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Checking the Flock

Cloverworks farm sheep grazing in field

A little over a year ago, assessing the wellbeing of ten sheep was as easy as walking into the paddock with a handful of grain and waiting for everyone to come and say “hi.’  I could touch, FAMACHA and evaluate all of my sheep in a few minutes.  Simple!

With 60 sheep now present in the main group and many of them more independent and less friendly than my sheep last year, this approach is no longer feasible.  So we put together a panel-pen, shook a bit of grain, and collected most of the flock.  I had set up a new paddock for them to enter, so “inspected” sheep could exit into a different paddock than the location of our un-caught flock.  Trust me, it made sense.

Here are the notes we took.  Dagging means trimming poopsicles off bums – the flock is now dingleberry-free!  Ivermectin and Fenbendazole are wormers, we treated sheep who looked more anemic with Ivermectin.  We are still struggling with the wide variety of tagging systems present in our flock – Letters denote the color of the tag, so B122 is Blue (appropriate for Bluefaced Leicesters!), crossbred lambs are Yellow, pure Border Leicesters are green, and we have a few stray pink and white tags for Cormo crosses and other crosses.   Other ewes from other flocks, well, let’s just call the system eclectic:

Notes as follows:

  • Ozzy is now numbered B112
  • GWAR got 2.9 ml Fenbendazole
  • Summer looked fine
  • Judy looked fine
  • Emma looked fine
  • Sue looked fine  (Judy, Emma and Sue are all yearlings from our starter flock)
  • 65 looks good and has regained weight since lambing.
  • 1606 looked good.
  • 95 was thin and received 1.5 ml Ivermectin.
  • Fannie had pale eyelids and received 2.9ml Fenbendazole
  • Tag-torn unknown lamb is now Y132 – torn ear has mild infection and will need to be addressed.
  • 210-Bisdorf was thin and pale-lidded and received 2.5ml Ivermectin.  (This ewe has huge, vigorous lambs who’ve taken a lot out of her- she will be 7 next year)
  • Fancy B124 had pale lids and received 1.5ml Fenbendazol
  • Krombopulis Michelle had pale lids and received 2.9ml Fenbendazole
  • 1616 required dagging
  • Chloe had pale lids and received 2.9ml Fenbendazole.  We should have retagged her, but we forgot. (Chloe tore her tag out while at Rhinebeck!  She never even made it home with her scrapie tag).
  • Lamb 130 is fat and healthy!  (This is the youngest lamb of the main group, though there are some later-born lambs from yearling ewes)
  • 2503 is fat, received a bum-trim
  • Ewe 13-266 from Sue is now G100 (this fixes the Border Leicester ID issue – there are three more ewes who needed visible flock-tags.  Luckily most had existing ear piercings and weren’t subjected to a new taghole)
  • Another tag-torn lamb is now Y133 and received 1.5ml Fenbendazole
  • 122Blue had pale lids and received 1.5ml Fenbendazole
  • 123Y is small and poopy.  Was dagged and received 1.5ml Fenbendazole
  • 115Y was poopy and was dagged
  • Sheppenwolf was thin and had pale lids and received 2.9ml Fenbendazole
  • 128Y is fine
  • Ewe 13-264 from Sue is now G101
  • Lamb Y121 looks good
  • K-Michelle’s son is now White347
  • Lamb y126 is good
  • Lamb 103 is all wool, no sheep.  Concerned about poor growth
  • Lamb 110 had pale lids and received 1.5ml Fenbendazole.  Eyes are perfectly clear and healthy!
  • Ewe 72 looks well
  • Ewe OH-Bisdorf-K looks good, considering her advanced age.  Ewe was born 2010.
  • Erin looks good
  • Y118 looks good
  • Y122 looks good
  • OH34, the skinny one, is concerningly skinny and was dosed prophylactically with 2.9ml Ivermectin.  Will have the vet inspect next time she is over.
  • 1411 Border Leicester is now G102
  • 1620 needed dagging
  • 13-270 is now G104
  • 13-262 is now G105.  Tag 103 broke in tagging.

Cloverworks farm sheep grazing in field

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This ram lamb is for sale!  Registered BFL.   He passed our inspection.

