Saturday, April 5, 2014

To Get Lambs You Need a Ram

There is a new Ram in town
We really love our sheep. They are kind of like big fuzzy puppies. They do not bite, they can kick, they can drag you and head butt you, but for the most part they are just afraid of you and run the other way and typically through the fence, which ends up getting them put in the freezer.
Thomas looks a bit like Peter from the movie Heidi with his little lamb on a haltar
Ok Peter in camo pants
They have provided great interest to our little homestead and they have been fairly cheap to own as they have done an excellent job of keeping the grass cut short like a golf course. There are several considerations when it comes to field, pasture or in our case yard management. Height of grass and animal parings are important considerations. When managing your available pasture space the rule goes like this: horses eat tall grass, cattle shorter grass and sheep eat real short grass. To this end sheep will actually kill your pasture by pulling up the roots, and grazing it too short, in addition their urine and wool will kill the grass where they have been laying on it, if the grass has been over grazed.

The solutions are to rotate your flock and move them around the yard so that at the end of a rotation your sheep end up back where they started and the grass has grown back to food height before the end of the rotation. On larger pastures you can intermingle cattle, horses, pigs, and sheep. Each does their part in fertilizing, cultivating, and keeping cut the grass. The key is rotation.

Emily at the garden and electric fence
We have a neighbor who has twice the land we have at 5 acres and had 70 sheep. We have 5 sheep on 2.5 acres. He is getting good healthy lambs by managing his pasture through rotation. He uses single line electrical wire fence, I use mesh electric plastic fence.

What it comes to is that we simply have to move our sheep around the yard restricting their movement to smaller sections and their access to the shrubs and garden, on a 3 to 7 day basis. It is interesting that they will over look a tall sprig of grass in favor of the short sweet stuff, but it is true. So we actually have to cut the grass in some areas that they have not eaten before.

The next generation is on the way we hope! We would love to have more lambs and a larger flock to manage. So we started our search for a Ram and I do not me a Dodge Ram, I mean the real thing a male sheep, a Ram.

One of our neighbors has a moderate size flock of sheep around 800 ewes and he offered to let us borrow one of his 8 rams that he had culled from his flock. Now we are not looking to show or become a breeding power house we just wanted a few lambs. As part of this the boys and I went to his farm and I picked out a nice wide, long bodied, solid legged and full chested Ram with out HORNS! I do not like horns on my livestock or vehicles for the most part. Not too big and not too small as sheep are known to have issues giving birth. The gestation period for sheep is 5 months. So September is the month.

Borowed Ram
This guy is stout and heavy about 130 to 140 pounds. We were warned and knew from experience to let him get used to his new home or he may well take a hike through the fence, likely with all the girls in tow, if we did not put a log chain around his neck to slow him down a bit. The chain does not hurt him it just slows him down. After 24 hours he had settled down and realized he had a bunch of new girl friends, and as such was much more happy to be with us. So I let him off the chain and he calmly went about his business .............. The language of LOVE!

Here he is with the girls. If you listen hard you can hear them saying "hey Sailor, how bout a drink at the trough"
We will be keeping the Ram for about one month or more to ensure the best chances for our ewes to become pregnant. Luckily we do not have to pay for the service and our friend has just too many Rams and you do not eat Rams because they have a bad taste, so he would have just gone to market for pesos on the dollar.

Here are all the sheep in the electric fence with their water tub
Next we get Chickens! I have to build with they boys a chicken coop. Not a fortress storage building like the last one as it is not needed here like to the USA. They do have weasels here which are actually Minks which were brought here as an invasive species just like the African yellow jacket which is horrendous. So we will need to have a Mink proof coop or as one of our friends found out, one Mink can kill 99 chickens in one night as they are blood thirsty varmints! We hope to get some cattle, pigs, horses and dogs eventually but they will have to wait until we have our own farm.

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