All babies grow up. Spot is no different. The cute little baby goat I purchased right after Thanksgiving is growing. He should grow being fed a bottle every six hours. He slept in a large dog crate with pine shaving that were changed daily. When he was not in his crate bed, he roamed the house or played outside. When the weather was warm, we placed him in his own fenced playground away from danger to play and enjoy the fresh air.
Two weeks back, Spot became too big for his large dog crate. We had to move him to his private suite in the barn. We made a warm bed under a heat lamp, he had hay and fresh water provided if he chose to eat or drink. His neighbors are my other two goats. I would go out every six hours to feed him the bottle. I or my husband let him out of his stall in the barn to roam with us when we do chores or just work around the place. He loves to follow us everywhere. And there are times he is allowed in the house for short times.
This week, Spot has been seen eating his hay. He has made the choice to not drink all his milk from the bottle, walking away because he is full. His bottle feedings have been moved to four times a day. We still let Spot out to run and romp during the chores and other times of the day. He is still allowed the occasional visit in the house.
In another month, Spot will not be given a bottle as he will be old enough to wean from a bottle. He will be allowed to romp and play outside his stall. We might move him in with the other two goats, depends on how big he is in a month’s time.
Why do I have goats? For the grandkids to play with. The other two goats are nannies, Precious and Baby, and very friendly. Follow us anywhere and try to help us with our projects. Spot is a billy. So maybe next fall we might have newborn baby goats born.
Twice a month the local sheep and goat auction holds a sale. There is a variety of sheep and goats, young and old, brought into the sale pen and sold to the highest bidder. It is at this auction, two weeks ago, I purchased my new “dog” Spot, a bottle baby goat.
I enjoy attending this sheep and goat auction. I have friends at this auction, that the only time we see and talk with each other is at the auction. Some of these friends have helped me in learning how to make money raising sheep. We talk about family, projects, our animals and our breeding plans among other things.
Today, I brought my new “dog” Spot to the auction. Spot wore a dog harness and was kept on a leash. Now, regardless of where you are, upon seeing a baby goat walking along with a person holding the leash, you would notice. Even at the auction, Spot was noticed.
The main reason I brought Spot today, is he is a bottle baby who is young and only eats from a bottle. While I was at the auction, he would need to be fed. The only way to feed him was to bring him to the auction with me.
Those who work at the auction and those who attend regularly know that my animals are not treated like other sheep and goats. A few were present when a couple of years back I brought a ram to the sale. Unloaded him from the trailer into a pen. Then went into the pen, and without any restraint, proceeded to pick up each foot and trimmed it, so he would look his best at the sale the following day. Most people cannot even get close to their animals, much less pick up a foot with nothing restraining the animal. And the ram, went for top dollar at the sale the next day. Although the auctioneer was called a liar by two people present when he told them of me trimming the feet the evening before. Thank goodness for witnesses who stood up to verify his words as the truth. And my reputation was made as the person who works with her animals and does not always treat them like a sheep or goat.
So today, bringing a baby goat to the auction as if it were a dog was strange but not a big surprise considering I was holding the leash. Now for those who do not know me that attended today’s auction, it was a surprise and opened the opportunity to meet new people. Children were especially drawn to the baby goat. The children would walk up with their parents, and ask if they could pet the goat. I would reply, “Yes, you can pet Spot. He loves to be petted”. Children get bored fast at an auction. They do not understand the auctioneer, and it is hard to watch animals go through a sale ring and not be able to touch them. Spot enjoyed the constant attention and petting by little hands. The children and parents enjoyed the distraction.
Spot loves attention. Spot loves to sit in my lap and be petted. Today at the auction he received plenty of petting and sat in my lap most of the day.
Today, was the last opportunity to catch up with friends, learn what they were doing for Christmas celebration and to wish them a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.
