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.