Wednesday, February 29, 2012


A few of the ewes at the East Farm presented us with several sets of twins over the weekend. Mike and Carl were able to separate the new families from the rest of the flock and get them into jugs. 

Yesterday we ran the remainder of the ewes through the handling system to sort any ewes who looked close to lambing (ten total). 

Both the ewe and her lambs are marked with Super Sprayline. We use the marker to identify which lambs belong to which ewes. Green is for twins, blue for singles and orange for triplets. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

PowerBilt Panels in use

The Kalona Sales Barn of Kalona, IA has had in influx of goat kids in recent weeks. So they have started using our 36" PowerBilt panels to build pens for the kids. They used Wire Panel Connector Hinges to hold them together. Here are a few photos of how they have them set up. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Glossary of sheep terms

Below is a glossary of sheep terms that you may come across. We hope you're able to find a few terms you haven't heard before.

abomasum—a ruminant's 4th stomach. Breaks down proteins.
abortion—premature delivery of a non-thriving lamb.
accelerated lambing—management schedule in which ewe lamb more than once per year.
acidosis—over consumption of grain leading to the rumen becoming overly acidic.
ad lib—full access to feed.
after birth—placenta and bodily fluids expelled by the ewe after the lambs are born.
alkaloids—an organic substance found in plants that often has toxic effects on animals.
antibiotics—therapeutic for the management of bacterial infection.
antibody—a protein form by the immune system to fight infections.
anti-toxin—an antibody with the ability to neutralize a specific toxin.
artificial insemination—process of mechanically impregnating an animal.
assisted birth—helping a ewe lamb via pulling a lamb or caesarean section.
ataxia—inability to coordinate muscle movements.

bacterin—a vaccine that is made of killed, whole, bacterial cells.
baleage—a baled form of silage. Usually grass based (not corn).
bale (wool)—baled form of sheep fleeces. Usually weighing between 200 and 400lbs.
bander—see elastrator.
barren—a ewe that is unable to conceive.
biosecurity—management practices designed to prevent the introduction of disease onto the farm or into the flock.
blow—a pass that a shearer makes with their shears.
blue bag—gangrene of the udder.
blue tongue—a viral disease caused by no-see-ums (insect).
body condition— a score of 1-5 that designates the fitness of a ewe.
bolus—a pill that is given orally to the ewe.
booster shot—a required "follow up" shot.
bots (nose/nasal)—larvae that crawl into the nasal passages and cause irritation.
bottle lamb—see orphan lamb.
branding irons (paint)—metal numbers or letters used to apply paint to sheep.
break wool—a break in the wool due to illness or poor nutrition.
breeding harness—see marking harness
breeding season—time of the management cycle when ewes are being bred by the rams.
broken mouth—missing or broken teeth.
bucket teat unit—a bucket used for providing milk to orphan lambs.
bummer lamb—see orphan lamb.
bunk feeder—an elevated trough-like feeder.

caesarean section—removal of lambs through a a series of incisions into the abdomen and uterus.
carrion—decomposing dead animals.
casein—a protein found in milk.
cast—a sheep that has rolled onto its back and cannot get up.
castrating—process of removing a ram lamb's testicles.
castrator—a device used for removing a ram lamb's testicles.
CD+T—common vaccine for vaccinating against Clostridia bacteria.
cellulose—a plant fiber.
chalk marker—a piece of chalk used for marking ewes.
CIDR—a pregesterone implant.
CL—caseous lymphadenditis. An abscess forming bacteria.
clean pasture—a pasture that should have little to no worm load.
colostrum—the first milk that a mammal mother produces. Contains nutrients, energy and antibodies. Essential that a lamb receives colostrum after lambing.
contagious ecthyma—see ORF.
creep—supplemental feed for growing lambs (pre-weaning).
creep gate—a gate designed to allow lambs access to a creep feeder while keeping their mothers out.
crook—see shepherd's crook.
cruels—a bacterial infection that causes subcutaneous swellings of the head, neck and jaw area.
crayon—wax crayon that fits into a marking harness.
crotching—see crutching.
crutching—shearing wool from around the vulva and udder. Done prior to lambing.
cryptochid—failure for one or both testes to descend into the scrotum.
cud—ruminants regurgitate a portion of their previous meal to chew on. This aides in breaking down the plant fibers.
cull—an animal to be removed from the flock.
culling—process of removing undesirable animals from the flock.

