Our 2015 lamb crop totaled 22 live births, all 22 are healthy and doing well. Of the 11 ram lambs, we castrated 9 for meat or fiber pets (all for sale) and left two intact, Jupiter, the gray katmoget horned ram pictured above, and Mercury, the horned yuglet pictured below. Below that is Snowy Eve's moorit wethered ram lamb. We will be retaining 3-4 of the 11 ewe lambs and selling the rest; many are excellent and we have blacks, moorits, and fawn katmogets available, most but not all are spotted.
Our sheep all got a new look June 5 when they got their annual haircuts! We have 17 lovely fleeces available for sale. Right now they are in the raw state and most are on the 2nd skirting. Once I have skirted them all 2-3 times I'll start washing them, so if you want a raw one, speak up now. Colors available are white, black, shaela, fawn, oatmeal (light fawn), moorit, mioget, and light gray. (I only have one black and one shaela, however, so will probably keep those for myself. Most this year are FFSSA grade 2 fine or grade 3 medium fine.
Godiva gave birth to 2 moorit ram lambs who carry spots around 1 pm this afternoon. What a courteous mom, to let us sleep last night and tonight! She went into labor about 10 am this morning and got the job done. These little guys are strong and eating well. One is darker than the other, so the lighter one might be mioget. Both parents are kind of between fawn , but on the golden side of fawn, so a mioget would be possible. Time will tell. We think this concludes our 2014 lambing season, but we are still watching a couple ewes who do not look one bit pregnant and should by now. The ram lamb they were exposed to was our youngest one last year, and he might have been too young at time of exposure.
I will post names for our nine 2014 lambs later. (We only have 3 of them named right now.) Happy Easter, everyone!
The ramb lambs are getting "rambunctious" and these 4 are now at slaughter weight, which for Shetlands needs to be at least 70 pounds live weight. Shetland lamb is lean and exceptionally tasty and mild. November 12 is our earliest slaughter date and December 12 is our second possible slaughter date. This is grass-finished lamb, which research has demonstrated is just as good for you (contains a similar amount of healthy Omega-3 fats) as grass-fed lamb, according to our County Ag. Extension Agent. These four have had trace amounts or no grain their whole lives. They are spring lambs who will be 6-7 months old by slaughter date and weighed between 70 and 85 pounds live weight as of Oct. 22-they will probably gain a little more by November 12. Hanging weight is about half of live weight and final meat weight is hanging weight minus any bones that are taken out when cutting and wrapping the meat. The customer lets us or the licensed slaughterer know how they want their lamb cut up. The slaughter charges $75-$85 to slaughter, cut, wrap and freeze the meat plus we charge the USDA or auction commodities price per pound live weight price per pound hanging weight or live weight, depending on circumstances. At this time of year, the final total price for both meat and processing together depends on the weight of the lamb and ranges from about $180 to about $200 or more if the lamb is larger. Prices will vary a bit depending on the processor used and how they charge. Lambs can be purchased as either a half or a whole lamb. Please call us at 715-322-4011 or 608-769-5016 by November 10 if you are interested in purchasing a lamb or a half-lamb.
106 small square bales of hay for second cutting this year from our 5 acre hay field. This compares to about 170 bales in a normal year. Good thing we kept some of our first cutting. We still have sheep for sale--please see an updated sales list on our sales tab. The NASSA sales site is also recently updated. I will send photos and more information to any who request them. We have a selection of several colors and fleece types and also still have a few yearling ewes available. I am busy with the garden and busy washing fleeces and dyeing yarn before the weather gets cold. I am trying the suint method for the first wash on each fleece this year. More on that later. Pictured above are Chaucer and Dante, two of our ram lambs for sale. Pictured below are Mona Lisa (front), one of our yearling ewes for sale, with her mother Mia Blanca (back) who is already sold. We are keeping Mia's 2013 daughters.
Diane and Denise's new owners, Kathy and Javier, picked them up on Sunday. We enjoyed our visit with them and were quite busy, so I forgot to take the traditional "Goodbye" photo, but Kathy was kind enough to send me this one of them grazing peacefully in their new home in North Central/NE WI. She reported that they weathered the 2.5 hour drive just fine! Kathy and Javier also thoughtfully brought us some flowers in little Rambo's memory. Soon after they left, our friend and neighbor Lila brought more flowers for Rambo, so I decided to arrange them by his grave with the flowers I had picked for him a few days earlier. Little Rambo will certainly not be forgotten. I am also building a cairn (pile of rocks commemorating a significant event--in this case, his whole life and how he blessed our family) to mark his grave. That will be a gradual project, but as you can see in the photo, I have begun.
