Saturday, December 29, 2007


All the best to readers of this blog for the coming new year. I hope you had a good time with friends and family over Christmas and as you can see by the pictures we had a white one. In fact its getting a bit too deep now as I am plowing tracks for the flock, wish I could send you some!

The picture of Mnt Ida is the view we have all the time on our ranch , but in winter it is often covered in cloud, so this is a rather good photo on a clear day. The other shots show just how much snow we have (about 20 inches) and with no wind it makes a Christmas card picture.

We were truly blessed this year as we had all our children home plus our son in law and grand daughter. We are now content, over fed and in need of some exercise so I guess its time for those silly new year resolutions!!

Commute with a view

This is the view from my kitchen and my route to "work" made very pretty by the steady snowfall over Christmas. The arch is made of lilacs and are a picture when in full bloom.


This is Freda our pet, so to speak, she always comes to see if we have a treat for her and so we always have a few alfalfa nuts in our pocket. When she comes to us, the rest soon follow so she makes an excellent "Judas" ewe and is bait for the rest of the flock . This makes moving and handling easy and is a lot less stressful for the sheep and me !!

Civil Sheep

Besides the arrival of silage there are two other focal points in our flocks day. One the mineral feeder,or as we call it the salt and pepper pot, the other is the log pile as its a good place for a rub and scratch. The pictures show how they arrive at the focal points and quietly wait there turn, there is no pushing ,shoving or line jumping. I can think of more than a few humans who could take some etiquette lessons from our sheep especially during the Christmas season !!

Monday, December 10, 2007

More River Bank

In the post before this one there was a picture of the river bank with a gap between the trees (scroll down). This will become a watering access point for livestock and will be 10 feet wide and fenced to allow stock to drink but not wallow in the river. The slope down the bank will be underlined with geo-grid and gravel to protect it from erosion. It will be put in soon so I hope to get a picture or two of it being installed so you can see what it looks like. We have already done one on our east bank and found it worked great with 90 head of cattle and NO erosion, its neat stuff.
The photos on this post show the bank with newly planted willow branches. These are cuttings cut from a live tree and placed in the ground, they will sprout in the Spring and grow new trees. The conifer trees are in place and will be cabled secure in the next week or so. The other two are cos I like life size Tonka toys!!

River Bank Restoration

This last two weeks have been very busy along our river bank, finally work is under way. The first week saw 30 plus loads of trees and 50 loads of rocks stock piled along the work areas awaiting the back hoe for placement. This last week the back hoe was busy setting rock at the base of the slope to slow up the current and stop erosion. Next trees are laid on the bank at an angle to catch debris and build up the bank so grasses and willows can establish. Willows and grasses are also planted at the top of the bank either side of the new fence, which protects the area from livestock. The trees will be secured with cable to the rocks so as not to float away at high water, this has yet to be done along with wire for the fence,but all in all a lot was done this week. Well done guys!!

Salt and Pepper

Sheep and cattle are no different than us, they like their condiments, so good stock men always ensure there is a salt and mineral mix available for their charges. Unlike us, it is not sprinkled on their feed or over the pasture but placed for easy access where the ewes can nibble or in most cases lick salt and a mineral vitamin mix much the same as folks take their take their once a day multi vitamin pill. Loose salt and minerals are better for sheep than the large lick blocks that are often seen in cows fields. The problem is to keeping the powder dry so it does not turn into a big hard lump. Well the hardware store had a special on those garbage bins with wheels that you can roll out to the kerb for pick up. With a sharp knife and a shorty piece of re-bar I turned one into a movable dry mineral feeder which the sheep are now using and enjoying as an addition to the silage and the fresh snow they use for water,(they are to lazy to walk to the river).With a bag of salt and a bag of minerals totaling $60 its a nice cost saving device as we now have no waste due to moisture.