dam—the mother of the animal.
deck chair—a device used for restraining sheep/goats in order to trim their hooves, etc.
dehorning/disbudding—process of removing a lamb or kid's horns, usually done with a burner.
dipping/sheep dip—a chemical bath for the treatment of lice.
direct marketing—marketing directly to the packer or end consumer.
direct sales—sellers bypass normal channels and sell directly to end buyer.
dock—tail stub after removal of the tail.
docking—process of removing a sheep's tail.
double crush tail docker/emasculator—Device that crushes the arteries before severing the tail or spermatic cords.
drench—a form of wormer that is given orally.
drencher—a drench applicator.
drenching gun—pistol shaped drench applicator.
driving or droving—transporting livestock by walking them.
dry ewe—a ewe that has stopped giving milk for the season.
dry matter—amount of non-water based substances in feed.
dry matter intake—amount of dry matter an animal consumes or needs to consume.
dystocia—a difficult birth.

ear notcher—an implement that puts a notch into a sheep's ear.
ear tag—plastic or brass "earring" used for sheep identification.
edema—accumulation of abnormal amounts of fluid in body tissue.
elastrator—a device that stretches rubber or elastic rings over the tail and/or scrotum of a lamb.
electrolyte—essential salts for the body.
emaciation—an animal that is far too thin.
emasculatome—a device used to crush the spermatic cords within the scrotum (castration). Some use it for tails as well.
enteritis—inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
enterotoxemia—a gastronomic disease that typically effects young lambs or older lambs on high concentration diets.
entropion eye—when an eyelid is turned inward, the lashes irritate the cornea. Can cause blindness if not treated.
esophagus—organ that connects the mouth to the stomach.
estrus—time period when the ewe is able to be bred. Also called heat.
euthanasia—putting down an animal.
ewe—a female sheep.
ewe lamb—a ewe that is less than 18 months old.
ewe effect—physiological effect on rams when the ewe is in estrus.

fecal (as in running a fecal)—a test performed by analyzing an animals feces to determine worm/parasite load.
fecund/fecundity—ability to produce multiple offspring.
feeder—device used to feed livestock.
feed lot—centralized location for feeding livestock.
flehman "lip curl"—the upcurled lip a ram demonstrates when he is near a ewe in estrus.
flushing—providing a ewe with higher quality nutrition just prior to breeding.
fly spray—a insecticide/repellent used against flies.
fly strike—occurs when flies are attract to a wound or rotten wool on a sheep. They lay eggs and the maggots eat the wool and rotten flesh.
foot bath—a large tub in which sheep stand in. Usually filled with a hoof rot treatment/preventative.
foot rot—see hoof rot.
foot trimmer—see hoof trimmer.
forcing pen—a pen used to contain animals before they are drawn into treatment chutes.
foundered—lameness resulting from overeating and laminitis. Hooves become overgrown and cause foot pain.
freezer lamb—common term to describe an animal raised for the producer's or customer's freezer.
freezer camp—colloquialism to describe where animals go after butchering.

gambrel—restraint device.
gastroenteritis—inflammation of the stomach and intestines.
gathering pen—pen that holds the majority of the sheep prior to being handled.
gauge (of needle)—thickness of the needle. The smaller the gauge the thicker the needle.
gestation—time period that the lamb forms in the womb. Usually 145 days.
gimmer—a sheep that is in between their first and second shearings.
graft/grafting—bonding an orphaned lamb to a ewe. Usually done by skinning the ewes dead lamb and placing the skin over the new lamb. Also achieved by an orphan head gate.
"groceries"—colloquial term used in place of feed.
gummers—a sheep that is missing all their front teeth.

