Friday, May 30, 2008

What am I doing?

I'm not posting much am I?
I do drive quite a bit. We have been BBQing...and fixing fences.
I have sent many sheepy friends away from my home to other nice homes. Just this week Tassell, the one who came up to give kisses in the fields, went to a nice home with two little girls to play with. It is hard to give up friends who I thought would stay for a lifetime. It is easier when I believe them better off for leaving. But there is always the open invitation to come pick them up and bring them back home.
While on the road, I have had much time to think.
One trip, the gas price went up 10 cents a gallon over night. Does that worry anyone else? That scares me.
There is a liberal junior senator poised to become president. He silences opposition with ridicule. His followers crush disent with hatred. Does that worry anyone else? It scares me.
I saw a big rattle snake crossing our road. Does that worry anyone else? Maybe not, but it sure scares me.
I brought my flock in after a trip, and found three lambs missing. All shepherds would be sad at that finding. But, I am their shepherd, and I am responisible for their safely.
That really scares me.
I walked out to watch them grazing several times yesterday, as if I could protect them. I realized there could be a cat taking them right in front of me, and I wouldn't be able to see it.
That scares me too.
I'm sorry we have been taking rains away from other parts of the country. We have had three years of drought here. I know how bad it can be. I am scared for parts of the country not getting enough rain. The paper here keeps making deadlines for the government dole. Come sign up with Fema. Come collect your two cents for all the hay you have had to import. They will "fix" this area like they "fixed" New Orleans.
I figure fixing my fence is more useful, so I work on that.
I have found out that if something bad happens, it is neighbor helping neighbor. Family helping family. The theories that divide us are not as important as the things that band us together.

To that end, I hope to encourage you to fly the United States flag at your home, your farm, your ranch or your business. The flag is not a sign of the idiots who make the laws or run the country. It should not be used to convey hatred for bad policies. It waves over battles for our freedom. It is a sign of our vast country united for the good of all of us......against those who would do us harm. It is a sign that we will pick up our arms and fight against any threat to our union....and our collective use of our resources.
Oh, I know there are bad things that have been done under our flag. Just as there are bad things done under the guise of religion. They fly the Confederate flag in these parts. I could get in trouble flying the real flag. But, these folks are just as proud of their country as others who live in the real world....and not in the woods.
If you don't like the way things are being done in government. Write someone. Stand up and be counted against it. Run for office yourself.
See I may not be posting....but I still have my soapbox.

I know a few good shepherds who are hoping to sell some sheep. If you know someone looking for sheep. I can put you in touch. I still have some sheep myself. I even have some ewes ready to lamb. They went in with my baby ram....just before he made the ultimate journey.
I know they are livestock....but if you spend most of your days with them, they are your friends too.....or even your enemies.
Have you got a love-hate relationship with one of your sheep?
I do.
I suppose that should scare me.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

hooked on lambs

Yes, every breeder of shetlands is hooked on lambs. They are the ultimate fun livestock baby. Just born they leap-frog towards that wonderful milk's that is. A half hour later they find they can jump. Jump, jump....jump again....just like a dick and jane book. Oh look! Look at me...I can jump. I can run....I can kick up my heels and race with other lambs. Who can watch the lambs or fifty, without smiling or out-right laughing?

How do you breed for lambs? Do you put the closest ram into a pen with the closest ewes and see what comes out? Are you an elitist? Fumbling with hormones and frozen semen, making designer lambs? What is your market for lambs? Do you sell lambs? Do you ship them for meat? Do you wether all your boys and raise them for fleece? What is your market for fleece? Can you sell your ewe lambs? Why? Why not? Who is out in your pasture right now? Can you move them on to some other shepherd?

If you plan what to do with your lambs after they arrive on the are too old-fashioned to last as a breeder in the 21st century. This all boils down to marketing. Marketing starts with a plan....and that means before you stick a sponge you-know-where. Or grab a horn to capture a ram. Your ram is 50% of your crop. However many ewes and rams you use in the fall, you need to know your ram is salable. What is the sign of a great salable ram? Horns....well, horns are the former sign...until so many breeders became frustrated by close horns, and puny horns that a whole new field of breeding started in shetlands the polled...or horn-less ram. This epidemic has been encouraged by designer semen that came with polled genes. So now, you get to choose wheather your rams have horns or "snails" whatever those are. I suppose you can already tell....I am a horn snob. I like horns on my rams. I prefer wide horns on my breeding ram, because the ram lambs he produces will likely have good horns even if their mother carries bad horn genes. I also prefer to use a live ram as opposed to spending bags of money on designer frozen semen that may or may-not "take" ....and lambs that may or may not have flaws. I'm a cheap type breeder. The old-fashioned way to breed is fine. I have been known to spend bags of money on buying a ewe or ram that seems to be good for my breeding program.

What I am getting ....if you bred lambs this year without knowing why they were salable. You made a mistake. Don't do it again! This farming-business if far too expensive right now to waste your crop because you didn't have a plan.

