Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lambing season is now over

The last of the ewes has had her lambs. Ewe number 416 had twin ram lambs late last night. They weighed in at 10lbs 2oz and 9lbs 7oz.

So here is how we did on the season. We started with 16 breed ewes.

One miscarried about 6 weeks before she was due. She had had a lamb born dead last year. She was moved in with the dry ewes and will be culled.

We had 14 ram lambs and 12 ewe lambs, a total of 26 lambs. I figure that to be a 168.75% lambing rate, respectable especially considering that most of the ewes are first time mamas.

And one heifer calf for good measure.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A little time for the bovine

In the interest of diversity and multi-species grazing, we present this little beast, born this morning at 10:30 or so.

Annie the heifer is now Annie the cow. The calf is a heifer.

The whole neighborhood was in on the event. John, my neighbor to the east and the owner of Turbo, the bull that is the daddy of this calf, called me to tell me of the event. He had witnessed the birth from his field just across the fence.

Shortly after that Stan and Michelle, our neighbors to the West happened by and inspected the new calf and all the new lambs.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Two sets of twins

Last evening ewe number 5 had a set of twins, both female. One weighed 8lbs 13oz the other 7lbs even. This ewe is a Katahdin St Croix cross.

Early today ewe number 1 had one ram lamb and one ewe lamb weighing 8lbs 8oz and 6lbs 14oz respectively. This ewe is a Katahdin Barbados cross and is my wife’s special pet.

This leaves just one ewe that has yet to lamb. She is still out there doing a very convincing impersonation of Java the Hut.

Here is a bonus picture from the “Too cute not to publish” file.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Single lamb

Ewe number 414 had a single ram lamb weighing 7lbs 9oz. She is one of the ewes that lambed last year.

I bet both my readers will be relived when lambing is over and I put some more variety back in this blog. Me too. Only three ewes left, soon I hope.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Two ewes, three lambs

We have this black-headed Dorper ewe with tag number 411. She has a puppy-chewed ear. My bride calls her floppy.

We have been telling each other for weeks that she was going to lamb any minute. She was enormous and had developed a bag like a Holstein.

Last night was the night. She seemed like she was OK to me, but my bride wanted to hang out with her and did.

She had twins that weighed 11 lbs 4 oz and 9 lbs even, over 20 lbs of lamb, she had every right to be huge!

Early today ewe number 410 a single lamb at 10 lbs 4 oz. This ewe is rather small and she had some trouble with this monster. One hoof was folded back; they should come out with both front hooves and the nose together. Again my bride played midwife and other than one very exhausted ewe, everybody’s fine.

The lamb is only minutes old in this picture, mama hasn’t even cleaned it off yet.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Yet another set of twin lambs

Our ewe number 2, a funny looking beast which is at least part Blue Faced Leicester, gave birth to twin lambs, one male one female, early today.

We are now at the break-even point, fifteen lambs from fifteen ewes.

The good news is that six of the fifteen ewes have not yet lambed. Some of the remaining ewes are simply enormous! They are either going to have a litter of six or fifty pound lambs.

Broiler Chickens

I’d been meaning to order a batch of broilers for the last few weeks but just never seemed to get around to it.

We have none left in our freezer; I gave the last one to a woman who wanted to get on my customer list and had a special event she wanted chicken for.

I haven’t been pushing the broiler enterprise very hard; I’ve just done 50 a year for the last two years.

Still people really like these chickens and the chicken customers often end up buying other things and referring new chicken customers.

I have good facilities for raising up to a few hundred birds a year, not good enough for more than that. I built the Whizbang Pucker last summer. If I grow the enterprise much I’ll need to build the scalder.

I got a call the other day from a (prospective) new customer, and that finally motivated me to place the order.

I use Welp Hatchery, the same place I got the new layers. These birds are Cornish Cross peeps and after being hatched Tuesday showed up at the Post Office today. The Post Office called about 7AM asking me to come pick them up.

They are in the brooder now.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Lambs being cute

Here is a short (about 5 minutes) video clip that we hope gives you a chuckle. If you have a slow connection you may want to pass on this, but it works OK on DSL.

Lambs being cute video clip

Bonus Lamb

Ewe number 6 was the first lamb born here last year.

In fact she is still just under one year old.

She is fairly small and I did not even think she was pregnant.

This morning early she had a single rather small ram lamb. They both seem to be doing fine.

I had not been counting her among the ewes yet to lamb. As a matter of fact I was planning to mover her in with the dry ewes as soon as it was practical, no reason to give extra feed to an open ewe.

Just for this she gets to stay on the feed. This is a bonus!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Expansion is happening

Monday a new batch of breeding ewes arrived on the farm. We brought in 19 two and three year old production ewes.

All these girls had lambs last winter, so everyone has at least some experience. They include a mix of different breeds, very much like the ewes we already have.

Another dozen ewes are due here this weekend. This last bunch is the Florida Natives that we are going to sharecrop with the Oak Lane Farm.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sleeping in the Noonday Sun

It’s a perfect spring day, clear blue and sparkling sunshine, seventy something degrees, winds light and variable.

If you’re a critter out on the a3 farm, the thing to do is to shade up and have a little noonday snooze, or maybe a good scratch.

Nice work if you can get it.

Two more sets of twin lambs

Two more sets of twins were born last evening.

This gets us just to the half way point for this years lambing.

Ewe # 413 had two ewe lambs tagged as #14 and #15 and weighing 6lbs 8oz and 4lbs 4oz respectively.

Ewe #418 had one ewe and one ram lamb tagged #16 and #29 weighing 9lbs even and 8lbs even.