halter—a restraint device that is fitted over the animals face.
handling equipment—series of pens, chutes and gates for treating and sorting animals.
hand fed—feeding animals at regular intervals rather than having feed constantly in front of them.
hand shear—shearing with a pair of hand powered shears.
herders—persons who care for the sheep while in the pasture.
hermit sheep—a sheep that avoids muster for lengthy periods of time.
hogget (hog)—a sheep that is no longer a lamb but not an adult. About 9-18 months of age or until it gets its two front teeth.
hoof knife—a straight bladed knife with curved handle for trimmer sheep and goat hooves.
hoof trimmer—shears used for trimming hooves.
hoof rot—bacterial infection of the hoof.
horned—an animal with horns.
hothouse lamb—a lamb born in fall or early winter. Usually marketed at 9-16 weeks of age.

inbreeding—mating closely related individuals.
intramuscular (IM)—into the muscle.
intraperitoneal—cavity near the intestines.
intravenous (IV)—into the vein.

jaundice—yellowing of multiple membranes (internal and external) due to liver failure and destruction of red blood cells.
jet/jetter/jetting—topical application of insecticide done with a pressurized sprayer.
joint ill—infection in an animals joints.
jugs—small pens in which ewes are lambed indoors.

keds—bloodsucking small flightless insects (ticks).
ketosis—the animal is not receiving enough energy in their diet and runs out of stored fat to use for energy.

lamb and kid sling—a sling used for carrying small lambs.
lambing percentage—number of lambs successfully raised in comparison to the number of ewes bred.
lamb puller—used for pulling lambs when your hands don't quite fit inside the ewe.
lambing rope—rope that attaches to the legs of lambs to pull them out of the ewe.
LAMBPLAN—a program that informs producers of the genetic potential of the individual members of their flock.
lanolin—oil/grease secreted by the sheep.
larva—juvenile form of various insects/parasites.
leg cleat—cleat that fits on the end of a shepherds crook. Narrow opening is designed for grabbing the animal by the leg instead of the neck.
leg crook—crook designed for catching the animal by the leg instead of the neck.
legume—type of plant that is high in protein.
lice—external parasite.
linebreeding—use of close relatives in a breeding season in order to retain the desired genetics of an ancestor.
liver flukes—parasite that takes up residence inside of the liver.

marker—ink, chalk or wax that provides an identifying mark on a sheep.
marking harness—harness worn by a ram during breeding season. It holds a crayon that leaves a mark on a ewe after the ram has bred her.
mastitis—infection in the udder.
meconium—first stools of a newborn lamb.
micron—measurement of wool fineness.
milk replacer—a substitute for milk. Fed to orphaned lambs.
mineral—substances found in the body. Necessary for bodily function.
monochid—A ram lamb with one descended testicle.
mule—a cross between a lowland ram and a hill ewe.
mulesing—process of cutting the wrinkles of the crotch area to prevent fly strike. Not a common practice in the U.S.
muster—gather the flock.
mutton—meat of an older ewe or wether.
mylasis—see fly strike.

natural colored—wool that is naturally a color other than white.
navel cup—a cup used for dipping navels in iodine to prevent joint ill.
necroscopy—post mortem examination of an animal.
neonatal—relating to a newborn up to one month after birth.
niche market—a highly specialized market.
NSIP—National Sheep Improvement Program
nursing—when a lamb suckles.

omasum—a ruminant's third stomach. Functions in water absorption.
open—a ewe that is not bred.
OPP—Ovine Progressive Pneumonia.
ORF—contagious viral disease of sheep. Forms scabs around the mouth. Can be transmitted to humans. Not persistent.
orphan lamb—a lamb that is not able to be raised by its mother. Fed on milk replacer.
ovine—technical term for sheep.

