Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Today we finished our notebook calendar to Scott.  We wrote in a page a day for the time we’re gone, with a couple of guest writers (alright, alright, all Excursioneers).  Tidbits about how much we’ll miss him, where we suspect we’ll be along the trail on a given day, how many days ’til we see him again.  Some love notes.  Some chit chat.  You know, stuff like that.

We posted up the Farm Chore list in a few places for all of the wonderful folks who will be running the place so that we can be away.  We walked through everything with them all this past week, including how to properly use the new milk machine.  Yes, I said it: The new milk machine!

A lovely friend had a crusty, dirty, worn out little machine that she knew little about other than it being a supposed milk machine.  She offered it to us with the warning that it may be worthless and broken.  I did a bit of Googling and YouTubing, and was able to figure out the model of Hoegger Milking System, and how to take the entire thing apart for maintenance and repair.  I spent a few solid hours cleaning it up, hoping that it’d be fruitful in the end.  I got online and ordered $150 in parts that I knew it needed, gambling it would be a good investment.  And then we waited.

It felt like forever.

putting it all back together

Then the package arrived!  We went to work on it again, and got a final thumbs up from our friend who looked it over a bit with me, whose Dad is a machinist – and flipped the switch.  It fired right up and pulsated like a champ at the perfect pressure!  The girls didn’t even flinch when we tried it out on them that evening.  They really have settled into being the loveliest homestead milkers.

Not only was this roughed up little machine a milker, but was the perfect one for us.  It was a model designed for one to two goats (the company sells sheep adapters), but powerful enough to run a small dairy.  And it’s made right here in the U.S.A.  We never would have purchased one new – being content with hand milking (in fact, we can do it as fast as the milk machine if it’s doing one at a time), and knowing good ones like this one were much more than we wanted to pay for the convenience.  But what a gift (and a lot of elbow grease!  I felt like a rockstar fixing it.).  This will be perfect for Scott.  I knew it’d just be way dreamy for him.  But I was afraid it’d be a dud so left it a surprise.  He’s used it a couple of times now, gearing up for being the primary milker here on the farm for most of the time we’re gone – and has said what a breeze it’ll be now compared to the especially harder task morning and evening he was anticipating (and never did complain of!).  This should shave off an hour time off of his day.  And keeps it all the more easy for friends who will cover for him while he’s traveling to/with us, and as we may need a helper now and then in the future.

clickity clack! there she goes!

So here we are, wrapping things up, knowing the farm has been very tidied up for our leave.  All laundry is washed.  Rooms are clean.  RV is packed.  Just like that: It’s time.  Off we go!

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birth day

birth day

Early this spring some dear friends just a couple miles down the road had to rehome their Great Pyrenees LGD’s, and so we added to our canine clan.  Bosco & Marley have made a wonderful addition, and have recently given us a litter of perfect little puppies a month ago.  They have remarkable instinct and are amazing with humans (Flynn could pull their tail or tackle them to his hearts content and they’d just gently nudge him sweetly), and even better with protecting their farm.  So much, that one from their last litter that went to a thousand-plus acre farm in Eastern Washington killed 22 coyotes in a single year protecting his flock of sheep.  Bosco has his share of stories with wild critters.  They’re more personable – and yet impressively protective – than any LGD we’ve had before.



We’ve never raised puppies, and so their other family (their original home) has been walking us through it step by step.  It’s surprising how different the whole process has been versus livestock.

Brandy birthed excellently, surprising us one morning with wee pups.  The babies took to her right away, needing no assistance.  Now, 4 weeks in, their eyes are open and they’re little playful balls of soft squishy!  More than half of them already have farm homes lined up.  I’m excited to watch them work with their new families and critters.

We have a hawk eyeing our chickens these days that I suspect won’t be around much longer…

3 weeks old and cute as buttons

3 weeks old and cute as buttons

More photo’s and information can be found here.

