We are going to try the compost trial again this year. Last year, we didn’t see a noticeable difference in the performance of pasture grass where the compost was applied. It might have been because we got it on late, and didn’t have much rainfall all summer after that. It might have also been that the application layer was too thin. Or, it’s also possible we just won’t see a dramatic affect, if our soil quality is already really high.

But, since the material is free, it’s worth trying again, to see if we can elicit any positive affect. Some of the other folks in the trial have seen very good results. When used on pastures that were neglected, the response was apparently very rapid. One Christmas tree farmer reported that his tree crop was ahead a full year in growth in the compost area. So, there is definitely reason to believe it’s a good practice, at least in some applications.

This year, we hope to get it spread earlier, counting on the spreader not being broken at the time we need to borrow it. And, we’re going to apply the same amount to the same spot, but half the area size, to see if it makes a more noticeable affect. So, maybe if we can get it down before the last of the spring rains, it’ll settle in to the soil better and provide more benefit. I also wonder if last year’s application won’t start to show improvement in this year’s spring grass growth?

Lambing starts for me next week, looking forward to the big event! Everything is set to go, lambing gear bag is packed, equipment is stocked, and the ewes are looking good.

I haven’t written about Ovine Progressive Pneumonia Virus (OPPV) in a while, so it’s time to catch up. I have continued to test my flock for it since 2011. I had been considering it before then, but was deterred by the cost. A buyer had requested testing a group of ewes at their expense, so I figured while the vet was out, I might as well test my ewes too. At the same time, I learned how to do the blood draws myself, and how to send the samples to the WSU lab, for the future. My ewes tested clear, so I figured, hey, I might as well roll with this, continue to test, and use it as an advertising strength. Though I believed in the seriousness of OPPV, the concept was still a little abstract to me, I didn’t have much personal knowledge of it.

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Molasses faceTwo cases this week! The one bit of fallout from my farm sitter debacle was a ewe that stopped eating the Thursday following the weekend of missed feedings. She is one of my purchased ewes from Missouri, so I will be extra bummed if anything happens to her or her lambs. She looks bigger than most of the ewelambs, so I suspect she is carrying twins or triplets. She is also carrying a lot of condition, with a BCS of about 4.5. Fat ewes are at greater risk of pregnancy toxemia than ideally-conditioned ewes, ironically; as they are more likely to start mobilizing fat reserves to feed the lambs, and kick themselves into ketosis.

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We went razor clamming again last weekend, and the weather was amazing! Not a cloud in the sky, no wind, warm and sunny. The dogs were happy to get some long beach runs after a lot of winter cabin fever. When we go out of town, sometimes my parents farm sit for us. But sometimes they are also going clamming, or taking an RV trip somewhere else. I wasn’t sure if they were going to join us, so I had booked a farm sitter to feed the animals while we were gone. They ended up not going clamming, but I don’t like to cancel farm sitters after they’ve blocked out their schedule for me, so I kept the engagement.

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Bronte is six. Where does time go? When I brought her home, it was in a hurry, to deal with immediate coyote-killing-sheep problems. She was a half-grown pup, who grew into her job, and maturity, very slowly. At the time, there was no time to think about spaying, I needed her out with the sheep yesterday. And, I think part of me thought I may have wanted to breed her someday. But part of me always thinks that, and thus far, has always been wrong. Even her breeder stopped breeding LGDs. The litters are huge, the pups grow fast and eat a lot, it’s tough to find suitable working homes for them, and sometimes you get them back later and have to re-home them.

Later, we got Moses, so I had a backup guardian dog. Moses was already neutered when he came. I started to think about spaying Bronte, but there still didn’t seem to be any urgency. Knock on wood, we just don’t have issues with loose or stray dogs here, so there was little concern she’d be accidentally bred. I considered whether maybe I’d never spay her. I waffled. This would be no ordinary spay, on many accounts.

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USMARC EasyCare Ewe Flock on pastureI was tidying up some photo folders, and founds some shots from last summer, when I toured the US Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Nebraska. The tour was arranged as part of our annual Katahdin Hair Sheep International (KHSI) “Expo” conference. Our educational sessions were also held there, in the large auditorium they have. Timely, since last month, the New York Times published a very damning article about MARC. I’ll provide a link to that at the end, in case you haven’t seen it. But first, I’ll present my view and experience with MARC.

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Yesterday was our big Country Living Expo event, where each year, one has the challenging dilemma of choosing just five classes to take out of a few hundred. We had the good luck of securing Temple Grandin as a presenter this year, and I was eager to see her speak in person. Her talk was good, though if you are already familiar with her work, it was kind of a “Temple Grandin 101” speech about cattle handling. But I think Dr. Grandin never fails to be an interesting and engaging speaker!

She spoke for just under an hour, then the whole second hour was left open for questions. I am not a good auditory leaner, so I often take notes during a lecture just so I pay attention and retain more, even if some of it is stuff I’ve already heard or read. Here are some randomized snippets of stuff I wrote down during her speech and question-answering. Plus, one boring photo of sheep and dogs in deadgrass winter, just because a post needs a photo, ya know? I wasn’t as clever as you-know-who-you-are who managed to have a photo taken with Temple Grandin so she could put it on Facebook! Winking smile 

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