FirstLambs

Notwithstanding the twelve unplanned lambs born in January and February, here are the official first lambs of the officially planned lambing season! A couple of white and brown ewelambs. Lambs should really start arriving in earnest today, and this ewe was due tomorrow. So, these twin girls got a jumpstart on a sunny Thursday. I didn’t see them born, just found them clean and fed on a midday check, my favorite kind.

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MudRutsThis is a complain-ey post. Sorry. This has been the toughest winter ever. For starters, record rainfall, facilitating mud. Our sacrifice pasture had only partially recovered from the ditch dredging exercise in summer, so likely the grass plants had less water uptake ability, rendering more mud. The engine blew out in our ATV in November, and it spent two months in the shop getting repaired. The tractor had to be used to feed animals instead. It’s heavier, so tears up the ground more; and I have to drive it in a longer path to get to the sheep, tearing up more pasture still. More mud. One time, it popped a tire from struggling through mud, so I had to jack up the tractor and change the wheel, in the mud. Annoyed

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The grass is looking fantastic this spring, we’ve had a great mix of warm weather and rain. The abundant feed is a gift, but it comes with the overhead of moving fencing every few days. I was able to start grass rotation on the south property March 5th, and the sheep just returned to that area two weeks ago. It is reed canarygrass (RCG) so though they grazed it down to nubbins in March, it is already taller than me and forming seed heads! It is both a very productive, and vexing grass.

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I’m cleaning off some things on my desk, and one is the slide deck & notes from a presentation by Dr. Robert Van Saun at the KHSI Expo last August. This was a fantastic presentation titled “Meeting the Nutritional Needs of Sheep to Promote Health and Performance.” He focused on pregnancy feeding. Those of you who know me well will recognize that this topic was right up my alley, especially on the subject of macro and micro element supplementation; and its health consequences.

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It’s been a great run of warm, dry weather, from spring all the way up until now. Though not so great for grass and hay growing, it’s made for an easy summer and fall for outdoor chores. One chore that I’d procrastinated on that really needed doing was to scrape in front of my pasture hay troughs. There was several years’ accumulation of straw, hay, and manure; to the point where the sheep were starting to have to lean down to reach the hay in the troughs, rather than reach up. I really should have done this chore in August when it was bone dry, but somehow it slipped in priority.

Until now, when I realized, if I let another winter go by, the accumulation would overwhelm the troughs. So I decided to squeeze it in on one of the last dry days last weekend. But, it took longer than expected, so I ended up working on it two more weeknights after work in the dark, by headlamp. After it rained. It was a mud skating rink, which made the chore more slow-going, since the tractor couldn’t get much traction.  It made much more of a mess than I wanted. But, I got it done, at least reasonably well. This weekend, I laid down a lot of straw, to start the accumulation process all over again, of giving the sheep clean footing. They’ll mash it into the mud, I’ll add more. Hopefully next August I’ll be more diligent about getting it scraped on time!

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It’s been a busy summer, and I’ve allowed blogging to fall down, and off, the priority list for a few weeks. As most know, we’ve had unusually dry weather here, so the grass growth has been curtailed. Our lot usually does well even during dry times, as we have so  much reed canarygrass, and it has very deep roots that can access the water table several feet deep. Annoyingly, the Canada thistle is thriving, so from a distance the ewe field looks green, but only from thistle!

With the dryness comes extra trouble with portable grounding rods on portable fences; and I’ve been having trouble with a few sheep escaping the Electronet due to low voltage. The solar powered chargers don’t have very high voltage to begin with; and now I need to run fairly long runs because I have a lot of sheep. Often one sheep will pop under the fence, pull out a few stakes, which leaves enough leaning that the rest of the group figures out they can jump over. We had enough loose sheep incidents in the garden and orchard that the portable fence grazing is on hold, for now. On my to-do list is to install AC-powered hotwire, and try again to see if higher voltage solves this problem. Now, if I can only fit that project in…

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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.