I attend the sheep and goat auction regularly to keep up with the trend in the market lamb and breeding sheep prices. But today was more than just watching the market trends. It is getting close to Christmas, and I needed some money. I selected three ewes to sell at the auction today. These are not cull ewes, but ewes that would or were producing market lambs. These ewes had traits that I do not want to carry forward in my breeding program and were scheduled to be sold in the future. Because of the reputation I have built concerning my sheep, my ewes sold for $50.00 to $100.00 USD above the price of other ewes in the same condition. When my ewes entered the sale pen and were offered for bid, the bidding was fast and furious at the beginning. I was very pleased with the price my ewes brought today.
Finally, after a long day of sitting, talking with friends and holding Spot, I was ready to go home. I picked up my check, thanked those working the auction and wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year.
The air is cold, and I have spent the past two days getting ready for the freeze that was coming our way. I do not care much for the cold. Where I live there is not frosty wonderland to see the morning of a freeze, everything covered with frosty crystals. Here when there is a freeze, it is ice covering everything.
To prep for the freeze I gave the dogs in the kennels a fresh bed of wool to help stay warm. I do raise hair sheep, but there are times that even this breed of sheep needs to be sheared. I shear the wool and hair from the top of the back on the show sheep and the first year sheep. First year sheep have a harder time shedding the lamb hair, so I give them some assistance by shearing them the first year. This wool I store in order to use for dog bedding in the cold, icy winter months.
The dogs enjoy their nice soft wool beds, except one. This year we have a young male Akbash cross pup, Bruno (We don’t talk about Bruno…lol). He is eight months old and doing his job protecting the sheep. The livestock guard dogs do not stay in the kennel, but they have a dog house to get out of the weather if needed. I put a nice bed in his house, the next morning all the wool was scattered around his dog house and in the sheep pen. I am not sure how much time he spends in his house for protection from the weather but it is there if he chooses to. The nice wool bed I provided for his sleeping comfort, he decided would be more fun to play with. I can try to help improve their lives, but ultimately it is up to the dog in making the choice to sleep in the shelter and on the bed provided.
I have shelters for the horses and sheep. My favorite mare, My Sweet Victoria, would not use a shelter for years. She would stand outside, and have everyone stand outside with her during the storms. It has only been the past three years she has decided it was ok to use a shelter during a storm. She has had the same shelter for twelve years, and only started using it three years ago. Her two pen mates are happy they are able to use the shelter. My Sweet Victoria is not happy while using the shelter, she is very nervous, but she has figured it is better to be dry than happy.
I have also been prepping the lambing barn. I am close to lambing time again. I do not like lambing in the cold months of the year as there is more work to do. I make sure the lambing pens have shavings for the floor and the heat lamps are working correctly. In the cold months, the newborn lambs need extra heat for a few days, especially at night. The mamas and babies stay in the lambing pens for about three days, then they rejoin the flock. The babies have learned who mama is, gained some strength and are good to return with their moms to the flock.
Last month I made sure the water lines and other areas are winterized for the cold months ahead. Since I do not have the ewes in the lambing barn until they are ready to lamb, I have to prepare it just before lambing and between ewes.
Today, we are set for the cold months ahead, except Bruno who scattered his bed. Ooops, we don’t talk about Bruno….lol
For my occupation I am a sheep farmer. I raise sheep for meat and breeding stock. I enjoy being a sheep farmer. Watching lambs being born, growing and playing is my “television”. I do not care to watch television or a movie much. Watching the lambs is enjoyment.
Most of my ewes I have owned since birth. I know their personality and the sound of their baa. I have selected my sheep from the best that I had, selling off other lambs. Seven years I have worked to have the sheep I currently own.
It is time for me to purchase hay for the winter. We have been purchasing hay from an individual the past two years. Because my flock has been growing larger the last two years, we inform him how much hay for winter we will need in the spring. We let him know this spring how many bales of hay we would need, and he said he would have them for us at the end of summer when we pick up the hay. When we contacted him, he said he sold all his hay to a the local feed store for $105.00 USD per bale. The feed store is charging $260.00 USD for the same hay. I can not continue to raise sheep with hay cost at $260.00 USD per bale. The only place to purchase hay in my area is from the feed store or hay brokers in nearby towns who charge the same amount. I am forced to go to another state and haul my hay to Texas.
