Archive for the ‘ram lambs’ Category

Thank you, Boys…

It was a very hard decision to make. I took the three remaining ram lambs from last year’s lambing to the butcher earlier this month. Times being what they are and having an overabundance of rams, I just couldn’t see any valid reason to prolong keeping these boys. The cost of feed in Arizona is outrageous, plus I have enough wethers of the same colors already. They are now living in the freezer.
We all think of the housing markets with this downward economy, but these conditions effect everyone – farmers included. This is the first year many sheep people I know have had to sell even breeding stock for the meat market. But on the upside, this is the time we also keep the very best for breeding. We Shetland breeders tend to have rather large hearts for our small sheep. If individuals don’t make the cut as breeding animals we tend to find them “Fiber Homes” or “Pet Homes”. Shetland’s intelligence and friendly dispositions make them easy to place…usually. But not these past two years.
So, steeling our hearts against the hurt we make tough decisions. This is the part of farming we have to face whether we want to or not. Decision time. Who goes, who stays. It’s been this way since man first started keeping animals. A Farmers’ Natural Selection, if you will.
My three boys went to market where they were slaughtered as humanely as possible considering just what slaughter really is. They came back to me in beautifully wrapped packages labeled for resale should I wish to sell the meat. And I love lamb, so last night I broiled a small package of loin chops for myself to try. I had never tasted one of the Shetland sheep I raised even though others have. I wanted to know if my care and feeding came through in the meat.
So, I found out…
It was the best lamb I had ever tasted. (Even with my cooking the chops a bit too long.)

Thank you, Boys. I respectfully appreciate what you have given me. And may I always appreciate exactly where the food sustaining me comes from. You did good, Boys.

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Getting Bigger!

OK…I just had to share a couple of photos of Gwen and her mum, Kelly. She’s over a month old now! I have to say that computers, cameras, and all the modern technology that goes with it has been a blessing since family is so far away.
When we had Kelly we were stationed in Germany and had only each other to lean on. Kel’s got all of Ross’ family for support, of which I am so grateful.

There’s nothing like Mom’s shoulder

I can see that Gwen is growing out of the “wrinkly” stage and getting her personality in her face now. Yes. We can hardly wait to see her! Well, I know I can hardly wait to see all of them. We are in the midst of planning for a trip now as Ralph’s surgeon encouraged him to travel while he was recuperating. Speaking of my Hired-Hand-With-Benefits, he’s doing extremely well. I guess it’s true…you can’t keep a good man down….although I have to admit that I’d like to “bean” him once and a while as he gets extremely grumpy when his pain meds wear off. If this is an indicator of what retired life would be like, I think we may need separate houses. 😉

I do want to share one of my favorite photos of my DD and new GD. This was taken by my Son-In-Law, Ross, soon after Gwen was born. Mother and daughter. Both tired from Gwen’s arrival. Beautiful. (Or at least I think so.)

Mother and Child

Tomorrow we’re off to take the three remaining ram lambs from last year’s breeding season to Chino Valley for “processing”. I hate to do it, but we don’t have room for extra rams we can’t use for breeding due to genetics. And with the economy the way it is (with hay $20+/bale) we just can’t keep them. They, like a couple of their former flockmates, will serve in other ways. Some of the meat will feed us, some will be sold to restaurants and/or friends, and some may go to the community kitchen. I thank God I haven’t had to go to bed hungry, but I know there are people right now who don’t have that comfort in these hard times.
I was talking to my friend, Tina, yesterday about taking them. We were discussing this part of shepherding. She and The Shepherd have had to send some of their boys to market through the years. This is the first time we’ve had to try this route. As usual, she not only comforted me but put things back in perspective. I have given them a good life with green pastures, food, and a shepherd’s love while they were in my charge.

…Thanks, Tina.

