Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Farmer Answers - Part Two

Today's photo shows The Farmer using a feeding tube to revive a weak lamb. The rubber tube is fed down the lamb's throat.

The Farmer milks the ewe for the milk into a paper cup. He pours it into the open end of the feeding tube. By gravity, the milk drips into the lamb's belly.

This tool has saved many, many lambs. It is very easy to do (Kristin can do it).

The Farmer's Answers - Part Two

Following along with you guys has been wonderful.... As a city kid and vegetarian for 30 years (we started meat again 3 years ago) I have a hard time with the idea of eating animals you know personally.... Anyway, how do you decide which ones to eat? Do you ever get so attached to any of them you just can't eat them? In my naivete it would be like eating my cats...who goes next?
The Farmer Says: I have no trouble eating my own animals, nor do Kristin and Julia. It's what we do. My lambs live a fabulous life. They are well cared for and spend most of their life out on pasture eating grass, clover, and wild flowers. This is about as far from Industrial Farming as you can get. And besides, they are incredibly flavorful.
Mostly, we ship the rams. They go to the slaughterhouse when they have reached the proper size. Our goal is to ship a 100 lb. animal which will yield approximately 40 pounds of finished meat.

Question: What is your favorite part of farming? What is your hardest/least favorite part of farming?
The Farmer Says: I like the fact that there is so much variety and I am always outside. My least part of farming is the days when I lose an animal to a predator or illness.

Question: I've seen you mention moving the sheep to different fields. Do you own all the land your sheep graze on? Do you "crop" share with friends and neighbors? What is the average estimation for calculation the acreage needed to feed your sheep?
The Farmer Says: The majority of the land that I farm I don’t own. I use land from six different landowners. Although they all have certain expectations, the bottom line is that they want their land to be well cared for. As to acreage needed, I’m not sure. It depends on the type of land, amount of rainfall and season of the year. I just try to make it work.

Question: When a ewe dies, can/will another ewe 'adopt' the orphaned lamb for milking and feeding purposes?
The Farmer Says: Normally a ewe knows her lamb and wants nothing to do with any other lamb/lambs. You can get another ewe to accept a lamb that isn’t her own by putting the skin of her dead lamb onto the other lamb. Sometimes you can get a ewe to accept another lamb by rubbing the birth fluids of the ewe onto that lamb. (See the photo in yesterday’s post).

Question: If you were not a farmer, then what would you like to do?
The Farmer Says: I have another job selling construction supplies which I do to pay the bills. I would love to farm full-time but it isn’t economically viable to support our family with only a farm income. I can’t think of anything else I would want to do. Maybe work in forestry.
Kristin says: Once a farmer, always a farmer. He was born into a farming family with two other brothers. One of his brothers is a dairy farmer and the other has cows, horses, and chickens along with his full-time job. It is pretty much impossible to take the farmboy away from the farm. I have never tried, nor do I ever plan to. It is who he is.

Question: Do you guys garden and raise your own produce too? If so do you use your manure for fertilizer?
The Farmer Says: We have a vegetable garden and a one acre sunflower garden for cut flowers. We use our sheep manure for fertilizer but it seems that there is never enough. I am always begging my brother for his cow manure.
Kristin Says: I frequently get a manure spreader load of sheep manure for an anniversary or birthday gift. He dumps it next to our vegetable garden near our compost pile. It is one huge pile and takes me at least a year or two to use it all.

Question: I was wondering if you ever thought about making sheep's milk cheese. Too much trouble? No interest? wrong breed? I know little about sheep, but as I had always heard that they were not very friendly I wondered if sheep who were milked regularly become more easy to handle.
The Farmer Says:
Milking sheep is a totally different business than raising sheep for meat. I grew up on a dairy farm which my brother still farms with dairy cattle. At this point, I’m not interested in milking sheep. We would have to invest an extraordinary amount of capital which we don't have just to begin.
Sheep are flock animals and prefer to be with each other. Most sheep aren’t very friendly although there is always the exception – hand raised bottle lambs and Julia’s sheep Cora. (The black sheep in the photo below is Cora at the hay bale. She is calling for her lambs!)

