Monday, July 30, 2007

Yes, I'm gonna !

I don't know if you were worried where my thinking was taking me last time I posted...but I was kind-a. Yes, I have some breeding plans written up. Actually I have already changed them. We were out looking for a ram over the weekend, and I parted the fleece on two of my yearlings. Whooppee....I have a couple of nicely fleeced rams. Actually, I was worried. because I have kept a few ewes just to breed fleece for a change....and I didn't keep the ram I was going to use. Usual reason, I didn't like his horns. Not that they were going into his head...just that they weren't even. You know, the old one-horn-is-closer-to-the-head problem.
Anyway my first attempt at making up breeding groups resulted in the use of a ram lamb....but no ewe lambs. I think breeding ram lambs is interesting....but I wouldn't want to depend on them for breeding anything older than a yearling ewe. For one thing sometimes those ram lambs take a long time to figure out what is expected of them. That's OK if you have ewe lambs...because they are also clueless. But, older ewes really frown on ram lambs. Did you know ewes are interested in rams with nice big horns? Yup, I have had plenty of older ewes refuse to make use of small ram lambs. So I am really happy to find some nice fleeces out in my field.
When I posted last, I had a whole list of ewes that I bought....that I really don't need to breed again. Free to good homes....come and get 'em...well, I figure most of you have some of those ewes already....because I had no takers...even if folks were already here. Oh well, I'm not like those other breeders...."get them out of here or they will go for meat" sales. I am not threatening to butcher these girls....I am just saying I see nothing to induce me to breed them again....after a few years these ewes will not be breedable, without problems. And ewes like to have babies.
They do get a little iritated with me when I send those babies to new homes.

So back to my list of breding ewes. Yes, I wrote down the ewes that look too thin....the ones that always give me ram lambs....and the ones that have never had an exciting spotted lamb for me either. That left 35 ewes on my breeding list. Not bad for the size of my flock....I won't be breeding for auction nice usda facility just decided to fine me 15 cents a pound for any shetlands I bring them. Well that won't be happening. Since they are also fining barbados owners....I figure they had some problem handling shetlands and other intelligent breeds.
So then I was thinking of the number of lambs that could result from breeding 35 ewes.
That may be more than I want to keep for myself. So I looked again. Now I have a few girls who I think are really nice sheep. I have tried to keep their lambs, since I prefer their fleece for spinning. Like I have time for that. But I know exactly what kind of spotted lambs these girls will give me, bred how many of those lambs do I really need? Well, maybe I don't need to breed those ewes again this year....I could breed them next year....and give a few more a year off. So now I am down to 29 ewes that may breed here. I have a few yearlings that I want to try. I have a couple of strange markings from this year, and I want to see what those ewes have in another breeding to the same ram.
We are lacking rain again....had several days with possible rain....but only one brief shower. The girls are still in the back meadow. I am feeding hay to a few rams who have no more grass.....and our neighbor down the road just had his well go dry. Scary thought. Redirect your flooding rains this way....we need some.

Friday, July 27, 2007

why breed at all?