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“cull (kul) – something picked out for rejection as not being up to standard” from Webster’s New World Dictionary

Ask any person in agriculture the job they like the least and, if they are involved in livestock farming, they will tell you that culling their animals is the least liked job. If they mention something else, they’re lying. Anyone raising animals, even for meat production, hates the job of culling. Even if you don’t mean to, you get to know the animals in your charge whether you have four, or a hundred. As wonderful as it is to see lambs (or calves, chicks, ducklings, foals, etc.)born and to feel excited about all the potential their lives will unfold, the flip-side of that same coin is the fact that some animals are not up to par for passing on genetics. They shouldn’t be bred.
With economic times as they are we livestock people can only keep the best of our animals for breeding. As much as all are loved and cared for we have to make very hard decisions. So it was with me this past week.

Two of my charges left this morning. Both are destined for someones table. A reality. Neither would have made the grade for breeding. Good temperment or fleece aside, both had to go. A family who were out last week looking at electric spinning equipment asked me if I had any lambs for the freezer. They were so kind about asking and apologized for even bringing it up before I could answer saying they understood how attached shepherds become to their flocks. And they asked with the utmost respect. Yes, I answered, “I have two ram lambs that really need to go in someones freezer.” My soul told my voice to shut up, but my brain allowed the words to be voiced. Reality. They did have to go.
In these days of $20 a bale hay I cannot afford to keep extra mouths to feed. Each individual must pull their weight or go somewhere else. I don’t have acres and acres to stockpile extra sheep and so must keep the best for breeding. And I’m full-up in the wether/fiber pet area as well.

And the ram lambs bear the brunt of this. Ewes usually go on to other farms or fiber-flocks where they will have a grand life. One of my young ewes is going on to a fiber flock soon. While she has the most beautiful fleece and temperment, her tail is just too long to allow her to produce registerable shetlands. I don’t have the room plus I already have fleeces of that color in the flock now, so she’ll go on and be loved by the family who wants her.
The boys face another lot in life. By virtue of their sex alone they become replaceable. Many rams are born but only the very best should be allowed to continue on. That’s a hard burden to bear for anyone, but truth nonetheless. I don’t need them all. One good ram can take care of a whole lotta ewes.

So, two of my boys who had bad horns (all breeders get this occasionally with horned sheep breeds…and if they say they don’t…well, you know the rest)…horns that turned down and inward. If they were in the wild these horns would eventually cull the animal themselves. I said goodbye to the two and told them they would serve in other ways. I know they will be butchered with great respect and nothing will be wasted. I can’t complain about lambs being butchered as I love to eat lamb myself. This is where it comes from. A fact of life. Meat does not grow in packages out of thin air. It comes from people producing animals for the table specifically, or someone culling their herd. Like me.

After saying goodbye to the two who left I went in to feed the four remaining lambs. All four of them are breeding quality with great horns and sound structure. As it was a “Ram Year” last year and most breeders I know have an abundance of ram lambs, some of these guys may still end up in a freezer. In this economy I can’t complain about any one of my animals feeding a family. In fact, one may end up in my freezer too.

But I can still give them the respect they deserve…and if it becomes fate that they end up in my freezer, I will thank them for giving me strength. I ate my pet sheep way back when I was college-aged. She was the only one left and my cousins were butchering one of theirs, asking my grandmother if they could “do it” for her. As I was away to college and she didn’t want to be left with one sheep, she agreed. That Christmas my grandmother, Mom and I had Leg o’Bessie for dinner. And I thanked the old ewe as we said Grace…

Dad had a steak.

