Tuesday, February 19, 2008

D-Day P-Day

It was decision day today because it was P day, meaning pregnancy checking for the ewes. Although we had a large flock years ago we did not have the technology available to scan with ultra sound and so would always have a few ewes coming through empty. This is an extra expense on the feed bill and can hurt in a year when feed is short. Today with the aid of our local Veterinarian Doctor Jay we could sort the keepers and the culls very quickly saving two months worth of feed for those unworthy ewes.

As I had mentioned in an earlier post these are all old girls so we knew we would have some empties, the worry was how many. Well I am pleased to say that we had an 84% conception rate. Now before you shepherds laugh at such a low rate ( its hard for me as our old flock regularly did 98-100%) remember some of these girls are 10 -13 years old!!

Jay was rigged up like he was going to play one of those action computer games, the eye piece allows him to see what is on the monitor in the back ground. They are blue tooth and so completely wireless, which is great, as it's one less thing to trip over. The whole unit sits in a back pack behind him and is connected to the white wand in his hand. This he runs over the belly of the ewe and the eye piece and screen show if she has lambs or is empty. I stood behind the ewes to keep them steady, it only takes a matter of seconds for each one. This is a great management tool and helps flock margins as the cost per ewe is small compared to the savings gained.

We had a three way sort today, empties to be shipped, bred and in good shape (they went back to the field) and bred and in need of extra feed which were kept in and will be fed a higher level of feed to put them in better condition before lambing.

As for the empties they will have to be shipped and will be coming in a weiner near you!! Two are young ,one 3 or 4 years old and the other a ewe lamb ,a yearling. The yearling will be butchered as a lamb and feed us over summer and the other one will make good patties for the Barbecue. Who says revenge is best served cold, I like mine hot with mint sauce.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Ok I took this while in Tikkal ,Guatemala. Can you remember which Star Wars movie it was used in. Drop me an answer in the comments and I will give you a day or two to think about it

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Its back

After much frustration and a chat with one of the younger generation , who sorted me, and my problem out, I can now offer the comments box back at the bottom of each post. I encourage them both positive and negative as all are worthy of print but I can now filter out unwanted adverts and spam stuff which are both annoying and uncalled for. So if you have any thoughts feel free to say your peace.
On a different matter we have had a beutiful sunny day here and the snow is starting to melt, it feels like it has more strengh now so Spring can't be far away. In hope, till next time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Very sorry

Dear readers it is with regret I have shut the comments box after finding links put on there to other sites advertising products that I certainly do not endorse. I tried to leave the comments section available to all so as to recieve feed back and to improve the site. As with many things in life a few bad apples spoil it for everyone. I will continue to blog and hope you will still visit from time to time. If you know my email then drop a line, other wise watch out for more updates of our ranch and happenings.
At present it is raining on top of 3ft of snow so my sheep may well look like the picture of the New Zealand navy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Down by the seaside

The last three days we spent on the offshore island of Caye Caulker, a one hour water taxi ride north east of Belize City. The weather was great, sun hot, beer cold, water warm, and some of the best snorkeling in the world. We had two boat trips out to the edge of the reef to snorkel. The reef is supposed to be the second biggest reef in the world next to Australias barrier reef. We puchased a disposable underwater camera, and managed a few good shots, though its tough to look through a diving mask and a camera view finder and still see what is in the picture. I will have to go back next year and practice.
The sharks were just nurse sharks but their outline in the water still gets the heart pumping. There were many colourful fish and beutiful coral gardens.The high light for me though was swimming with some 50 or 60 Southern stingrays some as much as 4ft across. Sadly we had run out of film in our underwater camera but my wife stayed on board and captured me with the rays,they are the dark objects in the water. They were so graceful to watch and at times when the water was full of them they never once touched me but would let me touch them when I reached out. We had a truly wonderful holiday in Belize and are already talking about when we go next year!!


