Here it is, late August, our hottest and driest part of the year, and our grass is still soaking wet each morning from dew. That is the blessing of living so near a river, where the cool fog rolls in every night and drenches the landscape. This morning I moved some fencing, and my sweat pants were sopping wet up to my hips by the time I was done.

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Weekend before last, I attended the Katahdin registry’s annual “Expo”- this one held in Hastings, NE. I enjoyed it, and when I catch my breath, I’ll try to post some notes I took in the great seminars there.

The highlight for me, however, was getting a chance to bid on some breeding stock with high NSIP numbers at their sale. There aren’t many people local to me who are serious about using NSIP for selection, so I don’t have a lot of access to high-scoring animals or common sires which help cross-reference and normalize data between flocks. Through the kindness of friends, I was able to “hitch hike” my sheep back through two legs: to a friend’s house in Montana, and then a fellow Washingtonian traveling there to pick up a ram took my sheep back home with him.

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Wrote on the plane Thursday, but didn’t end up connecting to the Innerwebs until Sunday night late…

Holy crap, it has been a busy few weeks, and poor blogging has fallen to the bottom of the priority list. In the last few weeks, I:

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This summer has been busy, rotating two groups of sheep through grass, taking advantage of the long daylight hours to get things repaired and improved, and taking a few breaks to go camping.

Sheep have been selling like hotcakes. I’ve had buyers clamoring to make deposits on seed stock before I could even get all my “for sale” decisions made and posted on my website. I just started “officially” advertising on craigslist last week, but already, half my sheep are sold! Butcher lambs are in the same boat: I anticipate them all being sold by the end of the summer.

I always get a range of buyers with different goals, which makes it great for selling sheep, as there is something for everyone. Some buyers have money to spend, and want top-dollar sheep, the cream of the crop. Other people just want to breed a few ewes to have lamb for themselves and a couple to sell, and they often ask for “the cheapest” ones. I also have quite a few pet buyers, who never intend to breed their sheep, and are happy with the “runt of the litter” types of lambs- bottle lambs, slow growers, etc. Everything else lands on the butcher lamb list.

I’m going to try to bump up to sixty ewes this winter, to try to produce more to meet the demand. I’ve been checking around with the few people left in our region who are in the SFCP, from whom I can buy. I tell ya, some breeders make it hard to buy from. Belated callbacks and/or email responses, disorganized records, or inability to send records and photos, makes it hard to be able to choose sheep, or rely on an arrangement to buy them. I’m not a big fan of just arriving to pick from a pen full of sheep; but it’s hard to find anyone who can just provide all the important data up-front to make selection easy!

I am really pleased with my progress in improving my flock genetics using National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) data. I don’t think there is any way I could have made such fast gains by just picking sheep based on visual appraisal, or trying to sort through hundreds of data points in past records. (And, in fact, there is plenty of scientific evidence to back this up.)

The things I’ve been focusing on the most are lamb growth and maternal milk (maternal weaning weight, or MWWT). My growth numbers are starting to chase the system average, which is pretty cool, because a lot of people in the system feed grain to their lambs in the first 120 days, and I don’t.

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A friend of mine recruited me to run for a board position in the Katahdin registry. Her wish was that the board remain balanced between the people who mostly breed sheep with the goal of winning in shows and exhibitions, and the people who breed sheep for meat, productivity and profitability. I have to admit, I had some reluctance. This comes from my years of service on the board of a national dog registry parent club, including being president of that club for four years. And my service to some other local organizations which you would think would be pretty casual, but turn out to be insanely political, like world-peace-is-at-risk kind of drama.

Here was, roughly, my top ten list of questions about this candidacy:

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I have written many times before about my affection for Pat Coleby’s book, Natural Sheep Care. This book is really just about mineral supplementation; but it has a strange mix of other topics sprinkled in. (Who knows why, they don’t really belong, but maybe a publisher thought the book needed to be rounded-out). I first read it several years ago, and my copy is worn from constant referencing.

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