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When I got up Saturday morning, I immediately went to: 1. Turn the coffee pot “on”…and b. Checked the monitor in the office running “Sheep-O-Vision”. Loretta had been acting suspicious on Friday and I had wondered if she had progressed along. Well, at first I thought it was something wrong with the camera in that part of the barn, but I saw what appeared to be the beginning of something working its way out of Loretta’s posterior. To the tune of “There’s mucous! (Only another shepherd or person living with one would understand the excitement those words bring to a shepherd’s heart) She’s in labor!” I ran back to the bedroom to get dressed. I barely had time to tell my DH I was headed to the barn when I heard, “Don’t forget your phone.” from my beloved spouse.
Loretta’s labor progressed very fast, even for a first-timer. I checked on her then went about my business feeding the other sheep and making sure the others weren’t around to bother the expectant mom. After feeding, I went back in and spied two big feet where feet aren’t usually found on a sheep…but no membrane! No fluids! Oi!
Loretta was up and down. She was in the throes of deep, painful contractions without making any headway in getting this “pod-being” out of her body. By that time I noticed a nose and mouth with a big tongue hanging out of it. The tongue was pink, but if things didn’t progress along it wouldn’t be pink for long.
By that time my Dh had arrived to help anyway he could. I donned gloves. Enough time had passed and Loretta was getting weaker with each contraction. The nose was even starting to move back inside! I had forgotten how slippery these little guys can be, so I asked Hishonor to hand me a towel so I could get a good purchase on the front legs. With the next contraction, I pulled while Loretta pushed and out he came! Yes, damn it! Another HE!!!!

Above is a picture of the unnamed ram lamb Loretta presented to us. (I repeat…”Damn it!”) He had a bit of a problem finding the right spigots on Mama, the problem being that he had such tall legs. Soon he had his first meal and Loeretta continued cleaning him up.

He has the Skittles Stamp, a krunet marking, on the top of his head. And Loretta is a fierce protector of him. Her sister came close to inspect this new wind-up toy that her big sister had and Loretta tried to bash away all relations in protection of her new son.
We are almost finished lambing here for this year. But I may have to start thinking of another ram. Since we’ve had my friend, Skittles, out of ten lambs so far, only one was a ewe lamb. The rest have been carbon copies of their sire. It’s like Skittles has created his own army of Mini-Me’s running around. My talks with him have fallen on deaf ears. He’s out to create an army of rams under his control. So far, it seems to be working.

Darn it, Skit! I hope you remembered where you put your suitcase as you may be leaving…or at the very least you may have a roommate – with horns as impressive as yours! Got the word now?

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Getting Ready

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? It’s time here to put the garden to bed now that we’ve had killing frosts almost every night…time to watch the aspen leaves turning first gold, then brown, then flutter by in the breeze in order to make room for next year’s leaves. So, too, it’s time on the farm to see who stays, and who goes on to other herds of sheep.

Above are the three ram lambs who are now ready to go on to flocks of their own. Well, all except Shaun who won’t be for sale for a while. But Sheep Thrills Sven and Sheep Thrills Ole are more than ready to go! Yesterday when I was working around the barn I was witness to the game of “Head Butting” between the ram lambs. I don’t know if it was the wind yesterday or the chage of weather in the air, or just boys being boys. Shaun would back up and run full throttle towards Sven, who was doing the same thing on the opposite side of their pen. They met in the middle with a thonk! that shook the ground and gave me a headache just watching them. This went on for a bit until Sven, who by now was a wee bit unsteady on his legs, backed off and let Shaun win for this day. I had dreams last night of finding Sven prostrate on the ground dead. Thank heavens it was only a dream.

Apparently this demonstration of ramliness did not go unnoticed from their sire. Skit was rather upset with Shaun and the intensity of his attack against his half-brothers as he would bang his head on their pen fencing in what I could only attribute as anger at the roughness in the boys demeaner. I stood there, just thinking to myself but saying to no one in particular, “Too much testosterone.”
Sheep Thrills Ole

Part of being any sort of livestock producer is that you have to let animals go…for what ever reason it may be. Whether it be new homes for breeding purposes, or off somewhere to eventually feed someone, it’s a fact of life on a farm you have to steel yourself for. You can’t keep them all. And some of them should not be allowed to pass on their genetics. Whatever the reason, as a breeder of any type of farm animal there comes a time when reality creeps into things and the decision is made to let some of your charges go on. And so it is here. I will do my best to find good homes for the boys. That’s part of the job. And sometimes I just tell myself

if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

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