packer—slaughters and processes lambs.
paddock—enclosed area used for pasturing sheep/lambs.
parasite—an organism that lives off a host.
pinkeye—bacterial infection of the eye.
pizzle rot/sheath rot—infection and inflammation of the prepuce in males. Usually caused by high protein diets.
prenatal—care given before and during a ewes pregnancy.
poll/polled—an animal without horns.
pour-on—a form of drench or anti-parasitic that is poured along the back of the animal.
pregnancy toxemia—a disease affecting sheep in late gestation. Mostly seen in ewes carrying multiples. Inadequate nutrition is usually the cause.
probiotics—live microorganisms that are beneficial to the host organism.
prolapse—an expulsion of the rectum or vagina.
prolapse harness—harness devised to hold prolapsed vagina in place.
prolapse retainer—Plastic spoon that holds the prolapsed vagina in place.
propylene glycol—used in the aid and treatment of ketosis.
pulling a lamb—grasping the lamb and pulling it out of the ewe.
purebred/pure breeding—mating rams and ewes of the same breed.

quarantine—isolating a diseased animal(s) from the rest of the flock.

ram—a male sheep
ram effect—when the presence of a ram induces estrus in a ewe.
ram shield—mask that fits over a rams head to prevent him from head butting.
resistance—genetic ability for a parasite to reduce the effectiveness of an anti-parasitic medication.
restraint cuff—metal device that restrains the legs of a sheep or goat.
reticulum—second stomach of a ruminant. Breaks down fibers and forages.
ring womb—when a ewe's cervix does not dilate during lambing. Does not allow lamb to come out.
rotational grazing—management system involving pastures and time cycles to best use available resources.
rumen/ruminant—animals that chew their cud and have a 4 compartment stomach.

sacrifice area—a paddock that is allowed to be overgrazed by the flock in order to allow other paddocks to be protected.
sale barn—an auction barn where animals are bid on by buyers.
scale—used to determine an animals weight.
scourable/scouring—ability for an marker to be removed from wool.
scrapie—disease of the animals nervous system.
self feeder—a feeder that allows the animal to eat as much as they want.
septicemia—presence and growth of a disease causing bacteria in the blood stream.
shearer—a person who removes wool from a sheep.
shearing —process of removing wool from a sheep.
shearling—a yearling sheep before its first shearing.
sheath rot—see pizzle rot
shepherd—a stockperson or farmer who looks after sheep.
shepherd's crook—A stick with a curve at one end. Useful for catching and sorting sheep.
sire—the father of the progeny.
sprayline—an aerosol marker.
solid mouth—A sheep that is up to 4 years old. All adult teeth are in place.
sore mouth—see ORF
sort gate—a gate with multiple exits.
spreaders—a sheep that is over 4 years old. The narrow portions of the tooth have moved away from the gums.
star system—an accelerated lambing system.
"stemmy"—hay or forage with thick stems and few leaves.
still born—a fully formed fetus that is dead at birth.
stockpiled forage—stored forage in the field that will be grazed in winter.
strip grazing—form of rotational grazing where the paddocks are grazed in strips.
stripping—massaging the udder and teats in order to get milk flowing. Removing the wax plug from the teat canal.
subcutaneous (SubQ)—an injection that occurs beneath the skin but not in the muscle or veins.

tags/tagging (ear tags)—common term for ear tags. Tagging is the application of the ear tags.
tags/tagging (sheep dung)—sheep manure that has adhered to the back of the sheep. Tagging is the removal of the tags.  
teaser—vasectomized ram introduced to the ewe flock to induce estrus. A ewe can be introduced to rams to stimulate semen production for collection.
teeth—a sheep's age can be determined by their teeth. Lambs have 4 pairs of incisors that fall out to make room for adult teeth. At about 1 year of age the center pair falls out allowing the adult pair to grow in. A new pair falls out each year until the animal is 4 (so 8 adult teeth). At 4 years the sheep has a full complete mouth. Sheep older than this may have gaps or missing teeth.  
terminal sire—a ram whose offspring goes to market for slaughter.
throwing a sheep—process of grasping a sheep and sitting them down.
tilt table—table that turns a sheep on its side and restrains it.
toxoid—a bacterial toxin that has been weakened.
toxoplasmosis—form of infectious abortion.
tubing—process of inserting a tube though an animals mouth and into their stomach. Usually used for giving newborn lambs colostrum.
turning cradle—tilt table.

