Dorper Sheep Show

A White Dorper Sheep class at Mid-American Dorper Show April 2022

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.

amtolle

The Importance of “Poop”

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?”

Poop is important for animals and humans.

amtolle

Aftermath

Today was sheep auction day. Twice a month there is a sheep and goat auction I attend. I look forward to the auctions. My one consistent social event. The time to gather with those who I have met over the past seven years learning how to raise sheep and make money doing so. I have several friends who attend regularly. The auction meets twice a month, twice a month we visit and catch up as we buy and/or sell sheep and goats. The auction provides us a place to meet and talk about our sheep and goats. Sheep and goats are a source of income for me and my friends. Today’s first question was “Were you hit by the tornados?” instead of “How are you doing?”.

The auction had record numbers of sheep and goats to sell, due to the tornados that hit the area a few days ago. How does tornadoes affect the number of sheep and goats selling in the auction?

Today’s auction was very large, almost 3,000 animals went through the sale. There really was not much room for that many animals. The animals are kept in pens waiting to be sold, once they are sold, the animals are moved to the sold pens. Problem today there were so many animals there for the sale, there was not enough sold pens. The large buyers, those who by fifty or more sheep at every auction get their own pen. During the first part of the auction, there were not enough large pens to group the animals the large buyers had purchased. Why were there so many sheep and goats at the auction today?

People’s barns and pens were destroyed, removing any place to keep their animals. They brought all of their animals to the auction to be sold. Others needed money and sold their animals for the monetary value in order to replace items lost or find somewhere to live until their homes are repaired or replaced.

One friend of mine, lost all his sheep, except three ewes and a one lamb. He sold the ewes, lamb and the only livestock guard dog he could find at the auction today. His barns and pens are heaps of rubble, he has no place to keep the surviving sheep.

My heart goes out to those who lost animals, have injured and maimed animals from the tornados. I also feel for those who are left with the only choice to sell everything and start over after they rebuild their homes, barns and pens. Sheep and goats are a source of income for most of us who gather at the sheep and goat auction twice a month.

I spent six years building my sheep flock to the quality and numbers I have today. I put forth hard work and sweat in the care of my animals. To have to rebuild would be emotional heart wrenching.

Yes, these strong people are going to rebuild what was destroyed. They will buy and restock their the flocks of sheep and herds of goats. The number of total dispersment sale animals was saddening. But the past seven years has showed me these people are strong, they are determined and they have always had sheep and goats and will continue to have sheep and goats.

amtolle

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on Pexels.com

Lambing Has Began

I love to watch new life enter the world. I raise sheep, so I watch baby lambs being born. The group of ewes that are currently having lambs are first time ewes or first time mothers. I raise most of my ewes. This group of first time mothers I have raised from lambs.

Two days ago, the first lamb arrived. The lamb arrived in the early morning before I had begun my day. A boy lamb or ram lamb was born. The ewe is a good mother, taking care of her lamb and knowing where he is at all times. Mothering is a trait learned from their mothers when they were born. This ewe #32 had her lamb on her own. Spring lambing 2022 has officially begun.

Today was Sale Barn day, the day I go to the sheep auction to socialize and see what sheep are selling for. I also went today with the hope of purchasing another livestock guard dog puppy, a male. I was able to get our new livestock guard dog puppy, a male, eight weeks old, named Bob. I check the expectant mothers several times a day. Upon returning home, I opened our gate and felt I needed to look at the expectant mothers.

One ewe was in labor, and it was not good, only one leg instead of two and a head. No time to waste, with gate still open and sheep in the yard to graze, truck still running, I went to work. First, find the others leg. Sheep are very small, so any feeling for a leg or nose is done with two or three fingers. Barely found a second foot, but not sure if this ewe is caring a single lamb or twins. Hoping the foot belongs to the lamb I can see, I try to pull the foot forward to free up the shoulders and allow the lamb to enter the world. Things are too slippery. I get a piece of hay bale twine, with two fingers put a loop around the foot. By now the lamb’s tongue is blue, not a good sign. I pull on the twine hoping to move the foot and leg forward, the ewe grunts and pushes, finally the leg adjusts and the birth starts progressing. She pushes and I pull to deliver a little boy. I instantly clear the head, and put the lamb in front of mom. I see his rib cage is moving, meaning he is alive, not to get him invigorated by mom licking on him. Mom is in a little bit of shock from the stalled delivery, so I wipe my wet hands from the birth on her nose, she begins to lick and talk to her lamb.

A few minutes later I checked to see their progress, lamb was nursing, mom was doing good.

I am thankful I have the knowledge and experience to assist this ewe with the delivery of her lamb. I did not always have the knowledge or experience. I started raising sheep in 2016. Although I had assisted horses in delivery, a sheep is much smaller and more of a challenge to assist in the delivery of young.

With anything we want to learn, we have to take a step forward to learn and do. At first we are not good at what we are doing. There is no “instant success” in any activity or adventure. You have to gain knowledge, skill and experience to reach success.