We took pictures but the light was fading and only the first set was worth posting.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Growing the sheep enterprise

It’s springtime and the grass is growing. We got some rain this week, first time in quite a long while.

While most of the country gets a spring flush where rain is abundant and the grass grows like crazy, spring here is a crap shoot, but many years is marked with drought.

We are just South of the normal West to East weather systems that the largest part of the country gets.

Here rain is reliable only in the summer when things heat up enough to give us our typical afternoon convection thunderstorm. That starts about June and ends about October or November. Then we get a LOT of rain.

Typically things are clear at dawn, temperature already over 80 degrees, humidity high. The sun heats the air over the land more quickly than over the water, we are on a peninsula a little over 100 miles wide. This warmed air rises up drawing in cooler even moister air from over the ocean. This process continues and builds on itself. By noon puffy popcorn clouds appear everywhere, by two or three they become big cumulous clouds and by five or six have developed into huge thunderheads that cut loose with heavy rain, often over an inch in about half an hour. The evening is steamy and the whole deal starts again the next day.

I have about 30 acres of very good pasture. I have about 20 adult sheep plus lambs being born now. I have two heifers, one about to calf in the next month of so, one open. I have one geriatric mare.

At this stocking rate I can pasture all the livestock, fill my barn with hay, and still spend a good part of the summer clipping pastures just to keep them from getting rank and overgrown.

I’ve been talking to some friends who also raise sheep. Unlike me, they are overstocked. I was up there (about 50 miles north of me) last evening. They have about the same amount of land as I do, but they did their lambing in January and now have over two hundred head of various sizes on their place. They have no grass at all and are still feeding hay, hay they have to buy.

This gives me an opportunity to buy some good production-breeding ewes at prices that are not often seen in a positive market like we have now. I’m buying 20 of these ewes.

Then we made an interesting side deal. I’ll explain the deal but I need to give some background.

You see everyone knows you can’t raise sheep in Florida. Just as the county agent, pick a county, any county, they will tell you pretty much the same thing. It is not true of course, but it is true that very few people do it.

Four or five hundred years ago the Spanish brought sheep here. They were the sort of sheep commonly raised in Spain at the time, closely related to the Tunis breed of today.

Some of them got loose and went native. Most did not survive, but those that did became very well adapted to the climate. They tolerate the heat and humidity of course, but their main claim to fame is that they are resistant to/ tolerant of parasites. They are now called the Florida Native, sometimes the Gulf Coast Native breed.

For many years the University of Florida Ag school had a flock of these sheep. They did studies on them, and at one point had not wormed any of them for thirty odd years.

Aside from the flock at the university, only a very few “pioneer” flocks exist. The breed is very rare. They are smaller and less prolific than the commercial breeds that are commonly raised. Agribusiness has no interest in them.

Well sometime last year the University decided to get rid of their Florida Native flock. Instead of selling them to any of the few sheep producers here in Florida, they just destroyed them, sent them to a sale up in Georgia is what I heard. I guess they couldn’t figure out how to patent the genes and get a zillion dollar grant from Monsanto or whoever.

One of the only other pioneer flocks belonged to a man named Jim Wing. His sheep were descended from the flock his grandfather had raised. There was little or no outside blood brought in during all that time. Jim was very old and sick, and last spring he died.

Most of his flock was then sold to the same folks I’m buying the new ewes from. They want very much to keep them, but of course they don’t have enough grass to do everything they want to do.

I told you I would explain the side deal, you were wrong to doubt me, but I appreciate your patience.

I’m going to take a dozen or so of these ewes over here and when the time comes breed them to a non-related Florida Native ram they also have. It’s a share crop deal, I keep the ewe lambs, and they get the ram lambs.

So this summer instead of running twenty head on the place (last years number), I’ll run seventy some odd, including the lambs.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Population Explosion

I said they would all download within ten minutes of each other.

Today could be the day.

Ewe #412 is now a mama, twice. Twin ewe lambs. There must have been a wild party about 5 months ago.

The twins now out-number the singles. This is a very good thing.


Lambs tagged as #12 and #13, 7lbs 10oz and 7lbs 7oz respectivly.

More Twins

Today at about 7:30 AM the lambs are just minutes old in this picture.

This ewe is one of the few that had a lamb last year, a single ewe lamb that we still have. This year it's twins.

She had no problems this year or last.

I have not been out myself to get a close look, my bride took the picture. I believe she said the white one is a ram lamb.


The white lamb, tagged as #28, is a ram lamb and weighs 8 lbs 15 oz. The black lamb, tagged as #11, is a ewe and weighs 5 lbs 11 oz. The mother ewe is #419.

We use small ear tags with higher numbers on the ram lambs because we send them all to market as early as we can. The ewes we keep mostly, and like to use the same tag when they are adults.

The buyers of the ram lambs prefer them as unblemished as possible, no castration, no tail docking, they put up with the ear tags but don't like them. The ultimate consumers are "ethnics" which can mean either Muslims, Jews, or Greek Orthodox people.

In Florida that is the market that pays the best, so that's where we will sell if we can. The "normal" commodity market pays at least a third less, and is so weak down here they would need to be shipped quite a distance, also expensive.

Friday, May 05, 2006


The first set of twins born on the farm. One white, one black, both ewe lambs.

There has been a long pause in the lambing around here. The last lamb was born Easter Sunday. All the ewes that should be pregnant look like they are; in fact they look like they have each swallowed a large pig. I think they will have to lamb soon or they will explode.

It has started to worry me, after all this waiting around they will probably all download within about ten minutes of each other. Most of them are first timers, heifer ewes if I can co-opt a cattle term.