I thought we were having a fun conversation. Now, I am accused of being flip. So, heck with those rightous folks....I'll write on my own blog and they can come up with something to talk about themselves.
What was I being flip about? Too many shetlands.
What did I say? That because shetlands have so many different types and colors we were forced to have too many sheep.
OK....I did this too. I might have had a half acre of pasture in the woods when I bought my first three shetlands. I fenced over the barbed wire and divided it into four sections to rotate. I started with a moorit ewe who turned musket...a rare emsket ewe who turned grey and a rare ilget ewe who was white. I was hooked. How many sheep do you NEED of each color? Well, theoretically one. But if you breed, you will wind up with two or three.
Here is where I differ from "breeders" who have small acreage. My suggestion was that we statland breeders like to have three of each color. Now some folks are breeders of shetlands who have only four or five acres to feed all their sheep. As I remember in Wisconsin where there was real pasture, you could keep 6 to 10 shetland ewes and their lambs on one acre of good summer pasture. That pretty much limits anyone who has small acreage to either cut back or not breed.
I took three acres back from our farmer who rented our land for corn, the second year. He complained to everyone that I took the best land for pasture....well it was my land. The next year I took the high rocky hill and another five acres. By the time I left Wisconsin, I had 64 ewes who came south with me. Too many sheep.
I may not even have all eleven colors. Eleven colors times two sheep equals twenty-two sheep. You already have the Ag pattern. What about Gulmoget and Katmoget? Add four more sheep. Now you have 26 and you would like a couple of spotted sheep. Now you have are at the maximim number to graze on your land...and in a drought year you better have extra money to supplement with hay....and now if you breed.
You have too many sheep!
How sad....shetland breeders are doomed to sell and sell and sell.
And if sales are poor because of a drought....what happens then? Cull and cull and cull?
If you have enough land to have a nice little spinning flock, you shouldn't be breeding like a big time shetland breeder.
You know, one of those important breeders that charges and arm and a leg for one of their lambs that they don't want. The kind of breeder with name recognition. People flock to their cull sales, clutching money. Been there done that.
Build a better shetland? Some shetland breeders are trying to claim theirs are perfect. They have all the answers. Maybe if you have a question in your flock they can be your salvation. Maybe theirs really ARE perfect. That must be why they are keeping the ones they do...and selling the others to us. I'll bet money after a couple of years in your flock those perfect shetlands don't look as perfect anymore.
As I say, been there, done that. There is nothing more irritating than being reminded everytime you look at a sheep that you don't like the fleece, the ears, the face...the build....being reminded that you paid way too much for that sheep. If you have one like that take my advise sell it off cheap, there is no reason to remember your mistake every day. You want some of my mistakes from important shetland breeders?...I'l be happy to give them to you....You haul. I would feel quilty selling them off to others....poor's not their fault that I don't love them, at least they have a comfortable spot in my flock where they feel safe. Maybe I do love them for their faults.
So why are so many smaller breeders with limited land going to cross breeding with their shetlands? Because they have found they are breeding too many registered sheep to sell, and can't get enough money from the lambs to buy hay for the rest? So why bother to breed cross breds at all? What is that adding to the gene pool? Don't you work just as hard to raise a fat ugly sheep as a cute skinny one? Do you love those cross-bred sheep more than your shetland ones?
You don't really NEED to breed every ewe every year. Who is looking thin? Who had big twins or triplets? Who is a nut case with their lambs? Give them a year off. Breed the ewes you think will give you the best, prettiest lambs to love. For you! Sell off those wethers taking up space. Give your older ewes to a retirement home...where folks don't think they have to be bred, and grandchildren want to feed them cookies. Take it easy and spin for your self.
I will never be a big-time shetland breeder. I like my sheep...I breed spots because I like them, I don't charge an arm and a leg for my lambs....and I don't care if your sheep are bigger, softer, straighter, or somehow better than mine. Those sheep are mine....I bred them, I'm gonna keep them.
What do you think I moved south for? I have enough land to keep whoever I want.
Talk about life style....shetlands move in and take over. Must be their personalities...or their smarts. Mine are out there complaining I am late...How do sheep tell time?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

who are you breeding?

Wow, do you realize August arrives next week?
Back to, that's ingrained in all of us....September Shetland shows? Well, I suppose some of you are doing the August shows. Good, have a great time.
As I am looking around for a show who's left? I am also looking at what lambs I like....and did their dams contribute to their good looks....or was it their sire?
I had a raft of lambs die this spring...all at the start of lambing. It was all older ewes...but not that old. Dayspring Panda had healthy twins at age now I am wondering if some of those ewes need to skip a year? Do they have enough time left to breed once more? Do I love their lambs? Have I always sold their lambs....or do I have a possible replacement? I know lots of smaller breeders who never add young lambs to their do need to. I also know lots of bigger breeders who always sell off their older girls and keep their younger ones. Well, if you are going to breed fifty ewes....wouldn't you rather have all younger ones to keep the problems scarce.
Why do you think they sell them cheaper?
I think of my ewes like people not sheep. I'll just let them spend their time enjoying life.
Do you ever skip a year breeding your sheep? Sometimes they fed big twin rams, and look a little thin in the fall....they won't pick up any weight carrying lambs until spring. I had a few last fall that I wanted to save out....they looked a little thin....hay was poor. But those girls really really wanted to have that ram....natural urges in sheep are pretty strong. This year I may have to put the unbred girls farther away from the breeding pens. It doesn't hurt to keep a ewe from breeding one year....take my advise...five years is too many. Reconsider buying that flock of ewes who haven't been bred for are just buying a lot of problems.
When I record my lambs in the spring, I write what time they lambed....if there was any problem....breech, leg back, what size the lambs were..."little or big" works unless you have a scale....which would be nice....but I don't use one. How is that ewes attitude with her lambs?...Does she run off and leave them to cry? Does she mother them and control where and when they stay put? I have some wonderful moms....they keep their lambs in one place....they call for them if they stray too far. I have others that consider tending to lambs is a big chore. Does that ewe always have ewes or rams? You should have that information at hand when you make breeding plans. I know breeders who lament that in seven years they only got one set of ewes....the rest were all rams from their favorite ewe. If you had a ram year, and it hurt your bottom can skip breeding that ewe. What do you get from a cull ram? If that ewe always has twin rams....add it up. Could you make enough from culling those twin rams to pay for the effort of breeding that ewe and caring for her ram lambs? Depends on your facilities...the cost of your feed and medical costs....and your cull market. If hay is going to be may want to breed less....and keep your ewes in better condition. Concentrate on keeping your fleeces clean and make up your costs with those fleeces.
I don't know who I am breeding yet....I'm still working on a show string for the next two shows. I do breed for myself...and my interests....sometimes I want to know how that color occurs....sometimes I wonder if I could get another spot like that? My friend just mentioned that she sells sheep so she can keep breeding them. I suppose, unless you spin and knit a whole lot...that is what we all do.
I am planning to keep about a dozen ewe lambs. I don't plan to breed any of them.
Right now I am looking at my fleeces....on the sheep that is....I started out with fleeces I really liked on my spotted sheep. Then I bought a few spotted sheep. Now when you buy another breeder's sheep, you buy a lot of what they have done in their breeding plans. Some of those sheep although they have nice spots do not have the type of fleece that I like. I like intermediate...or longer double coated...but with crimp. So I am wondering if I really want to breed a ewe who doesn't have the type of fleece I like....just because she has spots. I don't think I like that idea. I do breed with a couple of single coated rams...who could perhaps add crimp....but maybe I have already tried them on that ewe and didn't like the spots or some other quality. I will have to look back on my lambing records to answer that question.
Those weaning moms and ram lambs are yelling at me. Happy July day!

