Thursday, April 30, 2009

The First Green Grass

One day it rains; the next day is sunny. Then it rains again. Sometimes it rains two days in a row. But it doesn't stay sunny two days in a row. No...that would be just too pleasant for a Minnesota April.
I'm grateful the shearing happened when it did. There really haven't been good opportunities since then. It also let me get a good look at the condition of the flock. This is the first year I am genuinely pleased with every one's condition. The lactating ewes are not even thin. They look great. And the unbred ewe lambs, such as Lyneth, are absolutely svelte. I will be honest: it took excellent 2nd cutting alfalfa, whole corn/oats, and molasses during the last 2 months to get to this point. I also fed premium alfalfa during breeding season, and good grass/alfalfa mix hay during the winter. Add to this a high quality custom mineral and extra Sel-Plex (chelated selenium yeast). Finally, the flock is in good health and has no observable mineral deficiencies. It seems like I have to feed so much more than other shepherds to get the same results. But I've seen my flock suffering from nutritional problems...if this is what it takes to raise Shetlands here, than so be it. I will just be happy I found solutions to my problems.
While the grass is just coming in, I am letting the ewe/lamb flock out of the barn pen so they can wander far and wide. Of course, they absolutely love this and they cover every inch of the farm several times each afternoon. They are getting a lot of exercise and they seem so mentally content. I think having access to this "natural environment" helps the dams convey good skills to the lambs. After a few hours of following their dams and imitating their behaviors, the babies find a sunny spot and rest while the ewes continue to eat. The oldest lambs are already chewing their cud. The youngest usually fall asleep.
Here is a photo of one of the oldest twins: Vianne. Her fleece and conformation continue to impress me as she grows. Her full sisters from last year (Lyneth & Nhu) look fantastic as yearlings so I have great hopes for Vianne and her twin Niav.

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