It is so good to be home! We rolled in yesterday afternoon after over two weeks on the road making a trip that combined business and pleasure and covering 3100 miles over 50 hours of driving. When we left on Tuesday, June 27th, our truck and trailer were loaded up with eleven sheep from two different farms. We headed east, crisscrossing the states as we went, dropping off sheep in southwestern Indiana (right across the Kentucky border at Louisville), then central Pennsylvania, and southern Pennsylvania where we temporarily left our trailer, and then finally southwestern Virginia where the last two sheep were left. After that, we headed to visit our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter for almost a week in North Carolina before heading back, picking up first the trailer and two sheep, and then three more adult rams at our last stop before home.
Of the five sheep coming back into Iowa, one was meant for a nearby farm here in Iowa, two will continue their trek west this weekend after a temporary stop-over with us, and two will stay here at Peeper Hollow Farm for breeding. These latter two include a dark moorit brown adult Romeldale ram from Marushka Farms in central Pennsylvania, and a dark black-based Romeldale/CVM ewe lamb from Yetter Sheep Farm also in Pennsylvania. Both of these two will remain in our barns for the next few weeks in quarantine to ensure both their own health and well-being, and that of the flock that they will soon join.
The moorit ram actually caught my eye a couple of years ago when I visited my friend Marie at her farm in Pennsylvania. I usually spend some time there each year on our trip east, talking with Marie and looking over her large flock of hundreds of Romeldales. As I walked through the 2015 lambs that summer discussing color genetics, one of her dark moorit ram lambs caught my eye. He was very correct in structure and very dark in color. I pointed him out to Marie and asked whether he might be for sale, but Marie was at that time hoping to use him for her own flock if he continued to look as nice when he matured. As I continued my way through her flock, I mentioned to her that if she ever decided to sell him, I might be interested and to let me know. That’s why Marie contacted me shortly before our trip to let me know that he was available. He had bred there in her flock last year and he was now for sale.
Although I have several dark moorit ram lambs from our own flock this year who I intend to use for breeding, having this new ram, named Old Sterling, gives these young boys time to mature and show us what they have to offer our flock. Besides that, he brings new bloodlines into our flock, reducing inbreeding levels that are always a consideration in a critically endangered breed like the Romeldales.
It is honestly a bit unusual for us to be adding a ewe, since our flock is generally closed except for rams that we occasionally bring in to diversify our bloodlines and prevent inbreeding. Because I get birth photos of lambs from many different farms of many different breeds, I happened to get birth photos of this particular ewe lamb earlier this year for help in identifying her color genetics. She caught my eye, both because of her dark coloring and because I liked her structure. When her owner mentioned that she was looking for a friendly ewe who carried Swiss Markings (a specific color pattern in sheep), I thought of our Posey and offered a trade that was quickly agreed upon. As a result Qashel (originally named Balsamic) has come to join our flock!
Neither of these new sheep recognize me at all and both are pretty nervous and afraid of their new environment. For this reason, I am really happy to keep them there in quarantine – it will give me time to get them used to my coming and going. I am hoping that by the time they are put out among our flock, they will realize that I normally bring good things – graham crackers, scratches, and such – and that the poking and prodding that they have had to endure in these past couple of days (new eartags, OPP testing, etc.) are now things of the past. I find that new sheep settle into the flock much better when they’ve had time to bond with a friend, so we will bring a ewe lamb in to keep Qashel company, and an adult ram for Old Sterling’s pen. That way, when they are introduced to the larger flock, they will already have at least one friend to begin with – and our friendly flock will then do the rest! Welcome to Old Sterling and Qashel!