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In the Pacific Northwest, we get a lot of wet. Yeah, you all know about how rainy it is – and how dark and dismal. I’m not going to explain how goofy that stereotype is here, but do want to talk about our damp soils & pastures during several months of the year. With wet pastures and semi-warm weather come all kinds of parasites, specifically worms. Worms wreak havoc on farm animals, specifically sheep for this post.  Anything that eats off of the ground, really.  It’s a good reason to have an upright feeder for your livestock. We just recently upcycled one from a cute wooden crib.

pre-roof upcycled feeder

pre-roof upcycled feeder

How else do we deal with worms and other parasites? Well, we rotationally graze, for one. This way there is less likely to be a heavy parasite load in a concentrated space. Rotational grazing allows nature to keep their numbers at a reasonable growth rate. It gives our animals an opportunity at fresh pastures regularly.  And, when we’re on our game and moving our chickens around with them, provides the fowl with clean up duty – and added protein!

And, most importantly, we use dewormers. In the past, we have used injectable (and paste) chemical dewormers twice a year, or as necessary.  For over a year now, we’ve been mixing our own herbal dewormer, and have limited chemical dewormer significantly.

When we first started with herbal dewormers on the sheep in January of 2015, we didn’t do it right. Our sheep had just had their lambs, and we were happily milking away. The only problem? The milk tasted off. Just a weird background flavor no one seemed to mind too much but me. And I minded a lot. I wanted sheep milk to sing in my mouth. After a bit of sleuthing – and a knock of common sense – I realized it was the herbal dewormer. The girls were getting it in their treat box during milking each day – and it was affecting the flavor of the milk. The day we stopped is the day the music (in the mouth) began. And so now we are more careful about which seasons we use which herbs in.

I’ll start with the typical ingredients we use: mustard seed, thyme, pumpkin seeds, wormwood, garlic, Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.), meadowsweet, black walnut, sometimes sage… It’s a similar compilation of the famous “Molly’s Dewormer” (Formula #1), with tweaks that we wanted for our own homestead specifically. While our animals are pregnant, we avoid the use of the Black Walnut Hull & Meadowsweet.  While milking, we limit garlic (and add it fresh to their water instead, diluting and reducing any potential milk-flavoring).

The chickens get it in their kitchen scrap pail daily for a week of each month. The sheep, however, get it three days a month. They’re not as fond of the flavor, and so we make ‘candy’ for them. Here’s how:

  • 3/4 cup dried herbal mix
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup slippery elm bark powder

loosely rolled balls rolling around in slippery elm bark

We mix the molasses and dried herbs together, then form approximately 15 balls. It’s going to be messy, folks. The kids dig it. Then roll them in the slippery elm bark. Voila! One ball a day per sheep is just about the right dosage (2 tsp for full grown sheep). We make smaller ones for younger sheep, etc… This makes it easy and delicious for our critters to eat up.


Our final 1-inch-ish snuggly rolled herbal dewormer “candy”

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Why Sheep?



Over a decade ago, we bought the first two dairy Jersey cows that made it to our old farm from a commercial dairy, excellent candidates for homestead milkers.  Later a few more joined the herd in a cooperative dairy, owned and managed by several dozen families, operated by my folks.  We were primarily a pseudo (unpaid) marketer, a financial investor, and consumers.  We did assist on some veterinary services provided by our favorite vet (Jack), as well as milked Quince (jersey family cow) after the cow dairy ceased.  Cow milk was the best.

Over the years that followed, several events changed the course of my folks’ dairy.  When an opportunity presented itself, they bought a herd of dairy goats from a creamery in Battle Ground that was going out of business (thanks to the widening and imminent domain takings for highway 502).

The cows phased out, and goats reined triumphant.  Their darling floppy ears and two-teated udders were so attractive.  The fact that they consumed a fraction of what a cow does, produces milk that is more digestible to infants (and adults, if we’re being honest), and do not create the mud pit in the winter that cows do, it sounded like a dream.

In the springtime, I excitedly assisted births.  Growing up, I always wanted to be a midwife.  But liability kept me focusing on other great adventures revolving around birthing and beyond.  The experience I gained helping Mama goats birth was invaluable.

But they ruled the land.  Before I knew what happened, they lived my life – eating my food (garden), and leisured at my home (backyard, decks, etc).  They were loud.  They attracted flies.  Armies of them.  In every nook of our home.  We couldn’t breathe.  The boys smelled putrid.  Goats were everywhere.  They were taking over.