New Barns

It has been a mad rush to get my latest barns up before the ground froze tight. As you can see they are normal open pole sheds, but when compared to the one they back on to it looks as if they have shrunk in the wash! They are in fact three and a half feet tall and just right for a ewe and her lambs to tuck in out of the rain. They are lambing sheds and when I have built some wooden panels as pen dividers we shall have a total of nine lambing "jugs" (pens) one per ewe and her lambs. The ewe with her new born lambs are placed in these pens for one or two days to ensure all is well and the lambs are suckling and getting enough milk before being turned out into the field and a life of fun and frolic with all the other new lambs. Over half the "jug" is in the open and just the back is covered to give the lamb a break from rain or wind. I copied the idea from the Aveley ranch where the ewes came from, there they have many of these little sheds as they lamb about 1200 ewes. Originally I hoped to lamb out the ewes on pasture but felt it best not to change the old girls habits. You may be able to train old dogs new tricks with patience but I'm not so sure about old ewes!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Feeding Baled Silage

Well as promised here is a post on how we are feeding our baled silage to the flock. We have spent the last week trying different methods and we will stick with the following for the moment. The pictures show me removing the wrap in the bale yard first of all, the string or netting in our case is removed in the field. The sheep move away from the tractor and stay clear until called to the feed. This is great as its real easy to squish one if they mob the bale and tractor while you are setting up. The bale is placed on its end, the webbing removed and then the bale is put on its round and rolled out. I then park the tractor to the side and call the ewes to the feed, as you can see they then run over and dig in!
We plan on a holiday later this winter so will hire some one to feed for us.So as to make it as easy as possible for them we will place out enough unwrapped bales in the field to last our holiday and have the helper cut off the wrap and netting as the sheep need it. Although we anticipate some waste it will be a small price to pay for a holiday and peace of mind knowing everyone is fed with the minimum of fuss and bother.
About a month or six weeks before lambing we will have to cut back the silage and add in some hay and barley for extra energy and less bulk as there is less room for a stomach full of forage with growing lambs in the way. This should coincide with shearing in early March if all goes according to plan.

Big Bertha

Some time ago I posted about our large pile of firewood and talked of the hard work ahead cutting and splitting it. Well its cooler and we have had "Big Bertha" running for several weeks now, its nice and cosy in the house, about 23c or about 75f I can also heat the workshop but as yet have been too busy outside to hide in there. As you can see I still haven't filled the wood shed, but I keep chipping away at the pile. The last week I have been milking the neighbours cows while he and his wife had a well earned break visiting family in Alberta. I often milk to give them a break but as much as I enjoy it I don't think I'd want a full time job milking. I find modern dairying much like pig and poultry production, more agri-industry than agriculture. Give me the Graziers pastoral lifestyle any and everyday !!

Friday, November 9, 2007

They are Baaaaack

Yes they are back, sheep that is, on our land and in our ranching operation. A very big thank you to the Moilliet's of Aveley ranch for selling some of there Corriedale ewes to us. We picked them up on 7th November and ( another thank you to Frank, the livestock hauler) brought them home. It's 10 years ago this week that we sold the last of our pure bred Columbia sheep from our ranch in Manitoba and switched to cattle. We have not given up on cattle yet, but will play a wait and see game as to purchasing calves for grazing next year. I have mentioned in an earlier article that for some time now there has been too much politics, emotion and plain old fashioned price gouging and market control by the big boys in the cattle industry. So in our mind it is time for a species change and sheep are a natural fit here, also they are still my favorite. If all goes well this year with our ovine experiment we will buy in more ewes each year and build up a flock to graze the whole ranch. As for now we will stay on this side of the river, in the laboratory so to speak.
We arrived early at the Moilliet's to find they had the ewes already caught up for us to inspect, so after a once over , we said yes to them all, and retired for coffee, cake and a chat about sheep, the industry ,and folks we both knew so as to catch up on news and gossip. Frank the hauler arrived on time so we headed to the barn to load. They are some of the quietest sheep I have had the pleasure of owning and loading went smoothly, as it was a tight fit we picked some of the smaller, lighter ewes up and placed them in the nose cone. Getting them out was fun as I slid them down a sheet of plywood, see photo. The flock traveled well and unloading went smoothly and all ewes arrived in good shape. We gave them access to the river for water and some hay , and kept them in the corrals over night so as to observe them in case of any problems.
The next day we let them out to graze were they met our 7 Dorset cross ewe lambs and Seamus and Tyrone our two Dorset rams.They all are getting along well,if you know what I mean , so we should have lambs next April. The whole flock follows easily as you can see by the pictures so it should be a snap next year when we move for rotational grazing. We are nearly out of grass now so I will start feeding the baled silage in the next few days, this will be a learning curve for me and the sheep so I will save that for the next article.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spreading fertility

