Our lambs are now between 11 and 13 weeks old and it’s time to wean them. The mamas have done a fantastic job of caring for their babies and it’s time for their bodies to stop putting so much energy into making milk and reroute that energy into getting back into good shape before we breed again in 3 months.
Once the babies are 8 weeks old their rumen (the part of their stomach that does all the work of digesting the grass) is fully developed and able to support them if they are weaned at that time. Once they begin to nibble on grasses, their stomachs begin to learn to process forage as well as milk, but they’re simply not ready to survive on forage alone. Mamas milk is required for life in the earliest weeks. As the digestive system begins to mature and adjust to the increasing amounts of grasses that the lambs eat, they begin to derive benefit from both the milk and the grass. We like to leave our lambs with their mamas for as long as we can.
We are weaning at this stage this year because the majority of our lambs are ewes and most of the mamas had triplets with two ewes and one ram. If we left the babies with the mamas, they would naturally wean the babies on their own. We are just stepping in this time to make sure that those mamas can get the most “bounce back” time before breeding again. And the other reason we’re weaning now is that once the lambs are 4 months old, the boys are *capable* of breeding the ewes. It’s not common, but it is possible. In years when we have more boys than girls we will wean just before 4 months of age and leave the girls in with their mamas to be weaned naturally. This year we opted to wean all the lambs together and put the girls back in with their mamas once their milk is dried up, leaving the boys to move together as one group and the ewes (mamas and lambs) to move together as a group.
Once everyone is separated and settled in, things quiet down and are peaceful once again.
Years ago we learned that Native Americans used pumpkin to cure kidney infections and rid the body of worms, and the leaves of the pumpkins may be crushed and rubbed on as a fly repellent. Not only this but pumpkins are safe for livestock to eat. So we contacted some friends who had a pumpkin patch and asked if after the pumpkin patch season was over if we could buy some of their left overs. They were thrilled to have someone help clean up the unwanted pumpkins and when we returned home with pickup truck loads of pumpkin we were delighted to find that the flock was equally delighted to have fresh pumpkin! That winter we made sure they had a steady supply of pumpkins in their feed area. With each new pumpkin they made games of rolling it around and breaking it open.
But, fresh pumpkin is a seasonal thing. And what is actually helping with parasite management in the digestive tract is a compound found in the pumpkin seed called cucurbitin. Cucurbitin affects parasites by paralyzing them so they can no longer attach to the body and they are expelled from the digestive tract naturally. Continue reading
An old idea in our home is the concept of leaving the grazing animals in their paddock long enough to “force them to eat it all” before moving on. This is one concept that came from the big ranches up north where my husband spent his early 20’s working as a ranch hand. Before going overseas, and when we had more cows than we do now, when I was busy with the children and not as involved in the livestock side of things as I am now, this was a statement that was often heard.
However, we’ve restructured our small farm and I’m the primary “farmer” while the hubby works long days with an intense commute! Even before I became the sole farmer in the family, we had moved away from the “make them eat it all” concept.
As you can see, they have left a nice amount of foliage behind and this is okay! We are building soil and harvesting the grass via our grazing livestock who recycle the grass back into the soil. Our perspective has changed over the years and we are excited to see how our land and our animals will respond to our evolving concepts.
The same concepts at work with the poultry, though in this location the grass is so tall that the birds simply cannot graze it. Their tractors sailing through this sea of reeds is pressing the grass down and compacting it with the top dressing of manure.
They are almost at the grassy nole where the juvenile hens will be able to explore outside of their tractor for the first time. The water trough for the cows are just across the fence from this little nole and the older hens will do their work with the manure left in the alley way. While they reside on this little nole they will add their manure to the straw strewn about as a cover over the sparse grass that is growing in the sandy soil here. This will not be their permanent home for the grazing season, just for a little while as they help build some soil in this location and move on to another spot.
Boy, spring gets busy! This is our regular weekly update but it spans two weeks. In the past two weeks we’ve planted the garden, moved the greenhouse from the house down to the garden (with a nice foundation and a crushed gravel floor!), the cows have come down from their winter pasture and we’ve added a new cow and a bull to the small herd, and we got the big yards mowed (for our area and this wet spring, this is a big deal!). I hope to write brief updates on each of the flocks/herds below but I also have one or two other entries planned. Let’s see if I can pull all of this off!
Last Monday the Broilers moved outside at 4 weeks old. I’m grateful for the delay in posting because it causes me to LOOK at how they’ve grown in the past 8 days – quite a bit!
The video was taken the day they moved out of the brooding house and into their tractor.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chXw49_LpJU Continue reading
Maybe you’ve seen some of those photos or videos of a pasture after a group of heavy grazers has moved through and maybe you, like me, cringe a little. This update discusses the apparent “devastation” from heavy grazing & manure deposits followed by day ranging poultry – and a bit of reassurance that it’s really okay. Everything recovers!
When grazing animals on spring grass it is not uncommon for their manure to get quite runny. This digestive upset can’t feel very good. Some time ago it was recommended to me to add apple cider vinegar to the water when moving them to fresh grass in an effort to help reduce any digestive upset and the super watery manure. I did notice positive results with the cattle two years ago and because of that I have added ACV to the water tubs whenever I change their feed.
When rotating the animals through their grazing paddocks, it’s critical to remember the “take half, leave half” principle. Graze no more than half of the foliage leaf length and move on. This helps the grass and other forage plants to continue their growth and rebound from the grazing period faster. To take more than half of the plant seriously damages the plant at the root level, so “take half, leave half” every time.
The kelp we’ve been offering free choice to the flock has been very well received. We are using Throvin Kelp.
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!
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. Continue reading
Lambing has begun here at Tikkun Homestead. Now we know why these two mamas have been looking SO ready to lamb for so long now – triplets! The first two girls to lamb each had triplets – two girls and one boy each. Baruch Hashem they had healthy and easy deliveries with healthy babies.
Our first set of lambs are from an ewe who has a history of being a poor mom. This year was to be her final shot. In the past she has twinned and brutally rejected one twin, each year. We’ve been watching her closely so we would be ready to rescue the one she would reject, and it was apparent that she was having multiples by her size. When we looked out the window at dawn on Sunday we saw that she had two lambs and she was at peace with them, this was such a change! By the time we got to her we were able to see that there were three babies, and she was tending to each of them quite well. What a blessing to have her become such a good mother all of the sudden!
The next ewe to lamb also had triplets and she’s known for being a very good mama. In fact, she often tends to the first ewe’s babies as well as her own. They are penned next to one another and even so, the first ewe is still being an excellent mother. We are so grateful!
We were able to get the ewes out into the back yard for their first nibble of fresh grass while we tended to a first time mama and her babies – she had triplets but I didn’t get to her in time and with all of the newness, she didn’t get the sack off of the nose of the last one before he suffocated. She was tending so well to the other two and to him, but cleaning his rear end instead of his face. Poor little guy. So she’ll raise twin ram lambs, and I’m okay with that for a first time mama. It is a reminder for me to be more diligent in my checks, particularly with first time mamas! For now she’s penned up with her boys and getting used to the idea of motherhood.
I’ve been told I should video-blog, and I’m strongly considering it since I don’t have as much time as I once did when I wrote more. So I’m going to give it a shot.
Besides, it’s more fun to SEE what’s going on than just hear about it. Right? 😉
For now, I’m going to play with how to upload a video and share it here while I’m uploading my video from last week.