As I began explaining in Monday’s blog, summer on our farm always brings flock changes as existing flock members are evaluated and, in some cases, replaced by new spring lambs. This year we had great success in our Romeldale/CVM flock, producing a number of beautiful lambs that could bring us closer to our flock goals. In order to add them to the flock, however, we had to remove the same number of older ewes — which is never an easy process.
This past spring we lost Nillie, opening up one space during lambing. Both Jaylee and Nan were sold to another farm for breeding (and they are close enough that I can visit occasionally!), bringing our total spaces to three, as of today. Millie and Lisbeth are both currently for sale as breeding stock and will hopefully sell as such. That will give us five spaces for 2015 ewe lambs, and those spots were easy to fill.
One of our breeding goals last fall was to produce ewe lambs with dark moorit fleeces, and both Olympia and Odelia are beautifully structured girls who fit that description. Even better, Odelia also brings a second goal to fruition: she carries the still-rare Swiss Markings pattern, which she will now pass to half of her own lambs. Osage carries this pattern too, although the black-based version, so her fleece will be a darker gray whereas Odelia’s is moorit, the rarest form.
Also added to our flock this year is our bottle baby, Olive — Gabby’s moorit-carrying daughter. I’ve been trying to keep one of Gabby’s daughters for several years, and it seems that every time I set one aside, someone comes along and insists that they need her for their own flock. This year, with Olive so friendly because of her early bottles, there is no way I will part with her. She should bring good size (Gabby is the largest of our ewes) and incredible crimp on a long staple. Even more important, she will eventually replace her mother in our flock so that we don’t lose that bloodline. Gabby isn’t getting any younger!
Another addition to our flock this year is a yearling from Serenity Spring Wool in Wisconsin. My friend, Isabela, has been combining a number of our bloodlines with sheep from other farms. When I was there last January for her shearing, I noticed a girl named Barcelona. I loved her fleece and size, and I decided to see whether Isabela might be open to allowing her to come into our flock — and she was. Acknowledging Barcelona’s original Spanish name, she is now named Nayarit (after a state in Mexico; you wouldn’t believe how few Spanish names begin with ‘N’!), Naya for short. She has settled in well and even comes to eat graham crackers from my hand!
That would seem to fill up our flock, but we have one last addition I should mention. Odessa, one of Natasha’s miniature moorit brown twins, is still a bit small for her age. However, she has grown well over the past months and now weighs in at over fifty pounds. Her smaller size means that she will likely not breed this fall, and it will take very little hay to keep her over the winter. As a result, we decided to keep her until spring and then evaluate her at that time for inclusion in our flock. With her very rough start (see blog dated March 11, 2015), I felt it unfair to hold her to the same growth standards that we use for the rest of our lambs. She certainly carries a strong instinct for survival, which is in itself an admirable trait.
So at this time, it looks as if we will overwinter twenty-one Romney ewes and twenty-seven Romeldale/CVM ewes, with three probationary lambs to be reviewed next spring. Ideally, I would love that number to be lower — around forty-five in total — but the fact that there are a number of very young lambs joining our flock this year makes it simpler. They eat much less than an adult ewe and many will likely not breed this fall, reducing the work load from what it might be if these were all adults. As a result, I would prefer to keep our flock numbers high for this winter and then make reductions once these young ones are more mature, when we know more about them and can test their fiber diameter and other factors.
On Friday I will finish this series with updates to the ram flock, both Romney and Romeldale/CVM. As usual, the decisions have been quite difficult for that group as well!