Garrett, Sabrina, and Carol got me thinking about what my flock goals are for the coming year. Since I'm in the midst of writing up a grant proposal for this summer, my thoughts are definitely in the planning mode today.
1.) First and foremost for my flock, I hope to have my Bluefaced Leicester ewes lamb out twins without too much trouble. If they can do that, I will likely reduce my purebred Shetland numbers further. I really love the BFLs, their personalities, their fleece and their overall conformation. But last year lambing out the BFLs was so stressful I decided to wait and see if raising purebred BFLs was something that would be compatible with me and my management style.
We have actually been quite lucky with our BFLs, unlike friends who've bought BFLs, we haven't lost a single one - knocking on wood here. The BFL ewe lambs born here last spring were raised exactly like our Shetland lambs, on pasture and hay. They were wormed in the fall with the rest of the ewe flock and they seem to be doing fine. So the raising them up part seems to be compatible, hopefully the lambing out part will be better now that my ewes are experienced mothers. If I can't manage breeding purebred BFLs, I would settle for breeding the crosses and just keeping a collection of purebred BFLs for fiber.
Oh yeah, one more little detail, I just hope my BFL ewes are BRED. They were only in with the ram for 21 days. That should have been long enough, but I prefer to leave them together for 35 days.
2.) As for the Shetlands, I've got five ewes bred for purebred lambs. I'm hoping for more solid-sided gulmoget lambs out of Kimberwood Harrison. I'm also hoping to get a moorit gulmoget. Harrison may be homozygous Black, so we'll have to see if we get any moorits. River Oaks Lana is hopefully bred to Bo, a moorit, so there's hope for a moorit gulmoget there too. And the other thing I'm hoping for is polled Shetland ram lambs this spring -- unless we get all ewe lambs. :-)
3.) I have only one ewe bred to produce Shetland Mules this spring. I haven't found much of a market for the Shetland Mules so far. But I am happy to keep them for myself (I have 6 now). Their fleece is very nice (there's a good market for that!) and they will give me market lambs in the future when bred to the Ile de France/Dorset ram.
4.) We have at least three mules bred to produce 3/4 BFL lambs for slaughter next fall. We had hoped for Ile de France sired market lambs, but that didn't work out this year. I found last year's 3/4 lambs to be fast growing and their fleeces were of excellent quality. We didn't slaughter them until January, next year we'll do it in October or November at the latest to save the hay expense. Also, ALL my crossbred ram lambs will be wethered this spring.
5.) As for fleece, I'd like to see my BFLs micron tests come back finer, but I really can't complain about their fleece in the least. I'll likely be in the market for a new BFL ram (see item #1). I want a white one who carries color. I'd like to bring in a line that I don't currently have.
As for Shetland fleece, Kimberwood Harrison has wonderfully fine, soft fleece, so I'm confident his lambs will be an improvement over their dams' fleece. His two lambs from last year, Lana and a 3/4 Shetland, have very nice crimpy fleece. I will be able to get a better look at Lana's in March after shearing. Harrison seems to have some length in his coat, so I hope that will be imparted to the lambs out of my two F2 Holly ewes who have the shorter crimpy UK fleece themselves. Our F1 Minder ewe's fleece microned at 25.9 last year which wasn't bad at all for a nine year old.
6.) For our land in Ogilvie, I would like to put a few beef calves on the 20 acres of pasture. This might not actually get done because of financial concerns. It would mean fencing off the east side of our land and getting a power source for the electric fence. I wonder if my Premier 20B Intelli-shock portable battery would do the trick? We would also have to haul water over there, but I think that is do-able. I can't pasture my sheep over there because of predators. Our hay man has had his cattle there and they do just fine. I would like to utilize all that forage.
7.) I'm resigned to staying here in our current house on 5 acres with the sheep. We've got it pretty well set up for a small flock. We need to keep the flock small because of our limited acreage here. That's okay, because I much prefer having a small friendly flock that is easily handled. We never have to chase our sheep, we just wait for them to come back where they belong. With the limited pasture here, we supplement with hay year round, which keeps the flock and the new lambs friendly and manageable. It all works pretty well. Thankfully, we get hay off our 15 acres of hay fields, so it's not a big expense -- if we have enough rainfall for the hay crop.
8.) There are always changes to plans and goals. Some changes I'm contemplating right now are: getting a Cheviot ram lamb this summer to breed to the mature Shetland ewes next fall. I almost bought one this fall.
Also, I have a line on a Wensleydale ram to use on some of my BFL ewes next fall (again, see item #1). I've got a sample of BFL/Wensleydale fleece and it's fabulous. Long, purled, and SOFT.
We'll just have to wait and see how things go this year. Now back to my grant!