Despite setting some boundaries and putting up fences, there was still fresh goat manure surprises daily.  I don’t miss that.  I also don’t miss not being able to plant beautiful and edible landscaping in and around my house and yards unafraid.  Or to garden and grow our own food again – now with the only risk being an act of nature, or my own error.

In 2012, my oldest youngest (ha!) sister started a small flock of 3 dairy sheep, expanding in numbers over time, hoping to provide milk to my folks’ creamery as her own agriculture entrepreneur development and investment into the future.  It was fun having them around.  They felt so much more… green.  I see rolling pastures of vibrant grass.  I hear a New Zealand accent.  Ha!  They were fluffy.  The ram was definitely naughty, and the girls were particularly skiddish… AND their teats were shorter (than goats/cows, tho’ similar to Nigerian Dwarfs’).  But they smelled fabulous, like lanolin.  They were great to watch.  Their milk was incredibly thick and scrumptious, not “goaty” or gamey at all.  They almost met my cow milk fix.  They far exceeded it in creaminess.

When we moved onto our new farm last Spring, we talked about getting a cow, but struggled with the commitment to the time, management, and land abuse a cow could incur.  We didn’t want goats.  So it was obvious what to do.  We missed good milk.

Our main purpose to reincorporate sheep now was to have fresh milk again in the best homestead kind of way possible for our family. As much as we’d want a Jersey cow, the sheep made sense (vs. goats as well) for a LOT more reasons:

  1. sheep milk has smaller fat molecules making it more digestible for humans/babies, as well as those who may have dairy sensitivities (similar to goat milk in this area).
  2. sheep are MUCH lighter on the land, and since these pastures are being built, they will assist instead of take from that. And they work for us – clearing areas of brambles/etc, as wanted. They eat less, and are easy to provide vet, breeding and butchering services for.  They utilize hillsides, and forests, too – where cows need more pasture. (similar to goats)
  3. sheep milk is higher in butterfat than goats or cows, so… yeah! Creamier, more cheese, more good brain-building fats, sweeter…
  4. sheep offer a more productive turnover of byproduct in the sense that we can keep ram lambs for fall meat, wool for filler or spinning, and – obviously – milk for all sorts of awesome.

There is also something very warm about being a “shepherd” vs. a “herdsman” or “rancher”.  With so many references and correlations to the Bible to shepherding, it constantly reminds me how much I need to keep responsible stewardship a priority with not only our animals, land, and resources, but our wee family.

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; – Acts 20:28-29

For He is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice… – Ps. 95:7

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. – Lk. 12:32

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. – Is. 40:11

So that’s what we’re thinking!  Sheep aren’t new to us, as they are actually very similar to goats in care – but are much more docile and smell & taste (milk and meat) excellent in comparison to goats IMO!  Goats aren’t really my cuppa at all.  I feel bad.  Maybe it was just the experience.  But I’m not sure I’m game for going down that road again.  Especially because there are sheep in the world.

from Mad Millie

from Mad Millie

Sheep milk produces the highest yield of cheese, almost 2.5 times that of a cow or goat. That means if I’d get a cup of cheese from a quart of cow/goat milk, I’d get two and a half cups with sheep milk!

Making more cheese on the farm today with sweet, nutty sheep milk!

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Here’s what we’ve got in our Sheep Medicine Cabinet.  This post will be updated from time to time.  If you have questions, send them my way and I’ll add information, as necessary.

Some items I did not have to purchase, as we have farmer friends we split with, etc…  But I wanted this to depict what it’d cost to start up, rather than our actual cost (which I’ve noted elsewhere).

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, $6/gallon through Azure Standard

We slosh in about a tablespoon-ish into each gallon of fresh water that our sheep get each day.  They have two waterers; one with ACV, one without.  The vinegar is full of enzymes and minerals, it reduces their parasite (worm) load, improves wool quality, reduces mortality rate of the lambs at birth, may contribute to tastier meat… and some even say you’ll increase your chances of ewe lambs!  It increases your flocks overall health.

