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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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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pix 328Last winter, a butcher lamb buyer emailed me expressing concern over some negative Yelp reviews given for the local butcher. Curious, I gave them a read, as well as the reviews of all the other local butchers. And they made me chuckle! It seems, there are some things to learn about custom butchers that may be novel to the uninitiated. Fortunately, most of the reviews of our hard-working butcher shops are positive. But the angry customers have some quote-worthy complaints!

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This goes under the people-always-ask-me hashtag #howdoyoudoit? How do you get home from a stressful, drama-coworker, overtime-ridden day at work, a Seattle-area traffic commute, then go out and do farm chores before eating dinner at 8pm (or later)?

I admit, on rainy, cold days, often I hesitate to go out. When I come home wearing my frail office Khakis and a semi-dress jacket, I shiver at the bitter winter cold (bitter, for us, my East Coast friends, is sub-forty…). I’m reluctant to embrace my farmy chores. But of course it’s mandatory, no avoiding it, animals need to be fed, no-matter-what. So, I suit-up in sweatpants, a hoodie, a flannel jacket; and my Muck Boots, toasty off the boot drier. And, out I go.

And then, there is this. Silence; clean air, and this nighttime view of almost nothingness. The whole world shrinks a thousand fold. It’s like submerging undersea from a metropolis land view, passing through a veil.

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lambs

Yesterday I weighed all the lambs for their 120 day weight submissions. And, I weaned the rest of them. The intact ram lambs (eleven of them, for now) were weaned a month ago, at ninety days. I don’t trust having them in with the adult ewes any longer, because they can sometimes be fertile that early, and mature ewes can sometimes go back into heat that early.

This week it was time for the wethers and ewelambs to wean. It works so much better for me to wait until the lambs are four months old- the ewes’ udders are significantly diminished in size by now, so they dry up more comfortably, and with less risk of mastitis. I imagine it gives the lambs a tiny boost in growth, too, though I don’t think it’s significant. It’s also one more month I only have to manage one mob, plus a small group of rams. Starting now, I have to juggle three groups for about a month. After that, I’ll have the flexibility to graze the adult ewes with the ewelambs and wethers again, if I want.

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usfra-national-infographic-9-21-11 (2)

This is old news, an infographic published just over a year ago; but I only recently stumbled across it and thought it was interesting (you can click on the image for a larger version). It was created by the US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, and is part of their Food Dialogs series. It’s a great insight into the very conflicted consumer mind.

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My last notes on the Focus on Farming conference are not on a particular class, but on the subject of divisiveness. I notice a lot of it at every one of these conferences. The  conference seems to draw two very distinct groups of people. There are traditional farmers and ranchers, many of them from multi-generation farming families. And, there are new-age people who are really into organic agriculture, along with their city-folk kin who dabble in AG topics, such as urban gardens. Get those two groups in a room, and there is bound to be tension.

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