Tis the time of year when the air gets breezy and crisp, the leaves begin to turn, and hormones get all a flutter; in sheep at least. I had been negligent in finding an appropriate ram for my ladies and as usual left it to the last minute, but also as usual, things have worked out really well. In the past, I have always stayed with a purebred dorset ram to maintain my purebred lines since I figured it was a benefit to have the option of selling registered breeding stock as well. I'm yet to use that option and right now, my organic lamb is worth more in a freezer than in a show ring, so I decided to branch out and look for a ram who would bring some helpful/valuable characteristics to my lambs. I've been considering the North Country Cheviot breed for some time, but have been wary of thier tendency to be a bit...er...wild. My little dorsets are so calm and easy going that I have no trouble in handling them, but I've seen how jumpy and crazy cheviots can be. I've also seen the meatyness of them and figure that they may bring a faster growing lamb to the flock. They're also a maternal breed, are hardy and make good use of pasture so if I choose to keep some females they may be a good addition to my flock.
ANYway, enough justifying! My mom shopped for a ram for me at the annual sheep sale in Truro back at the beginning of September, but apparently Quebec buyers were there in numbers and the prices were going high. Good for the farmers, not so good for me. So I began a desperate search. I really wanted to rent a ram rather than buying one, primarily because I would have to house him all winter and due to the fact that Lucy enjoys getting right in amongst the flock and I don't have great trust with rams, I'd have to keep him separate. I also wanted to try breeding something other than a dorset, but didn't know if I wanted to do it more than once, so didn't want the committment of potentially having him for more than one season. Renting a ram however, has its own share of problems due to never really knowing enough about an animal and what sort of history it has, what kind of problems it might bring, etc. Particularly in an organic system where I don't have the chemical tools usually used to treat things like ticks for example.
Anyway, long story short, a girl who bought a bunch of spring lambs with the intention of breeding them, figured she wouldn't need her ram until much later this fall and I wanted an early lambing, so in exchange for trimming his feet (or rather, Mark trimming his feet), I've got a big beautiful, 3 year old, North Country Cheviot ram in my flock these days. I checked his tattoo as we unloaded him and according to the Canadian Livestock records he was originally owned by the late, great Allison Stewart, a locally reknowned North Country and Suffolk breeder who just recently passed away. The ram has perfect North Country character in his face and is truly the picture of fine breeding lines, or at least I think so. Judge for yourself.
Notice he's the king of the hay mountain there. We don't trust him, but so far he's been too interested in the ladies to even notice us.
The green on his chest is the breeding marker we rigged up. We didn't have a marking harness, which is the most common way to mark the ewes who have been bred, but wondered if a little vegetable shortening and tattoo ink would do the trick and as you can see from the green bums of some of the ewes, it's working! As of today I think there are 10 green hind ends, and he's been here for only a week so far. I'm a happy shepherdess these days and look forward to seeing what kind of floppy eared little lambs show up in February!
In other news, we attended Open Farm Day once again and once again we're glad we did. We only made it to one spot this year as accomodating naps, kids and thier accompanying accessories is no small task, but we made it a good stop none the less. It was a breezy day so fittingly we went to Kool Breeze Farms in Summerside, who always make it all about the kids and each year they get more and more creative. There is the annual scarecrow contest and then out in the field there are big hay creations.
Although its a bit blurry I love this giant hay spider. I used Mark as the size comparison. haha.
This is a picture of Lucy checking out the scarecrow of "Boomer", the Island weather man, a celebrity of sorts.
Finally, we attended the afore mentioned Organic Harvest Meal last night and I'm still recovering today. What a spread! It was the first time that they did a sit-down meal versus a buffet and it was sooo good! I can't decide what my favorite part was, but somewhere between the organic beer, the savoury soup served in a pumpkin, the apple deliciousness and the keynote from What-Would-Ralph-Do-Martin I'm pretty sure I got drunk on amazing food and some good laughs. Worth every penny for sure! I didn't bring my big 'ole camera, but I'll include a picture of Wilson who looks like he is having as much fun as I did last night.
Hope all is well in your corner of the world!