udder score—score given to udder based on its conformation.
ultrasound—high frequency sounds used to evaluate a pregnancy.
urinary calculi—stones forming in the urinary tract.

vasectomized rams—rams that have been surgically altered so they do not impregnate ewes.
vibrio/vibriosis—a form of bacterial abortion.

warming box—a heated box used to warm chilled lambs.
watery mouth—also known as slavery mouth, slavers and rattle belly. Bacterial infection stemming from the lamb not receive enough colostrum as a newborn. Affected lambs are dull, hypothermic, not feeding and have long strings of saliva from their mouth. If picked up and lightly shaken their stomachs make a characteristic rattle.
wax plug—when not being milked, a wax plug can form in the ewe's teat canal.
wether—a lamb that has been castrated.
white muscle disease—disease that causes degeneration of the skeletal and cardiac muscles of lambs. Caused by deficiency of selenium and/or Vitamin E.
withdrawal period—time period between administration of a medical treatment and when the treatment has work its way out of the animals system.
wool blind—a sheep with wool covering its ewes rendering it almost blind.
wormer/worming—wormer is an anthelmintic. Worming is the process of applying wormer.

yearling—an animal that is one year old.

zoonose—an animal disease that is transmissible to humans.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Freshly Hatched Chicks!

Wednesday was a busy day for Stephanie, our marketing and product manager. She was hovering over an incubator like a mother hen over a clutch of eggs. Why? She was hatching some baby chicks for our farm flock.

The process started a little over 3 weeks ago when we received an order of eggs from a local hatchery. They were immediately put in the incubator. Between then and hatching, we candled the eggs to see which eggs were viable and which weren't. 

On Wednesday the eggs finally began hatching. This one is just about ready to pop. 

Fresh out of the egg. This chick has almost finished its first job in life, hatching!

The hatching process is fairly exhausting so this chick is taking a breather.  

While this chick is drying off, a few of its compatriots have decided to come out of their shells as well. 

Our chick is soon joined by a few friends. When they are totally dried off we move them to the brooder.

The brooder is conveniently in Stephanie's office. Traffic to and from Stephanie's office has increased significantly since the brooder was installed. We're using a heat lamp and heat lamp stand to provide warmth to the chicks. The brooder is one of our shipping boxes for netting

The chicks are putting a few of our .25 gal Classic Drinkers and 2.2 lb Classic Feeders to work. 

Here's to an exciting chick raising season!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lambing Jug Basics

Photo:  One of last year's lambs hiding from the lens of Tharren's camera. 

In a few weeks we'll be setting up the Home farm's lambing barn. This involves tracking down panels and connector hinges in order to build lambing jugs.

A lambing jug is a small pen in which that a ewe stays in after giving birth to her lambs. The ewe and her lambs stay in the jug for up to 3 days. This allows the ewe and lambs to bond with one another without being interfered with by other ewes. Jugs also allow shepherds to keep a close eye on the ewe and lambs.

Photo: Lambing jugs complete with ewes and lambs. One or two jugs open to allow the ewes in the holding pens access to water. The ewe and lambs in the foreground are marked with Sprayline stock marker. This helps temporarily match the lambs to their mother. 

To build lambing jugs we use our welded wire panels. Other folks like to use wood or plastic panels.

During the breeding season we used marking harnesses and multiple marking crayons in order to best determine when our ewes should be expected to lamb. Based on this data we separate the ewes into a number of drop pens in the lambing barn shortly before they're due to lamb.

We keep an extra eye on a ewe when she begins to show signs of going into labor. Signs typically include the ewe isolating herself from the flock, pawing at the ground and starting to build a nest. After a ewe has lambed in the drop pen she is put into a jug with her lambs.

Feeders or waterers are secured to a wall or one of the jug's panels. If a ewe can knock something over, she will. Secured items don't spill as much water or waste as much feed.  We're lucky in that the water system for the lambing barn runs along the west wall. It is a supported PVC pipe with water holes cut every 3-4 ft. The constantly flowing water is gravity fed and we have not had an issue with it freezing.