Besides farm animals we saw many animals and birds plus reptiles either in the wild or on our visit to the zoo. The zoo is rather special as all the animals are rescued, either from abandonment in the wild, traffic acidents, or confiscated from poachers intent on selling them as pets for off shore destinations. The animals live in enclosures within the jungle and have lots of room,as they are used to people they are easy to see and photograph. I learned jaguars come spotted and jet black as both were there,they were beutiful, and feet the size of dinner plates! The other critter that caught my attention was the Tapier or "mountain cow" , with its neat extendable noes and 3 toed feet. The tapier is the national animal of Belize and I'd love to have one in the back yard, kind of a pig cross cow, yet very friendly. Yes, I ignored the sign and leaned over to rub its nose and scratch its back, it knew I was a stockman. The Harpy eagle was a magnificent bird, 4ft tall with a 6ft wing span, and is becoming rare in Central America. Belize though with its many natural areas has become a safe haven for the birds and some are now being moved back to other countries to bolster their numbers.There is no shortage of crocodiles or iguanas with all the swamps and abundant rainfall. On walks by the river we saw many iguanas some reaching 5 to 6ft long, when scared they just fall from the tree into the river with an loud undignified bellyflop!

Mmm Oranges

This is the truck I mentioned being loaded. When I stepped out to take the picture the guys all stopped to watch me glad of a break, so I told them to look busy for the photograph. Thankfuly they laughed and all obliged.

Belizian Crops

In the San Ignacio area we were able to drive by many different crops. Thanks to Gonzo our giude he showed us around and explained to us the fields farms and seasons.Oranges,limes,lemons,grapefruit,bananas,coconut,mangoes,papiya,pineapple also field crops of beans and futher south rice. Rice was the only crop not grown in the area as it was not wet enough and it is grown in the south were they receive double the rain fall. Orange harvest was in full swing while we were there and we watched them load a truck , one of many as this particular orchard was over 4000 acres. It was owned by a gentlman from Kentucky, and I wondered how many more people would be employed if the machinary was scrapped and the land owned in 10 acre parcels and farmed by owner operators.
Futher down the road and in a more hilly area with thinner soil we ran into Amish farmers, they mix farm and graze animals, and are self sufficient. Their gardens were very impresive, large weed free with every fruit and vegetable under the sun, as a keen gardener I was quiet envious. To the east of San Ignacio on the highway there is the Central Farm agoverment reserch station with many of the above mentioned crops. Here they test new hybrids and disease resistant varieties, also they have a large herd of cattle and lots of pasture. When we visit next year I will try and fit in a visit there as my head is now full of unanswered questions !!

Technical hitch

Well the truth will out. Yes I failed English and can not spell. For some reason the spell checker is not working when I post, so I apologise and will try to do my best. Chuchill and Shakespere were poor spellers and it didnt seem to hurt them too badly.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Guatemalan Grazing

With 14 million people compared to Belizes 300,000 Guatemala is big on food production and the small part of the country we saw around Tikkal and Flores seemed to be undulating and lending its self more to ranching than farming. Plenty of cattle were visable on our travels, all Bramahs idealy suited to the climate. There was evidense of rotational grazing and areas of set aside for dry season grazing. Paddocks though were large and not cross fenced so MIG or managment intensive grazing is not practiced yet, though with thier abundant growth and rainfall I imagine it would work well. Hair sheep were also seen, a flock of around 400 at one spot though they were difficult to photograph from a moving car. Talking to one of the hotel managers and showing him photos of our ranch he was fasinated by the portable electric fence. His name was Abraham and he was raised on a farm and was most shocked that it was me doing all the work on my farm and not the hired man. Belizian wages are $1.50 an hour, here they are a lot more, hence I do the work. This seemed to mean a lot to him and from that point on we were treated with a new respect, which included a large pot of tea perfectly brewed every morning for breakfast.

The Best Holiday Ever

The best holiday ever, of course it was the first my wife and I had taken in 28 years, but it was great!! Belize and Guatemala for two weeks, no snow to shovel, no critters to feed, and the only thing you have to put on to go ouside is sun screen !! Of course I took lots of pictures and wrote a journal, mainly so I could remember every thing and keep my thoughts and observations. I will not bore you with all we did, but I will show you some of the farmimg I saw and some of the more interesting sights.
We used public buses in Belize, a very cheap and reliable means of transport, also a great way to see the real people and country. They are all old school buses and there is no capacity limit, I have seen all seats full and 35 people standing in the isle !! A sure fire way to get to meet people. The bottom picture is the San Ignacio to Belmopan bus, we caught the 9.00am bus as it was less crowded than the 8.00am one. The top picture shows why we used private cab minivans in Guatemala instead of the local taxis one of which is seen here fueling up and getting some much needed air in the rear tires.