Friday, March 30, 2012

Shifting and Shearing

It's been an active week for a few of the flocks. On Monday, Tharren and I helped Mike and Carl move part of the North Farm Flock to the Home Farm. Instead of loading the sheep onto a trailer and making multiple trips back and forth, we walked them down the road. The trek was about a mile long.

We were lucky that it was a low traffic day, otherwise we may have held a few folks up. The sheep behaved very well and relatively few stopped along the ditch for a bite of greenery.

Photo:  Ivan is demonstrating how to use a Heiniger One Shearing Machine

On Thursday three shearers arrived in the morning to shear the 250 ewes at the East Farm. A few of us helped handle the flock and collect the wool. The flock was separated into 3 groups: those having singles, twins and triplets. We keep them separate for management purposes. The triplets are fed a higher quality feed than the twins and singles.

In the photo above, Carl and Ivan (shearer) are operating a wool baler. This compresses the fleeces into the wool bag allowing more fleeces per bag than a conventional standing bagger. The wool bags weighed up to 300 lbs. The wool is taken to a wool mill and processed. Since it is coarse wool, it is not likely turned into garments. 

Photo: The shearers hard at work. Each shearer had a stall to pull sheep from. There was a person in each stall bringing sheep to the shearer. This reduced work for the shearer (catching and throwing sheep) and saved time as well.

Now that we are done shearing for the year. We can focus on lambing (which has recently started on the Home Farm).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Preparing for grazing season

Get your netting ready before the season begins:
  • Unroll and unfold the net. Remove any debris. 
  • Repair any breaks in the conductive horizontal strands with a fisherman's knot and clamp them with a brass ferrule (included in the repair kit supplied with each roll). You will also find conductive string for repairs in the kit.
  • Mend any breaks in the verticals with a flexible hot glue. (This works surprisingly well.)
  • Check the posts. Replacement posts are available from us if you have posts and spikes that can't be straightened.
  • Fold and roll the net back up and replace the roll tie strings if needed.

If you stored a battery or solar energizer, get it out and check it!
Test batteries for charge before hauling them out into the field. A stored battery slowly but steadily discharges itself. Use a plug-in battery charger to recharge batteries. Make sure the charger is the right type for your batteries (a 12v charger works only with 12v batteries). Deep cycle batteries need a recharger with a setting of 2 amps or less.

Solar energizer units—the unit can be set facing the sun in order to recharge the batteries. Make sure the energizer is turned off. Leave it for a week to make sure the batteries have received an adequate charge. Clean the panel of any dust or debris that may have accumulated while in use or storage.

If you are going to graze temporary paddocks, plan out the pattern of grazing and fence movements. Many folks use Google maps or similar programs for this.

Visit Google and enter the address of your farm. Click on the image of your farm. Switch from map view to satellite view (top right corner of your farm's image). Print out a copy of the satellite image of your farm. On the printed page, mark where perimeter fences are located. Next mark where you would like to set up temporary fences. When doing this, keep in mind water access for the livestock and how often you plan to rotate and rest your pastures.

Photo: The flock at the East Farm. This is a group of ewes carrying singles and twin lambs. We'll separate them next week into different pastures for management purposes. 

Photo: Anther view of the East Farm ewes. We keep the ewes carrying triplets separated so we can provide them with a few extra "groceries".

Photo: The ewes and lambs that are currently grazing one of the pastures on the home farm. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Some signs of Spring

Spring is starting to show up on the Premier Farms. We have crocuses blooming in the gardens, frogs croaking in the ponds and the fields are becoming more green by the hour. Since Spring has arrived a few weeks early this year, the ewe flocks will be put on the pastures sooner than we planned. This will prevent the forage in the fields from becoming overly mature at the time we normally graze.

photo: One of the fields to be grazed on the home farm. In the background are a few of the soybean/millet bales we made last summer. In the foreground is an HT/Woven wire subdivision fence.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Last week a couple of shearers came by and relieved the home flock of their fleece. The majority of the sheep were ewes who will start lambing close to the end of the month. 

We have the sheep shorn shortly before lambing for a few reasons. The main reason is it allows the shepherd to keep a better eye on pregnant ewes. The shepherd will be able to see if the ewe is dilating, having discharge or presenting a lamb. 

Shearing now enables the lamb to be better able to find its mother's teats. A lamb may exert all its energy sucking on a bit of wool thinking it's a teat. Removing the wool eliminates this possibility. 

Shearing now also keeps them cooler during the lambing process. If the nights are cool (as they are now), a ewe will be more apt to lamb indoors rather than out. If she still has wool, she will be comfortable outdoors in the cool night and the lamb will be born outside on a cool night. 

In time the wool will regrow and provide protection from the sun and flies during the summer.

Photo: One of the shearers, Ivan, going through the motions. He's using a Heiniger One Shearing Machine

Photo: Toward the beginning of the shearing process, Ivan gave a lesson on the two different shearing styles that he is familiar with, Australian and New Zealand. The plywood board provides the shearer with a solid place to stand, keeps the ewe off the dirt and helps the fleece stay cleaner during the shearing process. The board was periodically swept of debris. 

 Photo: Carl modeling the Heiniger handpiece with Apache Comb and Storm cutter. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bottle Lambs

We had a few bottle lambs appear in the office yesterday. They have taken up residence outside of the Graphics office.

Melodie teaching one of the lambs how to feed from a Bucket Teat Unit.

Taking a peek at feeding time.