Isn’t it time you thought about your sheep farm?
We were inspired to get sheep when our family was in England in 2000. Thinking that where we lived was so much like the countryside there, I came home and researched Shetland farms in Vermont. We chose Bryn Meadow Farm in Charlotte, right near where our family shares a vacation home because we knew the area and thought it’d be convenient to visit. We went on Mother’s Day that spring to pick up Annie & her twin boys David & Morris. We had to agree not to breed Annie as her days were done with birthing. We were so fortunate as to watch twins born on our visit that afternoon to another ewe and, well, the rest is history. A week later I called Bryn Meadow up asking if there were any ewe lambs for sale because we were already ready to increase the flock and that is when Maggie came to the farm.
Since then there have been many lambs, many learning opportunities, and no regrets. Though they have kept us hopping for one reason or another, we try to stay a step ahead of them. This is the first year we have owned a ram on the farm and in the past we hesitated to have one here because of the concern of proper fencing and housing for him. And of course, that concern has been realized more than once.
Still and all, they are fluffy pasture ornaments which produce wonderful wool -soft, fine, silky and durable for hand spinning or knitting. The Shetland wool is said to be able to be made into such a fine shawl that it could be drawn through a wedding ring. How romantic is that?!
We could say they are serene, but ours are horribly spoiled because we(actually, I ) have conditioned them to treats when they see us. So unless we disguise ourselves, they think we’re outside to feed them. Like everything, it is a learning experience.
Shetland sheep are a primitive breed. We wanted to raise them because they are small enough for us to manage, yet maintain their natural hardiness and so far, easy lambing. We find them mostly easy to care for and very friendly. Ours love to cuddle with us and that is important because they trust us and are more comfortable being handled for routine care.
Sadly, there have been losses. We remember Annie, or Helga as her registered name was, fondly. She was about 10 when she passed. And then this Autumn, we had to put the little ram lamb “Dobby” down. The vet thought that his spinal cord had been injured because he lost the use of his hind legs. We weren’t exactly sure as there could’ve been other reasons and I did confine him and try many ways to heal him. He declined steadily and then rapidly toward the end. We put him to rest in the apple orchard with our other beloved pets.
Annie’s boys, David and Morris, were delicious. They weren’t very kind to the other ewes and after a while, we made the decision to enjoy them as little white packages in the freezer. This way of the farmer is challenging to my resolve, but it made the most sense at the time.
At this time we have two ram lambs, Obaamaa and Iglesias, with mioget and grey fleeces and such pretty horns. Yogi and Gandalf, our two older wethers(what you call a castrated male sheep), didn’t have such great horns and so it didn’t make sense to raise them as rams. You don’t want to pass lesser traits along when breeding. This guy-group is by far the most congenial and would like for us to hang with them all day.
The ewe lamb group consists of Winky, Daisy & Buttercup. They are a mioget, moorit and light moorit fleeced trio and they have lungs. Lord knows why they are so vociferous; we’ve never had lambs that had so much to say. They are wooly cupie dolls, but tend to be shyer than the boys. They also have larger horns than the other ewes we have had. They are accomplished getaway artists since they are still small enough that they can slip underneath a gate if it has a certain clearance off of the ground. As they get older and larger, that won’t be a problem. And it actually wouldn’t matter at all, except that we don’t want them to end up breeding this year because they are only 6 months old. We like to wait until the second year to breed our ewes.
The breeding group is Balrog-the-ram, Lily, Maggie, Ruva, Pansy & Nikki. There is a pecking order, of course, but they seem to be a nicely settled clique. We’re hoping and praying for all ewe-lambs starting in March and through May of next year.
Time will tell.
- My Three Shetlands (knittingbeforeknittingwascool.wordpress.com)
- Day 99: my reluctant acceptance of sheep… What a difference a friend makes (bluerosegirl08.wordpress.com)
- Episode #37 – Upside Down (bowpeep.wordpress.com)