After I published my last post, I got some emails and questions about the meaning behind them. Well, here is the explanation: we have sheep!
These four girls are Shetland sheep from a farm in Williamston, and are from 2 to 4 years old. Did you know that you can tell a sheeps age by the number of teeth they have? They get two each year, and it’s really easy to check that when you catch them and straddle them. With one hand, grab the “dock” below their chin, and with the other hand use your fingers to gently pry their lower lip down. When I went to check out these sheep Monday night, we caught each one and inspected them. Another thing we checked was their eyelids – white eyelids are a sign of anemia.
Shetlands are an old, unimproved, heritage breed of sheep. They are mostly bred in small operations for their wool, pelts, meat, and as pets. They are hardy little runts, needing very little in the way of extra feed and shelter. A Shetland lamb can be finished off for slaughter in the fall on pasture alone. The ewes are very good mothers, requiring almost no help for birthing and caring for their young. The four ewes we got are considered “milky,” which means that they are able to produce more than enough milk for their lambs. They also birth multiples as the norm. Our little flock should grow considerably with that figure.
Why did I choose to get these little girls? For one, they’ll do a lot of the mowing for me once I finish fencing in the pasture. (There’s about ten hours a week freed up for me in the summer!) Second, I’d like to learn how to spin my own yarn. These girls are small enough that it shouldn’t be too much work to shear them myself or with the help of a friend twice a year. Three of the four have decent wool for spinning, and the fourth’s wool is sufficient for things like rugs or lamb sweaters. We’ll be joined by a gorgeous little ram from grand champion stock in a few weeks, and after I breed him to the ewes in early December, I can expect even better wool from the next generation. I’ll probably line breed the generation after that (mate the same ram to the daughters) to improve it one more step.
My third reason for wanting sheep is the meat. I LOVE to eat lamb. It’s so flipping expensive in the store, which stinks because it has a much better flavor and consistency than beef. Since we don’t have a family of seven, we don’t exactly need an entire cow’s worth of meat every year, anyway. With the sheep, I could easily process and store all the meat our family will need in a couple sessions. Honestly, I can’t imagine what I would do with all the meat from an entire cow! Not only will the meat help us, but we can also sell extra ram lambs as freezer lambs in the fall. Whatever lambs go through the meat processing will also give us nice little pelts to tan and sell. All of the sheep farmers I have talked to in our area sell out of both freezer lambs and pelts every year, even with the recession going on the past few years.
Fourth… well, who wouldn’t want to look out the kitchen window and see this?
So, what do you think? I think they’re keepers.