Tuesday, September 25, 2007
This little gal is my Spring '07 keeper lamb. Her name is Rai Min. If she develops into the type of ewe I want in my flock, next year I will register her as Boston Lake Rai Min. Even though she is a chunk of a lamb (almost as big as her yearling half-sisters) Rai Min will not be joining a breeding pen this fall. She and her dam will take the season off together in their own pen, and then they will join the ewe flock after the rams are pulled out. My reasons for not breeding ewe lambs here at Boston Lake Farm are based on our resources and my gut feeling. I really want to see that second fleece coming in before I decide whether or not to retain a ewe for breeding. Our weather is harsh and our soil is poor in mineral content. My lambs develop at a slower pace than lambs at other farms I've visited. A full year and a half of growth before the first pregnancy gives me a chance to evaluate a sheep for size, final conformation, fleece, temperament, and thriftiness under my conditions. Since my farm is only three years old, my breeding ewes are still the foundation ewes I bought from other farms. Boston Lake's first registered lambs (Sian and Delyth) will be bred this fall. My dream is to one day have the flock name, Boston Lake, represent a Shetland sheep that fits my ideal as well as thrives on my farm land with minimum input. I don't expect that to happen over night, but I do dream about it almost every night. Rai Min is quite a bit bigger than her twin brother, Tormey. He had some setbacks as a young lamb. First he contracted Lyme's Disease which kept him from eating until he felt better. Then I pulled him off his dam a little early to keep his sire company while Kavan's broken horn healed. Then he contracted a non-contagious form of pneumonia. Since he was in a large outdoor pen at the time, we think it was from inhaling something (manual) or maybe just from all the stress in his life. Kavan was pretty good with him, but the little guy certainly did get the short end of the stick in his daily life. His pathetic little situation came to a head the day I put him and Kavan out on grass near the other two rams. To prove his masculinity to the rams across the way, Kavan ran poor Tormey ragged and mounted him several times. Quite literally, Tormey was flattened by the weight of the larger ram. He was pulled from the situation immediately and could hardly walk. Back in his own pen, he got special attention and recovered in a few days. However, the trauma of that event with Tormey cemented my decision to not breed ewe lambs. I know if ewe lambs are big and strong enough they can do it. And if they get extra feed during their pregnancy they can do it. But even though I'm very pleased with Rai Min's growth for the summer-I don't think she is ready for an adult ram. I don't have a ramling to pair her with. I'm not really sure of how soft her second fleece will be. And I do not have space and facilities to feed her separately all winter long. Slow practices, such as not breeding ewe lambs actually make a lot of sense for a small farm like mine. At least for a small farm with my goals. It reduces the number of lambs I have each spring, which in turn reduces the amount of lambing space I have to prepare for. I only need extra pens for that short time span of breeding season. Otherwise, there is one ewe pen and one ram pen. Going slowly also reduces the number of lambs I have to make decisions about every year. I haven't developed a market for my lambs yet. So far I've been able to keep the best and eat the ones that don't match my standards. My Shetlands don't bring in much money this way, but they do contribute greatly as homestead livestock. They are my beautiful pets, my interesting genetic project, my wool providers, my lawn mowers, and one of my meat supplies. Quite a contribution for a non-income-generating venture. Rai Min will have her first chance to contribute to my flock goals next fall. She has awesome conformation and a tiny tail. Her ear set and her bite are excellent. She carries moorit recessive. And even though I was not wild about her birth coat, she is softer than I expected last time I had a chance to pet her. She was also quite crimpy, which was a pleasant surprise as well. If Rai Min can produce a lamb with her good conformation and growth ability, as well as a softer fleece than her own, she will probably replace her dam in the flock. That is my hope for her.