Sunday, July 22, 2007


It is summer in the south....there are bugs. I am tired of bugs....mostly beetles, flies, and spiders..
Good grief....I could use a freeze....aren't bugs supposed to have a short life? Why don't they go away already? I don't mind the dragonflies and's the little things that are tiring.
Like dumping the bugs out of the water buckets.
There are bugs in my weaning program too. Donna one of my first eight wants her ram lamb back....yesterday she baaed so long that I let her in their pasture....I thought she would want to get right back out because all the hungry ram lambs in the field came running to "bug" the ewe. I let her out so she could go across the creek to join the other ewes...and before she could get there her little brat baaed at poor donna is bellowing for him to come out too.
You might notice how unusual it is for me to call a sheep by a person's name....the year I bought donna....she was one of my first three sheep....the breeder used a theme of naming the ewe lambs after the spinners in the group. I still have kitty too....the sheep, not the spinner. I haven't tackled her ram lamb yet....I know she will be bellowing too.
One of my personal stock is named snowwhite...she is a dayspring panda daughter...and I knew I wanted to keep I thought I would use nursery names. Her black twin is cinderella....she is mine too. She hasn't bred for two years....I'm not sure why....and she likes to dive into the grain bucket too....but she is mine..... Snowwhite had her twin rams weaned four times. This morning I heard a frantic ewe...she was running the length of the fence....baaing madly. I couldn't believe it...she was back again frantically trying to get in with her of them doesn't seem to care anymore and just stays down in the pasture eating. But snowwhite is sure the sky will fall unless she has her boys. Yaaah....I gave in again....I'm not very strict. It's summer, and she may have a full or hot udder. It's easier to let her have her lambs back than to have her get sick.
I hope you are all having a nice summer day...and there aren't too many bugs.
Check out my blog links....Our best shepherd photographer has a blog on trimming off the fleece mats.....really neat blog, Nancy. Since Nancy doesn't live closer, and I don't sell fleeces anyway....I let my sheep wear off their fleece mats scratching on trees....I wish they wouldn't get under the cedar trees, but that's what happens when you live in the woods, and have to claim pasture land. At least they have lots of shade.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

