Lambing at Rivendell Farm

June 18, 2010 at 11:53 am

Last month, we finished lambing season here at Rivendell Farm. It always happens in May. That’s because we let the rams and the ewes play together in December, and five months later, most of the ewes have produced twins. Vista

Most of the sheep on the farm are hybrids — primarily with varying amounts of Suffolk (with black faces) and Dorset (white-faced) breeds. But we also raise purebred Tunis sheep – a bit more on that later.


We pasture our sheep all year long – they run free, play with each other, and wander over a large field. We do finish them off on barley, which you can see growing in the background beyond the trees. On the farm here, we do our best to subscribe to organic principles, although we haven’t bothered to fill out the onerous paperwork to be certified organic.


This is a recently-shorn Tunis ewe with her newborns. Note her red face. Tunis is a rare breed (from Tunisia, hence the name), which some people say has a finer flavor than more common hybrid sheep. Diet can have an important impact on flavor, too, which is why our sheep are pastured on natural grass (and the sheep do a great job of adding their own natural fertilizer to the grass). The Tunis babies are reddish, but as they grow up, their fleece will turn white.

When it’s breeding time, we have to separate the Tunis ewes and ram from the others.


This ewe has given birth to two new lambs within an hour or so. That’s her water sac hanging out her rear. It’ll drop off shortly. But it won’t remain in the pasture long. That what the turkey vultures are for.

Barn We used to overwinter all the sheep in the barn, but they do quite well out in the pasture all year ‘round. They have lots of grass to eat, and their heavy coats protect them from the chilly winter weather.

We had 179 lambs this year – more than we expected – about one for every 3/4 acre of our farm. We’ll let you know how they do as the summer moves on. BabyTunis

This  little guy, a Tunis, is about an hour old, and still wet. Mom wandered away as we got close for the photo, but she’ll be back to nurse him (or her) soon.

In several months, most of the lambs will be sent off for processing. We may save a few of the females, to replace some of our older ewes we’ll have to cull, who just aren’t functioning as well as mothers as they used to.

The ones we eat ourselves are processed by any of several local butchering places, all about 25 to 40 miles from here (Camden, Michigan). The ones that go into the commercial chain are processed at Wolverine Packing in Detroit.

So, that’s life on Rivendell Farm these days. The horses help plow the fields, the goats provide us with lots of milk, the solar panels provide us with lots of electricity, and the sheep seem happy. Life is good.



  1. Kathy says:

    Are these lambs for sale (after processing) in the Chicago area? If so, is it sold 1/4, 1/2, and whole lamb? Thanks!

  2. Portia says:

    Great article! How lucky are we cousins.

  3. Bob and Linda Kidwell says:

    We’ve talked about doing something like that, but at the end of the day, it just seems like starting a program like that would be just too much hassle. We appreciate the interest, though.

  4. IllinoisLori says:

    Greetings from Illinois! I found you via your article in the current “Farming” Magazine (“Lamb Bubble”)…such a great article! My son, now 19.5 y.o., wants to be a sheep farmer, and what you do on your farm is PRECISELY what he is interested in doing! Though he’s getting an Associate’s Degree right now in Production Ag and Farm Mgmt, his real learning is coming from other sources! When the degree is done (May 2012), he’ll need an old-fashioned apprenticeship somewhere for a year to absorb and practice the intricacies of pasture-based farming.

    We would love to visit your farm and try some of your lamb…do you allow visitors to Rivendell? If you do, perhaps I can call the # given in the magazine to arrange if needed? I’ll have to check and see where Montgomery is…it sounds familiar (I grew up in MI, but in the suburban-Detroit area). Your photos here on this page are beautiful…just the way God created the animals to live! Well done!


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