Monday, 26 August 2013

The ever expanding flock of sheep.

I thought today I would write about our  beautiful (well maybe not always in looks) sheep.
We started way back soon after we first purchased our little place. We thought that sheep,rather than goats would be the wisest choice for us to have as we have to leave them alone for weeks at a time and goats are a little too clever for their own good and are brilliant escape artists.
We just happened to be driving past a house here on the coast and saw a sign for 6 sheep for sale,so we went to check it out.
They were 5 merino X ewes and a Poll Dorset ram, all fairly young for $30 each.
So we purchased them and took them up to the farm the next day.We decided not to give these sheep names and we did very well  with that until the first lambs arrived.Who were promptly named Sweet Pea and Daphne.

It was only about 12 months later that we had a phone call from out neighbour to tell us that our beautiful ram  had died near his shared boundary fence with us. He suspected snake bike at  he had seen a big  Eastern Brown Snake  lurking around in the previous few weeks.
We happened to mention to a friend  who is a full time farmer that we had lost our ram and he very kindly offereed for free  if we were interested a new ram. The only thing was it was a Damara breed.
So we went and picked him up in Dubbo,We named him Roger(no idea why, it just popped into my head at the time)
Roger quickly got to work and produced some very colourful off spring that looked more like goats than sheep. We called our first one Honey due to her beautiful honey colour. As his babies grew and the flock started to expand we referred to them as "The Mottly Crew".

The  Damara influence tended to produce a fairly tall, light sheep that was very timid and flighty and after a couple of years our farmer friend(god bless his heart) offerred us another ram. He had himself changed breeds and was now fully running Dorper Sheep.
So we offered him Roger back and were told he was no longer required and to pass him along to some else, which is what we did.
So then we went  and picked up Cassanova, named in the hope that he would successfully romance all our ewes, which I am happy to announce he did, with great speed.
Soon after acquiring Cassanova, we heard of a young hobby farmer who had been involved in a car accident that was selling up his small flock as he was still in rehabilitation and didn't expect to be able to continue on his block.We went and looked at them. They were DorperX Damara ewes, but were advised that they would make a good breeding base with our Doper Ram. So we purchased 6 ewes for $360.( money well spent as it turns out) Our farmer friend in Dubbo also gave us 3  young Dorper ewes( They had thrown a little back to merino,so he didn't want them for breeding)
We arn't looking to breed purbreds, we just breed for meat and our own personal use.We are also pleased to say that the young farmer made a full recovery and is back into farming in an even bigger way, such good news.
Then just over five months later we celebrated our first babies.
There have been many more born since.I just love the baby lambs and how early every morning and in the evening they get frisky.Sorry to bore you with the pics, but I just had to include the next few photos.They are not very clear, but just cute!.

We really like the Dorper breed as they are a good heavy meat sheep, and they don't have to be shorn.
As your crosses get closer to pure Dorper they have less and less wool on them.
They constantly rub themselves on fences,gates, posts ,trees and sheds to "rub off" their Hair/wool.
The lambs are born hairy, more like a goat kid rather than with the tight white wool curls of other breeds.
As they get older, their hair/wool in some of them just forms like a saddle on their backs. We have had to trim a few but not too many. They are clean on their legs, necks and underbellies and are an excellent breed  to have as they don't seem to get fly or lice problems as much as other breeds.
We  always hand feed our sheep when we are there, it keeps them quieter and gets them to come to us more easily when we need to yard them for drenching and when we need to  butcher for meat.
No matter where they are on the place, my husband just starts calling and banging a bucket and they come running.

So far we have been lucky, considering all our time away from the farm, we have had only minimal losses, we had a tree limb fall in a storm  on one good ewe , lost a couple to Barbers' Pole worm and a few to just old age.We also have been lucky that we haven't so far had to poddy any lambs.
Our next door neighbour has done a few, but one "special" one he had is called Bouye...Bouye thought he was part of the human family(and still does) I will add a quick pic of Bouye the day he discovered his Father's brocolli garden....he was not a favourite child that day.
About 6 months ago, we felt that we may be getting close to inbreeding,so our ever wonderful friend in Dubbo once again came to our rescue and swapped cassanova for anothe ram. We named this one Colin after our friend,
At about this same time, things were pretty dry on our block so we seperated the wethers and Colin off and moved them to my brother in laws larger block down the road.
Our numbers had grown too quickly, so we have given the girls a season off and have only last week brought Colin back to our place to the girls again.He seemed pleased about that.
We love our sheep, and yes I am very matter of fact as to why they are there, but our idea is ,they are here for a purpose,and that it to feed us, so we give them the best life we can until that time comes.
I personally don't watch them die, I just can't do it. I grew up on a farm and saw and helped   my father butcher sheep for meat regularly, now I have a choice. Once they are dead I have no issue helping and  the cutting up, and the  processing is sort of honouring the animal for what they have given us. I always appreciate the animal for it's full worth, and waste very little.
We love to sit and watch the sheep, they are content and happy, or at least I like to think they are.

We need to reduce our numbers a great deal, we now have approx. 40 sheep, realistically we need to get that number down to 20-25.
So I guess I know what I will be doing on the next trip to the farm.....maybe canned  lamb meatballs in sauce , that would be a new  experiment for me.Will keep you informed.
So until we meet again,
Cheers to everyone,