Sunday, March 20, 2011

March update

I don't seem to be updating my blog regularly and I haven't figured out how to import photos onto my iPad so am behind in my missives to the outside world.
It finally feels springlike by times. Yesterday twelve fat robins were hopping around the apple trees and there's more familiar birdsong in the morning. The waterfowl in the sheep yard thawed yesterday. Carrying water to 29 pregnant east Friesiens was becoming a major chore!  We let. The hens out into the yard and they raced madly between thawed patches. They are laying well and have recovered from their encounter with the owl.
My darling Blossom had two tiny lambs outside in the alcove by the back barn and somehow one wandered off just long enough for her to decide that she had only one lamb. I have all three in the maternity pen in the main barn but had to screen off a protected corner for the second lamb as she bunts him away quite viciously with her big horns when he tries to nurse. Poor little tyke looked so forlorn and he was getting hungry and bleating piteously. I managed to wedge her into the corner and distract her with some grain and got the lamb latched on so I know he's had colustrum for the first two days. And just for good measure, got some colustrum mix at the depot and have supplemented him with a couple of bottles. So five times a day, I go out, wrestle blossom into the corner, shove the grain bucket under her nose and jam the lamb onto the teat for at least a couple of minutes and then give him some more by bottle. Tomorrow, I'll have to let her out to rejoin the flock so that'll be the end of the nursing for the lamb unless he's gotten smart and canny enough to sneak in when she's distracted by hay or grain. But he's doing well so far and each day I've been taking him out into the main yard so he can get acquainted with his 24 cousins and his aunts and his grandma Friendly.
The saddest thing about these little bottle babies is that they bond with the person who feeds them and not with the other sheep so they are little loners in the barnyard. Especially if you bring them inside as I made the mistake of doing the first few times. Banishing them to the barn after they've been in the house feels just like sending your preschooler off on the bus for the first time!
One thing I am learning in my reading about dairy sheep is that udder confirmation is so important and when I look at my three Navajo churro ewes....Friendly and her two daughters, Blossom and Betty, I wish I could get that genetic into my dairy flock!!
I am going to keep Friendly's ram lamb this year. He is grey and has bluish eyes and is gorgeous. I'm going to breed him to a couple of my dairy ewes and keep the daughters and see how they milk. Friendly has always had wonderful lambs, she has a huge udder, tons of milk even for big triplets, she's calm and can be hand milked with no problem and her two daughters are just the same. Blossom let me hand milk her even when she doesn't want that second lamb. But that's a fluke because of circumstances.
We are feeding four round bales a week (about 350 lbs each). Excellent second cut and the sheep love it.  We're down to seven young pigs, two sows, the boar and a litter of three week old babies. Two headed for the abattoir next week, sow and boar sold, young pigs also sold and then there'll be no one but Esmeralda and the remaining four young ones. And then my major barn cleaning out begins as I need all the space for our mid April lambing.