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I Didn't Realize Sheep Were So Flexible...

| 8/23/2011 11:13:56 PM

Callie HeadshotFarming requires a great deal of flexibility as I have mentioned before. A farmer can't get too attached to a place, way of doing things or a particular outcome because inevitably something uncontrollable will change everything, and adjustments have to be made, sometimes very quickly.

Sheep scientists 

I saw this illustrated again this weekend when I met up with Dan. We drove to Highland Farm, a tree farm in Colfax. Dan, along with Allen, the owner of the farm and Roger, the UC Davis livestock extension agent, assessed the property and vegetation to see if it would support 300 ewes through breeding season.

I would not mind eating my meals here 

Dan had planned to have these ewes much closer to his home farm on an irrigated pasture. He discovered however, that the pasture was not going to be able to support his ewes, much less enable them to gain weight through breeding, so he had to find an alternative pretty quickly.

Highland Farm it was; Dan is friends with the owners and had previously been interested in grazing their property. After a bumpy tour up and down the ridge and about ten million 'begger's lice' later the three men decided there was enough vegetation and variety to support the ewes at least for a couple months though maybe not through the entire breeding season. I could see being forced to be flexible is not so bad if you have good friends who are willing to feed your sheep! Actually it works out well for Highland Farm as well. Instead of having to manually remove brush that is a fire hazard, the sheep will clean it up.

As I mentioned, we are preparing for breeding season. When breeding ewes, most producers want the animals to be on a rising plane of nutrition (gaining weight) because this increases the likelihood of twins. This management technique is called "flushing" and is the reason Dan keeps his ewes on rough feed (like star thistle) most of the summer. It is desirable for the ewes lose some weight during the summer because they are not producing milk for lambs and they are not breeding or pregnant. But in preparation for breeding, which will begin October 1st, they need to be on feed that will allow them to start putting weight back on (but not too much weight, a fat ewe doesn't breed well).

Nebraska Dave
8/24/2011 5:42:25 PM

Callie, Dad never got sheep until I had left for college. He mainly got them to keep the weeds down in the pasture. They always seemed to be pretty fragile and high maintenance to me. Well, then, again so are milk cows of which we had 13. My job was to keep them milked morning and night. We had chickens, pigs, cows, and one horse. My sister had a horse named Judy who was fine headed away from the barn but one had to have a tight rein when heading back to the barn. More than one I thought I was going to be raked off by her heading for the barn door. Fortunately, that didn't happen. I hope that you have a great breeding season and all your ewes have twins with no complications or deaths. Have a great day on the farm.

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