At the Katahdin Hair Sheep International Expo in Oregon, they held an auction-style sale. This was a great opportunity to purchase some sheep that are from different bloodlines than the ones we have commonly in our area. It would have been ideal to purchase a ram there, but since I already have two rams that I can use for the next couple of years, it didn’t seem justified getting a third one for my small flock. So, I went with the intention of getting some ewes at least, to diversify the genetics I have.
The sale was fairly small, I think there were 48 animals on consignment, sold by six different breeders. I checked out the prices from last year’s sale, and could see that though some rams and a few ewes went for a lot of money, many ewes sold for $200, which was the floor set by the sale. That’s the going rate for registered ewes in our area, so I went with the goal of picking up four or five for that price, if I could. And my friend Linda asked me to pick up a ram for her too, and possibly some ewes, if they didn’t go for too much.
All of the animals there were required to be registered purebreds, have scrapie resistance DNA data, and past birthing performance data on the maternal ewe side. Some had EPD (Expected Progeny Difference) data from the National Sheep Improvement Program.
I was impressed by all of the animals there, any one of them would have been a nice addition to my flock. We were allowed to go over each one in a show-style presentation in the arena; it was nice to have the opportunity to get my hands on a lot of animals for comparison. I studied all of their pedigrees carefully against a list of all ancestors in my sheep pedigrees, which I was able to print out from my Ranch Manager software. The only small disappointment I had with the software was that the version that runs on my Palm Pilot does not display pedigree data. So, I had to do further study on my laptop in my hotel room in the evening; whereas it sure would have been nice to look up pedigrees while I was in the sale barn. I’ll have to submit that as a future feature request.
So, with notes in hand, and instructions from Linda on what she wanted and was willing to pay, I sat down for the auction. I get nervous at auctions, there is so much strategy involved, and you have to think quickly, which I don’t do well. But, I did ok, I stayed in my budget, I was really pleased with my auction bidding, I think I did a good job of holding back ‘til the last second, avoiding having things I wanted get run up, and staying out of it when they did. I came home with five ewes for myself, and an awesome ram for Linda at a great price. After the sale, a friend of Linda arranged to send one ewe home for her, an animal that had not sold during the sale because she didn’t meet the seller’s floor.
I ended up taking home seven sheep in the back of my cargo van! But it was only a five hour drive, and everything went fine. (And the sheep and hay smell is starting to overtake the residual mouse pee smell, so I’m not unhappy with that!) Kirk met me in the pasture with Maggie and a flashlight, and we unloaded, sorted and rearranged all the sheep in the dark at 10pm with no mishaps. I couldn’t do it without Maggie, she is such a help.
Here they are, three from Aspen Mountain ranch in Montana (two ewe lambs and one lunker-sized yearling ewe on the right):
This lovely lady from Just Plain Sheep ranch in Ephrata, WA (the photo isn’t very flattering…):
And this girl from Pinto Ranch in Montana:
This last ewe, you can tell by the picture, wasn’t feeling well once I got her home; her body demeanor, facial expression, squinty eyes and ear set all tell that she is sick. She looked fine at the sale, and all the animals there had documented vet-checks before traveling inter-state and again on the sale day. She, and one of the group of three from Montana, had nasal discharge and diarrhea for a few days the next week, and I was concerned. I think they picked up a respiratory virus, and were probably stressed from the long travel. It was a weeklong ordeal for them. And I thought later that the group could have done a better job of boot disinfecting between the farm and university tours, and arriving at the sale; so the humans may have been the disease vector, for all we know! This ewe was a bit thin, and seemed to have the hardest time. The other ewes were carrying a lot of condition, and seemed to weather the ordeal better.
I pumped them full of Nutri-Drench to support their immune systems, and they recovered within the week, thank goodness. None of the other sheep seemed to have contracted it. Ideally I would have quarantined all of the new sheep away from my sheep until any potential contagious disease was past. But I don’t have a spot to do that right now, with needing to also separate the rams. So I put them right in with my ewes on Sunday, and then cringed when I saw this crop up. Thankfully all the sheep seem to be doing well in the end.
Now it’s starting to look like we have a good-sized flock! We’ll be over-wintering seventeen ewes, which should bring us up over fifty head next spring, after lambing.