Friday, May 08, 2009

Shearing Day

It was shearing day here on the a3farm.

OK, so it happened about two weeks ago now, but no one has recently accused me of being punctual about keeping up this blog.

I got a call on a Thursday evening from Elmer, the professional sheep shearer that we have hired the last few years.

He was in the area and needed a days work, could I be ready for him? I got ready.

I can shear sheep. I have sheared sheep. They don't like it much and neither do I.

When I shear a sheep they look like they have been run over by a lawn mower. They are generally bleeding in several spots. So am I. Usually we don't require stitches. Usually. I can do about ten sheep in a long weekend.

When Elmer shears a sheep he just sits it down on its butt and basically undresses it. It takes only a minute or two. The sheep doesn't seem to mind. Sometimes it barley seems to notice.

We worked most of the day, him shearing and me just making sure he had a constant supply of sheep. He trimmed all their hoofs while he was at it.

Many of our sheep are hair breeds or wool breeds crossed with hair breeds. They don't all need to be sheared but most of them do.

Except for about a dozen Florida Native ewes, the wool is not worth keeping. We shear them just to make them more comfortable in the summer heat. Most of the wool winds up in the compost pile.

He trimmed the hoofs of 71 head, all our adult ewes. He sheared 44 head. After doing all that he had an appointment at another farm nearby to do another 30 head or so. It was all done before dinner.

Some jobs it's best to hire done. I paid his fee and was glad to do it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Is the Bald Egale endangered?

I don't know the official status of these creatures, but we have several more than we really need around here. What is becoming endangered here is laying hens.

For some years now we have been watching bald eagles fly over the farm as part of their commute. Apparently they nest in the thick woods to the south of us and fish in the lakes to our north. We enjoyed seeing them and until recently they never caused us a problem.

We have occasionally lost chickens to hawks. We found that hawks can be deterred by setting up strings with old computer CD's hanging from them in the chicken yard. This is the same thing your grandmother used to do when she set up pie plates to keep the birds out of her vegetable garden. The plates (or CD's) reflect sunlight at odd angles and tend to ward off birds including hawks.

Eagles are much braver than hawks I guess. They ignore the CD's and sometimes even knock them down when they drop in for a meal. An adult hen is too big for an eagle to carry off so they just eat about the top third of the chicken and leave the rest.

When hawks prey on the chickens they perch nearby for quite some time, apparently to make sure there is no danger. The roosters usually see them and raise an alarm causing all the chickens to run into their roosting shelter. The eagles do something similar at least some of the time, but from much farther away. This goes unnoticed by the roosters.

My bride tried to look up methods of scaring off eagles on the internet. Everything she found indicates that the only way to keep eagles from eating your chickens once they start is to run out of chickens.

It is illegal to kill eagles of course, which we knew. I would not do so even if it was mandatory. According to one source a federal permit is required to "harass" an eagle.

Just so you know, the loud noises, clapping, and gunfire you hear around the farm are part of our program to build up the self esteem of the raptor population and encourage them to renew their interest in fishing.

A permit? Good lord, we have some real intellectual giants working for the Feds don't we.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lambing Season

In past years I would do a post for each new lamb born. Last year I did a post for the first half dozen and then just a more general post for all the rest.

The operation is big enough now that lambing is a season rather than an event or even a series of events.

We moved up the date we expected lambs this year by two months.

This was because we wanted a bit more age on the lambs when the stress of the hot summer weather set in. Last year most of the lambs were quite small when tropical storm fay hit us. The adult sheep and even the oldest lambs seemed to do OK, but the young ones suffered. We lost some and some of the others were slower growing out than they normally are.

The down side of lambing now is that the grass is dormant, feed is all hay we put up or bought, plus what ever supplements we provide. We give a small amount of soy meal to the ewes to help them with the nutritional requirements of lactation. That and free choice hay cost money.

Still, lambing has been going well and the whole flock seem to be in good condition even if our bank account is getting a bit thin.

We have 70 some lambs so far and expect to wind up with somewhere around 100.

Our ewes tend to be younger than is typical, we have been keeping ewe lambs for breeding stock for the most part to build up the size of the flock. Several of the first timers don't quite seem to have a handle on the motherhood thing. We have three young ewes penned up with their twin lambs to prevent them from totally rejecting one of them.

There are only two bottle bummers so far, one is being looked after by it's mama, who has some mastitis and and just does not have enough milk to feed it. The other is just a lamb that is not claimed by anyone that we put in with one or our reluctant mothers.

We had one ewe who had trouble with a very large single lamb. We tried to help, to pull the lamb, but only wound up chasing the ewe around the pasture while the poor lamb rode around with its head out the window, so to speak. After the ewe struggled with this for several hours my brothers family arrived for a visit from their home up north. My two nieces, 16 and 11, helped me catch her. I had warned the girls that the lamb may well be dead, but when we caught the now exhausted ewe, I pulled the lamb. It was alive and before long stumbled to its feet. The ewe was tired but otherwise fine.

My nieces, city kids, have told the story to everyone since and seem to think this whole farm thing is pretty cool.