News and blog
Good morning sports fans! Here's the score so far:
Eve (Cheviot) - black ewe and white ewe born 3/20
Hannah (Babydoll) - black ewe and white ram born 3/22
Gracie (Babydoll) - two black rams born 3/23
Dinah (barbado) - black ewe with one spot on head born 3/26
Suzannah (mini cheviot) - white ram born 3/26
Leah (barbado) - white ewe w/dark smudges and white ewe w/black legs & mask born 3/30
Elizabeth (babydoll) - Grey ram with dark legs born 3/31
Shana (babydoll) - black ram born 4/3
Gideon (black babydoll) is father of all. So we have 50/50 ewes and rams. We all pray for ewes but we get what we get!
There are 4 more ewes still to lamb. Simone (barbado) who gave me tripletts last year, Miriam (cheviot) and Rachel and Esther (barbados). Rachel and Esther are first time moms so I expect problems.
Until this year I never fully appreciated the process of lambing. Here is a typical scenario: A mucous string will appear from the vulva indicated birth is imminent. The ewe will start calling out and looking for "her lamb" which of course is not yet born. Don't ask me why they do this - certainly if she knew what was to come - she'd be yelling "go back - stay away!...She then start to paw the ground (nesting) and will get up and lay down a dozen times or more. The only way you know that real labor has started is that they will stretch out their top hind leg for contractions. They make no noise so as not to attract predators. For anyone who has ever watched or assisted with goat births - it is quite different - sounds like a regular maternity ward - lots of yelling and screaming! In a normal birth you will see the front legs appear first- the lamb will be in a "dive" position. The lamb is encased in a sack. Usually it only takes a couple of contractions for the lamb to be pushed out at which time the ewe is "supposed to" break the sack and clean off the lamb. I say supposed to because two of my ewes (babydolls) didn't attempt to break the sack and the baby sat in the sack only half way out of the birth canal. Thankfully, this year, they are lambing during the day so I've been around to help. If I had not - well, there would have been several dead lambs. The ewe begins licking the lamb clean and does this for a good 30 minutes. She also "talks" to the lamb. This does two things - establishes a bond - and allows her to embed her lamb's smell in her memory and the same for the lamb memorizing his mom's smell. If they don't do this they won't be able to find each other when out in the crowd.
Once I am sure that the lamb(s) is/are okay I move the family to a lambing crib which is 4 ft square pen with water and food. The idea of such small quarters is that is forces the mom to bond with the lamb(s) and allows the lamb(s) to establish a nursing pattern. It takes them a while to figure out and remember how to find the milk. If the lamb(s) is/are healthy and nursing well - and the weather is good - I move the family to the "play yard" which is an area I fenced off with temporary net fencing in order to keep the new family close for observation but allow them to get fresh air and sunshine. Mom can also graze. It further allows the guard dogs to investigate the new critters and assimilate the smells of their new charges. You can almost hear Golda saying "oh great -- just what we needed - more stupid sheep to guard..." After a day or so in the playpen I allow them out with the general population.
It is so much fun to watch all the lambs interact with each other. At first its a little chaotic as the lambs and ewes figure out who belongs to who. Lambs who attempt to nurse the wrong ewe will get a firm heat butt from the ewe. It takes some lambs longer than others to find their moms in a crowd and some just have a habit of wandering away to chase a fly or investigate a blade of grass. When this happens there is a lot of wailing - from both mom and the lambs. They really do sound like babies crying. Sometimes I have to go rescue the lambs and place them back near their mom. The ewe lambs are much smarter than the ram lambs in this respect - are we surprised? :) What's really funny is when a lamb attempts to nurse someone else's mom and her lambs butt the interloper out of the way just like they saw their mom do. Mostly though the lambs enjoy playing with each other and will bounce around the pasture - literally.
During the lactation period I feed some grain and soymeal to the ewes for extra energy. This becomes very interesting when lambs are everywhere. You see most any sheep will abandon its young for grains. One day, after I put out the grains I happened to look in one of the stalls and Hannah had parked her lambs in there and went off to eat. The other thing is that the ewes will trample the lambs in order to get to the grain (think teenage boys at dinner time). So it has to be carefully orchestrated. While the ewes are trying to eat - the lambs amuse themselves by jumping in and out of the middle of the feed tub. Fearless little devils...
It has also been fun watching Annabelle (the calf) interract with the lambs. Of course she thinks she is a sheep and I saw her running around with the lambs! Could be a problem next year when she weighs 800 pounds.
Moms usually wean the lambs at around 8 weeks or so. I allow the process to take its natural course. I will not sell a lamb before 8 weeks and sometimes a little longer depending on the lamb.
So pictures of most of the new lambs are in the Gallery. You can click on 2010 Lambs in the sidebar on the home page. I am working on some videos as well - will hopefully post those soon.
Everyone have a great Easter. Will post pictures and news of last 4 births when they happen.
Many blessings to all of you. Sharon (aka barn goddess)
Okay - here are two short videos - the first of Annabelle being checked out upon introduction and Bongo and Golda's entertainment for her:
Hannah - my original babydoll - gave birth to twins early this morning. One black ewe 8# and one white ram 9#. When I found Hannah and the ewe in the stall all seemed well - I did not see a second lamb. Then I saw a lamb laying outside the stall. That was the ram. Don't know why he was out there but it was clear he had very recently been born - still had some of the sack on him. Bongo was nearby eating what appeared to be the afterbirth. It is possible - and likely- that Bongo was there when the little guy was born and licked the sack off of him instead of Hannah. When I tried to put the ram with Hannah she backed away.
I gave the lamb some colostrum gel and a couple ounces of special milk replacer then put him in with Hannah. She allowed me to put him on her teat to nurse although he seemed a bit uncoordinated. I went back later and gave him a couple more ounces of milk replacer. If I don't see him easily nursing by the end of the day - he will become a bottle baby - but I will leave him with Hannah and his sister.
No pictures yet - don't want to stress out the little guy too soon. Will try later.
At around 12:30 pm today, Eve gave birth to twins - both girls - one white and one black. Mother and daughters doing well. Video will soon follow. One down 11 more to go! Stay tuned.
Here's a picture I snapped of Samson in all his dirty glory! He has since gotten a hair cut - pictures to follow
We've had some really warm days and cold nights which creates a fog on our pond. We recently have attracted some canadian geese to our pond and I thought the sight of them swimming in the fog was wonderful.
Thanks to my children, I now have a nifty new compact video recorder - the size of a Blackberry. So here for the very first time is video of the farm and its inhabitants. I took this after the last snow so there is some pretty scenery. Keep in mind that this is my first effort at "movie making" and I have a lot to learn. But enjoy. I plan to do a Farm tour in the Spring which will show each animal and especially the babies.
Enjoy and please send me feedback good or bad....
First, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone out there. I pray that your holidays have been as blessed as ours.
As anyone living on the East Coast knows - we had snow and lots of it. Of course, the Northeast as always got the best share - we had to content ourselves with 6-8 inches. But it was wonderful. I won't post any pictures this time - if you want to see what the farm looks like with snow - check out the March 2009 blog entry. We actually still have a few shreds of the snow here and there but its mostly gone. Praying for another storm!
It has been amazingly quiet on the farm. Lots and lots of rain. The pastures are mostly mud. Everyone looks like they bath in mud daily - and its true - they do. Golda - being pure white - really shows the state of affairs here - I still don't understand how she goes from dark brown to pure white without a bath. Are the sheep cleaning her off?
We have added one more addition to the family. A new indoor kitty named Frank. I know - I needed a new kitty like I needed a root canal. A friend had to move quickly and could only take 2 cats so had to rehome 3. She caught me at a weak moment. Frank is 7 months old and a real cuddlebug. I kept him separated in the upstairs bath for a couple of days and then let him out to explore the second floor. Jazzy - the house bully - has been giving him a good hazing. Joshua and Elija could care less. The dogs are going to be another issue. If he's smart, he'll make himself at home on the second floor and forget coming downstairs. Stay tuned.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAMMY
Yesterday, November 10th, Sammy celebrated his 6th birthday. We are blessed that he is still with us. Delilah, had she lived, would also have been 6. We miss her. Many happy returns Sammy! (By the way - Sammy was a little disappointed that his extended family did not send him any treats - I tried to explain to him that humans try to forget birthdays as they get older but he didn't seem to get it :))
BABE IS A STAR!
Saturday November 7th Babe and Sharon appeared in their first ever horse show. Sure, it was only a "Fun Show" (translated - no big deal...) but everyone has to start somewhere. We competed in 6 classes and walked away with 2 ribbons - one 2nd place in a field of 8 and one 4th place in a field of 25. By the end of the day both horse and rider were exhausted. Babe couldn't wait to get back home where she could do what she does best - nothing.
It was a great learning experience since I had no idea what to expect and even less of an idea of what I was supposed to do. Basically I just observed and followed. Fortunately, Babe had a better idea of what needed to be done and she did it beautifully.
Dee served as my "groom" and trainer, and did an admirable job making sure I stayed clean. If it had not been for Dee - I wouldn't have a horse at all much less be competing. Dee provided a custom dressing room for me in her horse trailer. Actually it was one of the horse stalls without manure in it. It worked - dry and private. Dee promises to put up curtains for future events :)
The one problem I experienced multiple times (besides being clueless in the ring) was that my hat kept flying off! I think this was because my hair is still shorter than it was when I had the hat fitted. I worried more about a horse stomping my hat to death than I did about winning! Here are a few photos from the show.
Breeding season is well under way. I noticed, however, that Gideon is having a bit of a scheduling problem. It seems that his services are very much in demand and he can't keep up. They are literally lined up (I'm not kidding) - he's having trouble completing one task when another ewe is kicking him in the butt telling him to hurry up. Not one to shrink from a challenge, Gideon is making a heroic effort to keep up his end of the bargain (oh that was awful - sorry). If he keeps up this pace, all the lambs will be born within a day of each other! Let's see - 15 ewes lambing in two days - time to book a vacation I think.
