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Becoming a Sheep Farmer

Romney on back left (gray with black face) Cheviot on right ( white)

Part of Our New Herd

In the fall we decided we’d try sheep farming for the winter.  We purchased 25 bred ewes that are due any
time before February. Purchasing the ewes was exciting as we were able to
choose the ewes that we wanted from the lot. With the farmer we ran all the ewes
through a shoot sorting some in and out. We didn’t really know exactly what we
were looking for and as each ewe entered the head gate the farmer told us the
breed and what he thought of the ewe. And then there was me, who was suggesting
the ewes that were cute or looked cool. I really liked the Romneys, a gray
sheep with a black face, the Cheviot North Country, their face look like Don
Cherry’s dog and, the Clun Forest.  After
a few cute comments the farmer joked that you should not bring a woman to pick
out livestock.  Eventually we had 25 ewes
that were going to be delivered to the farm in a few days.

Welcome to Willowtree

Ewe's settling in to their new home

We headed home to prepare the barn for sheep and read as
much material as we could on everything about sheep. We visited our aunt and
neighbour’s farm to check out how they set up the barn for their sheep.  We then adjusted the feeder so the sheep
could eat out of them rather than cows, which have much longer necks.  On December 12th, the trailer
loaded with our new sheep arrived. They unloaded easily and settled in quickly
to their new pen, the beginning of a new adventure on the farm.

 

 

Proud Mom

Our First Mother and Lamb

In that first week we did a lot of things and a lot of
checking-in on the sheep. With new animals in the barn we checked-up on them to
make sure everything was okay.  Especially
because of the lingering question of when would the first lamb be born?  Everyone was betting on different days and
ewes.  In the meantime we were busy building
claiming pens for the mother and newborns to get associated for the first few
days after birth.

Our answer came on December 19th.  In the morning we came in and there was a
tiny white lamb looking up at us. Our first lamb and the best thing is there were
no issues. The mother had lambed in the night, cleaned it up, claimed it and it
was suckling all on its own. Amazing! We had started to get nervous after all
our reading about having to assist births and complications that can happen. We
then separated the pair into a claiming pen. The first of 25, an exciting day,
which just happens to be my Dad’s birthday, maybe we will call this one Bill.

 

 

Ewe in Labour

Ewe in Labour

A week later Number 2, it was just as easy. But lucky number
3 waited till it was -20◦ C and needed a little help. The elbows of the lambs front
legs were back.  Meaning our assistance
was necessary.  It was difficult to hold
the ewe down; I was clearly not a strong as she. Once Rod got back from hockey,
he came straight to the barn.  His experience
and strength were exactly what we needed to deliver a healthy 3rd
lamb.  By now we have many mothers who
look like they are going to deliver any moment. It’s just a matter of who and
when, as they are showing the tell-tale signs “bagged up” (full utters), sunken
hips and huge bellies.

Last night was exciting; we knew when we checked on the barn
at 11:30 that 2 ewes would deliver. We checked back in an hour, and sure enough
one ewe’s water broke. An hour later she had hooves sticking out a great sign.
We left her alone and came back in a half an hour to find her not progressing,
but the other ewe had delivered and was already cleaning up her lamb. But it
was clear we needed to assist the other ewe. She had been in labour for over an
hour and was not advancing. As I held her down Al pulled out the lamb. The lamb
was huge, much larger than the other just born, even bigger than the one born 3
days ago, no wonder the poor ewe was having trouble.   Both ewes were good mothers they quickly
claimed their lambs and began cleaning them up. It was a long night in the barn
delivering the lambs and setting the new pairs up in their claiming pens. I
have never had to play a role in a delivery before and it really is an amazing
process to watch the instincts of these animals kick in.  Even our mother llama was protecting the
newly born lamb and ewes from the rest of the herd. Nature is amazing.

New Mother and Lamb

New Mother and Lamb

I know we are just at the beginning of becoming sheep
farmers but so far it has been a pleasure and I’m looking forward to what is
next.