Blackstrap unsulphured molasses, $13/gallon through Azure Standard

Molasses is high in magnesium and other vitamins.  It has a high level of metabolizable energy and sugar that is readily digested.  It is a very low cost way to reduce twin lamb disease, reduce potential of pregnancy toxemia, and can assist you with ketosis in your lambs after birth.  Also an excellent way to mask unappetizing supplements you want your sheep to consume!

For practical use, we often drizzle some on the ewes daily grain ration, which they receive late-pregnancy and during lactation, and from time to time to coax around.  We add it to warm water during labor and after birth for the Mama and lambs.

Arnica, 200c tablets, $10 through Amazon

Use Arnica for the shock that accompanies injury or trauma, overstrain or bruising.  Arnica prevents the development of bruises and hemorrhages, hastens healing and can prevent septic infections from occurring after an injury.  It can calm an animal fearing to be touched or being approached (mental trauma or grief).  We only use this when necessary.

Ascorbic Acid (vitamin c) crystals, $15/lb at Amazon

BO-SE or Selenium E gel, $9/tube of gel at local feed store

You can find tubes of Selenium E gel at your local feed store, which is orally given.  You must have get BO-SE through a veterinarian.

In our neck of the woods, there is a clear selenium deficiency – which leads to white muscle disease in sheep, especially lambs.  You’ll want to supplement your bred ewes by injection or gel 4 weeks pre-lambing.  Given to lambs suffering from WMD, you should see results and return to full mobility in 2-3 days of injection.  Selenium is always given with Vitamin e (included).

Cod Liver Oil & Seaweed drench, $35 through Green Pasture, seaweed through Mountain Rose Herb

Dolomite powder$4/lb. through Amazon

Dolomite powder is an additive (and can be used as a supplement, if needed) that has multiple uses such as an antidote for copper poisoning (one teaspoonful given orally), an essential supply of calcium and magnesium for healthy bones and teeth, and as a preventative of mastitis as well as numerous other mineral deficiency based conditions.   Too much, however, can be a detriment, so be cautious with your use.

Nutri-drench, $15/8oz. at the local feed store

Generally you use a nutri drench when an animal is in quick need of a boost.  It’s basically a good way to get fast calories and energy into a weak or sick animal.  It also has some electrolytes, vitamins and minerals.

A lot of farmers make this own, some with propylene glycol, molasses products, and calcium carbonate.  Another recipe calls for equal parts corn syrup, corn oil and molasses.  When I find a recipe I feel comfortable with the ingredients of, I’ll share it here.  Meanwhile, I have a bottle of brand name Nutri-Drench on hand for emergency use if I don’t come up with something sooner.

Probiotic paste (Pro Bios), $10 for a tube at local feed store

Probiotics stimulate appetite, and restore friendly bacteria in the intestines aiding in digestition, in turn, supporting the immune system and encouraging health.

This can be used following any stressful situation including transporting, diet change, birth, treatment or illness, etc…

Blood Stop Powder, $6/lb at Hoeggers Supply Company (not herbal)

When you are hoof trimming or shearing (or run into any other injuries) or disbudding if you’re sheep aren’t polled, sometimes you’ll have a bleeder.  An over-the-counter variety or herbal powder (recipe coming shortly) applied helps stop it quickly and effectively.  There are natural things you could use as well (spiderwebs, for one!), but this is for the ’emergency’ kit more than something you’ll use regularly.

Herbal Dewormer, $12/lb my cost in supplies from Mountain Rose Herbs ($59/lb at local feed store!)

Consider making your own herbal dewormer (even make candy out of them for your critters).  Note how expensive it is to buy, and what you will find on the shelf of a market is often not as good quality as you can make yourself anyway.  A lot of green, leafy herbs should not be stored in direct light, or in warmer areas – and so, assuming the herbs were fresh to start with – they are going to lose quality the longer they sit in a warehouse, in a truck, and/or on a shelf in a store.