Question: Now that I'm facing having to treat my entire sheep and llama flock on an intense and ongoing basis for parasite types and amounts I've never dealt with before, I'm concerned about preparing proper dosages for each of my sheep. I have such a disparity of sizes and ages, I'm clueless how much each sheep weighs. I know dosages are based on sheep weight. Is there a trick to doing this with any accuracy without buying a $2K livestock scale?
The Farmer Says: We don’t have an expensive livestock scale either. I suggest you look up your sheep’s breed in a sheep handbook. They will give an average weight for ewes and rams. Take that weight and figure your dose for that weight.

Question: Do you have to manage deep snowfall with machinery or do the sheep just act as natural plows?
The Farmer Says: Deep snow doesn’t tend to be a big problem for sheep. I would much rather have a snowstorm than an ice storm.

More tomorrow.....


Buttermilk Biscuit the Norwegian Fjord Horse said...

For estimating weight of the sheep for dewormer dosing, is there a weight tape available for sheep? In the equine world we have a flexible tape measure, and when put around the heart girth of the horse gives a pretty good estimation for the weight of the animal for accurate dosing. If there is one for sheep it might be helpful, but maybe the dewormer is safe when dosed higher than the animal weighs.

Anonymous said...

The Farmer said in day one: "My political urgency goes way beyond political. You ask if I get discouraged at the lack of concern on the part of the government of our land. If it was only the Government’s lack of concern then that would be a relatively good day at the office. What bothers me is the lack of concern for our lands by just about everyone. The disconnect between those who produce the food we eat and those who consume that food is disheartening. I could go on for pages about this subject. For now, I’ll just say that if I am a success at anything, I would like for it to be a real connecting between myself as a small farmer and those who buy the farm’s products that Kristin and I raise."

Thank you.....we live in a small agricultural town area (moved from the city so we had major culture shock and yes, we didn't know where our food came from) and it's really very sad to see farmers going belly-up all around here.
The kids especially, don't get the point of farming and taking care of the land. They don't get the connection between farming and where their food comes from and they're encouraged to go to the city to make money.
Thank you for mentioning this....

Lynn said...

Mark, I really appreciate your straightforward answers - thanks!

Anonymous said...

Kristin, this question-and-answer idea is golden. Many thanks to your husband and you for taking the time out of your busy days to educate us. Yes, too few people know where their food comes from. I can remember my father's dismay that "the best agricultural land in the country [California's Santa Clara valley] is being buried under houses. You can build houses anywhere." You can't just grow crops or raise animals anywhere.
-- Gretchen

Virginia said...

I've been following these posts with great interest. I'm really loving the Q&A.

Although, this morning your posts did cause me to exclaim out loud to my husband and child: I am SO not cut out to be a sheep farmer.

(plus, I hear that's a little hard to do in NYC)

My family was very confused as to what would make me say that.

Diane H K in Greenfield said...

Mark and Kristin, thank you so much for answering my question on weights and dosages here and in person on Sunday. I'm much obliged. Thanks for posting the images of the tube feeding, too. Keeping it real!

To Buttermilk Biscuit the Norwegian Fjord Horse: There are no weight measuring tapes for sheep as far as I know. Fleece would get in the way of accurate measuring, I'm afraid! Those tapes work best on close-coated animals, such as horses, hogs, and dairy/beef cows.

wa said...

Fascinating, I wanna be a farmer in the next life. So to do that I'm curious...as a dysphagia (swallowing) therapist (occupational therapist) looking at the photo of the tube-fed lamb, I ask the obvious question (to me at least)...how do you know that the tube in in the esophagus and not the lamb's trachea?? Humans who are awake cough with tubes inserted either way...thanks,

Wendy in SC

Elva Undine said...

Kristin, I am LOVING this Q&A with the Farmer. Great idea!

JFibers said...

This post on Jupiter Moon farm may be helpful to the person asking about doses of medicine.. The weight tape portion is what I'm thinking may be helpful...


JFibers said...

Just double checked and the weight tape is used for goats... Sorry!

Nancy said...

From a city girl......I am loving your Q&A sessions!! It is obvious that "The Farmer" loves what he does....and "The Farmer's Wife" loves who he is! Thanks for sharing your lives with us.

Sarah said...

What a wide variety of questions! I love it!

日月神教-向左使 said...