Lambing at Rivendell Farm
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.
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.
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.
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.