time out

I'm sorry, I need bigger print...I don't want to need glasses to read what I wrote.
Some of you are so kind to read my stupid blogs, and to comment too. Thank you.
Sometimes we need communication.
When I was in the farm belt of wisconsin, we had our spinning group...we all said what we thought and gave advise...even if it wasn't wanted. It provided family for those of us with little support in the community....and companionship. What nice friends you can find among sheep people. I highly recommend finding some.
I remember one morning when I had a difficult birthing problem in my a half an hour I had five or six friends all with their lambing books gathered around the ewe trying to find a way to help her. Finally, one of them turned to me and said when are you calling the vet? Now those were days when I maybe had 11 sheep all one ewe birthing was a big deal. One of my friends even drove to the vets office to be there with me. My older ewe had ring-womb....ever heard of it? She also had my first C-section that day...of course the lamb died...but the ewe was fine. Really ticked off the vet.
Our spinning group was called Hot Babes with Wheels. The name really drew hits on our web page. If you go to the Lake elmo fiber fair....some of those ladies are still there. I don't have a support group down here in the Ozarks. I think the yahoo lists and my blog provide me with support....sometimes just a way to communicate with the outside world. Don't get me wrong, Sometimes I like communication....sometimes I want to hide in the woods. Fortunately I am close enough to the woods on those days that I just want to walk out with my sheep and hide.
Having a ewe walk across the field to nuzzel you and get a pet is very comforting. Those sheep are very wise. I fell over a rock one day last winter....and had my own little group of ewes standing around to see if I would get back up....after all that yelling. Funny to roll over and find all those soft eyes staring down at you. Have you ever looked at your ewes eyes?....they have big long eyelashes and they are differnt colors...depending on the sheep.
You know I am finding this time of the year that some of the skittish ewe lambs are spending time looking at me. Mom is getting petted by that big person who catches me and puts ishy stuff in my mouth....I had one this morning....she kept getting closer, and when I reached my hand over to her ears...she didn't pull away...after a while she wagged her tail as if to're not so bad after all.
I had the ewes and lambs out on the sahara today. There were dogs barking in the woods when we left for a trip to the flea I figured the sheep would be safer up front. Our great pyr was settling down for her all day nap. She and I were up several times last night. She hadn't been barking at anything for a long time...and the last two nights she has been running the fences....When I go out with a flashlight she feels safe enough to jump over the fence and go off to find whatever is bothering her. Then I stay until she comes back over the fence again. She doesn't know that I would be little help if she really had a fight. I figured I wasn't sleeping anyway, I might as well help her out.
I may put the sheep back out in the meadow tomorrow. But it is holy dog running day around there may be dogs in the woods again. I had to let my two rams in with my one ram today....I walked out with some water and saw that the two ram side of the pen didn't have any grass left. The water in the ram dam side.....hey that is kind of a funny thing to say....I could turn it around I had better not....we have a dam in the ram pen. We get so much run-off from the road that it fills with three or four feet of water and then runs over the top. Well, we haven't had much rain this summer. so the rain water that stayed in the dam pond....there I go again....made grass grow....but the side that the other two rams were in didn't have the ram pond in it....I know you don't care what I am's all silly....but the fact that they no longer had food caused me to open the gate. Now we all know what happens when you let rams in with each other...even if they have been on speaking terms thru the fence. We get a ram fight. I guess the two boys got their fill of grass then proceeded to beat up the single boy. No one seems to have broken their horns...and no one was we dodged that bullet. We brought them hay tonight...I suppose they are fighting over that now too.
Well I hope you all have pleasant dreams tonight and solve all your questions while you are asleep....I hope I do too.
I'll be so wise tomorrow that I will write something as wise as the sheep would if they had a computer. OK, so I didn't get much sleep.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Why are you going to breed your sheep?

Here's an interesting thought. Why breed your sheep at all? Do you think you can make money breeding new lambs every year? Doubt it. Most of my friends who are candid enough to mention it...admit...they go in the hole keeping their sheep.
So my question many years can you afford to go in the hole? Did you start with sheep so that you had a nice little home business? Did you need a tax write-off? For a few years my sheep paid for themselves by causing a loss. I had out buldings....but I didn't have sheep fencing....that stuff now costs twice what it did when I started. T posts are up too. I used to live in an area where I could buy posts and fencing and lumber at auctions. Stand around long enough and get it cheap...if not at one auction...maybe at the next. I'm not in an area like that time is worth something too. If I have to stand around all day at an auction and then maybe not get a good deal....I feel I am better off buying new. At least it doesn't take all day.