I tried to get some videos on this post. I will have to take time to upload, download and whatever else I need to do to allow you the pleasure of seeing a new born lamb and mother. I did remember to bring the cell phone to take photos and video after. The situation before was serious, no time for photos.

Hope you enjoy. Thanks for stopping by for a visit.

amtolle

Getting Ready

I raise sheep. I plan the months I want the lambs to be born in. February is not a month for lambs. The icy rain storms with frigid cold temperatures and high humidity are hard on lambs. The lambs get cold. When lambs get cold, they become lethargic and do not get up to eat. Unless the lambs eat, they will die. The work for keeping lambs alive in February is much more work and requires around the clock care in the cold. I do not like the cold.

I planned the lambing of a group of first time mothers to be in March. March is here and they are starting to make udders and getting ready for the process of labor and lambs.

A week or two before the scheduled time of lambing, I get my lambing kit ready. My lambing kit contains a digital scale with a sling for weighing the lambs after their born. I need their birth weight for my record keeping. Ear tags are included to mark the lambs so I know which lamb came from which ewe and to track weight gain. Probiotics are used to give their digestive system a jump start. The more milk they are able to digest, the stronger they are as newborn lambs. The last is iodine tincture to treat the umbilical cord to prevent infection. And my little book.

My little book records the date, ewe’s number, the lamb’s number, sex and the birth weight and weaning weight. The difference in the weaning weight and birth weight tell me if the ewe is producing good to excellent milk for her lambs. Milk production is important to having a healthy lamb.

I enjoy the lambing. I do not like the cold. I enjoy watching new life be born. The sight of the lamb is always a happy thought and will brighten my darkest days. This year, I am trying to remember my phone or the camera for lambing. I want to take more pictures to share my lambing joys with others. One of my faults is I get so into the moment of watching the new lambs stand, walk and nurse, I forget to take pictures to share.

I do not live with my phone attached to my body. My phone is not strong enough to survive the rigors I put it through. I used to have a really tough phone. That phone had a rough life. The phone went swimming in the water troughs twice, was ran over by the large tractor once and I do not know how many times the riding lawn mower abused it. And it kept working. Although the old phone handled the farm life well, it got to the point it could no longer handle the internet life. So I had to get a good internet capable phone that lacked the tough exterior of its predecessor.

Look forward to some lambing stories and pictures provided I remember the phone and remember to use it.

amtolle

Sunshine on Cloudy Days

Photo by Adam Kontor on Pexels.com

The past three days has been cold, windy and cloudy. I do not like stepping outside on cold days, like below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I have never cared for the wind, and a cold north wind is miserable for me. I love to look at individual clouds and cloud formations, but the past three days have been a blanket of grey. The weather depresses me and I have to find “sunshine”.

I am a sheep farmer. Regardless of the weather, I have to go outside to feed and care for the sheep. On cold, windy, cloudy days, the sheep are my sunshine. They great me with hungry baas, even if I fed them an hour before. They walk up to the gate to give me a look and smell.

This afternoon it did warm a bit, the wind calmed down and the sun peaked out. My husband and I was doing the evening feeding. I was looking over the sheep. In one pen of expectant first time mother ewes, I was bent over so we could look each other eye to eye, and smell noses. My husband asked “What are you doing?” Still looking eye to eye and smelling noses, I replied “talking to my sheep”. I was asking them how they felt. By looking in their eyes, with experience, a person can tell if the sheep is feeling good or a little bad or just miserable. Smelling noses is how sheep and animals recognize each other and me.

I was also looking these young expectant mothers over, to see if they were getting ready to have their lambs in two weeks on their earliest due date, or if they were going to be a little later.

I get excited when lambing is getting close. I finally get to see if my calculations on a good genetic cross was good, fair or bad. Raising sheep is a challenge for me as I have an ideal sheep in my mind that I am trying to produce through my sheep breeding program.

I realized today, I challenge my knowledge of sheep, breeding and care. I also challenge myself with cooking, sewing and garden. I am not satisfied with staying the way I am, not that I am bad. I am always wanting to improve and expand what I know and do. In doing so, I find my sunshine.

I get excited trying new recipe or changing an old recipe when cooking, this is a ray of sunshine. I love to watch the seedlings sprout through the ground and begin to grow. When the first fruit from my vegetable plants appears, I act like a child on Christmas morning seeing abundant presents under the tree, this is sunshine.

Where do you find sunshine? What observations bring a smile, and warms the heart?

Do you really enjoy your accomplishments? or reaching the goals you have set? Often, we acknowledge them for a moment then forget, as we are on our way to the next goal, the next accomplishment. Not really savoring the moment to create the sunshine we need to go forward.

The past five years I have been working at putting together a really nice flock of ewes. I have culled and then raised my own ewes. Last year I had twelve ewes. Today, I have thirty-two ewes, most I have raised. One of my goals five years ago was to have all registered sheep. I have almost reached that goal.

Today, looking the sheep in the eye and smelling noses, I was savoring my accomplishment. I was enjoying having reached a marker in my long-term goals. I wanted to remember the joy, satisfaction and retain the excitement of this accomplishment.

