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I've writing out tentative plan for rotation the next year. Improving on my mistakes and adding new areas. I now have 6 electric net fence, 164'. Breeding groups have just been seperated and the ewes will be moved to the "~6acre" feild. It's a big area but not alot of growth so we shall see how long it lasts them. Hopefully winter doesn't swoop in too quickly. Then on I'll have to deal with them in the permanent fenced paddocks. It's not optimal but next winter things will be very different!
At the moment I'm estimating the ewes will go through one round bale in a week and that's how I'll rotate them. Set out each paddock with a round bale and when the bale's out move to the next paddock. Before the rotation is up set in new bales, off set from the previous bale placement. Hopefully I'll be able to put out bales for the paddocks on nicer days, then the rest of the time I can just open the gate and move them to the new paddock and bale.
Come spring these areas I'm going to seed behind them and get them into overgrown areas to clear out. Current estimations puts this at April 1 to June 8 to rotate through and seed behind almost all of it.
Come back to graze a few of the first paddock 75 days after moving the sheep and seeding.
The seed I'm going to order is two mixes, one for April to June, one for July to September. I will also be getting some buckwheat, I think it'll be seeded on the terrace with the mix. The fall seeding in the permenent fenced paddocks will try to hit it lightly and leave it for winter stockpile. If my estimates are close at all this would have the sheep on each area 4 times from April through October. Then the permanent paddocks about November through March until I can figure out more. Though I'm wondering if these new areas will kick up enough that I'll be able to keep grazing into December.
Red lines are permanent fence. Everything else is to highlight an area or show where I've been utilizing the netting up to now. IE, in the yard and to divide the bigger paddock. All acreage marked is estimated from the ODNR interactive map, I don't know if it accounts for slope but it's an estimate. The R paddocks is where the rams are, more on them later. Black boxes are barn or sheds.
The grazing plan is just to give me an idea of how I want to direct things. Even in making this up I edited it around to optimize easier moves. I'm shearing February and lambing March. So the plan starts April 1 in paddock 1 for two days and seed behind the sheep. On to paddocks 2, then 3 the same. Over to L1 using the netting, moving every day and seeding behind. This was hay feild but its weedy and at a bad angle to do anything on the tractor. Down to L2, which is yet to be determined how to divide with netting. It's wooded but not much brush and probably too thick of canopy to bother seeding. Over to 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
Now we get to the big changes. The g1-9 used to be goat pasture and has been left alone for years. It's weedy and brushy. The first time through will be mainly to knock stuff down so I can come through and beat down stems and hack at multiflora rose. So several days in, then hand mitigate, then seed. The pink lines are tentative divisions with the netting. G9 looks dumb, and it is kind of dumb. That is valley with a small seasonal creek, wooded, very overgrown weeds and brush. This is going to be my first silvopasture area. There is alot of nice big trees in there and I'll be thinning out the junk trees and brush. I think alot of it will be open enough to be seeded behind the sheep.
From there I graze the edge (right) of the "~6acre" feild to the terrace, marked with green approximate sections. Across there then grazing the edge (left) of the feild down to the little blue section which is a steep driveway bank. On to N3, 2, 1 which is the yard and of the few places I won't be seeding behind.
Which brings us to paddock 1 on about June 17th having had 75 days rest to end the first rotation. The second rotation we catch up on days, not needing to knock down weeds through the G1-9 sections and giving me 54 days rest by the end of it. The third rotation holds 54 days rest. That brings me to October and breeding groups and the end of my grazing plan.
On to the rams... I begrudgingly have to put them back in the R marked paddocks for winter. However next year my boys will be fat and sassy on more grass than they'll know what to do with. The ~6acre and ~4.5acre hay feilds have seen better days. At this time the ~4.5 feild is two-thirds brush hogged from it's plethora of goldenrod and ironweed. The ~6acre feild was mowed twice over the summer (before I finally got the electric net! Bad me!) to mitigate weeds seeding out more. This is going to be the rams job and I think I've come up with the perfect solution to work for me and Dad. He wanted to get a first cutting from both, hopefully by early June. Then I'd be able to graze it around August he thought. I thought on it a bit and we compromised by me getting the rams out on the ~4.5 feild starting in April, or whenever it's growing enough to get them on it and moving. I'll rotate them there and Dad can get a first cutting on the ~6 feild. About August or when it's grown back enough to graze, I'll move the rams over to the ~6 feild. Now the ~4.5 feild will be growing and see if he can get a hay cut from it. Four rams in netting, being moved every day across that big of a feild, it'll be growing in nicely already I think. I can't wait to see the changes in these feilds!
Also, in the plan the ewes will be grazing the terrace a bit earlier so they'll be there and gone before the rams are in that feild most likely, and not be back until the end of September right before breeding groups go in.
I didn't try to plan through breeding groups because I think so much is going to change before then and I'll be learning alot with this big rotation. Anything I plan now will probably be useless by that time. I have had some ideas on how to work it though. It's going to be difficult with 4 rams and I want them in single sire groups. Going forward I want to have at most two breeding groups but this is the base for my ewe flock I'm building. So more groups now gives me the replacement ewes I want, will make it possible to have the flock I'm aiming for, and be able to do two groups going forward. Big goals.
