Tuesday, August 26, 2008

MN State Fair and on to Jefferson!

We brought a couple Shetland Mule lambs to the Minnesota State Fair last week. They were wonderful little sheepie ambassadors -- friendly and soft fleeced.

Their only drawback IMO was their loud voices. I kept apologizing for their loudness and the people kept saying that was what drew them in off the street. I thought it was funny how many people "baa" right back at them. ;-) We brought Elsa's twins, they are smaller and more Shetland-like than the other mule lambs, but friendly enough for a stay at the fair.

On our second day at the fair, a local news station did a segment on shearing sheep with Minnesota shearer, Doug Rathke. After shearing a Suffolk for the news cameras, he quickly did my two Mule lambs. I am now the proud owner of 3 pounds of skirted, silky soft Shetland Mule lamb fiber! ;-) I plan to bring it to Jefferson next week.

The girls look so cute without their fleece. They have plenty of time to grow it back before winter comes. I'm tempted to shear more sheep this fall.

I have to say a great big thank you to Nancy Hoerner for letting me stay at her place while I was at the State Fair. She was so nice to pick me up and drop me off and feed me supper. I always learn so much from her! The artist's dolls and books she has made are fascinating. I was so happy to get a copy of her first needle felting book and borrow the first in the Griffin and Sabine series by Nick Bantok. (Speaking of books, I just finished reading my aunt's latest murder mystery this morning, "The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies". I thought it was her best one yet!)

So now that the Fair is over for us, I've got to gear up for the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival at Jefferson Sept. 5, 6, & 7. I thought things were going along smoothly until I read on a email list that my entries hadn't gotten to WSWF. It came as a shock since I mailed them out well ahead of the August 15th deadline. After contacting the Festival organizers though, I was assured that my entries did in fact arrive.

I was planning to bring Mabeline (above, is she an easy keeper or just fat?) and her daughters, Lena(below) and Delia, a yearling. I'm still waiting for confirmation that my entries are acceptable. But I'm going to get started with halter training.

Below is Mabline's other 2008 lamb, Socks, Lena's twin brother. I just love Socks! It would be nice to bring him along too. We rented a bobcat and cleaned out the pole barn on Saturday. It's almost September, so definitely time to get it done. The sheep will not be in the pole this winter, at least not until after shearing next spring and before lambing.

We're getting some much needed rain today. :-)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Horse Trailer, horns and hydrangeas

Our latest major farm purchase -- a used horse trailer. Can we afford it? No. But I thought it was a very good deal so we bit the bullet and bought it last night.
With Bluefaced Leicester sheep, the option of popping them in a dog crate and driving all over the country is not quite as easy as it was with Shetlands. That is a great thing about the Shetlands, they are very mobile. But my two year BFL ram Dougal, is getting pretty heavy, I would guess he's around ~150 lbs. The thought of lifting him up into a truck bed isn't very tempting. This is a small trailer, but I think I could fit about 6 adult BFLs in it, or 8-10 Shetlands. Of course the gas consumption will limit its use to the bare essentials, but we will use it for hauling hay home from our Ogilvie property too. And if we ever decide to get into beef cattle, we'll be all set. :-).

People were interested in the horn growth on the BFL crosses, so I thought I would snap photos of the heads of our Shetland Mule boys this morning (Please excuse all the hay on these guys, they are such pigs at the feeder). Above is an intact Shetland Mule ram lamb, he's 3 months old now. This guy hasn't grown as large as the other mule lambs, but I think his horn growth is very typical of what you can expect Shetland mule ram lambs to have.
He was sired by a white BFL. His twin sister is white, his dam is Bramble Jemma, a black iset Shetland. There are people who say the Natural colored BFL sires will produce more horn growth in their offspring than the white BFL sires. We wethered all our other Mule ram lambs, so I can't say for certain how their horns would have turned out. Below is Socks, a Shetland mule who was wethered at a couple weeks of age, no horns - very BFL influenced fleece. Too bad his sister didn't get that fleece!


And in the photo below you see our other intact 3/4 BFL ram lamb, T-Bone, and his very limited horn growth. The white 3/4 BFL ram lamb pictured in my last post has the most horn growth of any of our crosses (he was sired by a NC BFL ram and his dam was sired by the white BFL).
I am very impressed with T-Bone, he weighed 13 lbs at 1 day old and he's probably about 85 pounds now at four months (I wish I had a scale!). All of our 3/4 ram lambs were singles out of our yearling Shetland Mules. And they are all very nice sized. I am impressed with the mothering ability of the Shetland Mules.

While I was outside getting more horn shots from the Mules, and I took a few more shots of River Oaks McIntire. I registered him as shaela, but now I'm thinking he might be dark brown. I just love this guy, he reminds me a lot of his sire. Too bad I'm not keeping horned rams anymore. I've got to get him halter trained and picked clean of VM in time for Jefferson!

The other day I noticed the hydrangea blossoms were pretty big this year. You can see I'm not on top of things around here, this blossom is no longer white, but I thought it was worth taking a photo of. There are several like this as big a plates. I'm no expert on hydrangeas, maybe they are supposed to be that size? In the past our have more like softball size.



