Farm Firsts in the Rain
Though Toluma Farms, where I currently intern (for another 5 weeks!), is mostly a goat dairy, we do have twelve East Fresian ewes and a ram (ie dairy sheep). Before I arrived last fall, the ram was bred to the ewes so they would lamb this spring (a sheep’s gestation period is approxitmatly 147 days, 5 months). We had been expecting the lambs sometime after April 1st, but this last Saturday during a downpour I was pleasantly suprised to discover a hearty ram lamb and his mother in the pasture.
We brought them into a freshen pen in the barn (not without a struggle, our sheep are a tad wild as they have never been milked) and gave them dry straw to rest on, as well as plenty of food and water for the ewe. Since Saturday four more ewes have lambed and all are doing well.
East Fresians are pretty much the only dairy sheep breed we have in the United States. They are the most common and genreally the most productive dairy sheep in the world. There are many other kinds of dairy sheep out there, including the Awassi and Assaf from Israel, the Lacune from France (from which we get the very famous Roquefort cheese), the Sarda from Spain and the Chios from Greece. Currently we are unable to import any live sheep, embryos or seman into the US from other countries, as the USDA has closed it’s borders in fear of importing diseases, among other issues.
The owners of Toluma Farms are interested in producing a mixed milk cheese in the future, so that is the reason we have a flock of sheep. They are trying to convince the farm manager it would be a great idea to milk a couple cows as well!
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