There are a lot of great online resources and recipes.  One of my favorites:

equal parts of: wormwood, mugwort, pumpkin seeds.  Throw in about a quarter part black walnut hull and garlic.  Other things you could add: ginger, cayenne, thyme.  This you can use on most livestock (not horses, as black walnut hull is a no-no for them).  I make this in large portions, and sell it.  If you are interested in purchasing, contact me directly.  I can ship within the U.S.

We give (1 tablespoon a day per 50lbs of sheep) of our herbal wormer to our mature sheep, generally adding it into their grain mix.  You can also mix it with molasses and roll into balls to give it in a tasty “pill form”.  Every three weeks or so, we shake it up and add a quarter-part ginger and eight-part of cayenne for several days in a row.  This will wake up their system, which will help rid of excess or different types of parasites.

Ivermectin$28/small drench at local feed store

We live in a rather wet climate.  This can contribute to a common problem in most animals (and humans!): parasites.  If you are not effectively using an herbal dewormer (which we have successful been doing), ivermectin will act fast.  We have purchased an injectable form of ivermectin, but would only give it orally (on their grains, etc).  This way it does it’s job, and gets out fast.  Using it subcutaneously (just under the skin) or intramuscular (in the muscle), the chemical will stay in the animals system (and your milk/meat) longer.  Your local farm store will also likely sell an Ivermectin Sheep Drench.

IP Dexterose gear, $ at local feed store

From sheepscreek.com: “If you find an older lamb (4-6 hours old or more) hunched and cold, the hypothermia may be caused by starvation, as the brown fat reserves around the kidneys are depleted and the blood sugar level drops too low to generate adequate body heat. The usual treatment to `restart’ these older lambs is to inject IP (intra peritoneal) dextrose. Generally 5cc of 20% dextrose is recommended per pound; 40cc is about right for most lambs. Most agricultural and vet suppliers carry 50% dextrose which can be diluted 50:50 with sterile or boiled distilled water. Restrain the lamb by holding the rear legs and pinching the pelvis between your knees, and inject the warmed solution with a 20 ga. 1-inch needle at a site 1-inch beside and 1-inch behind the naval. Aim the needle toward the opposite hip. The solution should inject easily and not create a bubble under the skin. The body wall is a little over half the depth of the needle. (Caution: if the lamb is jumping around, it probably doesn’t need IP dextrose, and in all cases use careful sterile procedures to avoid peritonitis.)”

Below is an excellent video showing you exactly how to inject your lamb.  The great accent is icing on the cake.

A commercial dairyman that I am friends with said that this is her #1 recommendation for a lambing medicine kit, as it saves more lambs than any other treatment they’ve needed.  That said, in a small, homestead arrangement, it’s easier to be near and on top of birthing and newborn lamb care, so won’t run into this quite as often as the herdsman who has hundreds of sheep ranging.

CMPK Drench or Gel, $13 at local feed store

Injectable Vitamin B Complex, $7 at local feed store

Hoof & Heal, $10 at local feed store

Another common thing we deal with in the Pacific Northwest is hoof rot.  It’s when your animals hooves start – literally – rotting.  Be sure to keep them trimmed up nicely, have a dry place to hang out (a covered pen inside a pasture, lots of bedding, etc) along with their pasture, which may be far from grassy and fabulous during a few months of the year.  If you find an infected or rotted spot on their hoof, it’s important to treat it.  You can cut it out (as carefully as possible), then apply Hoof & Heal, or another variety of hoof help.

Tetanus immunoglobulin & toxoid, $30 for both at local feed store

A lot of folks around area will use CDT or an eight-way vaccine for their sheep.  Some only do tetanus.  It’s up to you, really.  If you’re using the CDT, use it subcutaneously 4 weeks before lambing.  This will give the Mama and lambs protection.  Then give the lambs another dose closer to <> weeks old.  Repeat the next lambing season.

If you’re using only tetanus, use the same schedule.  The immunoglobulin is helpful if one of your critters gets a wound that could potentially become infected with tetanus, and you are unsure if they are protected with a vaccine.  It is a short-term protection, and should be accompanied with the toxoid/vaccine itself which will activate and guard against for the long term.

