Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflecting back on 2009 and friendships

Gosh where did 2009 go?!!

It seems like just yesterday I was wishing for my first AI lambs to hit the ground. Hard to believe they are almost a year old already!

2009 was an amazing year. I traveled to several sheep shows to visit with friends, making lasting, stronger friendships, and I made new friends at the shows. Its always fun to brainstorm with others and listen to their flock goals and where they've been and how they came to finding sheep or Shetland/BFL sheep in general. Thanks to the internet, blogging, and breed associations, I've been able to meet many whom I consider some of my best friends! Whether we agree or disagree on what we do with our sheep, or what our priorities are with them, we never let that get in the way of our friendships. And I can say with the exception of one person, everyone I've met through blogging I consider a friend. Friends look out for each other, stick up for each other when they are getting slandered, call them when they are down, and are there to lend an ear or shoulder. So thank you to all of you who were my friends this year. The sheep are really secondary in that matter. Sheep will come and go but friends will always be around, in some form or another.

I got my amazing NASSA news in the mail much quicker this time and in prestine condition! I must thank those who take the time to write down their experiences on paper (or computer I guess these days), share their life experiences, photos, notes, knowledge. It does not go unnoticed! I am always wanting to learn as much as I can about our ancient Shetlands and am thankful for those both in NA and the UK that have shared their time with me and answered questions that I've posed.

Its also very easy to take things the wrong with the advancement of online chatter. Unfortunately that seems to get taken more the wrong way than the way its supposed to be taken. I cannot apologize for how others read and react to my blog posts, but its never meant as passive aggressive or as a dig. Shame on you for thinking that! For those of you who know me, you know that I am very serious about my sheep, very willing to learn and listen to others and hope that by expressing my thoughts on my blog, that others will take that step to discuss the same issues on their blogs, all in friendly discussion, making it able to be used as education for all, and in turn, creating a better understanding everyone.

Many of you I would not have met, had it not been for the blog. I've sold fleeces because of it, traveled to different parts of the country because of it, and made many friends I would have never met otherwise.

I think that Corinne and Nancy are the most funny people I've ever met (aside from Stephen) and they always make me laugh when we are together. They truly are the friends you would think of when you are sitting in a jail cell and laughing together about how fun it was to do whatever we just did to get in trouble. ok maybe not THAT extreme but you get the idea ;) Never would have met them, had it not been for blogs and sheep!

Theresa and Juliann are amazing ladies with a wealth of knowledge about the breed, production aspects, genetic aspects, they are both wonderful and amazing people.

Stephen is such a gracious host for Michigan Fiber Fest each year and has two houses full of sheep people staying with him. He takes us on field trips around the area for landscape nurseries, shops, restaurants, bars, you name it, he has amazing ones close to him.

Many thanks to the ladies in Minnesota! Sabrina, Becky, Kim and Gail for having opportunities to get together and talk sheep or just hang out! You are all great gals who I am honored to know and call you friends. Any time I need a sheep 'fix' and not be looked at strangly, you are there. So thank you!

Thank you to Cynthia for being there from the very beginning! You are a true friend and mentor, going way above and beyond any sales exchange and letting me ask questions upon questions and constantly ask 'why'. Many thanks my friend. You are very loved :) And I thank you very much for being so supportive along the way!

I should probably stop mentioning names for fear of forgetting others, but if your blog is on my links, let it be known that you all make positive impressions on me and I'm eager to continue to grow and learn together with all of you, while strengthing friendships.

Truly when we are old (well some will be older faster than ME :P) and the sheep have to leave due to our inabilities to care for them properly I do hope that we will remain friends and still get together for laughs.

Friends. It feels good! Happy 2010 and may it be very blessed for you all! I hope that 2010 will allow our paths to cross many times and our joy in our sheep can be expressed between us!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

We Made It!

What a joke! This was NOT a blizzard for us! Granted we go a lot of snow but it came over three days. I still will go back out tomorrow to get the driveways cleaned off 100% and salt them down as its melting off the roofs and causing ice on the driveways....

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, or Happy Holiday for those who choose to celebrate other traditions.

While this snow fell I left the barn doors open so the girls could come in and out (rather than have to wait for me to do it as I didn't know the time of day I'd ever be home). Turns out everyone, including the BFLs had snow 'piles' on their backs...A sign of good insulation..... and none of them had even left evidence behind in the barns that they were inside at all! The Shetlands now are happily making 'fox and goose' trails all over their winter paddock. Truly a beautiful sight to behold.

My family held off with Christmas supper for me to join them...even if it was the tail end of the meal as I had to go home first, do chores, shower and change and then pack up my gifts for them and head over the 1 mile to my sister's new house. I got everything I asked for/needed/wanted and now I just need use them! I finally got an external harddrive so I can store all my photos and music on it, and I got a bagless vacuum for all the dog hair! WOHOO!! Other wonderful gifts included new dress clothes (for dog shows they told me.....see...they ARE learning), candy, winter gloves and hat for work, and Season Six of Will and Grace! Guess what I'm watching this week!

The best part however was on Christmas Eve my mom and dad and I went to the candle light church service at our church in town. It always gives me goosebumps. And even though I didn't play my trumpet this year, I still felt very blessed and loved while I sat in the church. Happy Birthday Jesus!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

edited snow forecast

they are now saying a definite 14-18 inches for us. We'll see if it pans out......