So why bother with sheep? Well, my husband says I have a problem being a care-giver. I NEED sheep. Yes, they did come at a time that they were a replacement for care-giving. So maybe my mind relates the two. I'll admit it...I am addicted to shetland sheep....and I don't care.
At my stage in life, I deserve to do something I like to do. I am not willing to give it up. Yet.
So how many sheep can you afford to keep at your farm? I don't have a farm in Missouri it's called a ranch if you can't raise crops. Believe me....this is not crop land.
I am responsible for a lot of sheep right now....maybe double what I want to have....but as I mentioned somewhere before today....I don't like to kill. So if I have had a ewe for a number of years...she gets to live her life out as long as I keep sheep.
We moved so I could afford to keep sheep. This is the reason we are here. I made a committment for a life-style and my husband supported my ideas. Thanks hubby....I love you.
I am not breeding my sheep for general amusement. I have learned to share...not well....but a little. If you really really wanted to have one of my pretty spotted lambs. I may have a few more than I need. So I may put a price out there and see if someone wants to have a spotted shetland in their fields. You can see I am not really in business....I am sharing. I have been known to cut that price....give a group price...I have even given sheep away. I don't do this for money.
How many lambs can you bring into the world on your farm next spring? How many lambs can you afford to feed next winter? Can you ship lambs and older sheep to market if you don't want to feed them?
From the first time I sold a lamb to someone, I have said there are too many ram lambs born...and you need to be able to kill them...or you shouldn't breed for lambs. I have gotten used to shipping ram lambs. Oh, I raise shetlands...and I like them I don't have lots of pounds at the market....but surprisingly...I can bring those little boys in and be proud of selling them. I look at those little boys as they are born...and I think off to market they will go.... I have a market I can take my sheep to if I need to....and if I want to....and I know (maybe) how many ewes I WANT to breed for myself and my many do you WANT to breed for your self? Or are you breeding for a market outside your own family? Do you know what that market is? Do you have enough contacts to sell those lambs support your habit.
Do you need to raise sheep for self fulfillment? Is it part of a life-style that you choose to live? Or are you doing it because they are already there? Maybe you raise sheep because they provide a self's something YOU want to do and you DO's the "being your thing" that gives it value. That's as valid a reason as I can give.
Some of us have a plan...we are going to build a better shetland. That's fine. Some people like to imagine a goal and work toward it. Good for you....go for it!
I'm beginning to wonder why I am working so hard. If it isn't for money. What is my motivation? Do I need to share so people will like me? Doubt it....I never did like to share. Do I need to pretend that the sheep I breed are nice sheep and have value in the world? I do like dragging my sheep around in the ring....I don't think it is the placing as much as the excitement.
Kind of like holding your number up at an auction.
I like the breed of Shetlands that I was introduced to the first time I saw shetlands. I am not fond of the fussy combed puff-balls I have seen at the shows. I know in a year or two they will be fitting shetlands, trimming their fleeces to show them.....But I feel I add value to the breed by showing something different too. I like intermediate to longer fleece....and love small shetlands. I am mildly amused at the "new" shetlands....the ones that have little ringlets instead of fleece I can spin. Even if these new shetland types get more popular, there will still be a few of us that like our sheep with some longer fleece on them. Give me something with a length that I can hold in my older fingers....if I wanted ringlets...I know people with that kind of sheep....I'll buy theirs.
Do shetland sheep REALLY come with ringlets? Mind-boggling. Not the ones I saw in 1999....and I went from the midwest to the west coast. Well, just like spots...after a few years those sheep will be bred to other shetland looks and they will all look similar again. Breed spots into the general flock for a few years and they will disappear again too. Sheep breeders are always cycling in and out of breeds and cross-breeds. Hand spinning and processing fleece will cycle too.
I always like to ask questions of you as I am thinking about anwers for myself. I may even sit down and make a list. Develop a plan. Write a book.
Then again, maybe I'll just go to bed.
I know I answer my questions in my sleep...I just can't remember the answer when I wake up.
Do you count sheep in your dreams? I move them around into orderly groups....really! At least I think I remember doing that.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