Take time to see, smell and savor your accomplishments, and to share them with the ones you love.

Photo by Sean Valentine on Pexels.com

amtolle

A New Man In Town

Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA on Pexels.com

TODAY WAS AUCTION DAY !! I am a sheep farmer. I raise registered Full Blood Dorper sheep and unregistered or commercial Dorper sheep. Today was the second Saturday of the month and auction day.

I go to a local auction owned and operated by a young man. I watched him grow up and grow his sheep and goat business to be able to purchase the sale barn. He has watched me develop my herd from the purchase of cheap cull sheep, to selecting and breeding to now produce the highest selling market lambs at his auction. Needless to say, we have history.

The sheep and goat auction is my one social event where I leave the farm for a few hours to talk and mingle with like minded people, other sheep and goat farmers or those who want to raise some sheep and goats. The auction is its own social club, where people know people and do business. I have friends that is the only place we meet, as we live hours apart. We discuss sheep prices, the weather, how to make moonshine and other various topics. It is also the place I make contacts for selling breeding stock.

Today, I was going with a purpose other than social. The owner of the sale barn had posted pictures on face book of some registered Full Blood Dorper rams. These rams looked really nice in the pictures, but there were no pictures of the registration papers. Very seldom at the auction will high quality registered Dorper sheep be consigned for the sale. I decided I would have a look.

I woke up earlier, did chores earlier. It was freezing weather today. I decided to take only the truck, and not bother connecting the trailer as I probably would not need it. I arrived at the sale barn at 8 am, when they open the doors. I went inside to look at the registration papers on the rams posted to face book. I was checking their age and bloodlines. If the bloodlines do not work with my breeding program I do not bother looking at the sheep. Bloodlines would work with my flock, plus three of the rams were from sets triplets lambs. That is a plus.

Brave the freezing wind and look at the rams. I was not the only one looking. Another person who is a sheep broker (He buys sheep for others to purchase, or represent others in a purchase) was also looking, actually he was drooling. I was judging the sheep. To maintain or improve my quality of sheep, I have to be very picky about the purchase of sheep for my breeding program. I judged every ram in the pen, placed them first, second and third.

Next, come up with a plan for the bidding on these rams. In any auction, you need to know what you are looking for. Next, set the highest price you can pay for it and do not change your mind once bidding has started. Have a plan on how you are going to bid before the item comes up for bidding. If you do not have a plan and price, you will get pulled in by the auctioneer’s spell and spend way too much for something. I see it happen the second and fourth Saturday of every month.

My plan on bidding for the ram was to “separate the men from the boys” as they say. I knew what the starting bid would probably bid. I knew what the animal was worth. I was going to start the bidding, and my first bid was going to be higher than normal, but not top dollar for the animal. I had my top bid set in my mind and was not going to higher. Today, was serious business.

By now, others were arriving. I met with friends and exchanged conversation. I drank coffee and waited for the show to start. The show starts when the auctioneer takes his seat, and everyone else gets in place. The front rows are reserved for buyers, people who spend hundreds to thousands each sale. I am not one of those. I chose to stand along the sides until the rams I was going to bid on came into the ring.

The sale started, bottle babies both sheep and goats that have to be bottle fed because they are so young. Then a some sheep and goats. Finally the rams marched in. I left my position along the side, walked up to the front, and stood in the center and stood next my friend Dennis seated on the front row. He asked if they were my sheep. I said no. He laughed and said not yet anyways. Dennis, his wife and my best friend, Connie and I had a short laugh.

Instead of selling them one at a time, like I thought they would. They were going to sell choice, which means a person bids, the one with the highest bid gets to choose which one or several they are going to buy from the group. Choice, I was pleased, would work really well with my plan.

After a brief description stating they were registered full bloods and their age, the auctioneer asked the sale barn owner, what you want to start them at? I looked straight at the auctioneer and loudly replied with my bid 800. The broker who was drooling outside looking at the rams, just dropped his head, he was out bid. The auctioneer looked at me as did the sale barn owner, and the rapid, flurry of bidding started. I kept my eyes locked on the auctioneer, every time someone bid higher than me, the auctioneer looked me eye to eye, and I nodded my new bid. When the gavel hit, I owned a new ram and I did not reach my top bid.

Dennis, Connie and the other professional buyers and brokers on the front and second rows, congratulated me on the purchase of really fine ram. We know each other my name. We laugh and joke at the sale. We have funny stories to share from our Saturdays at the sale barn.

Now, I had to pay for my ram, and go home to get the trailer in order to take the ram home.

Meet “JUMBO”, registered Full Blood Dorper, born March 2021. The new man at the farm. He will cross well with my other ram, “Max”.

“Jumbo”, the new man at the farm.

If you enjoy watching people, an auction is a fun place to go. Look for people’s bidding technique, some nod, some just move a finger, some way wildly in the air, each has their own way of letting the auctioneer know they are wanting to buy.

Hope you enjoyed. I am excited about this new guy, and am looking forward to his lambs.

amtolle