Right now its lightly snowing and I have all the snow equipment ready, the vehicles in the garage, the wood pile covered with a tarp, the agility jumps and weaves in the house thawing (I know its a bit late to be bringing them in) the cows and sheep have a new deep bedding of straw and hay bales are down and stacked and ready to feed when there is little time to do more than throw them into the feeders in the next few days.

If I don't get a chance to say it....


Bring it on!!

410 AM CST WED DEC 23 2009



410 AM CST WED DEC 23 2009








Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rams for sale

I have several rams available now. If transportation is an issue, I can house them for $1/day until they can be picked up or arranged transportation. All rams micron tested and all mature rams blood tested negative for OPP, Johne's, CL and BT

UnderTheSon Arapaho - moorit nearly 2 year old ram. proven ram. dark moorit color, all lambs have been dynamite conformation. Very mellow ram.

FirthofFifth Barish - F1 Timothy - homozygous black - gray katmoget ram. He carries modified, spots and is a half poll with abherent horns. Conformation is lovely with a nice crimpy fleece. dark katmoget face and a gentlman.

FirthofFifth Angus - shaela gulmoget - A gorgeous colored modfied ram with a very mellow personality. Could carry moorit and spots.

WhitePine Uphaz - F1 Minder - musket smirslet sokket ram lamb. 69% uK. He may be abherent horned as his horns are growing differently. AgAa, SsSs, BbBb, MMMm

WhitePine Phineas - F1 Orion F3 Greyling/F3 Jamie 75% - musket - scurred ram. Very crimpy fleece, even, soft. In at the hocks.

There may be others available if you inquire :) Its an odd time of the year to be buying rams but I wanted to get it out there that they are available.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Yes I love my sheep

Don't get me wrong. I DO love my sheep. I"m not just a numbers fanatic or a production fanatic. Then again they aren't ALL tame, because they all have different personalities. Heck not all people are nice either!

Today I loved my sheep. I sat with the BFL group and had them nearly maul me over for scratches. I never give cookies or treats. They just come to me for that scratch and then get glossy eyed....until they've had enough and then they go back to what they were doing. I then sat with the Shetland ewes. Man do they look huge already. They must really like that grass hay I have for them :) I then went and sat with the BFL ram Kirkdale and my Texel ram Champ. They sure are sweethearts. Champ has really calmed down since those Shetland-Cheviots have gone back in with the mature ewe pen. I'm not going to lie..I love that cross but man are the W.I.L.D!!

Kirk and Champ never really pushed each other around when I introduced them. Those two rams, and Burma once I get him home will be housed separately from the horned Shetland rams. Poor Burma last winter was pushed around I think too much by the big Shetland horns. Now that I have multiple polled rams they will just stay together as a small group. I'm still blown away by how great this Texel is. If they didn't have lambing problems I'd be all about them. This guy has totally won me over with the breed. Kirk is always his respectable self and he leads with just a finger under his chin. Such a gentleman to his ladies too. Both I think are really stewards for their breeds (and great showcases of their breeders).

Today we had the water line freeze in the barn. For the dairy cows it was fine. The cows kept the barn above freezing and we had the line suspended from the ceiling (the barn was built way before indoor plumbing back in 1892). and so we have heat tape, pipe insulation and house insulation around the pipes and yet sometimes the heat tape quits working or its JUST THAT COLD! Today was that day. After a short thaw process with a handheld propane heater the tubs were filled again with water. I ran to town to take some deposits to the bank and when I returned I only saw TWO shetland ewes in their winter paddock. Ok I KNOW they all cannot fit in the one shelter in that pen and raced to the barn. Somehow...they managed to open the door that swings INTO their pen.....and were running the alleys eating every single bale of hay and leaving one big lose hay mess. Needless to say they ate their fill for the day and are NOT getting supper......I don't think they could fit any more in those rumens anyway!

Yes I still love my sheep. :P

Monday, December 7, 2009

dolldrums and seeking data information on sheep

So its taken about a week to accumulate enough snow to equal about 3/4" on the frozen ground. Just the day before Thanksgiving it was still 45 degrees. This next week the highs are single digits. I'm not ready for the extreme cold. But if its going to be this cold, we should have a lot more snow! The snow insulates our water and sewer lines and helps keep plants roots from drying out and dying.

I've not much to report with the sheep. Breeding groups have been done for awhile. The clean up rams are back in with the rest of the boys and its now the long wait for lambs to arrive.

I've hit a wall so to speak with the sheep. I absolutely love my two breeds. I love everything about them. Their diversity, their uses, their personalities, their wool, their amazing traits. I have however realized that for the most part, those who keep these two breeds keep them for their wool and not really from a production standpoint. And I want both dang it!! Most meat breeds are bred and selected for with EBV's (estimated breeding values), mothering abilities, milk, lambing ease, lambing growth etc. There is no data for my two breeds as they are used for wool here mostly in the US. Granted BFLs are supposed to be the premier crossing ram onto hill and upland ewes. Its gaining popularity here in the US, but still not at the speed I was hoping for. They are known as a wool breed here as the wool is in high demand. I"m doing my part in compiling data, as like me, my neighbors who raise meat breeds select their next replacement animals based on data like lamb weight, average daily gain (or grass raised), weaning weight, and not so much on emotions or personalities (although temperament is highly sought after). With the Shetlands and BFLs its more of a 'crap shoot' with breeding pens. yes you can breed for structure, you can breed for wool qualities and mothering qualities but not to the degree you can with the cattle. The cattle seem to have a better predictability when having used their EPDs/EBVs for the past several decades.