line-breeding and out-crossing

As long as I am writing about breeding, let's discuss out-crossing.
I will wager that 60 or 70 percent of small spinning flocks use out-crossing.
To out-cross means....and I'll bet if I get any of this wrong there will be several folks who correct go ahead and read....we might learn something.
To out-cross, you use a ram that is not related to any of your ewes. If you bought all your breeding stock from one went to the next town and bought a ram from someone else.
How closely do you have to look at pedigrees? Well I believe the relationships must be five generations apart. So if you go back five generations on your ram....there should be no matches to your ewes.
Why out-cross? Maybe you have a bad trait in your flock. Bad tails, close horns, coarse fleece, conformation issues you don't know how to correct....and really are tired of trying. Rather than shipping everyone to the butchers, you out-cross. The ram represents 50 percent of your new crop of lambs. Maybe HE can do are at your wit's end.
Maybe your crop of ewes is really as close to perfection as you could wish for....they are as perfect as you, the breeder, are....but you want a different ram anyway.
Your ram broke the fencepost...hit your knee....ate the flowers....or dropped dead of fatigue.
I don't see any way around it....if you don't have an up-and-coming replacement ram HAVE to go out and search for a new ram. While you are at it....I'll bet you find a ewe or two.
Why line-breed at all? After all, you could just order some A-I expert to give you the best ram straw money can buy. Money is no object for your perfect flock of sheep. That ram straw can give you a boost over all your competition....their mortal rams couldn't compete with your "head-ram-straw". Yours has been judged perfect, that's why they made straws from him. How true. Money talks....but it can't replace hard work and the satisfaction of a job well done. After your perfect lambs have been born, they are out of someone elses hard work and ram.....aren't they?
Well, I always say there are choices for every breeder, and I am happy to support their free choice to do their own thing.
Back to our mere mortal rams.
It could come down to money. The breeder across town has sheep not related to yours....and the breeder with the fabulous web page and fame has a ram that isn't related too. The one down the road costs....let's say 100 dollars. That's cheap! The ram in the next state with the famous breeder who says that ram is perfect.....he will take 400 dollars, but you better act fast......that's expensive! Which one do you want?
If you started with sheep not knowing anything....and bought better go with someone who knows something. It's a grab-bag out there. The breeder down the street may wind up having worse fleece than you do. I'm assuming the fancy famous perfect breeder has sold a few outragious prices....and if no one is bad-mouthing them by now....then you can assume they know more than you. Go ahead pay the that perfect ram.
Expect that ram is mortal too. Hopefully he won't catch cold before he breeds all 10 of your girls. Hopefully he has a long genetic history backing up his short tail. Hopefully his dam didn't have fleece made out of brillo-pads.
You can buy can breed perfection....but remember , you already have less than perfect girls to work with.....don't be disappointed if your first lamb crop is not altogether perfect. Yes, if your perfect ram develops an extra tooth from the horn tip in his can go back and expect a perfect replacement.... but that's it. Your expensive famous breeder only has time to talk to people with money chenched in their fist. They are not going to solve your problems with the bad horns on half your ram lambs.
Who is going to solve your problems? Should you go out and find another ram for 600 dollars next year? is where your work begins. You are the are supposed to learn how to best breed your sheep so that they come close to your idea of perfect. Your idea....and my idea....could be a long ways apart! It's OK....we are different....our sheep are different....our locations are different. Our goals could well be different too.
Now you have a chance to learn how to line-breed. Line breeding is using related genetic lines....but not too closely related. If you get too close and you wind up with less desirable traits...that's called in-breeding. The trick is to use sheep related to each other who have a similar trait that is highly desirable. Take a really short tail. Now you already know that you breed a sheep with a longer tail to one with a shorter tail and hope the shorter tail wins. But how about breeding several generations of shorter tails together so that you know the shorter tails WILL win. If you have a ram with a nice might breed him to a ewe with a bad fleece and hope the fleece will turn out better on the lambs. However....did you know that in several generations of line-breeding you could turn out a perfect fleece? You could! Your own hard work....and your talents in breeding selectivly.....and you could have the fleece that makes you famous too. Sit down with a pen...or at you computer....and see where your strengths lie in your own flock....maybe you don't need to out-cross yet....maybe you just need to think.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I know I like you?

Last time I was in Missouri, I was writing about breeding. And I mentioned saving a couple of ram lambs to try out.
I guess there are a lot of breeders out there who don't have any confidence in their own ram lambs. I did read a post, recently about how nice a breeders ram lamb was. That was nice to see.
Lambs come in both male and female, you know. What's wrong with your ram lamb?
Well, maybe you only have 9 ewes and he is related to half of them. Is he related to the other half? By related, we are talking closely related....son, brother, nephew, grandson.....although breeding granny to grandson is may not be the way to improve your flock.
What if you only keep your ewe lambs....and never use your ram lambs for breeding?....Do you sell ram lambs? Do you wether all your ram lambs....or do you ship all your ram lambs????
There are a lot of breeding goals wrapped up in little ram lambs. Their genetics are much more testable than those cute little ewe lambs. First; conformation....If you have any problems with hind ends or will show up when you breed a ram lamb. He might tire easily....he might be slow to breed....he might throw all cow-hocked lambs....and he just might....throw bad fleece.
Then there is the issue of tails, the ram lamb, because he can cover more than one ewe....will show what tails he has in his genetics. No, not all tails out of a ram are the very same as his you may want to test what you are breeding and putting out there in the marketplace....before your clients start complaining to someone else. And my last pet-peeve is horns. Good gracious! What are all those terrible shetland horns doing out there in your fields!
If you are culling (wethering) all your bad horns before others can see them....all you are doing is putting more ewe lambs out there with the same close-horned genes. And I'm not even going into the polled questions. GET something with wide horns....period!
Frankly, if you have no confidence in your ram lambs...then I don't have any confidence in your ewe lambs either. I don't care if your ram has a micron of 15 if his horn hits his jaw a year after I buy him. I am not going to come back to buy any more sheep if every ram lamb born at MY farm from YOUR sheep has bad horns. Where is the pride in that?
Oh, in a perfect world, we shetland breeders could sell all our lambs for breeding stock. Unfortunately the world is not perfect. Your shetlands will have a hard time paying for their keep....unless their shepherd does some value-added work with their fleeces.
Have you ever kept track of all your expenses, on our little beloved sheep?...and what about your time?....and what about you husbands time?....or your childrens' time? Nope....partner or no need a plan to make sheep pay for themselves.
How many lambs did you sell this year? How many lambs are you keeping? Why?
How many lambs did you TRY to sell this year.....I mean REALLY try to sell. Not just answer email or the phone. I mean get out there in peoples faces and promote.
WHO?????? are you breeding sheep for?????
I am breeding sheep for me. I like spotted shetland sheep....I like to breed sheep together to see what will come out. I would LOVE to just keep all my fact some spring, I may just do that. They are all mine!...I bred them, I'm keeping them. They are pretty, and cute, and I like them best! You can't have ANY! It could happen. I've thought about it....I have several sheep left in my flock that I have bought. Truthfully, I prefer my own. Sometimes I sell those "other" sheep....sometimes I can't....even if they irritate me with their faults....real or imagined....because I feel they depend on being in their own flock. Why dump an old girl into another flock just so you don't have to watch her grow old and have lambing problems....isn't that kind of heartless? I know! I don't really think of my sheep as sheep...they are my friends, my children, my companions, I spent too many years as a care-giver to relax and read my uncle scrooge comics all day. Did I tell you I collect comics?...uncle scrooge is my hero. Something about childhood imprinting.
Now, I read stuff too. We all know some breeders are better at hyping their lambs than the rest of us. LEARN from them. If someone actually "sells" a plain black ram lamb for multi-bucks....we should study the method. Copy the method.....repeat the method!
Bother! If someone sells a plain black lamb they deserve a medal!
Now, I had six mostly black ram lambs....maybe half of them are good big square rams with good tails and lovely wide I marketing them? No.....why? Because I would rather be known for spotted rams....I also have three moorit spotted ram lambs left.... to show you where I would put my marketing time....if I wanted to market ram lambs. But I have sold enough ram lambs this year. I will over winter a couple....I may breed a couple....I'll show a couple.
I'll ship the rest...spotted or not. A ram is a ram is a ram.....I don't care who is selling it. Sometimes they are useful for answering someone 's breeding goals....sometimes they are just extra rams. If you continue to outcross your sheep with unrelated will NEVER know if you have accomplished a breeding goal or not. No proof....those horns could be from some other breeder's sheep....those tail's could come from another flock....and that fleece....the one that you don't like....THAT one could be yours!
Maybe you should go back out and look at your ram lambs again.....if you still don't like any....then I would advise you to go look closer at your ewe lambs. Maybe you know them...but never looked at them. Do you really like them? Are they WAAAYYY better than their moms?
Are their mom's better than their grandmoms? What you don't have grandmom? How long have you been breeding those sheep? You should have a grandmom or two left in your field.
Got to go feed a granny now.

