Monday, May 16, 2011

Lambgen 2011

This weekend we set up for the sheep shearing marathon (which I dub "Lambgen") that will take place later this week.  This is a huge endeavor which takes a lot of well timed movement of several hundred sheep and the forethought to make sure there is enough grass for all of them to eat for several days (among many other considerations and plans). Sheep generally need to be shorn every year before it gets too hot around the foothills. The quality fleeces can either be sold to a commodity broker, or as we will do this year with the best fleeces, sent to a wool mill to be scoured, carded and spun into yarn.  We will have local yarn to sell at the farmer's markets for you knitters!

On Saturday we moved the ingenious mobile sorting corrals and chute Dan has created. They are made with thoughtfulness of the animals natural movements and with the intention of creating the least amount of stress on the sheep and shepherd during sorting.  We set them up next to the small barn where the shearing will be done and got to work sorting sheep.

The Lambgen chute

Sheep on the move

The border collies help a lot

Sheep waiting to sort
Most of the sheep will be shorn by a professional shearer later this week (Matt and I will go out to help on Wednesday, please stay dry weather!).  But Dan needs to get a head start to get some sheep back out on a grazing contract so he decided to shear 30 himself on Sunday.  To pick which 30, we sent all the ewes with lambs through the sorting corrals once.  We sprayed a mark on any lamb that was large enough to wean from its mother, checked the number on its eartag and circled it on our spreadsheet. This took several hours.

The sorting trenches
Once the first round was done and we had marked 30 lambs, we crossed referenced the lamb number to the mother's number, then sent all the sheep through the sorting corral once more, separating the chosen lambs and mothers from the others based on eartag numbers.  The chosen sheep went into a barn to keep them dry and clean for shearing the next day.  The unchosen went back into the pasture for the time being.  By the time all this was done it was late in the day, I was covered in dust, a little sunburned and so exhausted.

Everyone worked hard
No time for rest however, Matt and I had one more ballet to attend that night. It's one of my favorite shows (we have seen it the last 2 years) called Modern Masters.  It is generally very un-traditional works and music by award winning choreographers. The choreographers and dances are different each year.  It was at a local high school this time, so we were much closer to the stage and dancers, we could hear them breathing hard and see them sweating!  It was just wonderful and they have shows in Davis and Folsom in the coming weeks if you are able to attend; it is highly recommended.

I have a couple busy weeks coming up, but it is all good stuff that I will share here..on the agenda this week, beginning farming class on Tuesday and Thursday nights and helping with the shearing on Wednesday.
Stay tuned!

Spring bounty from the foothills

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