Saturday, March 25, 2017

So far

Lambing is past the halfway point. There are 41 lambs. It's been the usual ups and downs and emotional roller coaster. Close to two thirds of the lambs are female. There's only two with color. Miss Piggy had triplets: one white ram lamb, one red ram lamb, and a brown ewe lamb. The two black ewes had three white (ewe) lambs among them. I guess I won't get to add another black ewe to the flock this year. There are still three red ewes to lamb, so perhaps there will be some more colored lambs.

Only two with color

Today was a warm day, close to 70. The lambs were sleeping lazily.  Little "Ivanka" has emerged as the favorite. She's a triplet out of a 2 year old ewe. I didn't think she was getting enough milk at the beginning, so I offered her a bottle. She's been taking one ever since, drinking 3-4 ounces most of the time.  She insists on jumping up onto the bale of hay I sit on to get her bottle . . .  and attention.

I also offer a bottle to two ewe lambs whose mother has mastitis. I aggressively treated the ewe with drugs. She must be producing milk because the twins don't generally drink that much. It might change as they get older. They are very nice lambs, 8 percent Lacaune. I suspect the cause of the ewe's mastitis is the fact that she only had one lamb last year and produced too much milk for him.


One of the triplet moms (153) was sick for a few days. She acted like she had some sort of obstruction. Her udder didn't look very full. Her lambs seemed hungry so I offered them a bottle. The ram lamb, who I named "Molasses" because I splattered homemade nutri-drench all over his head, takes some milk. I couldn't get his siblings to take any milk. The ewe seems better now, has a voracious appetite, and her bag appears fuller. I'm hoping she'll go back to producing enough milk for her three lambs and that whatever was wrong with her doesn't come back.

A lazy spring day

Boone is the sole protector now. I appreciate him more since McComb's passing. I miss McComb. He was euthanized four days ago. It seems so odd without him. I remember his first lambing season. I remember so much about him. RIP McComb. The sheep miss you. Boone misses you.

Boone, the sole protector

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Best Dog Ever

MCCOMB  2004-2017

On March 21, 2017, I had McComb euthanized. He would have been 13 years old this summer.  That's pretty old for a Great Pyrenees. McComb had lived a long, happy life, but time had caught up with him. His health had deteriorated rapidly in the last 4-5 days of his life. There was no quality of life left in him. He could hardly get up. Sometimes, his breathing was labored. His thick coat of hair had become a huge liability. He had some sort of a seizure a few days ago. He wasn't eating. He was an old dog. It was time. It was a hard thing to do, but I believe I made the right decision. I petted him as the lethal drug was injected his vein. He went very peacefully. I could not stop my tears.

Six days before his death

McComb was my first livestock guardian dog. He was a gift from the Katahdin Hair Sheep International (KHSI). He was the only puppy left in a litter of puppies that someone had brought to the Expo to sell. I had eyed the puppies, but I was reluctant to buy one because I wasn't certain I wanted the responsibility of another dog, even a farm dog. I was looking for some sort of  "sign" that it was the right thing to do. The owner ended up donating the puppy to the association.  They planned to auction him off.  When the auction began, everyone looked at me, expecting me to bid on the puppy. I was reluctant; then, several members started bidding on him. Several members chipped in, and they bought him for me. I am forever grateful.

I named him McComb after the location of the Expo:  McComb, Mississippi. I bought a dog crate so that we could take the puppy back to Maryland. My parents had accompanied me on the trip, and my mom wasn't too happy about driving back to Maryland with an 8-week-old puppy. Her mind changed fast. She fell in love with the angelic ball of white fur. Everybody who met him did. He was a wonderful dog from the very beginning.

The angelic puppy

Since McComb was so little, I put him with a few lambs to start with. Later, he "battled" the ewes for dominance. They were a lot bigger than he was, and he wasn't sure what his place was. The first lambing season, he would often hide under the hay feeders. But, eventually, the little ball of fluff grew into a magnificent dog, and the sheep accepted him as their protector, one of their own. Occasionally, a lamb would take a special liking to him. I remember a lamb I named Kelso. He would follow McComb everywhere and sit with him in the pasture. The interaction between livestock guardian dogs and a flock of sheep is a wonderful thing.