Shetlands are mainly used for their wool. Some people just keep them as pets, some actually eat them too (and boy are they excellent tasting!). I guess perhaps blogs with the sheep folk are more 'friendly posts that are more happy-go-lucky', which is fine, but it seems the moment I talk about how no sheep is perfect and trying to improve my flock all these red flags go up and people start coming down on me for trying to improve the breed or make them something they are not.

I"m not doing that.

Read that sentence again!

I was on the phone for three hours on Friday with a friend from Colorado. He, like myself, is in the same two breeds and had agreed that its hard to talk production or stocking rates or EBVs with the majority of our fellow breeders as most do not have a desire to know this, or just simply don't care. Now that's not a dig at anyone! Its perfectly fine if you have a spinner's flock, or are just breeding for fun or whatever, but it should also be allowed to talk about production. The breeds are not typically known for data for production, but why can't we have something to go on?

I'm not in to changing the Shetlands or BFLs into something they aren't. But I am wanting to know what our 'base' is for each breed. What is our range of birth weights? What is our range of fleece weights? milk? body condition? If we were able to create a base, we could look at them and compare them (if nothing else but to just compare) to other breeds that are similar in nature, or completely opposite. What is wrong with taking down numbers that we currently could get and see the results? Wouldn't it be fun to see how a Shetland birth weight compares to say a Dorper or Columbia or something? Just to have that data available to people who have curious minds like myself?

Maybe if person A had a flock who had the highest weaning weights, would be highly sought after for replacement ewes, if they were what the buyer wanted (i.e. pasture raised, no grain, naturally resistant to worms, etc). It might be another selling point. Maybe you don't want huge sheep or fast growing sheep! Find those flocks that have slower growing animals or find a flock that had the fleece weights you wanted. It would be more helpful if we had data fields to report this to, and then be able to compare them across the breed. Its not 'improving' the breed, its just defining where we all are with our breed as a whole. And figuring out where in that range of data your animals and your goals fit.

The cattle business is quite a bit bigger. They've done a great job of promoting beef, they've pooled their resources, come up with cutting edge technology like DNA testing, color coat testing, genetic disorder testing and loads of production based and maternal based data. I guess I'm spoiled with all the OPEN information. People WILLINGLY give their calving records, (birth, weaning, yearling) and maternal records to the open database! People are happy to claim in the Simmental breed that they can in fact register something that is only 1/4 Simmental and go on to make note of what the other 3/4 of the animal is. that 3/4 is then used in the database as well. They go back to the breeds that make up that 3/4 and take the data from that breed and then use that percent to figure out what affect it would have on the animal overall. Its an amazing thing.

Our association just passed a new rule by the B.O.D. that all animals of certain blood lines (breeds associated with the genetic diseases) had to be tested for 1-4 new DNA testable genetic diseases. While I think this can have a negative effect initially, I believe that in the long run it will better benefit our breed(s) of cattle as a whole as we will no longer have to worry about these terrible genetic diseases popping up down the road, like they are now.

Gosh I've barely scratched the surface and have said a lot, but still not really felt like I've defined anything I wanted to.

Maybe I'll just shut up and end with a few photos from today....

Friday, December 4, 2009

Newest Trumpeters arrive from Utah!

MANY THOUSANDS of THANKS to Greg Pola in Utah for sending me these amazing birds! I am completely smitten with these birds, but especially this first hen. She is oozing breed type and has the "S" shape that we are striving for. Beautiful crest and mane, with a nice tuft, nice rich andalusian color and nice width for a hen. She's a beauty!

Below, Andalusian splash hen
her mate, a black cock. He is standing up in the photo but is much more handsome than that :)
A stunning black splash cock. I love his hard feathering and crest, and beauitufl 50/50 splash marking.
His mate, a young Andalusian hen. She's also very typey with good color.
This red cock below blew me away. He has gorgeous depth of color for that color (red0 and is a very powerful bird with a thick neck, wide body and short length.
His mate. A yellow hen who is VERY stylish and typey. Beautiful color and depth of underbody. I'm in love!

Many thanks again Greg! Your help is so very appreaciated!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Newest Pigeons arrive from Arizona!

Many thanks to Joe Hammons who sent me these three amazing pair of English Trumpeter Pigeons. As many of you know I lost most of my hard work with the pigeons last fall to a terrible disease I brought back from a show. Joe and other good friends and stewards of the breed have come forward, without asking them to, to donate new birds to me to help me get restarted in the breed. These birds are better than most I've ever bred so it gives me excitement to start with such quality birds!

Karma really does come back around.....all those years of donating birds to young kids or friends in Mexico or Bermuda were never ever thought of anything more than gifts. I never wanted to do anything more than help new people out. And here to my surprise, I am gifted in return. I am truly Blessed!

Below is a young English Trumpeter cock bird with the color of what we call "Dun". Its dilute black genetically. All of their muffs were trimmed so they would not have issues when being shipped (and yes we ship them through the Post Office!)

A beautiful typey young dun hen.

An old red splash cock (anything two years old and older is considered 'old') Our classes are young, yearling, old, in both cocks and hens, and then in all recognized 28 colors.
Old red hen
young yellow cock
young yellow hen

My next shipment of ETs (English Trumpeters) should be arriving from Utah either today or tomorrow! Photos will be forthcoming..

