First Lambs Arrive

Hattie and her girls on their birth day.

Hattie and her girls on their birth day.

Mabel, MN March 19, 2016 – To add to the excitement of shearing day, I had two little ewe lambs born this morning to Hattie and Winslow.  They are both as black as coal – NOT what I expected from a white ram*.  The longer I’m at this it seems the less I know about fleece color genetics.  They are darlings – weighing in at 7#11 ounces and 7#4.  Mom and daughters are doing very well.  I need to start thinking of names starting with B in earnest now.  Watch for new arrivals on 

http://prairieplumfarm.com/babydoll-sheep/pairings-for-201…-resulting-lambs/

*It turns out – Winslow’s dam was black so it makes sense after all.  He carries the black gene from her masked by the dominance of the white gene from his sire.

Shearing Day 2016!

Barn table piled high with bags of wool.

Barn table piled high with bags of wool.

Mabel, MN March 19, 2016 – The wooly ones have been relieved of their fleeces! I had a fine crew of helpers and we got all 15 done in less than 2 hours. Brent Winslow, shearer from Chatfield, MN, braved the snowiness and led the crew. Thanks to Mark, Ken, Carol, Jonya, and Gwen for their help in wrangling the livestock and collecting the fiber. This year I’m storing the fleeces in kraft paper landscape waste bags so the bags can lose moisture even if they are sealed shut to exclude moths.  If mice want to make nests in the fluffiness, the paper will be no deterrant, unfortunately.

Rams and Wether for Sale

I have some boys that need new homes. Two rams that have done their duty here and one wether who requires different management practices from the rest of my flock.

Winslow is a 2 year old registered Babydoll Southdown ram NABSSAR#13264  Codon 171 = RR

Winslow from the side

Winslow from the side

P16-0255c Winslow backviewHe is 23″ at the shoulder and off-white from a black dam.  He saw limited duty his first year but sired 4 lambs, twins to an adult ewe (ram + ewe) and 2 single ewes to first-time moms.  This year he has sired 5 ewe lambs by 3 ewes and counting (more to come as of 3/31/16).  His first fleece tested at 26.0 microns.  This year’s fleece has not been tested, but raw weight was 6#14oz. Has spunk, but after some correction he no longer challenges me.

Asking price for Winslow is $300 – would trade for an equally good black ram.

 

Moonshadow is a 3-4 year old Shetland wether.

Moonshadow, the Shetland.

Moonshadow, the Shetland.

He has a lovely silver coat that I have been shearing twice a year and it sells quickly.  His browsing behavior makes him incompatible with my desire for the sheep to tend my very young orchard.  He’s just being a Shetland, but…  I’ll sort of miss him – he stays near me when I’m out in the market garden and eats the weeds I toss over the fence to him.

Asking price for Moonshadow is $150.  And, no, I don’t want another!

 

Arlo is a yearling registered Finnsheep ram FSA#27723 Codon 171 = RR

He is brown with white HST markings.  He was assigned 3 ewes this breeding season and only one has lambed to date, a single ewe to a first time mama.  He is amazingly mellow and loves his ear and neck scritches.  No aggression towards me or visitors at all.  His breeding behavior is aggressive – he was servicing Tammy within 5 minutes of being placed in her pen.

Asking price for Arlo is $250 – would trade for another brown registered Finn of equal value.

Arlo back end

Arlo back end

 

Arlo head shot

Arlo head shot

Arlo side view.

Arlo side view.

 

First of the cross-breds arrives

Becka selfie with eartag.

Becka selfie with eartag.

On Tuesday afternoon, March 22nd, Tammy gave birth to a bouncing baby girl who I’ve named Becka.  She’s deep black and her half-Finn heritage is evident in her shorter tail and incredibly soft facial hair.  She’s the best snuggle buddy in the pen!  She’s the youngest right now (March 27), but more than keeps up with her pen mates.  I will definitely be keeping this treasure for my fiber flock.  I’m hoping Nina provides me with an off-white half-sister soon.