Since I am going to have travel to purchase hay, and purchase the hay at one time, I do not have the ready cash for such a purchase. For the first time, I am going to have to borrow money to keep my sheep business going. I have worked for thirteen years to get our personal finances out of debt. I am very reluctant to go into debt to keep the sheep.
I have worked hard to raise the quality of my sheep. I have four sheep consigned to a special Dorper sheep sale in October. My business plan for 2022 was to keep two lambs, a ram and a ewe, to grow up and show and sale in April 2023, and this is on schedule. I have four ewes that are going to have lambs in September, 15 ewes that will start having lambs in October. Five lambs will be ready to sell as market lambs in November/December. The plans were made last January on when I would be having lambs, when they would be ready to sale.
A lot of sheep farmers and cattle ranchers have sold off all their animals. They have folded with hopes of being able to rebuild next spring. There are some who are borrowing money, to keep going and hoping for a better year next year. With fewer sheep having lambs next year, and the demand for lamb meat staying the same, hopefully the price will go up on the market lambs that are produced, and the sheep farmer might be able to recoup the loss of paying so much for hay this winter.
The sad news is, if the price goes up for the market lambs raised by the sheep farmer, the price will go up for the consumer buying lamb meat for dinner. Once ewes or cows are removed from herds producing offspring to be sold for market, it takes a year or two to build those numbers back up to what they were this year.
Should I fold, call it quits or go into debt and preserve to keep all my hard work going forward?
After much prayer and contemplation, I am going to persevere, push ahead to keep going. I will not have the profit margin I calculated last January, I am going forward hoping to do well. I am hoping the market lambs I sell in December/January will bring a high price. The two I am raising to show and sale in April as breeding stock will bring good money. The plans of breeding ewes, producing lambs, and selling market lambs will provide more money than I did this year. Hopefully the drought ends, the hay grows abundant for all farmers.
Yesterday I spent three hours grooming my faithful companion, Bonnie Jo. Bonnie Jo has an interesting history and a special place in our family. I purchased Bonnie Jo as an eight week old puppy twelve years ago, almost thirteen. I was at a Reined Cow Horse Show as a spectator, just before I started competing. I saw these Australian Shepherd puppies. I love Australian Shepherds, so I asked the young woman watching them with her children if they were for sale.
She said, “Yes, these are some of Jack’s puppies and they are for sale.” As I watched the five puppies playing with the children.
“Are there any females?” I asked.
She pointed to the red merle off by itself, “I think that is a female, the only one.”
I went over an picked up the pup and looked at her, instant love at first sight. I gently placed her down. “How much?”
“Oh, I do not own the puppies. We are just playing with them. The owner is over by that truck with the male Australian.”
I walked over to the truck, and looked at the dog sitting in the truck. I did not touch or offer to touch the man’s dog. With ranchers and cattle people, you do not touch the dogs, unless you ask permission. Also, a dog sitting on the back of the truck, is guarding the truck – touch the truck or try to touch the dog at your own risk.
“Hello, Jack.” as I started to introduce myself.
“I’m not Jack.” pointing to the dog, “That is Jack.” And he told me his name. “Jack is the sire of the puppies over there. ” He whistled and Jack jumped off the truck. A large red merle Australian shepherd trotted over and sat down on my foot looking up to me as if I was supposed to give him something.
“May I pet him?”
“Looks like he is demanding a pet. He sure likes you, does not do that with most people.”
After a quick apology about the mix up of name, I said I was interested in purchasing one of the puppies, the red merle female. The deal was made. I found a lead rope in the truck and the pup and I started getting to know one another. As I walked around the arena grounds people would say, “you got one of Jack’s pups. There are good dogs, the best. Jack works the cattle without Mr. R saying a word or whistle. Best working dog I have seen.”
