Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Thursday December 16, 2010

Heirloom Breeds & Seeds:
Early Winter Challenges and Pregnant Ewes

Of course the snow and the cold just couldn't hold off until the sheep were
settled for the winter, so I've been bundling up and just trudging ahead
with everything that needs to be done. The water freezes in the barn
nightly, so I added a heat tape. This doesn't mean the pipe doesn't freeze
anymore, it just takes a few minutes for the heat tape to work and the water
to run. I have the water pipe heavily insulated as well. Once the sheep are
in the barn, there will be enough body heat to keep the pipe from freezing.
I have to turn off the power to the barn at night when I leave for safety,
but when the lambs come, if we need it, the power can be on. Considering the
hayloft is above where the sheep live, it is a good idea not to tempt the
fates with a potential barn fire.

I'm closer to being completely ready for the pregnant ewes to move into the
barn. I've built some pens and filled in the gutters so the sheep don't fall
and trip. The girls have finished their hay aftermath grazing and they are
ready to move in. Tomorrow I will finish setting things up and bring inside
the ewes that will lamb in February/March. The "open" ewes, the ones who
aren't pregnant are out in the pasture with llamas, horse and donkey. We'll
add Happy the ram to the ewe flock this weekend and leave him in to breed
for 20 days.

Speaking of breeding, Nancy the Ultrasound lady was here Monday and we
scanned all 123 ewes to check for pregnancy and to see how many lambs they
were carrying. My Mom did the recordkeeping, Harvey spray painted the
shoulders of the pregnant ewes so we could tell them apart from the non
pregnant ewes, Kevin ran the gate letting sheep in and out, Nancy scanned
and I caught sheep. Boy did I sleep well that night! It took us about 3 1/2
hours to scan everyone. Ultrasound scanning isn't an exact science, but the
numbers we came up with are pretty good all the same. 68 ewes are bred. Of
those 36 are carrying singles and 32 are carrying twins. So about 100 lambs
total. These lambs will be born February through March 2011.

The next group of ewes (that will begin breeding this weekend) will lamb
sometime in May. Whoever doesn't get bred out of that group will be kept
with the ram and will form our fourth breeding group to lamb in July.