Friday, July 06, 2007

weaning, shots and breeding

I'll bet that got your attention.

I have to give you some food-for-thought, since the lists have been dumb lately....and that could be both meanings of the word.

Yes, I have even seen one charming breeder trying to start a conversation about sheep. No one answered. I've been there, I tried one year to start a list to get folks to sell sheep and wool together....ha ha...that flopped real fast. I used to try to keep the spotted list going by starting posts about certain types of spots....until one post where I said how dumb....that word again....another list was to be discussing....endlessly....whatever minutia they had jumped on at that time. I got wholloped good. Seems the absense of our leader on that list allowed hitting below the belt. So now I just let them all stew in their own juices.

I tried posting on the markings list about a month one was interested in discussing spots there either. Not my fault.

Why mention the lack of intelligible banter? Because new shepherds get their information off these lists. We can assume no one is having terrible sheep health problems.....because everyone does jump in to help there. Thankfully.

So have you weaned any lambs yet? I weaned a few early this year. They didn't seem to drop dead from the experience. What's early? Well, I got my first three lambs at 9 weeks old. They baaed so long we almost sent them back. I would prefer to keep lambs until they are three months old, then sell them. Well, I do like lambs! At least by three months, they have learned where and what to eat by following their moms. When I was in Wisconsin, I would wean ram lambs all at the same time. It kept the noise to one week. I would start weaning at three months and move back to 8 weeks. Yes! Eight weeks, lambs aren't able to convert hay into energy until about a month by 8 weeks....most mommy sheep would rather not have twin ram lambs lift her off the ground trying to bang-the-bag. At that time I also weaned the sold lambs about a week before they were being picked up. It kept their new shepherds from having the noise I started with, when I bought my first sheep. I also weaned ewe lambs. I don't do that any more. The conbination of stress and heat in Wisconsin caused a drop in lambs health. Some would get poopy butt from laying around mope-ing...then they would get fly strike.....some would get fly strike just from having damp wool....Fly strike is nasty. You need to find it and treat it fast. Those maggots can eat right into the flesh. You can work with hydrogen peroxide...maybe cutting off some wool too....and when you think you have eliminated them, get a product that will keep them from hitting the sheep again. I used Boss....something for cattle...and used it just like a flea treatment on a dog....1 cc on the back skin. It took care of anything I didn't find.