 

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A Day about Pigs

We are having a little piggy-roast next weekend in honor of Matt…getting older, let’s say.  We brought a live pig home last week.   She was cute as could be – a 60lb gilt (young sow) with endearing eyes.  She loved the apples and sheep grain I offered and would batt her long eyelashes at me.  When Mary Lake came to dispatch the piggy with adorable son Hugo in tow, I felt more hesitation than usual.  We don’t have facilities to keep a pig, however, and the thought of crackling pork was enough to go on with the matter.  Mary said that our little pig had some parasite damage to her liver and kidneys and wouldn’t have been a good candidate to bear many litters of piglets.  That’s some consolation, and we will revisit the idea of raising pigs in our farm plans for next year.

Our first act after slaughter was to figure out a way to remove the hair from the pig.  The skin of a slaughtered pig is the tastiest part, but no one wants scruffy hairs all over their plate.  Youtube to the rescue – we found a technique where you put a towel on the carcass, pour boiling water on the towel, and then scrape the hair off.  Easier said than done!  We were having high winds, and the towels cooled rapidly.  The hair was as attached as ever and the knife shaved the pig more than it epilated it.  We tried a few more water-pours, but didn’t make much progress.  Time to throw in the towel, as it were.

So we moved on to Plan B.  When Plan B involves a blowtorch, you know it’s a good plan.  I dutifully torched all of the remaining hair off that hide.  The smell was terrible, but the job was oddly satisfying.  Matt and I had to neaten up quickly as we had a date at a restaurant that we love that is closing this fall.  Wouldn’t want to go to a real-tablecloth restaurant reeking of blood and scorched hair.

The pig is hanging in our cellar fridge, but we have had a little advanced sample of the liver today.  I’m keen to do a better job of using our animals nose-to-tail to honor their sacrifice.  I found a promising recipe for liver pate that came out very well.  The pate is quite rich and satisfying, featuring the mineral-y liver flavor very favorably.   The kidneys were cooked up for the chickens this time, but I’d be keen to hear any good recipes for those if you have them!

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Off to the Auction

In my last post, I mentioned that we are actively gearing up to buy a farm, make our own hay, and raise sheep full-time.

Yesterday, we went to the Rene Fournier Equipment Auction to search for useful implements for our farm.

Picture a huge lot filled with new, used, and well-used equipment.  A few title-less cars, some random firehouse, a municipal bus, and tractors, rakes, tedders, mowers and other implements of all kinds.  Lawn tractors, skidsteers and chicken coops went up on the block.

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And by “block”, I mean they drove a truck around slowly, while a man with sign with a down-arrow that said “Selling this item” indicated various items for sale.  Irreparable items sold for scrap prices, generally.  Manure spreaders went high, and small balers were almost free for the taking.    Antique tractors like this one didn’t even make their reserve and went unsold.

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Finally, after hours of watching irrelevant items go by, our desired item finally came up for bid.

We had carefully scoped out the round-baler situation.  Several round-balers were for sale.  One was large and from a company (Gehl) that no longer offered parts for their now-defunct agricultural division.  The John Deere baler we saw seemed likely to go for a high price, and there were two Case balers that would work.  We also noticed a New Idea-brand baler with an electric mechanism for opening the baler hatch and dispensing a bale.  Our tractor only has one rear hydraulic attachment, so that would be a huge help to us – otherwise, we would have to get off the tractor each time to release a completed bale, or we would need to put a splitter on our hydraulic output, slowing both hydraulic operations somewhat.

Matt and I conferred and made a pact-  We knew that a baler on Craigslist would sell for about $4-5000, so anything under $3000 was good, and under $2500 was ideal.  We would bid up to $2500 and then read the lay of the land.  We were ready to come home with nothing, if need be.  We watched some handy limespreaders pass us by for not too much money.  Maybe next time, lime spreaders.

The New Idea baler came up first- not ideal for our strategy, as we would have no sense of competing buyer’s moods for buying round balers before jumping in on the one we would want the most.  But Matt had a secret weapon.  the New Idea had a control panel and a tangle of wires and tubes.  We considered whether the crowd here might opt for something similar…

Bidding started at $4000.  No takers.  It dipped to $3,000, 2,000, and then 1,000, when Matt opened bidding.  Another person we couldn’t see joined in, and they gradually rose until they reached about $2400.  Matt and the other man then slowly bid upwards in $50 increments until Matt bid $2650.  An anxious minute, and then the other bidder relented.  Suddenly, a crowd that had correctly identified us as newbies welcomed us and congratulated us on our purchase.   We watched the Case baler sell for more than $4000, and immediately felt some pride when other farmers said “You bought the better baler, and for less!”

Matt and I drove home happy.  He swapped out of his car and took my truck up to pick up the baler, proud and pleased to own a very vital piece of equipment for less than we had planned to spend.

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