Get a book on marketing. Read it. Make charts about why you can sell your next lambs locally or why not. Decide on a plan for selling lambs period. Do some research on what is selling. Look to see what is not selling....and where. When I first started breeding I started a web page. If you don't have shouldn't be breeding. It is required for professionalism. To that end....I have just dropped my web presence, so if you are looking for me...I'm not there..... Even if you just tell how to email you, the breeder, and show photos of your need a web page. You also NEED a blog. Maybe you need to chart out things to say in your blog....maybe you talk too me...anyway. It is expected...and it is necessary. Go look at other's blogs. The best thing to do on blogs is show pictures of your sheep for sale with fabulous supurlative words about them. Study those words...and always use, friendliest, show-quality, rare....unusual....Then make sure they are also expensive. I see folks now having two blogs....they are free. One for everyday salesmanship...and one for super-duper-salesmanship. You better do that too, if you want to sell lambs this year.

I may start one too. "Super-duper surprise ewes and lambs, get-em while they are still here!"

It will help if your lamb has some salable quality. Some breeders show at livestock shows. We put one on at Jefferson, Wisconsin. If you haven't shown before, come to see what goes on...bring a sheep...we will show you what to do....and when you have seen what wins prizes then you will know if you want to show your sheep at livestock shows too. There are qualities favored at shows. Big shetlands, close horns on rams that are already curled once for lambs, and twice for adults. Big wide back ends....kind of like saw-horses. Long bodies and long legs will help. Most judges have no clue what is good fleece...but it seems the longer the better, unless it already looks and feels like a rug. It is a specialized field. You will like it if you can bring sheep for sale....because real people actually come thinking they can buy sheep. The "win" of a prize qualifies you are a "show" breeder. Then you advertise that your sheep won prizes at a show...and it causes people to think your sheep are better. Maybe they are...maybe they arem't...but it is another marketing tool.

Yes, I am hooked at lambs. I am looking at those cute little ewe lambs, who although they didn't come with flashy spots....had flashy rams as sires. You know the type of ewe lamb, the one that follows you at a couple of feet, and when you turn around and talk to them they back up, but still look at you with those "bedroom eyes". I have to thank Garrett for that phrase, but I have heard Robin talk of choosing lambs to keep based on those expressive eyes. I wiggle my fingers at that shy ewe lamb...and she comes close to smell my fingers then backs up again. Just out of reach, in case I have my own ideas of catching her, and giving her a hug, and a kiss, and a pet under the chin. No....those moments are days in the future. Polka has a little bag now, and she has taken to following me and snuggling me for a pet. I give her kisses too. She doesn't seem to mind. Perhaps she already know she is scheduled for a new home. This may be her way of saying good-bye. It sure doesn't make it any easier for her shepherd. I remember her birth. Third in a bevy of triplets. The best looking too. Mom didn't have any milk, so I watched for a ewe to foster took two days. Plum was a yearling hiding under a tarp for her first lambing. I crawled under the tarp, talking quietly to the new mom, Holding poor little wet Polka under a towel, Gripping her little legs under her, so she wouldn't stand and scare her foster mom. Both lambs side by side, finally....Plum licked them both as her own lambs, and the natural ewe learned to suck...finally it was Polka's turn...she leaped at the chance to taste her foster mom's milk. The two grew up as sisters. But Polka paid me back the next year, as she walked into the pen with her new-born ewe lamb, di-si-do....and let a new orphan lamb suck on the other side. Polka looked from one to the other as if she knew she had needed that help once herself.

It's pouring rain outside my window. I still have two fat ewes, but the barn is too crowded with lambs and moms to bother them in the downpour....looking for a ewe making little lamb-sounds. I'm expecting plain little lambs, now. But I see breeders who think those lambs are still salable. Maybe if they are ewes...but rams that are plain need a boost these days. What will be the next big sale in shetlands? I would think that after selling all those broken patterns as spotted kats and spotted guls...that someone should come up with a well patterned katmoget....and gulmoget. Show them what the pattern really is. Provide the best. Specialize. Charge a lot too. Your lambs are worth it!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

who, where, when?

Someday, I will get organized. It is also likely true....that I have never considered organization very important. Oh well, maybe I'll be better next year.
The reason I make these announcements, is that I pretty much know who, and where....but when can escape me.

Some of our fences have gotten propped up. Some haven't. The grass is growing....but not where there are fences. That results in constant trials of who is in the woods...and how do we get them out? There have been three days when no one in the ewe pasture got lost. Maybe the rams were lost those days....but I don't remember. I think one of the brown and white ram lambs is gone...but, haven't had the ewes in long enough to make sure. Glory finally found her ram I am hoping the missing ram lamb will show up someday.
Some of the ewes are getting to their new homes, some are still here. We are still having rain often. Between delivery trips, I have not done any shearing. Maybe later....when the drought starts again.

I do still have about a dozen ewes who should move on to new homes. If you have a cause to look for an extra ewe....ask about who is still here. I also have a few that are still expecting. Any ewe lambs still here, need to go to new homes this summer. The first batch of lambs will turn 8 weeks old this week. It would be nice to get young ewe lambs a place to live before July. They are just beginning to have real personalities.

Photos of some nice little ewe lambs who are waiting to be adopted. Maybe they can sneak their mom in too, if you have room.
Shy little ewes, looking for homes with fences, and grass and hay....learning to eat a little grain....if their moms don't get it first. Will give their adopted parents many years of companionship. Odd colors and recessive spots a possibility. Contact birth mom.