Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Working to go on Vacation

In 5 days, I'll be in Hawaii.  My parents are taking our family and my sister's family to Kauai for a week beginning Monday, which will be wonderful.  In the meantime, I'm scrambling to prepare for being gone for 8 days.

This started last Friday when we worked our ewes and started weaning our lambs.  Weaning continued on Saturday, and Sunday saw me moving our lambs to Loomis and giving our goats selenium shots.  On Monday, we moved sheep and sorted ewes for grazing contracts.  On Tuesday, we moved 120 ewes to Sierra College.  Today I moved 34 ewes and 30 goats to another property in Auburn.  Tomorrow will be more of the same.

I love my job, but sometimes it seems that all I do is work.  This spills over into vacation - I find it difficult to leave the care of our animals in someone else's hands.  I find that I don't really relax until several days into a vacation.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lambs in the Orchard, Ewes at College

Today, most of our lambs arrived at Pine Hill Orchard in Loomis.  We're working with Eric Hansen to manage vegetation on the orchard floor while (hopefully) putting weight on the lambs.  While we have some logistics to work out, we're hopeful that this will be a good partnership.

Friday and Saturday, we weaned the lambs.  This involves separating them from their mothers, vaccinating them against a variety of ailments, ear-tagging them, giving them selenium (which is a mineral in which our soils are deficient) and trimming their feet.  Weaning is one times that we check in to see how we're doing.  This year, I'm very pleased with the size, uniformity and overall health of our lambs.

The ewes, now that they are no longer nursing lambs, will go out on grazing contracts this week.  About 120 of our our ewes will be grazing at Sierra College in Rocklin.  We're working with the maintenance department to reduce fire danger and control invasive weeds (like starthistle).  Another 30 ewes, along with about 30 goats, will be going to a private residence near Auburn to work on starthistle and blackberries.

Grazing for vegetation management purposes has become more popular in recent years.  A number of our livestock colleagues focus on this type of targeted grazing.  While it's become an important part of our business, we still emphasize animal production over grazing services.  This means that we generally don't contract our ewes while they are nursing lambs.

This will be the first time in several years that we're not directly responsible for irrigating pastures for our lambs (one of the benefits of running in the orchards at Pine Hill).  The trade-off for us will be the running around we're doing.  We'll have sheep in Auburn, Lincoln, Loomis, Rocklin, Foresthill and Meadow Vista this summer.  Should be interesting!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sheep Dog Lessons

Our friend Ellen Skillings will be offering weekly sheep dog lessons beginning later this month - we're excited that she'll be down here during the summer!  Here's a video of a recent lesson:

Controlling Milk and Italian Thistle using Sheep

We just finished a small project in the Robie Point neighborhood of Auburn.  We used 25 ewes to graze roughly an acre of annual grass, blackberry and two varieties of thistle (milk and Italian).  While the project took about twice as long as we anticipated, the sheep did a great job!  Here are some before and after photos: