Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Plan A

Ovines were always Plan A.

But first we needed the fences; those dangly things hanging from rotting landscape timbers that the former owner's barn-sour horses thought were fences certainly wouldn't do.

And the pastures were more shrubbery than graze. They needed browsie beasts to tart them up and get them ready.

So before Brandywine farm got its sheep, it got chickens, guineas, ducks, turkeys, big goats, little goats, barn cats, more dogs than we started with, fruit trees, veggies, berries, asparagus.

Finally, this February, I see an ad for four bred Katahdin yearling ewes, for less than the price of butcher sheep at the auction.

After a few phone calls, conclude that Hell Yes, it is time to start the flock.

The first trick was getting them home. We don't own a pickup truck. Slimer, our vehicular houseguest, does not count, just because I am all snobby about things like functioning master cylinders.

My trailer has a bad bearing, and it was too bloody cold and too bloody troublesome to replace it before heading down to Washington County in the sleet and slush. Plus, poor little sheepies would be cold and scared and ...

So back of the Honda it was:

I fashioned a barrier out of cattle panel and baling twine, and Miss Rosie rode shotgun on the off chance that a passenger might try to breach the cockpit door.

Word of advice.

When transporting unhousebroken ruminants inside a passenger vehicle, make sure that you secure the tarp well.

Not that my twelve-year-old car, which has not had its back seat installed for over three years, was, you know, pristine, but on the few days that it has warmed up since early February -- well, it will never be the same.

They settled in nicely, and the waiting began.

Their owner -- who was only selling them because impending surgery made it impractical for him to deal with his later lambing cohort this year -- thought they would start dropping lambs within the month.

Starting at the end of February, I tied myself to the farm.

I couldn't go down to work with the Pilot Mountain Dogs for my NESR colleagues.

I couldn't help transport young NESR Scout, my new foster dog, so a nice lady and man brought him all the way here from Virginia.

Cute, huh?

May as well have had a GPS anklet and a parole officer.

The beginning of the end arrived this morning, courtesy of Sue the Sheep:

 The speckled little monster is a ram lamb, destined for the freezer in the fall.*

The cafe au lait model is a little ewe who will contribute to the increase of our flocks. By request of FOB Kelly Bahmer-Brouse, we'll be calling her Shaun.

Sue gave no special sign that she was finally ready to blow. She'd been looking like a black tick on toothpicks for over a week. I checked on her at 0100, and all was quiet. By 0600 both big, healthy lambs were born, dry, up and suckling.

My kind of lambing, and a big reason I held out for Katahdin sheep from a healthy, low-maintenance commercial flock.

Alice looks ready to blow any minute; maybe tonight.

* Don't even start with me, okay?


  1. Congratulations!!

    As I said, sheep lamb on their own time -- and preferably when you aren't around watching.

    The ewes look great. I expect you will be as happy with your Katahdins as I've been with mine - easy lambing and good mothers (for the most part.) (And Scout is pretty cute.)

  2. Scout is a handsome dog. We fostered him for awhile before he was taken to his home in Virginia. I hope he is having a good time on your Farm.

    Sorry that your Honda will "never be the same." You can try to leave an open box of baking soda in the car to try to absorb any smells. I hear activated charcoal can work well but have never tried it myself.

  3. OMG, that first photo--what a face. What? You need brakes to pull a trailer full of sheep home?

  4. Sheep love to ride in cars. I know this from experience. And the only moderately reliable way I ever found to tell if lambing was imminent was to feel their udders. Hot udder = lambs within 24 hours. That's HOT!! udder.

    1. (shuffles out to barn to feel up sheep boobies ...)

    2. Cornell, probably around 30 years ago now, did a study on the relationship between time of feeding and time of lambing. I didn't do it right and all my lambs were born between 2 and 5 am. But supposedly if you hit the feeding time right you could get your lambs born during the day. I have no idea now who did the study or where you would find it.

    3. I found one study, but it didn't find a relationship

      OTOH, they were feeding 2x a day, which would probably obscure any relationship.

    4. Another person said that, in the case of goats, if you shut them up tight in a dark barn at night and *do not check on them* they will wait until morning.

      That does seem to work with goats. But the way I'm housing the herd at the moment, I'm not shutting anyone up tight.

    5. The Cornell study did find a relationship. It was a long time ago now and I don't remember how many times a day they were feeding. I do remember that to get lambs born during the day you did not feed at normal farmer-type feeding hours. So not first thing in the morning, for example.

  5. Really, I need to learn to start the phenobarbital drip BEFORE reading your blog!


  6. How much do you care about the Honda? Once upon a time, there was a product called "Crazy Cat" with papaya enzymes that, while sold for cat pee, would remove any bio stain and stink known to man.

    Simple Green, maybe with some borax, or one of the Nature's Miracle products will do a heck of a job if you use hot water and have a strong shop vac (and that kind of time.)


  7. Yes, feeding times: if you feed at noon, the lambs will have a better chance of being born in the day. Has something to do with their rumens emptying out before labor starts. You have probably figured out by now, cud chewing = no babies in the near future. Took me a bit but I found the source of my information (not a study per se): Ron Parker's "The Sheep Book", a great resource that is available online. The chapter about lambing is here:

    Congrats on your lambs! They are quite bonny ones.

  8. ooh, Shaun the Sheep! I have had several of those. Katahdins are wonderful easy sheep. I bought my first 3 girls and they were/are very flighty, one escaped and ran 1/2 mile to the front pasture. I re-captured her and heaved her into the back of my Tahoe. She was exhausted(as was I)and had no accidents in the vehicle. All others I put in the big dog crate. If you haven't seen Shaun the Sheep you need to find and watch, great show. Carol Garren, Oklahoma ES & sheep owner


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