Photo: Our watering system running along side the lambing jugs. We cut our panels so they fit over the frame and piping. Sometimes we'll put a heat lamp in a jug on very cold days or newborn lambs. It is clipped and tied to the panel to prevent it from being knocked down. 

Bedding should be refreshed after a ewe has left a jug. This reduces disease potential and lowers the amount of moisture in the bedding.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to raise orphaned or bottle lambs/goats

Photo: A few of last year's orphan lambs under a heat lamp. We like using bucket holders for our buckets. They are sturdier and a little more reliable than a piece of baling twine. We also hang a heat lamp to stimulate the lamb's interest in the milk.  

Premier's preferred feeding program:
  • To start, use pritchard teats with warm milk replacer, colostrum or Kolostral.
  • After one day (or less), switch to latex (red or natural) nipples in bucket teat units. As soon as lambs learn to nurse readily, switch to cold milk. Offer it ad lib.
  • Day 5, offer grain (a commercial lamb starter or soybean meal with cracked corn) in a feeder. Place a light (a heat lamp and 175 watt bulb in winter) over the grain encourages lambs' attention and intake.
  • After 2 weeks, switch from latex to rubber teats. Some older lambs have sharp teeth that can damage latex teats.
  • By the 5th week their consumption per day will surprise you. So will the milk cost! So begin diluting the milk with more water.
  • Weak 6 and after, wean by offering only water and dry feed.

What is the right height for a bucket teat? It should not be higher above the bedding than a mother's own teat (typically low). When a young lamb or kid stretches out their neck to nurse, the esophagus forms a channel to the 4th stomach. If it is not stretched, the milk falls into the first stomach (rumen) instead. This stomach was intended for processing grass or hay, thus it does not digest milk the same.

Milk temperature—warm vs cold?
Mother's milk is warm, but it's produced constantly in only small amounts.
On the other hand, orphan buckets "produce" milk sporadically in large amounts.
So use warm milk for newborns only. Warm milk offered ad lib to older orphans causes gorging. Offering cold milk will cause lambs to self regulate their intake.
To keep milk in the bucket cold, freeze water in plastic bottles to use as "ice cubes."

If the ages of the lambs are staggered:
Different aged lambs will require multiple buckets and separate pens. When a younger lamb feeds, the older lamb, whether they are hungry or not, will push away the younger lamb and begin feeding. Thus the need to separate lambs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fence Catalog Season

 Photo: RaccoonNet in use around a garden (sweetcorn and melons not in the photo). Kylie is picking a few of the beans that happened to be ready that day. 

Seconds after the last of the frost leaves the fields, farmers are driving new posts into the soft soil for their fences. So in preparation for the fencing season, we're getting our 2012 Fence Catalog ready. 

Photo: Jody working diligently on layout. 

The process starts long before the Equipment catalog is even mailed. Jody and Kerrie (the graphic artists) compile a list of needed photos for Tharren to take throughout the spring, summer and fall. Actual layout for the catalog starts before the first snowfall (November) and lasts through most of the winter. 

Photo: Joe and Kerrie discussing catalog pages. 

Once the layout is complete, I (Joe) write the catalog's content. This mostly consists of photo captions, item descriptions and how-to's. Stan (Premier's founder/owner) goes over the catalog and makes photo suggestions and copy edits. 

Photo: From the end of last year's grazing season. But we'll be back in the pastures before too long. 

The catalog then goes to the product consultants. Since they spend their day on the phone with Premier customers they have the best insight into what needs to go into the catalog. I make the changes from the sales staff and Stan goes over it one final time. Stan's sister, Vivian, does a final round of editing. Once all of this is done, Jody and Kerrie upload the files to the printer's website.

We're coming to the end of the process. Look for the new Fence catalog in your mailbox around mid-March.   

Photo: One of the many sights we can't wait to see in spring. Sheep in a lush green pasture safely contained with a few rolls of ElectroNet electrified netting.