Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lambs and Flu

Well, all the lambs are born. And here's my report.

Freckles had triplets, 3 ewes
Dolly had triplets, 1 ram and 2 ewes
Sweetpea had twins, 2 ewes
Rambo is just lambs
Four had twins, 2 ewes

We lost 2 to white muscle disease caused by a shortage of selenium and now we have procured a bottle and the shortage seems to be over so that won't happen again. Next year I'll give my ewes a booster before lambing and we shouldn't have a repeat of the problem. I assisted with only one delivery because Dolly's first lamb presented breech, her second was head and no feet showing so we had to snag those to deliver the lambs shoulders, and her third came naturally and quickly. All the lambs except for Sweetpea's twins are black or brown faced and spotted to some degree because their father is a suffolk ram. You can tell he's got really good genes and the premium Suffolk stockyness because the lambs already have nice rounded bums and hind ends...nice meaty type lambs. I can see why Marc would spend so much money on getting a ram from an embryo all the way from England.

Steve has been sick in bed for 2 weeks now with the flu and for those of you who know him well, you know he's got to be really sick to stay in bed. He's basically been delirious and sleeping for 23 hours a day the whole time, poor guy. We made the trek into Kentville to see a Dr at the hospital but they're so overrun with flu patients that they just send you home and tell you to take lots of tylenol to take down your fever if you can. Not very helpful as we had been doing that for over a week already. But Steve actually slept through the night yesterday and this morning he's able to stay awake for longer stretches, so I'm happy. His fever is down but his cough is worse so hopefully he's clearing all that nasty stuff out of his chest and he'll be up and at 'em soon. I was really worried there for a while so I'm glad he's looking better and able to eat a little now too. Happy day!

I'm off to the barn. We moved our bottle fed babies out there the day before yesterday and they are doing just fine mingling with the other lambs and drinking from their bucket with the nipples on it.  My job now is to keep the bucket full of milk :)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sheepish Pictures

Looks like they swallowed basketballs!

Rideau ewes eating hay with Freckles in the middle
 The sheep side of the barn. Here are a few pics of my lovely old ewes, hopefully taken just days before they lamb. Hear that girls? Any day would be nice, except we're in for another belting of snow and cold weather. Brrr! It's cold for the next few days and so keeping the water liquid and keeping out of the wind are the priorities. They've got loads of hay to munch and pellets for that added boost they all need this close to lambing. We switched to a sheep mash which it turns out they don't like (we switched because the feed store ran out of ewe pellets) but now we're back to pellets again and will keep the mash for the lambs to nibble when they're older.
The ewe in the back is  named Sweetpea, she's our friendliest ewe. That's Ram-bo in the front and she was named that because she's our most annoying ewe, always bumping the others around and she's the one I'm not certain is pregnant, maybe just a single.

Jordan, son/barn slave. Doesn't he look impressed to have his pic taken?
And here is my supply room looking the worse for wear. Time for a good tidy up again before I light that wood stove. In the spring once we're past the freezing weather I'll grind and polish this lovely old thing but for now it's function over beauty. The walls are just lined with plastic to cut down any draft and that ugly chunk of metal acts as a heat shield. The stove looks big but it's actually only about 16 inches across, it's a tiny room and a tiny stove, and it's time for a tidy up!
 Food and herbal tea. Just in case of a night lambing it's good to have a kettle and some munchies on hand. I've got a small pot and a couple of dishes so it's like camping really. I still don't have a bed or bench out there but hopefully that will be built today. I can always sleep in the hay in the meantime. -26 with the windchill today and tonight so staying out of the wind is a big priority for me and for the sheep too. I'm very happy Steve got the end walls finished and the soffits done.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

6.5 Acre Homestead For Sale

No, it's not mine, I almost wish it were. But I know of a sweet deal on a gorgeous little organic property in central south Ireland complete with 3 bedroom home. Now for those of you reading my blog in England you may not have considered Ireland, wanting to stick closer to home. I'm sure many of you are familiar with John Seymour the author and father of the modern Back To The Land Movement. At the time he wrote his most popular books he was living in Suffolk, England but development and skyrocketing prices saw him move his farm and school for self-sufficiency to first Wales and then County Wexford, Ireland in the 80's and 90's. So consider Ireland. Here's what I have to tell you about:

Price is reduced to only 133.000 euros/£115.000!

A quaint 6.5 acre property that was bought a few years ago by a couple who have been busy renovating the cottage from a dilapidated, uninsulated, old-fashioned house into a modern, comfortable and charming 3 bedroom home. The cottage is set in the middle of 6.5 acres and is surrounded by its own fields for lots of privacy and beautiful views of your own land. There is a private drive with 2 gates leading up to the house and no overlooking neighbours which is nice. However you're not in the middle of nowhere as you are close (about a mile) to the market town of Millstreet with all the amenities you'd want. The property itself is divided into 4 large meadows surrounded by mature trees and hedgerows. One field has a stream bordering it so there is a constant source of water for your animals. A young orchard behind the home has apples, pears, cherries and plums promising beautiful spring blossoms and later your own harvests of organic fruit.