So to wean or not is the shepherd's choice. Depends on your set-up. You do have to get ram lambs away from unbred yearling ewes or other breed ewes earlier than fall. Those shetlands are mostly little studs. I have a few who have adopted a certain ewe by now. Those ram lambs follow and eat next to their "ewes" always trying for that one big chance to breed.

Shots.....if you need more than CDT already know it. So I'll discuss present vet says why use a shot, if you don't have a problem?....Frankly, I've never seen a problem with over-eating disease in Shetlands. How fortunate. I have had a stray lamb fall over sick between a month and two months....and had vets say give those shots...just in case. That will motivate a shepherd real fast. Most breeders will give a booster shot of CDT to their moms a month before lambing. That is supposed to give the lambs protection. Then some breeders give several shots to their lambs until some age....Obviously, I don't do that. I skipped CDT shots for the ewes this year. ARGH!!!! Naughty!

It's OK, I did it for a reason. Last year I lost a pg ewe to a puncture. I had them in the barn, and moved them all thru a chute process a couple of times. It was too much handling for one ewe....who must have gotten bumped. So this year, I let it pass....I am giving two CDT shots to my keeper lambs and sold lambs....I gave one shot to all of them, but some of those boys are getting big enough that I might start shipping early.

I should also mention wethers. I don't have any. Lot's of breeders wether. It is a way to try and save the life of their baby ram lambs. We all know you can't sell many ram lambs for breeding rams. So now, they think they can find a home for those extra ram lambs by wethering and selling them cheap to "fiber homes". OK fine....maybe you live in an area where there are fiber homes. But think about takes just as much effort and money to keep a wether, as a breeding animal. So I sure don't want any wethers at my place. I once had a vet come in and wether seven....count ram lambs. It did seem that female vets liked the process much more than male vets. But by the time I offered 7 little boys up to the process, I was cured.

I decided that my boys would rather live their life out as a matter how short. So I don't do it any more. We have all heard of the disasters caused by an improperly banded wether beeding averything he could reach. So I wouldn't have a "banded" wether on my place.

My opinion.

I suppose that brings me to breeding. Who gets who and when?????

We all make mental breeding lists as the lambs hit the ground in the spring. OOHHHH! She or he is ssooooo cute....I'll keep that one and breed it to that one.....and on and on.

Before you start shipping those ram lambs you can evaluate a couple for your own breeding groups. Yes, it's a bother having lots of breeding pens....but ram lambs can breed you could use one breeding pen twice. If you breed any ewe lambs, you should consider a ram lamb for your stud. Don't put your little girls in with a full grown ram.....they could get hurt.

Breeding thoughts can take a lot of maybe I'll contunue another day.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Good grief!
Can it be July already?
I find that hard to believe.
It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day chores, that we forget to think ahead.
Yes, fall is coming!
Breeding pens, hay piles, barn floors, shots and worming....when do we find time to do all these things and have time for our families too?
I am right now, in the swing of delivering lambs to their new owners. When we lived in Wisconsin, it seemed everyone mostly wanted to come visit our farm, and see all the sheep. Out here in the middle of the woods, I feel guilty asking anyone to drive all the way here and back again in one day. We live with roads that ride the ridges of the Ozark hills. They are a cross between a roller coaster and a tilt-a-whirl ride. Yes, even after three years of driving and riding on these roads....I can get car-sick while driving. And don't even talk about riding in the back seat! So I am meeting the new sheepy owners halfway if I can drive that far.
I am in the middle of first and second CDT shots on the lambs.....and may have about a dozen who don't have their first shots yet.
It has been raining in Missouri lately. That means any time after our hay got in the barn. Because the hay got in the barn, my old wool is outside in the yard....and is frequestly wet when I open the bags to skirt any "nice" fleeces. People who know me, understand what I mean by old wool......I sell lambs. For that reason, my wool is secondary to the sheep.....and largely ignored as a crop. But I can't really leave piles of wool in the back yard. Think about a few years of shearings....with about 100 sheep a shearing....and you will understand a big pile! I AM working on it.
Have you noticed how quiet the lists have been? I am guessing most shepherds are dealing with those family things, like graduations, weddings, and reunions. I am planning a trip back to the library when I go to the civilized cities....and I may need a trip to the big mall too. We do have a big town about two hours away from here....but you know how often a shepherd has 6 hours with nothing to do? That's do.
It's July, it may be time to make a you can fit in your family time, and still fence a new breeding pen for that good looking ram lamb you had born this spring. You may need to plan ahead now....who to give your life savings order to feed that hay to your pet sheep. If you start with a list of what to do yet before breeding....and then add those family times, and fencing and building may find it doesn't all fit into the next few months....Oh well.
Enjoy yourself....have a bbq....find a sitter and go on a visit anyway. Don't get so involved in farming chores that you let the rest of your life go by without some fun.