Winter On Our Farm
Each winter we move our pregnant ewes, rams and all the guard llama’s into their winter quarters. This is usually the field behind our home that is protected by a hard fence and is setup with several run-in sheds and electricity for heated water tanks. We can’t use the electric netting during the winter months because once there is snow on the ground it loses its’ charge. The netting will also collapse when covered in ice, leaving the sheep completely free to roam and unprotected. There is no set date for moving the sheep off the hay fields and into their winter quarters, it is entirely dependent on when the first snow storm hits.
During the winter we feed our ewes round bales of 1st cut hay (unlimited) that we worked so hard making during the summer months. Six weeks before lambing is due to start we begin feeding our ewes 2nd cut round bales along with the first cut, eventually switching over to only 2nd cut hay. Most of the growth of the lambs is during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy.
Four weeks before lambing we bring all the pregnant ewes into the barn for shearing. We hire Kevin Ford, who uses blades to shear the sheep, rather than electric clippers. He is amazing at keeping the sheep calm as he clips their wool, leaving a thicker layer than clippers do.
We have a steady stream of hay customers pick up hay on a weekly or biweekly basis. These people do not have the storage space in their barns for the amount hay required for their animals – cows, horses, llama’s, alpaca’s, goats, etc. Kevin works with them during the summer to plan for their needs all winter. Often it looks like we have way too much hay stored for the winter but once these customers clean out what they could store and start picking it up, it moves quickly.
As the hay moves it makes space for our lambing barn setup. We improve on our set up each year it seems but the general layout stays the same. We use hog panels and zip ties to do all of it with some concrete blocks and T posts for support in places. We build out an area where the ewes stay until they lamb. At the end of this we build out birthing pens – to quickly move the ewe into as she lambs. We perform all birthing tasks in this pen. We build out a long aisle that has jugs on both sides of it. The ewes and their lambs go into the jugs once both are fine after the birthing process. On the other side of the aisle is the mixing areas. We put 3 ewes with each of their lambs together so the lambs can adjust to being in a flock. From there they move to a bigger mixing pen with up to 18 moms and their lambs. From the big mix area they all move outdoors to the hay fields. The setup takes several days to complete and it’s sometimes a work in progress as lambing starts.