At his prime, 3 years old

McComb was never any trouble. He was my gentle giant. I never had to train him to walk on a leash. It came natural to him. He loved going places. Trips to the vet were fun for him. After a few years, I found it necessary to get him clipped at the start of every summer. He definitely did not have good fur. It was long and thick. It did not shed or comb out well. He loved trips to Petsmart. They seemed to like him there. After his "grooming" I would walk him around the store. He would "strut" and people would awe at his beauty. The clipping always seemed to rejuvenate him, especially as he got older.

His only mischievousness was his desire to run around the neighborhood on occasion. If a gate was open, he'd go for it. You could seem the gleam in his eyes. He just wanted to go exploring. I'd go chasing after him, but he wouldn't come to me because I'd end his fun. One time, he got out unbeknownst to me. I found him sitting outside the gate. Apparently, he'd gone for a run and come back. Like most dogs, McComb loved the snow. He preferred cold weather. 

He required surgery in 2014 when his was 10 years old. He had a growth on his anus removed. He got a two week break from the sheep. They sent him home with an elizabethan collar. It was not necessary. While he didn't like me putting antibiotic on his surgery area, he never bothered the stitches. Unfortunately, he kept licking his leg where they had put in the IV.  He seemed to be having a little trouble pooping after the surgery, so the vet told me to give him some pumpkin. He loved it! In his later years, I would often dip his dog treats in pumpkin. He also enjoyed hot dogs and slices of cheese.

McComb and Kelso

I hosted the KHSI Expo in 2008 in Maryland. Ron Young (from Ohio) had a litter of Great Pyrenees puppies that he was selling. I bought one, I thought for my dad (but he didn't want a dog). Like McComb, Boone takes his name from Boonsboro, Maryland, the location of the 2008 meeting.

Boone and McComb became instantaneously pals, though McComb wasn't so certain about the inquisitive pup at first. Over the years, the two dogs formed a close bond. They were always together. They played and romped together. I had no doubt they appreciated each others company. Boone seems a bit lost without McComb, but he is adjusting.

With Boone, 5 years old

I can't express how much I miss McComb. He was quite possibly the most perfect dog, at least he was to me.  I always slept better knowing that he was watching over the farm. I suppose the sheep in heaven are safer now with McComb watching over them. I'm not sure if I will spread his ashes over his domain or keep them close to me, so I can "talk" to him when I'm feeling down.

Monday, March 13, 2017

First Born

The first born lamb of 2017 is a single ram lamb. 84% Katahdin x 16% Lacaune. The dam is 424. She had triplets her first two years. She is 3. This year only one. I guess she deserves an easy year. I shouldn't complain. But I am always disappointed with singles. The second to lamb had twin ewe lambs. The second lamb was coming backwards, so I guided it out.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Observations Down Under

I traveled to Australia and New Zealand from November 25 - December 16, 2016. Here are some of my general observations:

  • Kangaroos aren't everywhere.
  • Hard to tell Kangaroos from Wallabees.
  • What Koala bears?
  • Feral cats and goats are pests, also rabbits and opossums.
  • Mediocre food.
  • Nice school buses.
  • With the exception of towns, speed limit is the same (100 kph), regardless of whether it's a flat, straight road or a hilly, curvy one. 
  • No four lanes in New Zealand
  • Difficult place to drive: I got stopped for going too slow (New Zealand) and I got a speeding ticket mailed to me (from Australia).
  • Barns are for milking, shearing, and handling, not for housing livestock.
  • Dense stocking rates.
  • In some places:  sheep on the left and right, ahead and behind.
  • Dirty butts.
  • Dewormers are used by the truckload.
  • Obsession with free-range poultry.
  • Chinese, Chinese, and more Chinese 
  • Cafe's not restaurants.
  • Stuff closes early, by 5 p.m.
  • Romneys and Merinos.
  • Merino + Possum (clothing).
  • Lamb in stores and on menus.
  • Farmers are the same everywhere.
  • Agriculture faces the same challenges everywhere.
  • Coke, not Pepsi. 
  • Perception of Green.
  • Interested in American politics:  who did you vote for?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I Love Baseball

I love baseball. My dad and I have half-season (35 games) tickets to the Hagerstown Suns.  With our package, I selected all the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday games. We can't get to all the home games, but when we miss a game, we can trade our tickets in for tickets for the other games.

