Hi, all! It's been a long time and a lot has happened. I'll hit the highlights...
Predation of baby lambs by coyotes and dogs continues to be problematic. I lost half of the fall 2009 crop; about a third of the spring crop this year. I've added two donkeys, need another one or two.
Losses to parasites have leveled off. In other words, the ones that were going to die, have done so.
I currently have two rams, one from Blackberry Farms in Tennessee back when Kristian Holbrook was running their dairy and the other from Larry Meiesegeir's River Ridge Stock Farm in Wisconsin. The lambs they've put on the ground look good so far. They are of course named Kris and Larry.
The ewes are in with the rams now, split into two groups: shedding ewes went to Kris, who doesn't shed, and non-shedding ewes went to Larry, who may or may not shed. This is his first summer and sometimes you just can't tell until they're two. He has a naked head, neck, belly and legs and doesn't have much wool where he does have wool. All the yearling ewes went to Larry for the same reason- they are sired by a non-shedding heavily wooled ram so many may not shed- although several look like they will!
Rams come out end of the week, that'll be five weeks since they went in- which gives the ewes three estrus cycles to get bred. We'll draw blood samples and send them to BioPryn Labs for preg testing- an assay for Pregnancy Specific Protein B. Accurate down to 30 days, so it will only detect those ewes pregnant to the first possible breeding. Any that are open we'll draw another sample mid-June and recheck; by then if they bred to the second cycle they will test positive as they will be producing enough PSPB to detect.
If the total number of ewes bred to the first two cycles is at least 45 we'll see about taking out a loan to install the Grade A facility and start making cheese this fall. If not we'll raise all the lambs on a bucket anyway, to minimize predation losses. This is what I don't get- the bottle lambs, completely alone on their field- no ewes, no donkeys, nothing- they've not been eaten. No, it's the babies in the field with their moms that are disappearing! WTF? So either way we'll be hand rearing all the babies and milking this fall.
Gotta go get things ready for the guy to cut the hay- move a trailer, move the sheep, check for limbs fallen near the edges but hidden in the tall grass...
One more highlight I want to hit- went to my first Farmer's Market yesterday. Way busier than I thought we'd be given our location and being new. Sold lots of lamb and a couple of chickens. We'll be at the Saturday Cheapside market in Lexington every Saturday unless it's raining. Come on down and chat!