It's Officially Spring

(Mostly) great news on the sheep front - they are sheared, and there are babies! Last year we didn't get the sheep sheared until sometime in May, and I had to milk them fully-coated for a month or so. I did NOT want to do that again, and for several other reasons it's just better to get them sheared before they lamb. Their beginning due date was around the 1st of March, so we were getting pretty antsy to get the shearer lined up by late February. Fortunately, everything came together suddenly after weeks of playing phone tag, and the shearer came Sunday, March 4. We got all 9 girls shorn in about 2 hours, and hung the bags of wool on the porch – with 7 cats considering the porch their bed and playground, we couldn't leave them anywhere flat!

  

That afternoon, I even managed to get one fleece skirted and pulled about 1.5 pounds out to get washed on Monday – I'd already sold one pound of washed fleece on my Etsy shop, thus the motivation :) I, of course, had plans to skirt one every week or so, but here it is almost 2 weeks later and I haven't touched one – but I just sold another 2 pounds of raw fleece today on Etsy, so I need to skirt one tomorrow! This isn't going to be a great fleece year, actually – I'm glad we got them sheared in early March, but that means that their fleece is actually only 10 months-worth rather than 12 or so, so it's a little shorter than it could be. On top of that, several of my girls are getting up there in years, 9 and 10, so their fleece isn't terribly long to begin with, so I'm not sure if one in particular is even worth selling. Another ewe had a bad fleece-break – all her wool has a weak spot, so that if you pull on it, and not that hard, it just breaks apart. This is usually caused by some kind of stress or shock at some point in the previous year – you can even try figure out roughly when by where on the fiber the break is, kind of like aging a mark in tree rings. Anyway, by shearing time, she had pulled out all the wool on both of her sides, and what is left isn't usable for anything other than maybe felting or dryer balls. I've already used one lamb-fleece for sale and will use most of another tomorrow. I also have a third reserved for a repeat customer, and that'll leave me only a couple of fleeces of sale-quality fiber. I suppose that's actually good thing, hopefully I won't end up with piles of wool on the porch for most of the year, right? At least, as long as I actually get lots of dryer balls made :) Actually, it might be even worse to have piles of almost worthless fleece stored for months and months!

As for babies – my second-oldest ewe, Hickory, (the one with the fleece-break) lambed Sunday morning – she had our first set of sheep triplets! Now I know what the stress was that ruined her fleece :) Two boys and a girl, all healthy and nice-sized (after weighing them, I calculated she was carrying about 17 pounds of baby!).

  

Unfortunately, the next morning Caleb could only find one. He found the second, the girl, after a few minutes – she'd gotten buried under the side of the haybale, and ended up being fine but she'd gotten pretty chilled and hungry being separated from mama probably all night. We had her in the house most of the day, thankfully Hickory is one of my sweetest mamas and I can walk right up and just milk her standing in the pasture. We gave the baby a couple of bottles to fill her empty tummy, and I made her a coat out of felted wool before I took her back out to the pasture.

Back to the morning search - the third lamb was nowhere to be seen. Caleb searched for a while, then I joined him and we grid-searched that pasture, the next one, the driveway and yard, all the way up to the house and nothing. It was made more difficult because the little guy was medium brown with big white splotches on his feet and head, and it had snowed almost half an inch overnight, so curled up asleep he would have looked just like a snowy clump of tall grass. We finally had to admit he was just gone, though, and give up. Later that morning, Kaylee came up the driveway from the farther pastures with the remnants of his body – as we'd finally decided, he'd been grabbed by a coyote :( The sheep are practically in the backyard, where they were sleeping was probably within 100 feet of the house! After going in and out of the pasture several times on Sunday, I'd only fastened the upper latch on the gate off the driveway, and left the lower one undone. Unlike goats, the sheep aren't as mischievious and nosy, and wouldn't wiggle and push their way out of that. Unbelievably, a coyote did push in through the crack, grabbed one lamb, and left! Last summer we lost 2 geese in the adjacent field, also not much more than 100 feet from the house. We are now looking into getting some new guard dogs – ours are really great dogs, but they're just getting too old, and if it's cold they're asleep in the doghouse rather than out patrolling.

I'm impatiently waiting for more lambs – the other older mamas are about to pop, from their enormous bellies I wouldn't be at all surprised to see more triplets! One of the first-year mamas is also very bagged-up, her mother is the milking breed East Friesian so I'm curious if she'll be worth milking. Unfortunately, she's totally crazy and terrified of people, so I'm not sure that'll be worth the effort! Regardless, milking season is about to start, and I'm ready for some fresh cheese!

Comments

Have you guys ever considered

Have you guys ever considered a sheep (goat and whatever else) guarding dog? I'll bet one could earn its keep and maybe give you some puppies to sell..

love thepictures!

Thanks for getting us up to date, can't wait to see the little ones. Yes, sounds like younger guard dogs are in your future..

Guard Dog

Yes, we had decided that as well! On Wednesday we picked up a 10-month old Pyrenees from a fellow farmer up the road, he's been a working guarder of chickens and goats until now, so we hope he'll do well with sheep alsol. We've got him in with them now, hopefully he works out well. If so, we'll probably get another younger puppy as well, so she could be fully integrated with all our specific animals from the beginning.

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