Variety sized needles, gauze and cloths$10, give or take, all found at local feed store

We tend to use a 3/4″ 20 gauge most often.  Different medications recommend different sizes.  Check your bottles.

Iodine concentrate, $7/pint through Hoeggers

You’ll use this for a variety of things.  Particularly, dunking sweet little babies clipped umbilical cords to prevent infection.

6% hydrogen peroxide$4 at local drug store

Use on hoof rot in a spray bottle.  Use for cleaning wounds or infections, etc…

Hey, while I’ve got you, check out this e-book you can sift through and search in: Natural Remedies for Sheep Health, by Mark Gilbert.  I’d definitely recommend it!  It has recipes and herbal recommendations for a variety of sheep ailments.  Of course, I have a few favorite books about naturally raising sheep, all listed here.

It looks like the total for this Shepherd’s Medicine Cabinet is upwards of about $225, give or take.  This will get you on your feet, and off to a rather long start with your sheep!  It’s a cheap price to pay to insure the health and emergency care you can invest into your animal vs. the potential vet bills incurred.

There will be times you’ll need to utilize your vet.  Find one in your area that can work with large animals.  Build a relationship.  They will be a wonderful resource and help in the years to come.

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where are my babies?

Where are my babies?

Today we took Marley’s two babies off of her.  They are now residing in their own pen nearby, calling back and forth to a Mama who has found a new hill to pasture on, full of blackberry goodness.  After the initial panic, they all seem to have settled nicely into their new places.

Willow, however, is antsy to have her babes

Willow, however, is antsy to have her babes

We pulled babes after 72 hours of nursing off Mama for life-enhancing colostrum.  Now that they have a strong foundation, we have more flexibility.  There are several “universal” milk replacers out there, but I don’t buy ’em.  Literally and figuratively.  I’m sure that some scientist rigged them to work fine, but I’m not looking for fine.  I’m looking for superb.  Our mission is to raise these sheep with all of our homestead philosophies instead of cutting corners.  And so we’re feeding them their Mama’s milk.*  You can also find lamb-specific milk replacers at your local feed store, or try this homemade lamb milk replacer recipe here.  I cannot vouch for it.


teaching babes

Since these sweet little ladies are 4 days old already (time flies!), we’re starting them out with 6 ounces (3/4 cup) each, 4 times a day.  They will not eat this much at first, but we’ll offer it and let them figure out on their own that they will not be eating on demand, but rather be scheduled throughout the day and into the evening.

They took nicely to their Pritchard nipples immediately.  

They took nicely to their Pritchard nipples immediately.

My words on the Pritchard nipples: start small.  When you purchase them ($4/each at our local feed store, cheaper online), you’ll need to snip the tip oh so slightly.  As they grow, you’ll snip them further down, allowing a larger milk flow.  But for now, keep it pretty teeny weeny.

I literally had to go to a grocer today to buy carbonated water so I’d have the bottles of my choice (colored glass instead of typical clear plastic soda bottles used by most).  We had the “job” of drinking up a few so we’d be prepared for our lambs afternoon meal.

Here’s our feeding schedule for our lambs, based on Paula Simmons book Raising Sheep the Modern Way:

Day 3-4, 3-5oz, six times a day, gradually changing to a lamb replacer, if you’re going to use one
Day 5-14, 4-6oz, four times a day, and start with leafy alfalfa
Day 15-21, 6-8oz, four times a day, along with hay
Day 22-35, Slowly change to 16 ounces (one pint), given three times a day

We’ve found that all lamb milk replacers have different feeding schedules (as far as ounces per day at which ages, etc), so refer to your package on that if you’re using one.

After the lambs are about a month old, we’ll wean them from milk, and start raising them on greens, or “Creep Feed”: a mix of alfalfa leaves or soaked alfalfa pellets, priobiotics, minerals.  It is important for the kids to start eating grain, even if pasture is the end desire.  “The grain promotes rumen development because of the high production of butyric acids which assist in the vital development of the digestive tract. The butryic acid is oxidized in tissue for energy production.”  I’m still a little uneasy about this, but will go ahead with it as I don’t have a more solid alternative, and am comfortable with using our heirloom, organic grains.