I took her home and showed my husband what I had purchased. “What are you going to call her.” That was a thought, what should this little pup be named? I was thinking then it hit me. Since I had recently received paperwork about my adoption, I decided to call her my original name, Bonnie Jo. Every time I said her name, I would be reminded of the truth and not fall back into the lies of my family.
Bonnie Jo was a terrible two. She liked to play bite with me, but her little teeth were sharp. “Easy.” I would say, and she would cock her head to the side, and then play again, still rough. After having scratches all over my hands, I decided I would gently touch her nose and say “Easy” when she was too rough. I touched her nose, and she slapped my hand with a front paw. I touched her nose again and once more she slapped my hand with a front paw. Well, that was not going to work. But stop playing with her did.
She learned to sit, walk on a leash, be potty trained, even telling me when she had to go outside. She loved traveling with me in the truck and suck my soda out of the straw in the cup. Yes, she loved Dr. Pepper. She learned to drink water from a water bottle tipped on the side with water at the opening edge. She would chase the cows out of the yard, but never really learned to work by commands, but loves pushing sheep and goats away from her house. And her method of playing tug of war, with you are a another dog, is to make sure someone has the end of the rope to pull against, not take off and not share. Tug of war is a pulling game, not a stealing game. If the other dog loses their grip, Bonnie Jo slings the rope, hitting them in the head until they grab ahold then off they run and pull again. Bonnie Jo learned a large vocabulary listening to me all the time. She learned to read my moods and know when I needed someone close. And Bonnie Jo can communicate back with a arsenal of “looks”, some looks if they could kill, would. She gets upset with you, gives you a look, then ignores you.
As a pup, she got in the pen with a yearling horse, and was stomped. We took her to the vet to have her checked out. No internal bleeding, and with a few meds for pain and inflammation we headed home.
Bonnie Jo never came in heat. When she was two, I decided to have her spayed. Drop her off in the morning, and pick her up the next morning. The first time we had been separated since I purchased her. When I went to pick her up, the vet said the womb was full of infection, and had I noticed. I said no, and told how she had never come into heat. And about being stomped. The vet said she had probably had the infection since being a stomped.
Four years ago, she was bitten by a copperhead while we were feeding. I had walked into the barn where the grain is stored. Bonnie Jo was right on my heels as always. Suddenly, there was a loud clang near some metal channel iron we had on the floor. I looked back at Bonnie Jo, “Be careful girl, I do not want you hurt.” She gave me a really dirty look, and walked to the house. The next day, she was limping. I checked her foot and could find nothing, but figured she hurt her foot on the channel iron in the barn the day before. Three days later, she was packing the foot, and I saw the foot pads were totally raw, and found a puncher wound that looked bad. Another vet visit, they took her in and said she was snake bit, looked like rattlesnake or copperhead. They would have to put her under anesthesia to clean the foot. They also wanted to give her some IV antibiotics for infection and pain meds. Again, Bonnie Jo was away from me for the night. The next day I picked her up with pain meds and antibiotics. There were several more trips for changing bandages during the next three months.
Bonnie Jo does not like to take pills for anything. She is the only dog that I know that will make herself vomit, after you have forced her to eat a pill. If the pill is in food, she will refuse the food, even her favorite meat treat. I wasted one pill by grinding it to a powder and putting the powder in canned dog food. She refused to eat the dog food for a day and half, never ate the dog food. Daily was a struggle to get her to take her meds. I managed to get most of the meds to stay down, holding her nose shut for about five minutes then giving her a meat treat.
Yesterday, I bathed her. I have to put a leash on her before I ever get the bathing supplies together. Her long thick fur mats quickly. I use a conditioner and detangler on her hair when I bath her. I brush her to remove all the debris that gets caught in the fur. In spring when the temperature get warm, she gets a body clip. The rest of the time, I trim the hair on her back side to prevent manure and debris from collecting and making a mess in the house. The whole time during bathing, brushing and clipping, she is totally shaking. After several baths over twelve years, you think she would get used to it. At least my husband no longer has to hold her while I give her a bath. Still, Bonnie Jo does not like a bath or brushing or being clipped or having her toenails done. She does not fight like she used to as a pup. One of her first baths she jumped out of the tub and ran through the house, hiding under the dining table while still covered in suds.