Not one to be left out of the fun - I observed Golda attempting to mount one of the ewe. A case of monkey see - monkey do? They say it has to do with the hormones which ooze out of every pore of the ewes when cycling. I'm not sure that's it with Golda - just think she liked the game Gideon was playing with the girls and decided to get in on the action.
BUILDING AN ARK
As I write this, it is pouring rain and has been all night. I'm not looking forward to going down to the barn this morning. First of all, when it rains - everyone uses their stalls as a latrine - it gets a bit messy. Second - at least in one of the ewe barns - there is a problem with water collecting in the stall due to - well I guess do to the fact that water follows the path of least resistance and I have not bothered to alter its course in this case. I keep thinking about it though. In any case, I know I'll have to clean out all of the wet bedding and replace it.
Most of the animals actually like the rain. Especially the donkeys. I do worry about the sheep getting wool rot (yes there is such a thing). But I refuse to put coats on them if they do stink to high heaven when wet.
The house dogs - fluffies to the end (translated - spoiled & pampered) - are loathe to go out in the rain to take care of business. Might get their tootsies wet. They'd rather hold it until they burst. Since it is supposed to rain for the next 24 hours I'll have to kick their lazy tails out the door. You should see the looks I get from Bailey when he realizes that he is about to walk on wet ground - you' d think I was sending him off to be executed.
Hope this blog finds you and yours well. Take care.
Shana's picture is one of the 12 selected by the North American Babydoll Sheep Association to appear in the 2010 calendar. Here's the link:
She is "Miss February" - the cat she is checking out is our previous barn cat in California - he stayed with the barn when we moved. Shana was only about 4 days old when this picture was taken.
Our Sammy is a study in courage. He never fails to amaze us. A couple of weeks ago, without warning, Sammy could not get up - he could not use his hind legs. My girlfriend Dee and I rushed him to North Carolina State Vet hospital where they administered every test known to dog kind - including two different MRI's. The result - nothing - no conclusion at all. There were two theories however. The first - Degenerative Myolopythy - a condition from which he would never recover the use of his hind legs. The second - a stroke to the spinal cord - a piece of disc material broke off and created a block. If so - recovery would be certain - at least partially anyway.
We took him in Thursday and by Saturday he was ready to be released - but he couldn't use his hind legs and it took 4 people to manage him. Fortunately - there are now such things as rehab clinics for dog - complete with hydrotherapy, massage, accupuncture etc. The hospital recommended Animal Rehab Clinic in Durham NC - run by Dr. Kevin Jones (vet and certified canine rehab practioner) and Jessica Sheets (physical therapist and also certified canine rehab practitioner). We took Sammy to them and prayed. If she showed improvement over next 2 weeks it was a stroke and he would regain some, if not all, use of his hind legs. If not - well - we didn't want to face that decision just yet.
Sammy settled in and began a program of water therapy and exercise. Here are some photos - you can see that he looked perfectly normal - just could not use his hind legs.
That's Kevin and Jessica with him. Kevin's the one with the great legs :) Here's a photo of all three of them. Kevin and Jessica are miracle workers in my book.
For a real treat here is a video of Sammy in the water tank.
HALLOWEEN IN VIRGILINA
We live in a remote area (ya think?) so its not possible to let kids roam around trick or treating from farm to farm. Most of the churches around here do what is called "trunk or treat" where members of the church decorate the trunks of their cars and pull in a semi circle in the church parking lot. Each person has candy or treats and the kids go from car to car. Some of the adults dress up. Well - not one to miss a chance to dress up - Dee and I put on our scary best and joined the party. Not only that - but Bailey and Solomon - unwillingly joined the fun. Here are a few pictures - I think you'll be able to tell which one is Dee and I. You can tell from Bailey's face that he is thoroughly mortified. The kids enjoyed them immensely though.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAM FARM AT THE COUNTY FAIR
What good is living in the sticks if you don't participate in the local fair. This year I took the goats and the 4 unsold babies from this year's lambs just to exhibit - no judging. They were a huge hit. No one had ever seen miniature sheep much less black ones. One couple stopped by the pen and the woman exclaimed: "look honey at the baby buffalo!" I'm not making this up. Her husband thought that they might be sheep but she corrected him by saying that no sheep that color and size existed. I thought about trying to sell her a couple of "baby buffalo" but thought better of it.
Fall is well under way here and the weather has been wonderful. Dee and I are riding when we can. Even took Kate out for a spin. She needs some work :) On Monday tossed Gideon in with the girls. He wasted no time - he thinks he's died and gone to sheep heaven! In closing this update - here is a picture of Sammy and his best friend joshua hanging out together. No question that it was Joshua who missed Sammy the most the past 2 weeks. Everyone take care and God Bless.