We don't own a manure spreader here as we can't justify the cost. So the pile gets bigger and bigger as each year goes by.It was a beautiful compost ideal for selling to gardeners and would of made some nice "beer money", but the golden rule around here is never , ever, sell the farms fertility. So I hired a good neighbour to drive his spreader and spread it while I ran my loader tractor and did the loading.
We spread it on the poorest piece of pasture which is right next to the road. Normally this would quit literally raise a stink, but as I had turned the pile several times to make quality compost it was in fact odorless. This was no doubt a relief to the many commuters to and from town who like the country lifestyle but not its realities!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fall Colours

Just a few shots of our ranch and surrounding hills, fall is in full swing but sadly not many sunny days as it is a wet one this year. I made the most of it yesterday and went for a wander with my camera.
I was helping the neighbour load his calves the other day and was charged by a wild heifer. I was one side of a steel gate, she and one of my fingers were on the other!! The last joint of the third finger on my left hand was crushed between the steel gate and her head. So it was a quick trip to the hospital for a sewing job and in a few days a splint to help the bone grow strait. It was neat to watch the Doc sew it back up, that local freeze is great couldn't feel a thing. He had to cut off the finger nail so he could sew the finger on properly. What was really cool was he sewed the nail back on to protect the finger as it was a custom fit. Of course when the stitches are removed it will fall off, the nail not the finger!! The whole op took about 45 minutes and we had a good chat while he was working and he explained to me what he was doing while I watched. I've stitched up cattle, horses and sheep in my time, one horse we gave three quarters a bottle of whiskey to as we had no anaesthetic, so when it got groggy we all jumped on it and held it down while I stitched up some bad barbed wire cuts on its leg. No prises for where the other quarter bottle went to!! The Doc liked the idea and said we should try it but I think I prefer the freeze as it lasted for 14 hours. When it wore off at 1am I realised why torturers pull the fingernails of their victims, Damn it hurt. Its tough doing things now as it feels like I have a turnip on the end of my finger, the bandage is three times the size of my finger, it keeps bumping into ever thing and for some reason is darned tender.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Sheep ?

We already have a small flock of sheep, as they clean up around the corrals and any spot that won't make hay. I love lamb and so welcome a local supply, also those that have known me a while will recall we had sheep and goats back in the 90s, so nothing is new under the sun! Of course I talk funny so I must have sheep !!
We have 7 Dorset cross tegs (ewe lambs) and a yearling Dorset ram and will breed them starting on Guy Faulks night, the 5th November so we should have April Fool lambs, 1st April.
Its Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and we will be enjoying fresh Canadian leg of lamb for our dinner. Remember to give thanks, God bless all here. Till next time, the hungry Shepherd.

Recent events

We shipped the majority of our herd in early August, selling all the heavier cattle 750 lbs and up. The prices were still good compared to now, about 10 to 15 cents/lb higher than present. We used the remainder of the cattle to clean areas up which would be tricky to make hay or silage of, and then shipped them in the second week of September, for similar prices as the earlier bunch. We then decided to make hay or silage on all available ground with enough worth cutting. It has been a wet fall here so we held off cutting till the end of third week in September. It was still dull and damp so we decided to make "haylage", this is large round bales of grass/alfalfa that is too wet for hay but has been left several days to wilt. Once wrapped and tied the bale moves to the back of the baler where it is wrapped twice in plastic, much like saran wrap, so is air tight, and thus pickles like silage.
Although this was our 4th or 5th cut as some fields had been grazed 3 or 4 times, our yield was great and we now have 131 bales safely stacked in the barn, or about 100,000 lbs of feed. The same gentleman that did the baling also hauled and stacked the bales as they require a special attachment to the loader that does not puncture the plastic. I can feed them with my own tractor as at that point breaking the seal will be done anyway.
As to what we will do with all this feed. research and several Wotbs(for you Ranching for profit guys and gals) will be done. It may be used for next spring to feed incoming cattle before the grass is ready, or to feed a flock of sheep or goats as planning dictates. In Canada we only produce half the lamb and goat that is consumed so there is room for expansion with out the treat of politics and dollar fluctuations that has messed up the cattle industry these past few years. Time will tell, I'll keep you posted.