It is below zero this morning. We’re heading down to the lambing barn which is five miles from our house. We never know what will be there when we arrive – happy babies running around is what we wish for. But who knows with Mother Nature.
We have 40 lambs so far. This year, due to the growing interest in our farm raised lamb meat, we are increasing our flock size. The Farmer is improving lots of things around the barn. If he is going to run more sheep, he has to be better organized. No matter what, there is always a lot of chaos when you have over 200 animals.
Each lamb is marked with a number immediately after birth. If the lamb is a twin, it gets a green number. If it is a single, it gets a blue number. The paint is a special “sheep paint” which will wash out of the wool when processed.
Many of the lambs are already outside with their mothers watching their moms pick around in the hay by the time we arrive in the morning. The Farmer likes to keep an close watch on the brand new lambs for a day or two. He uses wire hog panels which are very flexible and lightweight to make individual nursery pens.
It is pretty easy to coax the mother into a pen in the barn by using their lamb as a tease. The Farmer picks up the lamb and holds it in front of the mom. He slowly walks toward the barn, coercing the mother into the temporary nursery pen.
In this photo, there are plenty of onlookers greeting the new baby into the flock.
He sets the lamb down in the pen and the mama follows. Sisal baling twine temporarily ties the panel to the wall. Then he marks the baby with a number with the spray paint. At the same time, each mother gets her ear pierced and tagged. This number will stay with her for the rest of her life.
We don’t tag the lamb’s ears with tags. This is because we don’t know which lambs we will keep. Almost all of the ram lambs will go into our meat business, unless they are exceptionally good-looking and desirable for breeding. The ewe lambs have a more uncertain future. If they grow well and come from mothers who have been excellent producers, they may live out their days here on the farm. We always keep a certain number of ewe lambs to replace older ewes who perish due to old age.
Right now, we have more demand than we can keep up with our retail meat business. We are taking lessons we learned from our initial year in the retail lamb meat business and trying to make this year better. We are still on a huge learning curve.
When you farm, you deal with Mother Nature more than most. We never know what she will throw our way – weather, parasites and coyotes are our most prevalent challenges each year. We will see what 2010 will bring. At least it is never boring!