My dad, fellow baseball fan

The Suns are an affiliate of the Washington Nationals. So, we've also become Nationals fans, since that's where Suns players will end up, unless they are traded or end their careers prematurely. In reality, most of the Suns players will never play major league ball. Most play to fill out the roster. There are some big league prospects. Sometimes, prospects never materialize and sometimes the roster players become prospects.

The Suns are a low-A team, meaning there are several more steps to the big leagues:  Potomac (high-A), Harrisburg (double-A), and Syracuse (triple-A).  Below the Suns, there is Auburn, a short-season single A league and a couple of rookie leagues. Most of the players start below the Suns. Bryce Harper started with the Suns and played a half season here. He played well, but you could tell he didn't like playing in lowly Hagerstown. Oh well, we enjoyed watching him. We saw him learn his way around the outfield and hit his first pro grand slam.

Victor Robles:  future major leaguer?

Besides Bryce Harper, we've had the pleasure of watching some of the National's other top prospects, many of whom are still working themselves through the National's system or are playing for other major league teams. Michael Taylor, a current outfielder with the Washington Nationals, played for the Suns several years ago. The Nationals' #1 prospect and #1 prospect in the majors (top 100) is Lucas Giolito. He played for the Suns in 2014, after coming off Tommy John surgery. He posted a 10-2 record and was awesome to watch. He's still in Harrisburg. The Nats aren't rushing him. The Nat's current #3 prospect (#58 of top 100) is Sun's center fielder, Victor Robles. The Dominican has an awesome slash line and makes some good plays in the outfield.

Ripken, Jr.  Chip off the old block?

This  year's Hagerstown Suns boast three sons of former Major league players. Ryan Ripken (1B) is hall-of-famer Cal Ripken's son. Mariano Rivera III is the son of future Yankee hall-of-famer Mariana Rivera Jr. Cody Dent is Bucky Dent's son.  Bucky Dent played shortstop for the New York Yankees. Among the three, Rivera seems to have the most potential. So far, we've only seen him pitch once. LIke his dad, he's a relief pitcher. Ripken knocks runs in, but has a sub-200 batting average. Dent seems to be stuck at single-A. I think it's his third year in Hagerstown.

So far, the Suns are 28-17 and tied for first place. They've got a number of players hitting over 300. RBIs are spread around. They've got a few guys who can steal bases. It's hard to keep up with the pitchers because there are so many of them, more than half the roster. Despite the Sun's good record, we haven't seen many good games yet. As the season progresses, I'm sure that will change.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Last One

The last lamb was born today. A ram lamb. Out of a black yearling ewe. Like the one that lambed a week ago, I hadn't planned on keeping her. But when I did, I put her with the ram (Eddie).

The other late lamb is a week old now. It is doing well. Not sure if I will put these ewes and lambs with the other yearlings or keep them together with the ram, so he'll be content, and I have some animals to graze the front yard pasture. If so, I'll need to move the outdoor creep feeder into the front yard. The open ewe needs to go to market.

So, lambing is officially over!  It was a very good year. The rest of the lambs are doing well. It will soon be time to wean the lambs from the mature ewes. The yearlings were bred three weeks later so their lambs will be weaned a bit later. This weekend, the mature ewes' lambs get their second CDT shot and a dose of First Drench (with praziquantel for tapeworms). The yearlings' lambs will get their first CDT and a dose of Vecoxin (for coccidiosis).

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Late Lamb Has Late Lamb

Last year's late lamb (May-birth) just had a late lamb.  A single ram lamb out of the new ram Eddie. She didn't lamb late; she was bred late. If fact, she bred as soon as I put her in with the ram. I wanted to make sure she was 12 months old when she had her lamb. There is another yearling that was bred late. She should lamb sometime in the next two weeks or so. A black ewe. Then, lambing will be officially over. The rest of the lambs are growing nicely, starting to eat a lot of creep feed.