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!


Theresa said...

Champ looks great Garrett! Yes, he does look like he's smiling! Looks like your first lambs are going to be out of one of the S/C.

We should hopefully be getting our boy the first weekend in Nov. The Texel guy here in IN will actually come to our place (he'll be in the area)!

Becky Utecht said...

Congratulations on getting Champ Garrett! Best of luck with your market lambs next year.
How did you do at Zumbrota with the Shetlands you dropped off?

Brenda said...

Hi Garrett,
Our Texel from Dr. Wray is sired by the Welsh ram 'Ifor' (pronounced I'm told to sound like E-for) So naturally with ours I named him Igor, which will sound like E-gor, HA! He does have a great temperament tho, and fast growing market lambs, off our Clun Mules.

Angela Rountree said...

Wow, Garrett, Champ looks great! Please keep us posted on his general temperament and the progress of his lambs. Gee, wonder if I can talk my husband into more sheep? ;-)

Juliann said...

He's handsome! I love Texels and those big juicy butts!

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 ...