Wooly Warmth

I’m super excited to be getting a duvet (comforter inside a case) made from the bulk of my second-quality wool – FOR ME!  The St. Peter Wollen Mill offers this service. I send them 8 pounds of greasy (but skirted and sorted) wool and they return a 90″ by 90″ duvet.  I also intend to take them up on their service of sewing the zippered cover once I figure out what 10 yards fabric  I will send to them.  I will be cozy this winter snuggled under my flock’s old coats!

End-of-Season Hazel Count

This last week I made a final hazel inventory with the help of my boarder, Mark Hamann. We found 121 first year hazels still alive representing an 82% stocking level and 63% survival. You can see I did lots of replanting even during this first year to replace losses from wandering calves and weak plants. I accepted some weak plants at discount because I wanted specific genetics – so expected some losses.

In general the plants, all from Badgersett, performed well. One high light was the final row, planted on the 16th of August, which has 100% survival to date.  These plants had been upcanned to Anderson bands (AB39, 3″ x 3″ x 9″ or AB410, 4″ x 4 x 10″) and were actively growing when planted and had been growing outside for a number of weeks.  As Philip says, maintaining the momentum is important.

There has been much burrowing by rodents under the landscape fabric I used to keep weed competition down. The diameter of the tunnels is about 1.0 to 1.5″ so could be 13-lined ground squirrels or mice. There are mole tunnels as well in the planting area

Mark with ground cloth removed from row B.

Mark with ground cloth removed from row B.

P15-2267 mowing of big weeds

Snowless winter allowed us to mow tall weeds that had provided summer protection from desication.

, but between the rows, not under the fabric. They tend to be quite a bit larger in diameter. The nicely loosened soil there is much more to their liking than that compacted by the calves on the other side of the fence.

In our year-end clean up, we removed the fabric from one of the 4 rows and mowed the weeds down that had provided protection from drying wind. At this point I figure the risk of providing habitat for rabbits and rodents was greater than the plants getting desicated by wind. I’m hoping they will soon be covered in snow.

Modified Breeding Scheme

The breeding pairs have been somewhat modified.  I should know that the sheep would have some say in the matter. 

  1. Because Amos didn’t head to his new home “up north” until a ways into breeding season, I gave him Sara as a companion to, hopefully, produce lambs unrelated to the others to sell as breeding pairs/sets.
  2. Olivia didn’t like Arlo’s attention so escaped to Winslow’s pasture by going under the fence.  After repenning her with Arlo twice I decided to renig and put Nina in with Arlo instead as the token white ewe.  Hopefully the lambing dates will be clear cut so I won’t need to expend funds to determine paternities.

Adrien and Audrey are still sequested from the rams, so at least that part is going according to plan.

All Excess Animals Sold But Reservations Open For 2016 Lambs

2015 has been a good year with healthy interest in registered Babydoll breeding stock.  The flock has been pared down to the essential numbers for my farm going into breeding season and winter.  This season I will be using only one babydoll ram (Winslow), who is off-white, 18 months old and a proven ram.  I anticipate 10 to 12 registerable lambs next spring – probably all off-white – from 6 ewes (Claire, Nina, and Sara (off-white) and Fergie, Penny, and Hattie (black)).  

The experimenter in me has led to the purchase of a brown/badgerfaced Finn ram to breed just 3 of my ewes (Olivia, Tammy, and Abigail).  As much as I love my Babydolls, this will introduce 4 traits they don’t possess: another color (brown), longer fiber, a sheen to their fleece (but may detract from the lovely springiness), and a greater probability of multiple births. With multiple births I may have fewer losses from problematic deliveries as twins are generally smaller than singles. My ewes are definitely of adequate condition to carry multiple lambs and nurse them successfully. I am also redoubling my efforts to prevent 2 of my ewe lambs (Adrien and Audrey) from being bred their first season. I will compare their growth and performance with Abigail,  the one ewe lamb that will be bred.  Finn crosses are also known for their exceptional vigor as lambs.  Depending on the number born, some of the lambs may be available for sale, though I may need to wait until later in the summer to sell so I can evaluate what the fleece characteristics will be.  I expect off-white and black lambs from these parings as brown is a recessive trait.

Good Bye to J. C.

My big black ram has gone on to other pastures as of this afternoon.  He’s been a great asset, siring 7 ewes and 2 lambs in 2014 and 2 sets of boy-girl twins this year.  I still have some of his lovely dark fleece to console me.