She no longers jumps and bolts during baths. There are several things she no longer does, like jumping up on the couch, or into the truck. She does not hold her bladder well, so long trips are no longer taken. There are times she has accidents in the house. And she no longer jumps on the bed in the morning when I husband gets up, but stays in her spot on my side of the bed. She prefers a dog bed or soft rug to lay on and not the hard floor. She still insists on following me as I do chores, although she does not go into or get too close to the sheep. She only occasionally with push the sheep now. She rests a lot when we do chores, and is ready to lay down in the house when the chores are done.
Bonnie Jo is twelve this year. The lifespan for Australian Shepherd dogs is twelve to fifteen years. She is in her golden years, still going as strong as her age will allow. I know the days are number for her to be beside me, but she will always be in my heart and memories.
I love you Bonnie Jo, thank you for helping me get through some tough emotional battles, and always being by my side.
Last night and today, we have been receiving some much needed and prayed for rain. The area I am in has been in a drought all summer, no rain. Rain is what we depend on to water our pastures as there is no irrigation type systems in this area. No one irrigates or uses farm sprinklers to water their fields and pastures. Rainfall is very important.
I am many things, but my main occupation is being a sheep farmer. I raise Dorper sheep for market lamb. I enjoy this occupation of caring for the sheep. Being a sheep farmer is more than just taking care of sheep. I have to manage the pasture and other resources in order to care the sheep and make a profit.
One of those resources is my pasture. When we first purchased our small homestead, the pasture had been overgrazed. There was way more weeds than grass, and large bare areas of dirt. Not much feed for the horses we were raising at the time. Building up a pasture that has been overgrazed takes time, there is no quick fix.
Our lives took a change, we sold the horses and I became a sheep farmer. In the beginning as a sheep farmer, I did not have very many sheep, five to seven. Sheep love to eat weeds, 70 % of their preferred diet is weeds and brush. I had plenty of both when I started raising sheep. As the sheep grazed the weeds, not allowing the weeds to produce seeds and replant, my pasture starting changing. The weeds being controlled by the sheep allowing more moisture and sunlight for grass, the grass started growing and spreading. Today, my pasture is mostly grass, the few weeds I do have are weeds sheep and other livestock do not eat.
This spring we did not get the usual amount o rainfall. The summer was dry, no rainfall and heat. The grass in the pasture became tan, short, dry and had stopped growing. In July, I stopped grazing the sheep on the pasture, and kept them in pens with limited grazing around the sheds and house. I did not want to overgraze the pasture and stress or kill the grass I had managed to build up. I was able to water the grass around the sheds and house using the water from our well. This week, I stopped grazing the sheep totally. The grass around the sheds and house were not able to keep up with the sheep. I did not want to overgraze this area either.
Being a sheep farmer is more than just taking care of the sheep, it is managing the resources needed to care for the sheep. My sheep pens are placed on a hillside above the pasture. When we do receive rain, the water naturally sheds to the pasture. As the water moves through the pens, it becomes a manure tea, fertilizing the grass in the pasture. The past few years, there has developed a darker green and more lush grass nearer the sheep pens than in the back of the pasture. The darker green grass area has been growing large each year.
When I clean out my sheep pens, I compost the manure for more than 30 days, usually a few months, before applying it to the pasture. Letting the manure compost helps with internal parasite in the sheep, not allowing the larva to infect the sheep. After thirty days, if the larva have not been introduced into a sheep’s system, the larva dies.
Having the sheep pens on a hillside allows for faster draining and drying of the sheep pens, than the rest of the property. Keeping the sheep pens drained helps to prevent footrot, a bacterial infection of the sheep hoof that destroys the hoof. The placement of pens and shelters is also a management decision for a sheep farmer.