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

I have truly met some amazing people in my years with the dogs, sheep, pigeons, college and high school. Every single person I've met has lead me to life lessons and for that I am thankful. I am glad that I am able to continue to meet new people via Facebook and Blogger, and reconnect with old friends who haven't been forgotten.

I absolutely love my family. They are a pillar of strength and guidance, showing unlimited love, respect, wisdom and laughter when its needed.

I thank my Heavenly Father for all his many blessings, both large and small: my health, a thriving business, education, friends, and most importantly, His forgiveness.

God bless you all on this special holiday and please take a moment to pause and give thanks for all that you are truly blessed with!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Culling Rates

I was reading some past comments on Laura Matthews blog about her Coopworth ram and how the Coopworth registry has a mandatory 75% cull rate in rams and 30% cull rate in ewes.

When I first read it, I was like WOW that's a pretty serious number for rams, but then went back to my breedings in the past. In cattle our cull rate was 25% for heifers and 95% for bulls. We typically kept most of our heifers for replacements. If they didn't work out, they were sold. Our bulls we are/were extremely picky about. This year my cull rates for the heifers was 50%, and the bulls 95%. I kept only one bull and 2 heifers. Since I only ended up with 4 heifers, and sold two, that would be the 50% :)

In sheep in years past my cull rate was 35-60% in ewes and in rams 50-100% in rams. My first year I culled all of my rams ( I ate them) and same as my 2nd year. I did winter some over to eat them, but never used any for breeding, even though I did registere a few. This year I kept back 50% of my ram lambs as over half of them were from AI and they were the last of those bloodlines. I want to grow them on to see how they develop and compare them to the lambs that are born next year from AI.

It would be interesting to see what Shetland or BFL people do for culling %'s. I bet some Shetland breeders have zero culling as they either don't breed, or they can't part with any as they are their pets :) Its a bummer that Shetlands are not more based on production like other breeds of sheep that are considered livestock, and not pets. I think we'd see improvement a lot faster in them if they were not pets first and kept because they are cute or friendly. Even if they aren't registered, I don't think that constitutes culling?

What are your percentages?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2010 Goals

Its that time of year to see if I managed to meet my goals for 2009. For a recap here is what I had posted for my 2009 goals:

1. Find a softer moorit ram (hopefully from my AI lambs!)
2. Have a gulmoget ram born that is ultra fine (or find one!)
3. Push for importing of new Shetland ram semen to use in 2010 in my next AI
4. Continue to keep only my softest ewes that also have correct conformation and colors.
5. Move many of my "B" class ewes to the crossbreeding program and use the Bluefaced Leicester ram on them to get Mules in spring 2010.

1. I have a mioget ram lamb that IS softer. I still hope to find a moorit ram out of my AI lambs next year

2. I was gifted Angus, the Shaela gulmoget from Cynthia. While he isn't ultra fine (and I didn't raise a single gullie this year) I'm still hoping to get a soft gulmoget LAMB next year from Angus and my softest ewes.

4. There is word of importing some rams from the UK, although it wasn't in time for my AI this fall. I have a lead on a nice ram that is moorit so fingers crossed that we might move forward with that one!.

5. My 'B' ewes were in fact put with the BFL this year (or sold) and I have only put my very best Shetland ewes to Shetland rams.

So what are my goals for 2010?


1. My flock is seemingly quite katmoget heavy (gray katmogets that is) and I'm praying for solid (AaAa) ewes and rams from my lamb crop in 2010, hopefully some nice moorits and blacks.

2. Retain all promising lambs and sell their mothers if feasible (or put them to the BFL next year for mules)

3. get a moorit gulmoget lamb born on my farm!

4. continue working on importing a fine ram from the UK.

5. fence in and use the additional 20 acres of pasture for rotational grazing. If that was the case, I will keep all of my mule ewes and breed them to Champ the Texel next fall for a large flock of cross bred market lambs.

6. Find a collection site for a few prime rams for future use (like in a decade or so)

No huge changes really in my goals, and they all seem quite attainable. If you know of a place that collects rams in the midwest, do let me know!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Trying to learn how to spin

Gosh has it really been so long since I did this?? The date on the camera photos doesn't lie....

With crazy life happening the past few weeks, it took a rainy Friday night home alone (well with the dogs around my feet) to finally get around to posting these photos!

So on a rainy day the end of October a fleece customer (who swears I can sell out of my fleeces at Shepherd's Harvest if I get it turned into roving!) encouraged me, educated me and enlightened me on the ways of many things this day.

First off is she showed me how to properly wash a fleece. I won't bore you with the details she told me but it was a lot more involved and less complicated than I was doing :) Below is just a generous amount of Jazz's 2nd fleece that I brought along to wash. Isn't it just gorgeous?!
Here Lisa had some of Jazz's lamb fleece on her drum carder. Oh she also showed me this machine, but also showed me how to hand card and make wool eggs (is that what they are called?) and bats from this combing. I was combing some lovely CVM fleece of hers.
Several photos of Jazz's lamb fleece she had washed and was waiting to card.

Below she showed me some lovely yarns of Jazz's lamb fleece she has on her spindle (bobs? spools? I can't remember)

And her awesome wheel, whose name(the wheel) escapes me!
She then had me learn how to ply two commercial yarns together. It seemed fairly straight forward and appeared easy enough to do (hey even the photo looks nice huh?)