Sunday, August 10, 2008

Garden, Chickens, and Horn growth

The garden has gone into jungle mode! Look at how tall my corn is now. There are lots of silks appearing on the stocks and the tassels are in full production. I hope we get some nice big ears of sweet corn before the frost hits. It's hard to believe we're in the second week of August already!
No ripe tomatoes here yet, but LOTS of green ones. The tomato plants were as tall as me, but two fell over in a storm last week so any sense of order that existed in the garden is now gone. I am all out of frozen tomatoes, I'll need to freeze a lot this year. Hopefully the corn too.

We had the 26 remaining broilers processed at Nelson Shine Produce in Brainerd, MN on Monday, August 4th. This was our first experience hiring out the processing and it was so worth the expense. Those birds look great all vacuum packed and plucked so clean. I hope they taste as good as they look.
(In the background is a can of orange licorice ducks that I got the Lake Wobegon shop at the Mall of America. They're pretty good-- "farm raised on small ponds". )
The broilers were 7 weeks old and averaged about four and a half pounds each. Some were over 5 pounds and some were under 4. I'm just so glad that the broilers are gone. They required a lot of monitoring to make sure their water and food supply was full. Now we're down to just our laying flock of 8 birds. The four pullets have learned to roost at night. Our new rooster is quite in charge of the older hens. He finds them food, clucking away and they all come running. He's protective of them when the dog or cat get too close, and he crows to the neighboring roosters all day long. The other roosters are about 1/2 mile away, but their crows carry quite a distance. I hope the neighbors enjoy the country sounds.

Here are the various horns in my flock. In the photo above you'll see the 3/4 Shetland in front who is smooth polled. His sire is a polled gulmoget Shetland. I love his fleece and his chunky body. In the upper right you see a 3/4 BFL ram lamb. He's got scurs about 1/2 inch or less. On the left is River Oaks Marshall, my modified moorit ram lamb. He's an F3 Holly and his horns are tight, but his fleece is really nice. He's shown below with his twin, Maverick. Look at the wool on his poll and his cheeks -- I'm tempted to wether him for a fiber pet.Below is a shot of my two boys with very nice wide horns so far, River Oaks Julius (F2 Minder in front) and McIntire (F3 Holly). Their fleeces are long and soft too. I'd like to show them at Jefferson this fall if I can fit them in the van along with the Shetland Mules I'm supposed to bring. I need a trailer!
I'm still watching Reuben's horns, he's really got nice fleece.And then we have little Bo, his are coming along too...
And we can't forget Leonie, she is McIntire's twin (F3 Holly) and has tiny scurs.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Micron Test Results & Updates

Good news, no more broiler losses on the raccoon front. In fact no sign of Mr. (or Mrs.?) Raccoon in the past three nights. I set up the live trap and the barn cam, but no action so far...

Cora's doing well, back with the flock and on the mend hopefully. Her bag is still warm and pink and engorged. I hope she doesn't lose it. I'm not sure what happens after a case of mastitis like this. Does it just not function the following year? The only other case we had was blue bag and the entire side was lost.

I got my test results back from Texas A & M while I was gone last week. I sent in 16 samples from our Feb. 28th shearing day. There aren't any really low micron counts as in past years' tests, but there aren't any over 30 either, which is an improvement, so that's good news.

Flock average: 27.0 microns, SD: 5.7, CV: 21.2

Here's the breakdown by breed and Individual sheep:

Purebred Shetlands:
Lucy (yearling ewe) Mic: 24.8, SD: 4.5, CV: 18.3
Abby (yearling ewe) Mic: 25.7, SD: 7.6, CV: 29.5
Hattie (2 yrs, ewe) Mic: 29.7, SD: 7.9, CV: 26.7
Hannah (2 yrs, ewe) Mic: 26.4, SD: 5.8, CV: 22.1
Cora (2 yrs, ewe) Mic: 24.5, SD: 5.8, CV: 23.7
Eliza (3 yrs, ewe) Mic: 25.3, SD: 5.8, CV: 23.0
Mabeline (3 yrs, ewe) Mic: 27.5, SD: 5.0, CV: 18.3
Jemma (6 yrs, ewe) Mic: 28.6 SD: 7.7, CV: 26.7
Cordelia (9 yrs, ewe) Mic: 25.9, SD: 5.7, CV: 21.9

Purebred BFLs:
Dougal (2 yrs, ram) Mic: 27.0, SD: 5.4, CV: 20.0
Lanora (2 yrs, ewe) Mic: 29.4, SD: 5.2, CV: 17.7
Rhyn (yearling ewe) Mic: 29.0, SD: 5.3, CV: 18.3
Granite (yearling ram) Mic: 25.6, SD: 4.2, CV: 16.3

Shetland Mules (BFL Sire/Shetland Dam):
Derra (yearling ewe) Mic: 30.3, SD: 5.6, CV: 18.4
Delia (yearling ewe) Mic: 26.5, SD: 5.3, CV: 19.9
Dot (yearling ewe) Mic: 25.1, SD: 4.8, CV: 18.9

I'm always surprised at the high micron count on the BFL samples. They FEEL so soft, the numbers don't seem to do them justice. But if you also look at the SD and CV numbers on the BFLs and the crosses, you'll see they are really good.

I plan to shear the BFLs and a few of the primitive Shetlands this fall along with all the rams that will be shipped. It will be nice to have more fiber!