Yes, we have received a little bit of rain, but this will not break the drought. This little bit of rain will give the grass a breath of life. The pasture will take more rain, and time to rebuild from the stress of the drought before I can have the sheep graze it once more. I will continue to feed the sheep hay in their pens until spring arrives. I am managing my pasture to feed the ewes and lambs this spring and next year. If I overgraze or let the sheep graze too soon, I will hinder and possible destroy the work of the past few years to build up and improve my pasture.
Today I went to the sheep and goat sale barn. I have not been since April when the young owner of the sale barn shut down suddenly for unknown reasons. He reopened in July.
I took a four young sheep to sale. I was planning on keeping three of the young sheep for replacement ewes, and the ram lamb was going to the freezer. The drought in my area has created a shortage of winter hay. I purchased hay for winter this last spring. The lack of rain, the pasture is not growing. Since July I have been feeding the winter hay.
I made the decision to slow the growth of my flock by keeping only two young ewes for breeding ewes. I sold three of the five ewe lambs I was retaining for growing my flock.
I have another ram lamb, that I was growing up to see if he would make a herd sire. This ram lamb is not what I would consider a herd sire. He is larger and ready for the freezer. By putting him in the freezer, and selling the young ram lamb I was feeding out to put in the freezer, I remove two sheep from the feeding program.
Lastly, I took the little billy goat I had purchased to be a sire. The reason for selling him, he was too little to be a sire.
Totally I have removed six animals from the feeding program.
I have five baby lambs with their mothers and four more ewes due to lamb in the next month. Another group of thirteen ewes will start lambing in October through December. I will be adding more animals to the feeding program, but also some of these lambs will be sold to buy additional feed that will be needed. Raising sheep is a constant program of breeding, lambing, weaning and selecting animals to keep or sale as breeding stock, and those that will be sold for market.
I also went to catch up with friends and acquaintances. The talk at the sale barn was about being able to obtain hay, what condition pastures were in, and how many animals people were keeping and selling.
One acquaintance, I will call TOV, their auction name, said they were going to “roll the dice” and keep all their stock and not sell off any. Taking a chance that there will be rain and another cutting or two of hay before the cold weather hits. If we get rain for another cutting or two of hay, that means there will be pasture grass as well. They have finally built their breeding stock up to a good quality, and was not going to sell them at the low ewe prices, and pay more to rebuild next spring.
I can agree with not selling the ewes. The prices for breeding ewes is very low. It was tempting to purchase a couple of the ewes going through the sale, due to their price. But, I am concerned with the amount of feed, and I just sold some really nice young ewes from good bloodlines that I raised. Breeding ewes will be higher next spring, when everyone is trying to buy ewes because they sold theirs now. I have seen this happen before.
I am also “rolling the dice” as I do every day with my sheep farm. Calculating, watching the sheep market prices, feed prices, and praying for wisdom. I make plans on the direction of my sheep farm, only to be held at the mercy of the weather and the markets of supply and demand.
I was blessed today as my fat well cared for animals brought the top of the market prices for today. I feel good about the decision to sell some of my animals now, instead of waiting.
There are always decisions that need to be made. We can not see the future, but we can look at the information, pray for wisdom, and make a decision we are at peace with. I look for guidance in making choices. In the process of choosing which young ewe lambs would be sold, I sorted through them based on their conformation. As I sorted, I would separate the ones I was keeping, then sort through them again, until I had the number I needed to sell. One ewe lamb had my marks on her back, she was the last one I sorted off to sell. My marks on this ewe lamb showed the decision to sell her was not a random selection, but a decision of thought. Every decision needs to be a choice by thought and prayer, not a random choice of convenience.
As I continue with raising and selling sheep I will also continue to pray for wise choices in how to manage my sheep farm as well as for good lamb crops and rain.
These two pictures are of the same horse, taken four years apart. When Dancer was born, she was brown with the white blanket and spots on the top of the hips and a white spot or star in her forehead. As a three year old she was still the color as when she was born.
