Lambs, Chicks, And Pasture

I did not have time to make a weekly update video on Sunday, so I’ll write a weekly update here with photos instead and a few short videos. It was a busy week with new lambs and fresh pasture, capped off with new chicks!

Sheep Update
We are up to 13 lambs out of 5 ewes, and everyone is doing quite well.  So far this year we have been tremendously blessed with multiples.  The seasoned ewes Katahdins, in the past, have all twinned but this year they each had triplets.  And our Shoropshire/Cotswold mix has always had singles but this year she twinned.  Our only first time mamma to lamb so far had triplets, but I wasn’t with her at that time so when baby #3 came she was overwhelmed with what to do with all of these babies.  She had cleaned the other two so well and this one she wasn’t able to get the bag off of his face in time.  She technically had triplets but she will raise twins, which is better for a first time mamma anyway.  I would have taken one of her triplets and bottle fed him and let her raise twins anyway.  She was so stressed by the whole event and always looking for baby #3 that her milk didn’t come in very well for a few days.  I bottle fed the lambs as a supplement, but they rarely took much of the bottle.  She got nutritional supplements and I massaged her bag a few times a day with oil to try to prevent mastitis and to encourage milk let-down.  It took time and patience, but her milk did finally come in and she has stopped looking for her missing baby.  I learned that, especially with first time mamas, that when I sense that “today is the day” I really need to be  more diligent in my checks.  Even with that disappointing loss, lambing has gone very well so far!  The sheep and goats have been thrilled to finally be out on grass, too!

Laying Hens – Young & Old
The chickens are moving right along as well.  The old laying hens have been their chicken tractor (Tractor #1) for a few weeks now and I’ve been moving them through the sheep pastures for a week now.  They are getting the hang of the pasture rotation idea, though I still find them in their old hangouts under the side porch. They were quite excited when I pulled them out of the sheep winter paddock and onto the first pasture.  It was fun to see, even with older birds who “escape” their space to stroll around in the back yard every day.  They’re slowly getting farther from the house and slowly getting used to staying closer to their laying tractor.

We moved the new layer poults into their new (to us) chicken tractor (Tractor #2) yesterday and they’ve seemed to take to the grass quite nicely.  They are six weeks old and ready to be outside, even though they seem so small and our spring is coming quite late this year.  However they have weathered their first windy and rainy night just fine, so I’ll sleep better now too.  I did add a piece of siding/plywood to create a wind break at the wooden supports midway back, and I’m glad I did!  This tractor was originally used for pastured turkeys and it’s a decent height for me to crawl into and replenish the feed and water.

Pastured Broilers
And today our first batch of 50 pastured broilers arrived.  My Pastured Poultry Mentor, David at Oak Meadows Farm, has been a fantastic resource for me as I have been investigating the whole Pastured Poultry venture.  I went in on an order with him for both Cornish Cross chicks and a non-GMO starter/grower feed.  I’m impressed with the feed from Red Bridge Farm and I think I will switch the layers over to their blend when I place my next order.

Next on our list is to make the tractor for the broilers, Tractor #3.  We are planning to modify the  style of the second tractor a little and use that Salatin-style tractor for the broilers.  I like the features that Oak Meadows Farm had available for sale and the one we purchased from David is too wide to fit through many of our pasture gates (we did know this before we purchased it).  So rather than buying another available used one, we’ll build a new one similar to it.  We intend use Tractor #2 for turkeys toward the end of the season and build a second Farm Marketing Solutions tractor built for the layer poults before the turkeys arrive.

As for the rest of the homestead, the trees seem to be taking hold for the most part.  We’ve had some strong winds and heavy rains, and even a rare hail storm, but they appear to be holding their ground.  The soil temperatures aren’t quite at prime growing levels yet, but they’re getting close!  On a warmer day last week I poked the compost thermometer into the ground while I worked, and it was about 45*. The garden is starting to wake up and the thistles are poking through the wood chips.  It’s not too difficult to pull them out at this stage, and it’s critical that they be pulled up by the roots at this stage when it’s easy.  Later on it’ll be much more difficult!

Some great articles I read this week are below, I think they’re great resources to pass along.
Which Weeds Are Good For Your Livestock?
Set Up For Year Long Grazing Starts In The Spring – In Spite Of Mud Season
Tough Love For Rams (raising and treatment of rams)
Calving On The Move With Mob Grazing

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