Below was a neat photo of a sweater I would hope someone would love to make me (I'd pay of course!) as there is no way I'm going to learn to KNIT! I had 8 hours of mind boggling spinning terminology and i was completely mortified and overwhelmed!) I took four full pages of notes and numerous other photos of the trip/day and thank goodness I did as my mind was over flowing with knowledge!
She then gave me some hideous (truly the color orange this is, is so obnoxious...she even laughed when she gave it to me) Merino roving that was partially felted to work on! Talk about such a nice lady! I had asked her why she chose Merino and she said my fleeces were as fine as they were (to which i politely thanked her and then disagreed...Heck Jazz is 25 afd! that's like 10 microns over a Merino). She remarked that she wore that lamb fleece skein of Jazz's around her neck for three days and never felt a prick on her neck! I had to remember his lamb fleece microned at 20.2 or something ridiculous, so it could be closer to that low micron than I think :)

She showed me how to draft and although slightly felted I was getting the hang of it....for awhile....I would do things like try to talk and pedal at the same time, which ended up in some twists :) She is SUCH a patient teacher! So she had me draft quite fine at first, and then not so much so I had more of a 'rope' look to it.

.....then she gave me Corriedale cross combed top to work with. Again she had me do both finely spun and more rope like spinning/drafting (if you can even call it drafting)
thank goodness the photo is blurry!
To further add insult to injury she then had me ply my rope/fine yarn combo TOGETHER into the below hideously awful looking rope/yarn wanna be skein! Had it not been orange, or partially of rope, I might actually have it out in the house, but its already packed away!

And so ended my very first day of spinning. Now if I could just prioritize some funds towards a wheel I'd be set, but since I just did A.I. and blood draws on 54 sheep, its a little on the back burner for now!

One last breeding group

The BFLs and the Shetland ewes that were bred to the BFL were put in together on October 7th, and were separated on November 11th.

The Shetland purebreds were put together on October 12th and separated November 10th.

Champ the Texel wasn't put in with his girls until October 25th and will remain in with his girls until Thanksgiving. I didn't have a marking harness on him until about a week ago, so they either were bred right away, before the marking harness, or haven't cycled yet. I"m hoping for the former!

I'm going to be putting my clean up rams in with the girls in a week. One BFL for all the BFLs (and a few shetlands for those mules!) (and including the BFL AI girls) and two shetland rams in with two groups of Shetlands. I had an odd idea to put two mature rams in with the girls, instead of two ram lambs, but I still can't decide. I"m hoping most are already bred!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Breeding groups are done!

'Jazz hands' has been finding ways out of his pen from his ladies, into the ram lamb pen for the past four days. I've had enough of it, so all of the girls went back together and all the boys are in a squeeze chute where they can smell each other but can't back up and bash heads. I figure if Jazz would rather be with the 'boys' that his ladies must surely be bred :)

The girls were mostly excited to be back together and mother/daughter bonds were renewed. The clean up ram(s) will be put with their group(s) on the 17th or so....whenever they decide (or I do) that the groups need to be put back together.

The greatest thing about this year's breeding groups is that I didn't have to break ice out of the water troughs, and the weather has been recently quite nice out (not freezing at night) so I've thoroughly enjoyed the breeding groups in something less than a blizzard like years past!

The funniest moment of the day is when the quarantined girls from Cynthia were let out with the rest of the flock in the pasture. The three of them stuck together like peas in a pod and when they saw the cattle jumping and kicking up their heels in the next pasture they literally FLIPPED (yes one appeared to do a backwards somersault) out and took off running back to the shelter. LMAO I did. The other quarantined girls from Susan Kimball were released at the same time and they looked at the cattle with the slightest interest. They must have seen your cattle Susan? At any rate they were all quite excited to be back outside where they could stretch out their legs. I think they'll sleep well tonight :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Photos from our AI clinic

Here are some photos of the AI clinic we did on Saturday. Here is Sarah with my group of ewes waiting to take their turns going in for their 'shot at love'.

Below, Mary and Sarah watching the girls pre-procedure.

Below is Beechtree Kearsley telling Sarah a story. I'm sure Kearsley was trying to bribe her way out of this!

Here Erica and Sarah are getting Kearsley situated in the cradle (you can see my head behind Erica)AHA!!!! We DID get a photo of Kim!!! :P And she did a fantastic job of trimming the belly wool off the girls! (girl sheep)

Erica and Sarah's friend Jessie preparing the pipettes for the clinic.
Here are Kearsley and I posing before I wheel her into the procedure area! :D

Thanks to Erica for posting these on Facebook!

AI is done, and now we wait

Our AI is done for another year.......

I wanted to thank hugely my friends who drove from all over the place to come and help me! Kim Nikolai came from Prior Lake, MN to assist me with my AI and she brought her shears which were used to clip the belly wool. She was a trooper and helped me load and unload my ewes for the trip to town. Mary Morris and Erica Morris the mother/daughter duo from Wahpeton, ND came to assit me. Erica and her friend Sarah are dog friends of mine and They both ROCKED coming to help me with the AI. Since I was sick with the 24 hour stomach flu (i'm better NOW) they did a lot of the loading and unloading onto the cradle, holding the ewes in place while AI'ing and many of the scrubbing and shots. Their classmate Jessie was also there from a local town of Ottertail and she helped get the semen ready for Martin and double check which ewe was next. Mary Morris aside from running the CO2 tank kept things going in a timely fashion and kept us on track. Shona the vet tech from the clinic was ever helpful with preparing all of the supplies I needed and had everything ready and in order for them. Amanda Covington a DVM from the Minneapolis area who specialies in goats and sheep only, was there also to assist in any function and eventually took over the semen preparation when Kelly had to go. I ordered pizza for everynoe who helped and was VERY grateful considering I was not up to speed due to my sickness.

