I bought some Wedge-Loc brackets in the summer of 2008 with the intention of using them to brace short sections of fencing, but only got around to using them this summer. Wedge-Loc’s modest marketing materials would imply that you should never have to build an H-brace again, thanks to their invention; but I think this is probably a bit of an exaggeration. If there is a lot of force on the H-brace, it would easily push a T-post through the soil, much more easily than a 4×4” or 6×6” wood post buried 3+ feet deep. So, these can only be used for small-potatoes applications; like for low-tensile fencing material, very short sections, and places where you least expect an animal to ram into the fence at high speed or push a lot on the fence. But, I think there do exist some scenarios where this type of brace makes sense.
When I start researching a topic, I can really get obsessed. And such is the case with mineral supplement options for sheep. I might have just bought my bag of “sheep mineral” from the local feed store for years and not given it a second thought, had it not been for Pat Coleby’s book Natural Sheep Care. The book is a mind-boggling read, going into great depth on dozens of trace minerals, and the role each one plays in nutrition, and when deficient, in disease. When I first read this book, my reaction was “bleah!!” and I stuck it back on the shelf, because the stuff just seemed too complicated. And you would think surely the makers of my feed store mineral bag already had all this figured out, right? 😉
Quite a while ago, I read Pat Coleby’s book Natural Seep Care. Then I put it on the shelf for a long time, because her assertions and suggestions are a bit overwhelming, and not easy to implement. But I’ve decided to embark on following some of her advice, including offering the sheep individual trace minerals (instead of a commercial proprietary mix) so they can eat what they crave.
The first challenge was figuring out a sheltered, but moveable, device in which to offer this mineral buffet, since the sheep are in ever-rotating pastures. I nagged myself to craft something from scratch, but just wasn’t getting to it. So I finally purchased two nifty mineral feeder stations.
I’ve been really pleased with using marking harnesses with the rams this year, it’s reassuring to verify that everyone is getting bred on schedule, and that there were no accidents earlier in August that I didn’t know about! Here are two girls with nice clear blue marks on them, indicating that in five months, they should have some of Hershey’s lambs.
But, here is one that didn’t go as planned:
Oops! That’s both blue and green! That’s ‘cuz Hershey busted through the hotwire separating the groups on a couple of occasions. So, oh well, I’ll have a few lambs with a mystery sire. If they are great and I’m dying to keep them, I can DNA test them so they can be registered; otherwise they’ll just go on the locker list. And this is probably where the marking harness provides most of its value, is when somebody gets where they shouldn’t. Without them, I’d have no idea what went on in the few hours Hershey was in the wrong pen, where this way, at least I can quantify the damage!
For the last couple of months, I’ve been taking the Livestock Advisor course that’s sponsored by Washington State University. The concept of the course is to get a broad overview of training about all types of agricultural livestock; and then to give back to the community by sharing this information in a variety of volunteer opportunities. I’m enjoying the courses, though they are a bit more basic than I’d hoped. But, you always pick up something from a class, and I’ve learned a few new things.
Last week, we traveled to WSU to do a whirlwind tour of all of their agricultural facilities.
The llama is getting a little tamer these days. I think having lived here for about a year now, she’s adjusted more and gotten used to me, all the dogs, and the layout of the place. She is much less flighty.
This week is all about the boys, for once, on the farm! Usually boys play a bit part and the girls have a starring role on farms, but there are times when the men get their due. We do need them!
Yesterday was the start of breeding week for the sheep, so Tuesday, the rams got fitted with their breeding harnesses.
After our small coyote duck massacre, I came to realize I have no drakes left. I had winnowed down to two drakes, because too many aggressive breeders are hard on the ladies. Both of them came up missing. I want to always have fertilized eggs so I can breed more ducks from time to time, so a new boy duck is needed. If necessary, I’ll buy one. But for now, I stuck some eggs in the incubator in hopes that I might hatch a male for free. It would be good to increase the flock a little too, I like to keep at least a dozen ducks for laying.
I waffled again this year on whether or not to “flush” the ewes prior to breeding. Flushing is putting them on an increasing plane of nutrition as they come into heat, coaxing their bodies to release more eggs, to render a higher rate of twins and triplets. Last year I did it, and had a 200% lamb crop born, so I think I’m going to stick with the plan for another year or so; and then maybe experiment with dropping it and see how it compares.
The last speaker I listened to at the KHSI Expo was Dr. Kreg Leymaster, a researcher from the USDA Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Nebraska. His talk was inspiring, he made me feel pretty fired up about our breed! 🙂 MARC is doing a lot of research on sheep breeds, trying to winnow down which ones are the best producers, the best tasting as lamb, and have the lowest maintenance requirements. I gather that the general vision at MARC is to help America develop the dreamiest sheep breed ever: one that consistently produces 200% or better lamb crops, with no help, thrives on the average forage offered by the open range (not grain feed lots!), and renders high quality, good-tasting lamb. The ultimate put-dinner-on-the-table sheep!