I'm planning some ruthless culling and plenty of replacement ewes kept back this spring. I tried CIDRs for the first time and I'm penny pinching to the max to get the ewes pregnancy scanned. I'm going to see if I'll be able to seperate the singles and twins scanned ewes at the end of gestation to be able to feed the twin carrying ewes a bit extra. And knowing a ewe is all done and not having to reach in unnecessarily. I've got notes on several ewes with checks against them. Anyone not bred, gone. Repeating singles, gone. The four-letter-words ewe that kicked me in the mouth and now has a big cott on her back for no reason, gone.
I have 3 ram lambs that were culls from a friend, real cheap to butcher. They are late lambs and mostly will be lamb burger. Then 1 of my rams that's a 2y/o that I don't need anymore and he wouldn't sell for anything at auction. He will make some nice cuts. I'm going to practice on some rabbit hides I'd froze and tan them. Hopefully I'll be tanning the rams hides later!
I put out feelers the whole past year and could not get anyone to respond to be on a wait list for a ram or ram lamb. I was preferring BFL but I put out feelers for 4 different breeds in multiple groups. Nada. Then magically someone lets me know they'll be at a fiber show that I'll be at in May, the price and cost to deliver to the show. Heck yes, finally! So in May I'll be getting a border leicester ram lamb from New Hampshire. And a plus, she has won ribbons for her fleeces. Her flock has plenty of multiples so I'm hoping that will also help me with my lambing rate. I'll ramble more on breeding plans in another post because this is getting quite long.. I'm afraid to look..
So I guess here is my current lessons learned...
~ parasites! Get off that same spot for crying out loud. You don't have it under control. It won't be fine until next spring. Don't keep back more animals. Don't bring in more animals. Either get in gear and have a plan to get the animals moved around in one month's time or sell down your stock, if not out, and deal with the issue.
~ I lost every single lamb this year because "I got it under control" with the barber pole worms... And ended up with loads of coccidiosis built up in my paddocks, the lambs were ill with worms symptoms but none of the additional symptoms of cocci. By the time I figured it out and treated for cocci I'd lost half. By the time the treatment was finished I had 3 lambs. Two days later I had none. This year the learning curve ran me over with a bus. And alot of it I should have known better
~ electric net and batteries. Why on god's green earth did I have to grow up with the dairy goats from hell? It took this much issue and learning curve for me to break down and try the net... And guess what... It is as amazing as it sounds! The sheep were trained to it in one afternoon! If someone develops a time machine, please go slap past me and tell me to buy the darn net!!!
~ A great deal is not always a great deal for you right now. I am a pro at finding deals and not having a darn thing prepared, crash course research, buy the thing/animal, and then figure out how to house and manage them. It can be done. I don't recommend it. I'm glad that I learned from these experiences but I have a plan now and I need to stick to it. Or take a step back and assess everything, does this really fit in the situation or am I making decisions based on "price reduced!" shoppers adrenaline? It's like auction fever!
Now to the wool!
I currently have 4 separate 'runs' of wool to be processed. I'm working through washing it.
So now I'm at the count down until shearing, again. I opted to hold onto it and keep washing. I should be shearing in February. Then I will take a bunch of those fleeces and match them to the 4 current runs of wool. The individual sheep fleece already there, will end up being that sheep's 2019 and 2020 shearing fleeces in the run. Some fleeces wouldn't mix well or just don't 'match' the rest and will be available for sale as raw fleece.
The 2020 shearing wool will all need to be sorted, pick out the junk, and washed. Then the fleeces added to the respective run they'll be processed in. Basically the same as the linked post info but it'll be more wool added to all of them.
It's exciting but I'm also anxiously putting away money. Currently I have money set aside for...
~ pregnancy scanning the ewes and travel fee (Dec) $90
~ shearing and travel fee (Feb) $170
~ buying the border leicester ram lamb, and delivery to the show (May) $300
I'm still putting away for...
~ seed mix order and shipping (March) $400
~ wool processing (May) estimating $1300
Meanwhile I've just recently spent $1200 on the electric netting so I can get the sheep off the paddocks a while and cocci prevention.. $100 in minerals.. $160 in CIDRs and things for breeding.. And I'm about to be out of feed and be spending $200 on feed and gas.
That is why I've got to get in gear. Get this rotation working and cut way back on feed. Get lambs raised up, keep the best to replace the worst of the current ewes. Sell the rest of the lambs and get some cash flow going!
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I can see that you now have "real" livestock and that you made them a significant part of your livelihood.
Where as I always thought as any cuy project I might take on as defiantly in the realm of hobby, not something that would have major effect on my income/expenses. I even considered cuy as something that would not prevent me from long-weekend travel. For me, any hypothetical cuy project has three parts. Part one and two would be as a way to get away from factory farmed meat and reduce overall meat consumption. Part three would be sort of an adventure/experiment in hands-on the philosophical ethics of being an omnivore. Because of the way I consider things, especially part two, it has been hard to find fellow adventures wanting to follow the cuy trail. Many homesteaders want to maximize meat production in a way that makes European GPs a non-optimal choice.
Now that you have your sheep, I would think, any sort of talk on the guinea pigs would seam "small potatoes". You may be taking a different path that I care to join, but I will follow you on-line from time to time. In closing, I do wish you well in your ventures.
- Posts: 1726
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For me, by comparison to most sheep farmers I'm considered very small potatoes, for people with flocks in the hundreds and thousands. So it's all relative anyways. I enjoyed the GPs I had and may get a few for fun side project in the future. Actually that reminds me of something, I'll have to make a thread on that of it's own.
I'm also wanting to get away from factory 'farmed' meat. That's one part of my goal is not only producing meat and wool, but producing it as ethically as I can. Which to me also includes regenerative practices as much as possible.
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