We are considering keeping the boys for Autumn meat.  Girls, however, will be sent along to new farms.  That said, we already have committed to keeping the sweet black one that Marley produced for us.  That way we’ll have one white, one brown, and one black.  That means hand milking 3 sheep next spring.  That means our double stanchion is less effective.  That also means that I broke my word: Only two milking ewes.

I hope Willow has the ugliest lambs ever.

But I know she won’t.


*We may reserve it for our use and feed wee boy babes goat milk with a bit of lamb replacer added.

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our dairy

our dairy

Our sheep are for our homestead (click here for “Why Sheep?“), not for commercial purposes.  So we’re keeping close tabs on the “cost” to have them in our grocery budget, all-inclusive.  While investing in the best for them, we are also hoping to keep our expenses reasonable.  Obviously, the up front costs are going to add up a bit, but we want a TRUE and honest picture of how much our family’s dairy (& some meat and fiber) will cost.  Yes, the experience and health benefits are priceless, but we want to make sure that we have an “account”ability structure set up that keeps us using our heads, not just putting out.

It’s so easy to lose track of costs when you raise animals.  And to not conscientiously make decisions on your output in the thick of the season.  We are hoping that our limited production will assist in us putting an even better effort toward maintaining supreme husbandry and management practices.

I’m hoping to use this post as a central location for all of our dairying research.  I will update it with links in bold to additional information on individual subjects as we go!

Here’s what our Livestock Medicine Cabinet looks like, complete with start up cost, etc…

Remember, this is our go-to cabinet.  We also have tinctures and herbs at arms reach for many other livestock purposes, but we wanted to single out these items for easy accessibility, as well as emergency needs, if/as they arise.  Some may never be used, or rarely.  Some items, as for us humans, are both medicinal and nutritional, the last two items on the list seeping into their daily maintenance, and not only used “as needed.”  Which leads me into sharing what we have on-hand for the day to day (depending on age/stage of lactation/etc):

Roughage (be it legume or grass hay or alfalfa)
Grain Mix – organic heirloom farro, oats, barley, non-GMO corn, black oil sunflower seeds
Kelp, Himalayan Sea Salt, Minerals




pre-roof upcycled feeder

And a few supplies I have picked up for them:

halters & leads
Pritchard nipples & bottles
hoof trimmers

Yeesh.  When I write it all out, it seems like a lot.  Especially when I’m going to put the 3 new lines of fencing on the “sheep” column of the register that will be used for them exclusively ($600 for 492 feet of electric netting – my fave).  Again, many of these expenses will not be recurring or often.  Some will be shared to other livestock.

Our stanchion is being build with pallets, which we get free with our deliveries of feed.  We’d looked into buying one, but none were exactly what we were looking for – and none were free.  So we’ve customized a double stanchion to work for these sweet ladies out of scrap supplies we had on hand.  I’ll post pictures shortly.

Now, to work on a calendar so we can stay on task.  For clutching/shearing, trimming hooves, worming, moving pastures, adjusting feed, breeding/lambing (info on feeding lambs here), etc.  Coming soon.

I may sound like I know what I’m talking about, but I don’t.  My younger sister Emilee bought a flock of sheep neighboring the old farm for couple years, but I knew very little of their management, and they weren’t big producers as she was building the flock at the time and was learning by trial and error.  Obviously, they are similar to goats, which I spent more time learning and working with (my folks ran a commercial diary operation that we were heavily involved in for many years).  Here are the reasons why we chose sheep instead of another dairy animal.  I’m leaning on a bit of my sisters knowledge to help us out, and a few of my favorite books:

Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Natural Sheep Care by Pat Coleby
Raising Sheep the Modern Way by Paula Simmons
The Backyard Sheep by Sue Weaver
Natural Remedies for Sheep Health by Mark Gilbert (ebook here)

one of my faves

one of my faves

I’m also leaning heavily on the knowledge of experienced homestead dairy sheep owners via an online group – and have found our shearer to be an abundance of knowledge and help as well!

Another super awesome homeschool opportunity.  Adyn is heading up this project, and is proving to be quite the shepherd!


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