In the spring of her four year old year, Dancer started to have white spots in her black mane (hair along her neck) and tail. I knew from years of raising Appaloosa horses she was going to turn white. Then white spots started appearing all over her body. I had taken her to a horse trainer, as I am not allowed to be the first person to ride an unridden horse any longer.
At the trainers, Dancer continued adding white spots to her color. Her long black mane and tail was turning white, and getting very short. I was having Dancer trained and shown at Reined Cow Horse competitions. Long manes and tails are strongly desired for eye appeal, or beauty of the horse. The trainer was concerned that my horse’s mane and tail was falling out. When the hair supplements, special shampoo and conditioners did not stop the hair loss, the trainer consulted a veterinarian to determine the cause of my horse getting a very thin and short mane and tail, after arriving with a full black mane and tail. The expense of a veterinarian examining a horse while at a training facility is charged to the owner. I was never charged for the veterinarian examine. As there was nothing wrong with my horse.
I do not know if the veterinarian chuckled or laughed when asked to examine my horse for hair loss of the mane and tail. I did when the trainer told me he had called a veterinarian to look at my horse because she was losing her mane and tail, having it replaced with short, thin white hair.
Dancer’s dam (mother) is a registered Quarter horse. Her sire (father) is an Appaloosa. Appaloosa horses change color, usually starting their two year year and up until they are fifteen. Her mane and tail turning white and getting short is an Appaloosa trait, although not all Appaloosas have this trait, very few. Her sire has a beautiful mane and tail as does her mother.
The white color spots appearing, is her black skin turning pink, from lack of pigment in the cells, called mottling. The “white” in her blanket, spots, mane and tail is not white, but lack of pigment and translucent – what gives the Appaloosa their unique coloring patterns.
Her change in color, losing her mane and tail was genetic, nothing anyone can do to change what was happening. Appaloosas are unique in their coloring, as no two are colored the same. If a person finds two very close, they may not be that way the next year.
Each spring we watch Dancer to see what her appearance will me when she sheds off her winter coat. Each year her coloring is a little different.
The past two days I have been attending the American Dorper Sheep Breeders Society Mid-American Show and Sale in Duncan, Oklahoma. This event is fairly close to where I live, meaning travel expenses are lower than if I went to other events.
Why do I attend this event? I am a sheep farmer raising Dorper sheep. Attending this event I have to opportunity to meet with and talk to other Dorper Sheep breeders. I study their animals and their bloodlines. As a sheep farmer I will need to purchase breeding rams for my farm every two to three years. I want to know what other sheep breeders raise that would benefit my breeding plans for my sheep.
It is an event that brings anxiety as I am very nervous in large crowds. This year the event was even more crowded. With the lifting of many of the moretoriams due to Covid-19, people were able to travel, show and sale their sheep from states that previously they had not been able to travel to. The event is also a large learning time for me to study sheep and bloodlines. I also get to connect with sheep farmers whose sheep I like and want to put their bloodlines in my flock. Sheep farmers are able to see what the sheep look like that others are breeding and what bloodlines they are using with their sheep.
Sheep farmers like looking at others sheep. Talk to each other about the influences in the sheep agriculture business. Mostly, they like to show they have the best sheep. Yes, the show is very competitive. When the sale day arrives, there are some sheep who fetch a very high price as there are sheep farmers wanting to improve their sheep, and bring in different bloodlines.
Two years of not being able to buy rams and ewes with different bloodlines, put the breeding plans on a holding pattern of just maintaining the quality of their sheep, without improving their sheep.
When you live in an area, the area gets saturated with certain bloodlines. Breeding only those bloodlines does not improve your sheep, but can cause your sheep to degrease, as the recessive genetics start showing up as dominant traits. With these large show and sales, sheep farmers are offered the opportunity for bloodlines very different than the ones they have.