We did the two BFLs first, followed by the Shetlands. There were two ewes who jumped as he inserted the right horn so we made note of it that we may not have those bred as Martin says typically the right horn is the horn that gets settled when doing LAI. He told me I should not expect to be as good as last year with my conception rates. He said since I had 100% last year, not to expect that or be that lucky again, but I wouldn't complain if that DID happen :)

So now I wait two weeks before I put the clean up rams in with them. They'll only be in with the clean up ram 10 days as I have to have all my lambs born before April 20th as I have my Cardigan National Specialty out in Gettysburg,PA from April 23-May 1!

It was a sad day when I used the last of my Holly, Timothy and Minder straws. I still have 11 straws left to use in the future but will probably wait a few years to do most of the F1 ewe lambs. I will however probably do quite a few BFLs next year to AI as I have quite a few of those straws now.

Friday, November 6, 2009

AI tomorrow

I've been so busy with fall clean ups that I haven't had much time to check email or phone messages and for that I apologize! Tomorrow is my AI date with Martin Dally of Super Sires, Ltd doing the procedure. I'm in good hands tomorrow as I have 5 Vet Techs and a DVM who specializes in goats and sheep helping with the clinic tomorrow. AND I have Kim Nikolai helping out too so that should be a blast!

I am so busy right now that I"m not even going to be deer hunting this year...the first time EVER as I have gotten so far behind with work due to all of the rain and snow we've been getting. Naturally tomorrow is supposed to be 55 degrees...the last nicest day of the year and I'll be doing AI in the morning. If I can get everyone else OUT of the clinic by noon I could still have about 5 hours of daylight to get a few more yards picked up.....

wish me luck!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

OPP negative flock too! And Blue Tongue too!

Another 'as expected' result from the blood draw. I actually did a specific OPP test for sheep this time around. It does not give false positives (or negatives) and is highly effective in finding those with OPP.

Needless to say I'm quite relieved!

I also had my flock tested for Blue Tongue as I acquired sheep from areas of the country that have it throughout. I've only gotten the results of 25 of the 54 sheep as they are running the other batch tomorrow. The first half are all NEGATIVE as well. I will not test for this test again once I get the rest of the results(if they are negative) as here in the cold northern part of MN we do not have the vector for BT to be transferred (most of the midwest doesn't have this vector, or the mountainous areas to our west). The only way it can be transmitted is via this vector. If we don't have it, other animals cannot get it transmitted to them.

This is also NOT the same Blue Tongue that is ravaging Europe and the UK. There are 6 or more strains throughout the world. After talking to my state vet, the state vets in CA and OR and the Federal vet (who actually has a lake cabin 30 miles from my farm!) I've concluded this is not a huge worry for us in the Midwest, especially since we do not have the vector. The federal vet for BT told me that eventually the titers if present will eventually fade away. Titers just mean that the animal was exposed to it, but did not get it (antibodies if you will) is how i understood it.

It will be interesting to see the rest of the results.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Johne's Free!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our results are starting to come back from our blood draw last week.

Our entire mature flock of 54 animals has been tested negative for Johne's. As expected!

I have decided at this point in time to close my flock for the most part, and only allow animals in that have been tested prior to coming here (in a well educated purchased) or tested at my farm in quarantine (more of an impulse buy). Those animal will have to test negative for all tests that I am testing for to maintain the negative flock status. I can really see that there will be few animals that I 'need' to get and should be able to breed from within my own flock to make the animals that I am looking for (gosh I hope so!)

Further, I am going to do fecals on all animals that come into my farm hopefully prior to them getting here or again in quarantine. I'm not being 'anal' (pun heavy) about doing fecals but if I'm going to spend the money to draw blood and test for those diseases I sure should be doing fecals as those seem to be a larger problem with sheep in general.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meet the ewe - RiverOaks Eliza

River Oaks Eliza - S19622

AwtAa, B?Bb, SSS?, white ewe, single born 5.2.05

18.75% UK

Eliza was originally purchased to use in AI last fall. The night before the sponges were to be pulled, hers fell out, not enabling us to use her in the AI. So THIS year we have CIDRs instead of sponges and those things do NOT come out easily! She will be bred to Campaign Timothy this fall.

Eliza was purchased from her breeder, Becky Utecht for her greyling genetics. At the time I knew of very few animals with any of his line left in my neck of the woods and thought I should get her. Her fleece is around 4" in staple length, it is very soft to feel and crimpy. She's a nice bodied ewe who carried and raised twins nicely and quickly on grass alone. She has one of the largest udders I've ever seen and told Becky often that she had 'Holstein udders' on her Shetland ewes :) Obviously Becky has a great forage system!

Below is Eliza's 2009 micron. This was her fourth fleece. In my opinion you can't get much better than that! I don't for see it moving much more as she matures, but I'm sure she'll like to prove me wrong!

Thanks to Becky, these next two micron reports are from her. Below is her 2009 micron report.

Eliza's yearling micron (full lamb fleece)

I really am hoping for a cute white ewe lamb out of her, or a wonderful moorit or black ram. I just don't see many good white ewes out there (or any white ewes for that matter) and think that everyone should have at least a few white sheep on their farm!