In loving memory of Rambo, our little "Sheep in a Shirt", as our grandkids called him. He gave us 30 full and often happy, sometimes sad days. He was a brave little lamb born with the cards stacked against him. In the 30 days we had him, we learned much. How to feed and nuture a bottle lamb, how to milk a Shetland ewe, how to give several different types of shots, how to mix milk replacer and buy fresh goats' milk, how to introduce a single bottle lamb to the rest of the flock, how to comfort a sick lamb. We also experienced lots of unconditional love from this little guy, and lots of laughter. It was the little things he did--nibbling the dog's fur or Russ' s beard, nibbling various flowers, running down our hallways chasing the cats, taking over the dog's bed for his naps or curling up with the dog, baaing in a commanding way when it was time for his bottle. We won't forget our "Sheep in a Shirt."
June 11 was "Shearing Day!" We have been very busy since, but here's Pepper in his new "do." We were surprised to see that Pentland has nearly caught up to our big boy Pepper in growth--lots of muscle was hiding under his wool! Thanks to Ryan Ullum of Shell Lake for doing a great job shearing and to our faithful helpers Linda, Phil, Marg, Lila, and Sharon! I have been busy doing a second skirting on everything and sealing fleeces away in 5-gallon buckets, an excellent way to store them, per recommendations of the famous spinner, Judith McKenzie, in her DVD, A Spinner's Toolbox The tight seal once you stomp the lids shut keeps oxygen and moths out so that the skirted fleeces can be washed at your leisure without fear of the lanolin "spoiling" or the moths invading. More photos will follow as I feature certain fleeces, colors, and fleece types. The big surprises were that Tess and Mariah are both growing out their "new and improved" modified adult colors and Diane is a rich, unfaded chocolate brown down to the roots-unusual and special.
In other big news, Kitty Lewis lost 2/3 of his tail today --the vet had to amputate to due a likely run-in with a car sometime Sunday or Monday. It's Lewis S. Dukerschein now, short for "Lewis 'Stubs' Dukerschein, AKA Bob, because he now looks like a Pixie Bob Cat. I'll take a photo once his bandages come off in 4 days... He's doing well, safe and sound in the cabin--won't be going on any mighty hunting forays for a few days.
For those of you unfamiliar with Shetland Sheep, some Shetlands have retained the ability of their wild ancestors to shed their wool in the spring. Our two rams are among them, and Pepper was especially welcoming of the idea when I tried pulling off some wool off his neck today. The process when a shepherd pulls the wool from a sheep is called "rooing" (as opposed to "shearing" when the wool is cut from the sheep.) Pepper stood still for me and liked it so much that if I would quit to rest, he would paw the ground impatiently with a front hoof as if to say, "Keep going, pull my wool off. It feels so good." As soon as I would start rooing him again, he would stop pawing the ground immediately and chew his cud contentedly as I pulled his neck wool off. (He has 1/4--1/2 " of new wool that stays on underneath, so this doesn't make him bald.)
Pentland, our other ram, watched with interest once he was done with his hay, and after awhile he stepped up to volunteer for a turn, too. So, I started on Pentland. Then Pepper got jealous. It was very obvious HE did NOT want to share "the rooing spa" with Pentland. Looks like I'll need to separate them when I roo them. I would start on Pepper again, and Pentland would step up next to us as if to say "Ahem, he's getting much longer turns than I am, be fair about this." So, I have a big produce bag full of Pepper's wool, and just a bit of Pentland's so far.
When the sheep are ready to be rooed, one can see the "roo line" if you part their wool--the old wool that needs to be pulled off is lighter colored than the dark new wool, and there is usually a line of lanolin separating the old from the darker new wool at the natural break caused by hormones in the spring when the new wool starts growing in. A sheep's neck is usually "ready" first, then other parts of the body become ready to roo later. Rooed wool is cleaner and softer than sheared wool--it is really lovely, and I try to roo as much as possible on the sheep that like it.
Now I just need to find a safe, inexpensive way to get the sheep up higher so I don't kill my back bending over them as I roo. (Pepper and Pentland did NOT want to let me straighten up and rest much.) I am sure it feels very good to them when I help the shedding process along in this warm weather. Neck wool is the finest wool on a sheep, and it will be used to make special, extra soft, "next to skin" items like baby clothes and scarves. Hopefully one of them will let me stop
rooing long enough to take a picture at our next "rooing spa" session!
Jeanne Dukerschein loves animals and also has enjoyed lifelong interests in fiber arts, nature, and writing. In 2006, she learned to spin her own yarns and purchased her first Shetland ewe. Her poetry and fiber art, as well as her 20-year career as a freshwater biologist, carry common themes of nature, ecology, and