Several sheep farmers in different states are bringing in bloodlines from Australia to diversify the bloodlines in the United States. Sheep embryos are purchased, shipped to the United States and implanted in a ewe in their flock. The expense of shipping embryos is much less than trying to ship a sheep. This method is too expensive for me at this time. But I have learned at the event, a sheep farmer and friend has done that and the embryo produced a ram. Great news as a ram will put the bloodlines in many lambs, where a ewe will only put the bloodlines in her lambs.
At this event I met and talked with a breeder and we became friends. They were also able to tell me about the new ram I purchased. The information was most helpful. I am looking forward to more visits as they are close to where I live. Although it will be difficult to purchase sheep from them, since the new ram I purchased came from ewe and ram they had sold to the person I purchased the ram from. Sharing knowledge and conversation will be good.
At the sale I purchased three ewes to add to my breeding program. The person I had purchased the ewes from has been most friendly to us. Has wanted to help us in the sheep business. He has definitely encouraged me to on improving my sheep and showing my sheep. Although I did not have a sheep to show this year. I do have a couple to show next year. He was so thrilled we purchased sheep from him.
Some things I left with I need to learn more about artificial insemination and looking into doing embryo transfers. I also need to find a veterinarian who has working knowledge of the procedures and does them with a good success rate. I will be busy for the next year learning more about being a sheep farmer.
Regardless of what you do for income or as a hobby, there is always more to learn. I need to learn to move forward and improve in what I am doing as a sheep farmer, and with the other things I do with my life.
I am currently a sheep farmer and have been for seven years. Prior to being a sheep farmer I raised and trained horses. I have decades of raising horses. My favorite thing to do is to breed horses and raise foals. I love baby horses.
A daily activity that has become so routine I do not realize I am doing it most of the time is to look at the poop. Yes, I look on the ground making sure the poop is the right color, size and texture of every animal. And on the occasion I see an animal releasing poop, I watch. Sounds a little perverted, but in truth it is very helpful to a person raising animals.
Animals can not verbally speak English or other languages spoken by humans. Animals can not tell me their tummy feels bad or they feel bloated, until the pain is so extreme the cause is life threatening.
When my grandson was three years old, he was living with us. I was raising horses, we had a few foals on the ground. I was walking around using a small stick to look at the horse poop on the ground.
He asked “Granny what are you doing? That is yucky.”
I told him I was checking for worms (parasites) in the horse poop, to see if our horses had worms. Worms make horses sick. So I look for worms to know if I need to give them medicine (dewormer) so they do not get really sick.
“Oh” he replies, “What do these worms look like?”
On a different day while helping my husband put grain in buckets to feed each horse, he saw my husband put corn oil in the buckets and mix it. “What is that for Grandpa?” he asked. My husband always being humorous, replied “It makes the horses poop straight. This is their poop straight medicine.” The truth reason for putting oil in the horse feed was to make their hair coat shine.
The next day, while doing feeding and watering the horses with me, he asks, “Granny, how do you know if a horse is pooping straight? All I see are piles.”
I asked where he heard “poop straight”. After being informed of his and Grandpa’s conversation. I showed him how horse poop should look. A couple of the foals had really loose poop, so I showed him what poop looks like with they were starting or had a tummy ache. These foals had some digestive stress as their mothers were in foal heat, and it is common for foals to get running poop.
Currently, I am caring for a lamb who I purchased that does not have a mommy to nurse from. This little lamb was not doing gaining weight well with the flock. I wanted to make sure it was eating enough. When I took the lamb out of the flock, it became more stressed. The next day, the poop was runny or scours, its urine and poop were the same consistency. It is not good for a lamb to have scours, they dehydrate very quickly. I treated the lamb. Every day I check the lamb. I have started cutting the top of grass to feed the lamb. Yesterday, the lamb’s poop was not as liquidy, but still runny. A sign that things might be getting better. Today, the lamb’s poop was solid, not shaped right, but definitely not runny, a good sign.
Looking at poop tells me how the digestive system is working in the animal and if the animal is sick or not doing well.
When we go to a doctor visit, are you ever asked “How are your bowel movements?”