For all the details about this little gem, the owners Ronan and Andrea have a comprehensive website at  and there's an abundance of info about the house, land, amenities, building codes and tons of photos. If you know anyone who would be interested in this property please contact Andrea directly via their website. They love their little place but have to sell due to health reasons and would love to see it go to someone else interested in owning a beautiful piece of country for growing veggies and fruit or raising livestock and horses.

Monday, February 4, 2013

No Lambs Yet

Well we've made it through the weekend and still no lambs. The last time I checked was 4am so you never know what's going to happen later today. The ewes are just about out of feed (lots of hay still) so I have to swing by the feed store in Middleton or Coldbrook and grab some more. The weather has settled back into normal Winter weather. It's lightly snowing and just below freezing, maybe -3. There's little wind though which is very nice. I console myself with the lack of lambs by realizing that it's beautiful and serene to be the only person driving up and down our road at 4am and seeing the newly fallen snow. Also, every day is one day closer to having lambs. I checked my e-mails from the previous owner of my sheep indicating that by the 12th he was sure they were bred which means lambs should be born by Feb 4th, that's today. They can't stay inside there for ever. But at least while they are inside there is less work for me as a shepherdess besides checking on them regularly. I'm going to work a little in the barn today making some individual pens, stocking up the firewood, and maybe building myself a small cot to sit/sleep on, then no matter when the lambs come, I'll be ready. Hope you all have a good day.

Friday, February 1, 2013

How Much Do Sheep Eat?

You might be wondering how we feed sheep in Canada for the winter months when there's nothing for them to eat outside. There are several foods they can eat from fodder crops like turnips and kale to hay, haylage and pelleted food. Hay is the most common and in our area we provide a selenium and mineral salt block beside the water trough too. As the ewes get further along in their pregnancies they will need some extra grain and pellet to give them the energy they need for making milk and growing healthy lambs but we can't overfeed them either because it can cause lambs to be born that are too big and difficult to deliver. So since hay is the major source of feed, how much is enough? We leave hay out most of the time for them so they can eat it as they please but of course it's good to know how much you are going to need for a winter so that you can get that much made or bought in the summer. There's a formula you can use to work it all out.

Number of days feeding (be generous) multiplied by the total weight of the sheep times .04

Divide that by the weight of the bales gives you the number of bales you need.

Bales weigh between 35 and 120 lbs each so it's good to know how much your particular ones weigh. Don't let someone tell you that you need one bale per day...weights vary and you don't want to underfeed your sheep or any livestock that's depending on you for food. If you're using large round bales the calculations remain the same but I'd allow 10% more to account for wastage if you're not using a bale feeder.

Here's our calculations.  5,  200lb ewes eating for 150 days from 35 lb bales need 172 bales of hay for the winter. If the bales were 50 lbs then we'd only need 120. That's why it's important to know exactly how heavy your bales are and to make sure you buy the best hay you can, or make your own. Baled hay is a convenient way to store food and certainly more space efficient than loose hay. 6000 lbs of loose hay takes up an awful lot of room in a loft so bales are most common. We plan on feeding hay beginning in October and going through March with the sheep eating grass/hay in October and March but just hay for the colder months. The weather varies each year so you can never have too much hay in store. There are plenty of uses for old hay bales, animal bedding, gardening, compost, you name it.

A ewe needs about 4 lbs of hay for every 100 lbs of weight plus a half-1 lb grain in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy and nursing. For us that amounts to just a bit over a bale of hay per day plus grain so our feed costs for the winter work out to be $4 per day for hay, $2 for grain/pellet and of course you need straw for bedding and lots of fresh water. Our weekly average is probably $60 for food and bedding for the sheep and chickens. That cost will be offset by the eggs, chicks and lambs produced by our lovely ewes. Now that we have a barn with a hay loft we can buy our next years hay earlier in the year for probably half the price we're paying now which will save feed costs and if we build a rodent proof feed bin then we can get grain in bulk which is cheaper again. Something to think about if it saves us $600 in feed costs. I think we'll also plant some winter grazing crops like turnips and kale so they have some green stuff as far into the winter as they can manage which is good for their health and our pocket book. We'll see how it goes.

Oh What A Difference A Day Makes!

I've just gotten home from checking on the sheep. All is well and no lambs yet. The weather sure has taken a turn for the worst as we make our way into February. Right now it's 4:30am, the wind is still gusting to 70 km/h and there is blowing snow albeit not much. Snow is falling in some areas and not in others but it still means that driving up to Torbrook where the farm is can be a bit challenging. I'm going back to bed for a few hours before I have to check on the sheep again. Hope you're all staying nice and warm wherever you are. I like to hear the wind moaning past the house knowing that the ewes are all snug and warm in their barn and I'm tucked up in my bed. Time for some sleep. Goodnight.