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Showing posts from December, 2010

Bringing in the Reindeer

This story started with a business idea.Our girls, Lara and Emma, both have pretty good sheep dogs – Mo and Ernie (respectively).Over dinner this summer, Lara suggested that we could help other ranchers gather and move their livestock.
“Let’s put a sign up at the feed store, Dad,” she said.“You could use Taff, too!”
“Yeah – we could make a little money for Christmas and get a chance to use our dogs,” Emma agreed.“Let’s make a poster.”
The next week, we put up a handmade sign:
Need help corralling your wild sheep? We can help! Have sheep dogs – will travel! Dan Macon and Daughters Livestock Herding Services Call us today!
We also posted the information on our website in hopes that we’d reach more folks who needed our assistance.
During the next several months, we took on a few jobs – nothing too difficult.We helped a neighbor move his goats into a new pasture.This fall, we helped gather a friend’s ewes before they were tagged for lambing.The girls earned some spending money, and the dogs had grea…

Fall Work is Done!

Yesterday, we completed our fall work with the ewes - we trimmed feet on the last set of ewes (about 75 of them) and put them through the footbath.  We then moved them onto new feed.  There's nothing more satisfying to me than seeing sheep grazing contentedly!

We're due for heavy rain over the next several days.  Now that our fall animal husbandry activities are competed, we can concentrate on keeping the sheep moving to fresh feed.  In a month or so, we'll bring them in for their annual vaccinations.  In about 2 months, our new crop of lambs will begin to arrive.  Seems like we just turned the rams in!

Portable Foot Bath - It Works!

We put the finishing touches on our portable foot bath yesterday and actually used it - we were able to put about 240 ewes through the foot bath.  They each soaked for a minimum of 30 minutes.  It worked great!  Here are some photos:

Mutton Curry

Believe it or not - we're having mutton curry tonight!  By choice, not necessity!  We've been selling mutton products (stew meat, pet food and sausage) for about a year now.  The sausage is great!  Customers have been telling us that the mutton stew meat is great, too, but tonight is the first time we've tried it.  We have to say that the customer is always right!

Here's what we did (as best as I can remember - we kind of threw it together).

1 pkg mutton stew meat (about 2 lbs)
3 large carrots, sliced
10 cloves garlic, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced
Thai red curry (to taste)
1/2 can coconut milk
Coarse ground pepper (to taste)
Kosher salt (to taste)
Smoked Spanish paprika (to taste)

Brown mutton pieces in olive oil.  Put in crock pot.  Add carrots, onions, garlic, curry powder, and pepper.  Cover with water and coconut milk and cook on low for 4 hours.  Add butternut squash.  Continue cooking on low for…

Bald Eagle!

As I was checking fence at a newly leased ranch near Auburn yesterday, I happened upon a bald eagle roosting in a large oak.  I was within 50 feet of it when it flew off.  It was so majestic.

In the last several years, we've seen several bald eagles here in Auburn - usually around Christmas.  I think they must be moving around this time of year.

I realize that not everyone agrees with the approach of the federal Endangered Species Act, but the bald eagle is truly a success story.  I never fail to be thrilled when I see one!

Long Days

The last two days have been incredibly long ones!  Yesterday, I helped to put on a workshop on soil and irrigation management for vegetable production.  The workshop was at Jim Muck's farm in Wheatland - Farmer Jim's Produce grows vegetables for farmers' markets and for his own CSA.  It was a great day - lots of new and existing growers and lots of great information.  Check out my youtube channel for videos:  I'll keep adding more!

Today, I hauled sheep and a steer to Wolfpack Meats in Reno.  When I left Grass Valley, Caltrans reported chain controls over I-80, so I ended up driving to Oroville and up Highway 70.  What should have been a five-hour round trip turned into a nine-hour drive.  We have lots of customers who want our sheep sausage before Christmas, so I felt obligated to get to Reno today.  While Wolfpack does a great job for us, I do wish we had an option closer to home!

Portable Foot Bath - Step 2

Today, I made sliding gates and adjustable panels for the foot bath.  The panels will allow us to tie in to our existing corrals.  The next step will be to install the liner - we're almost ready to go.  The pink gates are my failed attempt at making a "livestock crossing" sign for moving livestock across a county road!

The Ernie Blog (#2)

I finally had a chance to work Ernie again tonight - with Thanksgiving and fall sheep work, we haven't had much time.  He was a bit fast at first, but he quickly settled in nicely.  He was much more attentive to me tonight - easier to call off the sheep.  We also worked on some small outruns - the first step in teaching him to gather sheep.  I was very pleased!

As an amateur, I find myself falling into a rut - we work on the same old things time after time.  Once Ernie started showing some boredom, I realized that I needed to mix things up.  Once he started figuring out that I was asking him to leave my feet and bring the sheep to me, he brightened considerably.

Portable Foot Bath - Step 1

I started working on our portable foot bath today.  So far, these are our expenses:

40 mil shower pan liner - (2) 15' x 4' sections - $153.30
Pan adhesive - $7.86
Wood screws - $8.69

I'm using true-dimension 1x4 douglas fir that I milled - I guess there's a cost to it (my labor), but I won't include it for these purposes.

Today, I constructed a gate frame for the back of the trailer. This panel is removable in case we want to use the trailer for other purposes.  I'll cut two 18" x 48" sheets of plywood to use as gates - these will be guillotine-style gates that slide up and down.  I'll also need to build two short panels that will run from the end of our alley to the trailer (for loading the sheep into the foot bath).  I also need to glue the pvc liner together and put it on the floor of the trailer.

Mending Fence (Again)

We lease the Doty Ravine Preserve from the Placer Land Trust.  The property, which is bordered on the east by Gladding Road, includes about a mile of riparian habitat, lots of vernal pools, and some beautiful valley oaks.

Gladding Road makes two 90 degree turns adjacent to the preserve.  The western most turn is a problem - cars travelling downhill (southbound) on Gladding sometimes miss the turn (when it's wet, or when people are driving too fast).  This is our fourth season on the preserve, and yesterday, the 16th car went through our fence.  No one has ever offered to help fix the fence.

I guess I grew up in a different time.  While I've always been a cautious driver (and subsequently have never had an "accident" of this nature), I was always taught to take responsibility for my actions.  I'd like to think I'd be fixing a fence that I'd driven through.

At my folks place east of Sonora, we had a half dozen or so incidents of people driving through the f…

Portable Foot Bath

We've been working to eliminate footrot from our flock for several years.  Over the last 12 months, we've made progress through combination of foot baths, vaccinations, trimming, and genetic improvement.  As we've noted earlier, we lost one of these tools when FootVax, the vaccine we've been using, was discontinued.  This will force us to rely more heavily on our remaining tools.

A key to our future management of footrot will be the regular use of a foot bath.  With the numbers of sheep that we currently manage, and the fact that we move our animals between properties frequently, this becomes a challenge.  With our current set up (a 4x8 footbath), we would need 5-7 days just to soak every ewe for 45 minutes.

After racking my tiny brain, I think I may have found a solution.  My dad gave me a utility trailer that his dad had built in the 1950's.  We used it extensively in our family's auction business.  Over the next week, we'll be outfitting it to serve as o…