The Simmental Breed of Cattle

Its a rainy day and my back is still thrown out from holding and catching sheep yesterday for blood draws.

I thought it would be interesting to refresh my memory of my beloved Simmental breed.

This link is a great summation of the Simmental breed, but I wanted to quote a few things from this article.

*The American Simmental Association registers over 80,000 animals YEARLY in the USA alone! We are in the top four registries in the US for amount of calves registered each and every year. Truly NOT a rare or heritage breed.

From our associations webpage:

*Simmental as a breed are number 2 in the WORLD for number of animals (registered only, with unregistered there are undoubtedly many more) only behind the Brahma breed.

*The Simmental has between 40 and 60 MILLION registered animals worldwide! Being the 2nd largest and most popular breed certainly has its benefits.

*Even though there are 80 MN State Simmental Association members, there are closer to 400 breeders of Simmental in just MN alone. Truly a worthy breed to think about if you are thinking of getting cattle.

More links:

Meet the ewe - ShelteringPines Fleur de Lis

I've been neglectful of the 'meet the ewe' series so I should continue on!

ShelteringPines Fleur de Lis - S25993

smirslet gray katmoget ewe - twin born 3.13.07

AbAa, BBB?, SsSs

Fleur as a lamb at Stephen's took my breath away. Her solid conformation, her katmoget pattern and her cute and wide smirslet face won me over. When Stephen decided to let her go, I had to jump at the chance. Her parents were wonderful representatives of the breed and both were spotted. Her sire, Underhill Thelonius Monk went to Canada, and her dam moved on to another farm in the US. Below is Fleur in nearly full fleece. Her staple length is 4-5 inches and is single coated. Her fleece sold immediately after shearing.

Below is her 2009 micron as a two year old. Look at how HIGH the numbers are on the left of the graph. That's a great thing :) She has a larger crimp than is typical of UK style Shetlands, but has a low SD and CV, which means she is highly improvable towards finer AFDs in her lambs, when bred to the proper rams. This past year I had her bred to Jazz, and got a gorgeous black krunet ewe I named Festus. (two wildly spotted katmogets and i get a black krunet! That's my luck!) She was a big girl at birth, and just a single, but her fleece is jet black and lovely to dig my fingers into. Better yet she is probably the nicest conformed ewe lamb from this year. Fleur this fall is going to be AI'ed to Greenholme Holly in hopes of spots and finer fleece.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Farming as a way of life

For the past 117 years this farm has been a way of life for FIVE generations in my family. Farms as most of you know do NOT have a secondary income, do not have off the farm jobs and everything that we have, has come from farming the land or making milk with our dairy cows or meats with our beef cattle, pigs and now sheep. For a farm to make it through five generations, something must be working.

I cannot fathom living any other life. This life is not easy, nor would I want it to be. The new and daily challenges that it brings, can only make a family stronger, body, soul and mind.

Farming MUST make money to continue in existence. As a young child I cried every time I had to sell one of my cows because they were poor performers in some field (calving, milking, putting pounds on a calf etc) or were old, losing molar teeth, bad feet etc. I promised I would try and breed better animals that were more sound, healthier, lived longer (longevity), milkier, easy keepers with low input. I"m proud to say our family has attained some success but our work is NEVER done. I feel there is always room for improvement.

Its nice to have pets to scratch on their backs or under their chins but in the reality that is farming, we have to sometimes let those go, even if they are our cherished friends. In truth, new friendly animals find their way to us and we have new friends to scratch and tell our secrets too :)

Today I just had the vets come out to draw blood samples on 54 mature sheep. It took 6.5 hours (what could have happened DID happen). Do I have the 1,000 dollars to pay for all the testing, the lab fee, the vet visit and their hourly rates? Its a priority to me and I make arrangements to have it done. Its something I feel strongly about and don't think you need to do it. But I must admit its a good selling point. People feel 'safer' buying from someone who has tested for these blood diseases and micron tests. Those are two of the very first questions asked when I get emails regarding sales. Do I do it for the sales? they sure help pay for stuff, but ultimately for the health of my flock and the strain on my body/mind are the main points. I get paranoid about having any sheep or cow or pigeon that is sick or unthrifty. The more I can do to keep them healthy, the better.!

Dogs are also a huge part of our farm operation. If we didn't have herding dogs, breeds that have been around for hundreds or thousands of years (just check out the 24ish breeds in the herding group with AKC) we would be lost. The dogs not only bring us the livestock, but they do it in a calm and easy manner, something a 4wheeler or person could never do. These dog breeds were MEANT to work on the farm, period. I wouldn't have any other type of dog than a herding dog. Especially since I live on a working farm.

Integrity. I stand behind my animals. Their health, their quality, their purpose. I would think any farmer would. The proof is when you have repeat customers. They are the best advertisement you can have :) And I thank my customers....those that have purchased beef (breeding stock, stock for feedlots and those that purchased meat) pork, (meat purchases), lamb (breeding stock, fleeces and meat..yes all three), pigeons for pets or breeding stock and soon to be dogs. Being a multi-faceted farm is like any 'old school' farm, where diversity ran rampant and the concentration of one species in climate controlled barn was never thought of.

Our family farm works. Plain and simple. It has to, or we wouldn't have jobs, a place to live or a paycheck. I have no one else to pay for my bills, no spouse to work off the farm to make the real money. Its just me. And I need livestock that sells and produces goods whether it be meat, milk, breeding stock or fleece. And I think I'm doing just fine thank you!

Just a few weeks...

...until my sister and her family move into their new home just 1/2 a mile through the fields from my sheep pasture. With them will be their dogs.

I encourage everyone to check my archives on this horrendous act of killing my goats.

And for a better story yet, please read this in its entirety.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Visiting the Bluff Country

I spent ALL of yesterday driving. I left yesterday at 7am and drove down to Zumbrota, MN to the animal auction. It is exactly four hours away from my home and I brought 7 Shetland ram lambs that were not of breeding quality, and two ewes that were no longer being productive. It was my very first trip to the auction market with sheep, and as hard as it was to see them run down the lane to their pen, a sense of satisfaction and relief swept over me knowing that I will have less mouths to feed this winter and more room to concentrate on the animals I want to keep. I still do have several ram lambs available in case anyone was wondering :)

Below is a view almost immediately after you get off of Interstate. This reminds me a lot of west central Wisconsin too.

I was hoping to stop and see Nancy but I didn't have her number! Thankfully Juliann came to the rescue! I left Nancy a message and as I was driving to and through her town to get my next purchase, I came upon this sign. No WONDER Nancy lives here! :)

I'll give the town some WAS a Sunday and early afternoon at that so it was not the most bustling town I've seen. I stopped to fill up gas at one of the gas stations here and took a photo op!

More of the countryside.....gorgeous reds, browns and dark yellows left on the trees here.

This was right on the Mississippi River looking at the land on the MN side. Just gorgeous!

My purpose for this visit to the Bluff Country was to pick up a purebred Texel from Dr. Charles Wray. He is well known for selling top registered, purebred Texel rams for thousands of dollars at their annual sales. He does his own ET (Embryo Transfer) on his ewes and he also heavily does AI to the best UK sires he can find. I was put in contact with him last year after the Jefferson show where Mark had told me where he had gotten his Texel ram from. Mark and I chatted about his Texel over the winter and I went to Dr. Wray's website and really was impressed with what he was doing.

This summer when I went to visit Brenda's BFLs I was able to see their ram, Igor (or is it Egor?) and was really impressed with him. This year after the Jefferson show, when I brought home my Shetland-Cheviots and my Shetland Mules, and was instructed by our UK judge Mr Stott to get one, my first thought was to contact Dr. Wray. After a few phone calls and emails, this is the ram lamb he picked for me (much to my pleading that HE pick one out for me as he KNOWS the breed far better than I).

I wanted to call him "Tex" but figured Theresa and her husband Jeff would call their Texel Tex...following suit of "Cheever" the Cheviot and "Ol Blue" the Bluefaced Leicester. I didn't think we needed TWO Tex's in our small circle :) So I thought maybe "Hans" as that sounds Dutch, but realized "Champ" was more suiting for him.

Champ is nearly 97% UK, out of many many many generations of AI and ET (embryo transfer) and tested negative for OPP, Johne's, CL, and Blue Tongue (per my request). He is also registrable and is Scrapie genotyped QR. I purchased him unregistered as I could not foresee getting into breeding Texels, but Dr. Wray tried very hard to sell the breed to me :) Champ also is an ET offspring out of three more generations of ET procedures (not to mention the imported semen again).

Below is Champ unstacked. I will hope to get new photos of him after breeding season.

Here is Champ with one of the Shetland-Cheviot ewes that I purchased from Theresa and Jeff.

Same two sheep, different pose.

And here is the happy Champ with his 5 girls for the fall. The two Shetland mules are in the foreground, and the three Shetland-Cheviot ewes are in the back with Champ. All of the animals weigh between 90 and 100 pounds as 7 month olds, all just on pasture.
Another reason Champ was purchased from Dr. Wray, not only because of the wonderful genetics, but was that Dr. Wray, being a veterinarian also believes in forage based farming, and his ewes and lambs are raised only on pasture (spring through fall) and hay (winter).

This small 3-Tier system is here for the data standpoint. If I can get data for side by side comparisons for the Shetland Mules AND the Shetland-Cheviot crosses, I can do lamb, growth, weaning, carcass trait comparisons side by side to see which is the better cross for this area of Minnesota. And then the hard sell to those huge meat sheep breeders that live all around me. Suffolk, Polypay, Dorset, Hampshires, Columbias, etc. I hope that by having hard data with evidence in the form of spreadsheets AND live animals, that I'll be able to make some converts.

That corn keeps getting more expensive.......grass is going to be the new way to do sheep business period. I hope they can get on the boat while its still docked here :)

After picking up Champ I headed to La Crosse, WI to meet Cynthia and her husband Christopher to pick up three of their ewes I am borrowing for my AI. There is never enough time in the day to talk to those two and I told them we have to stop meeting this gas station parking lots trading sheeps and goods :) Soon a trip to their farm is needed, to just relax and talk sheep. SOON!

A long drive home it took me about 5 and 1/2 hours to get home around 9:30pm, and then I had to unload sheep and put them into their respective pens.

Champ didn't know what to think at first of his ladies but after a night with them, I swear he is smiling!

I am super impressed with this Texel ram and if any of you ever think about using one as a crossing ram in any situation, I would highly recommend Dr. Wray and his Portland Prairie Texels!

Available sheep

With my work load continuing to pile up, and less time to spend with the sheep, I am offering the following: My entire flock of BlueFaced ...