GeneIn December, our thirteen year old border collie, Gene, was diagnosed with cancer. I had noticed an egg-sized lump on the back of her left thigh a while earlier, and decided to ask the vet to look at it. It was almost like a typical fatty lump seen in older dogs, and she already has some fatty lumps. But this one did feel a bit more “rooted” and it had grown faster than I’m used to seeing in benign fatty tumors. A biopsy identified it as a mast cell tumor, which is common in dogs. So, it was removed after Christmas.

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TripletsAlmost every year I have a ewe or two that delivers an unplanned breeding. Either due to a ram breakout too early in the fall, or perhaps she lost a pregnancy early-on, and re-bred once all the rams were all together with the we group. Often I don’t care who the sire is, I just mark it down as “UNK” (unknown). Then, the lamb either goes to the slaughter channel, or I sell at a discount the mystery ewelambs as 50% recorded ewes.

This time, with those January triplets, I was interested in the parentage. The mother is a good ewe and I’d like to register them. So, I DNA tested them. I already had DNA banked on all my adult rams, and the cost is $18 per lamb to match them up with the appropriate sire. Er, sires.

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imageI went to the annual Country Living Expo last weekend. As always, it was interesting and educational, and a time to run into and catch up with friends and acquaintances.

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Trio

What is this trio of eaters eating? Something delectable and delicious?

Eaters

A hearty bowl of grain? Something sweetened with molasses? A savory bowl of fresh-picked dandelions or morning glory? Concentrated alfalfa pellets?

Nope.

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Here we  have a growing, learning livestock protection dog pup. A big, growing, learning pup. At first, she was not interested in the sheep. Slowly she started to notice them. Then she started experimenting with interacting with them. This, naturally, is going to manifest in exhibiting puppy-like socialization behavior towards peers: play invites, and attempts to initiate chasing and wrestling. All of which are completely predictable, but obviously not ideal.  As you can see, I’ve added some accessories to her wardrobe which help give her feedback that sprinting after sheep is not desirable behavior. One is a 10 foot long heavy drag chain. The other is an 18 inch long stick “dongle”; both attached to her collar.

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EweWithTripletsThe standard rules of thumb for sheep husbandry are these: a) keep rams in a separate location except for breeding season b) wean lambs at 60 days (or even earlier) c) ensure that ram lambs are removed from ewe groups by 90 days of age and d) use somewhat barbaric methods to get ewes to “dry off” post-weaning, such as withholding water and feeding them straw. I break all of these rules.

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I’m finally getting around to analyzing my lamb yield from last spring, driven by my need to plan vaccine purchases for 2017 lambing, which is driven by my need to analyze what went wrong from last season!

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