a “normal” parasite load. I’ve noted that most of those same sheep will not need worming their 2nd year. Once they are bigger they seem to be more resistant to parasites.
Parasites can be an issue to sheep that we bring to the farm or that we sell. The stress of moving to a new place can trigger worms to become more active. Each farm also has different populations of parasites and it can take time for the sheep’s body to adjust to the population of the new farm. Because of this, I recommend checking new sheep more often – doing a fecal once a month or so and checking eyelids weekly.
Questions? Leave a comment below and I will answer as best I can. I urge you to do your own research, though. The Maryland Small Ruminant Page is a great resource run by Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist for University of Maryland Extension. The Ohio State University Sheep Team runs a sheep blog that is very informative. If you don’t have a local vet who is knowledgeable with sheep, Pipestone Veterinary Service can be reached by email or phone for sheep questions. You can also Google topics and find many other resources. If you don’t have a local vet who can run fecal tests, you can send samples to MidAmerica Agricultural Research.