Monday, May 25, 2009

Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar Water for Sheep

Last post, May 18th , we referred to the benefits of vinegar in water. This should ALWAYS be Apple Cider vinegar.
Vinegar is a miracle-working liquid for man or beast. I had previously heard of the assistance it gave to reduce -- or eliminate -- worms in sheep. Knowing of its many benefits for man, I decided to give it a try. While I can’t say that I have any direct proof of it reducing worms in sheep, based on its usefulness in so many other areas, I figured it certainly couldn’t hurt. I started with a VERY small amount … didn’t really measure, just poured from a gallon jug. Since there is a strong smell and taste, I wanted my sheep to get use to that first and not refuse to drink! I would estimate that the first few days, it was probably no more than a tablespoon per each gallon. Several days later, I started adding maybe 2 tablespoons per gallon. Here again, I never actually measured, but by approximately 2 weeks time, the amount of vinegar was probably in the range of ½ to 2/3 cup per each gallon of water. This was given to my ram also -- who, except for breeding times -- was kept by himself with a wether (a neutered ram). There were times when he was kept by himself - but always close enough to the ewes' pens that he could see his ‘girls’. Sometime after starting the vinegar/water, I again read in several different animal publications, the benefits of vinegar to breeding, particularly, breeding so as to maximize the outcome with ewes. While rams can become very friendly (HOWEVER -- NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON A RAM), you can only use so many rams and/or sell so many. If marketing for meat is your main objective, then this particular piece of information may not be of value to you, at least once you get the number of ewes you are seeking. Since this information of vinegar-to-ewe ratio kept turning up, and I had now been using vinegar for maybe a year plus, I made sure that I kept it up; especially several months before the ram went in with the ewes. The first year, I got a 50% ratio of ewe lambs vs. ram lambs -- not impressive, but a whole lot better than I had done previously.
The second year, I got a 75% to 25% ratio of ewes to rams --- percentages were better!
The third year was my bonanza == 100% ewes. I was sold!!!
Give APPLE CIDER VINEGAR to your sheep --- you won’t be sorry. Happy lambing!! Diane

"He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: From following the ewes great with young ..." Psalm 78:70-71a

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Intensive Rotational Grazing - Fencing & Water

(Credits: Many, many thanks go to my sister, L. C., who has many talents - but I presume her specialty is making a computer ‘sing’ or any other thing you would like it to do! She created the beautiful ‘sketch’ you see here. Enjoy looking at its detail!)

In our last Post (5/10/09), we were discussing initial fencing of a piece of property and then ‘cross-fencing’ it. The practice of which we were referring is called “Intensive Grazing”, or “Intensive Rotational Grazing”. The benefits to this method of grazing is just amazing to the animal and the land.
In our sketch, we have taken a certain amount of acreage and sub-divided it into paddocks. The amount of land shown is purely for demonstration -- yours may be less or more. The important thought is to have approximately 12 different paddocks to rotate the animals on. Depending on the amount of animals you have and the size of the paddock, would determine the amount of days the animals spend there. PLEASE NOTE, none of the paddocks have more than 2 days designated. This keeps the grass from being completely eaten down, trampled on, or too heavy a manure load. When the animals are moved, this particular paddock will then have about 2 weeks of rest. Even with little to no rain, a field, left alone, will begin to rejuvinate itself.
The exterior fencing needs to be durable -- welded or woven wire about 4 feet tall is the most ideal. But costs begins to add up when fencing for animals, so 3’ welded wire would also work. Just run an electric wire line above that to hopefully prevent an outside animal from jumping the fence. An electric strand run about 4-6” above the ground line -- AND on the OUTSIDE of the fence, is also a good idea to prevent outside animals from tunneling under the fence.
The inside fencing (cross-fencing) does not have to be as particular. Several rows of baling twine, tied with surveyor’s tape or plastic bags that the animals can see, could easily be used, or a couple of rows of electric wire. Unless the sheep were spooked, they would respect the lines you have made (except for the ram! especially in mating season). The worst would be that the ewes would simply find themselves in the next paddock.
In our sketch, our water source is found in the center of all of the paddocks -- saves on supplying water to each paddock individually. An underground water line is shown running from the barn (assuming water is there) to the center of the field. A hand-pump at the trough usually is all that is needed as the supply of water needed is not like filling for cattle.
Building a roof over the watering trough area would accomplish several additional benefits. If a 300 gal. plastic water tank were buried beneath the trough, and down spouting provided from the roof into the tank, a free supply of rain water would be available. Additionally, this would keep this area somewhat dry instead of a mud hole in the rain. It would also serve as an area where minerals could be provided that would not become soaked. (Minerals will be discussed in a future post.) Placing wood chips or straw (not hay) around this area is also recommended.
While 12 separate paddocks seem overwhelming, especially if there is little to no extra help, start with 3-4 paddocks and the next year divide those, and so on. Four paddocks to rotate the animals on is far better than just letting them freely graze and waste a great deal of what the Good Lord has put out there for them to eat.
As promised in our last post, rotating the sheep onto new pasture greatly reduces, or can completely eliminate worms or parasites. And to destroy their life-cycle, a 2 week period is needed before the animal returns. Worms or parasites need moisture like any other living creature. They will climb up a leaf blade to get the morning dew -- which is just the time the sheep are coming out to graze …. but on a new pasture, the sheep won’t find any!!
Next post - the benefits of vinegar in water!!
“… water ye the sheep, and go and feed them.” Gen. 29:7b

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Raising All Natural Sheep

The raising of all-natural sheep goes back to Bible times. King David, author of the Psalms, took his sheep to new pastures where they could find fresh, untrampled grass and other 'herbs' to eat, which gave them all the nutrients that were needed, as well as fresh water to drink (leading them 'beside the still waters' -- a very calming effect for both animal and man).
Fencing appears to be the biggest obstacle facing the farmer who wants to raise his animals in a natural method. A good fence around the periphery of the property to be grazed, is a must ... not so much as to restrain the sheep, but to protect them from outside harm. Once the outside fence is established, dividing the property into sections -- and the fence needed to divide -- is not quite as demanding. Should the animal 'escape' one section, it would simply find itself in the next enclosure.
The most preferable amount of paddocks (sections) should be at least ten (12 is best!). This would allow for an approximate 2 week rest period before the animal returned to it. (see future posts on reasons why!). Each paddock does not have to be a perfect size or the same size. The sheep do not care - just give them the grass to graze!
Sheep should be moved every 1-2 days, depending on the number of sheep and land conditions and, preferably in the evening. While flies are not as big a problem for wool sheep, they can still be a nuisance. However, when the flies 'go to bed', it takes a while the next morning for them to 'find' the sheep. This creates a natural, healthy atmosphere, and also helps keep the animal at its peak performance and satisfied. The sheep will thank you!
A second consideration is providing water and shade to each paddock. If you are dealing with only a small amount of animals, carrying buckets of water probably would not be unfeasible. For larger numbers of sheep, laying 3/4" PVC piping on top of the ground to each paddock, could be an option. (This arrangement, however, would only work in milder climates, or summer months in harsher climates.) The PVC would not be so large that the animal could not step over it. In a perfectly laid-out pasture (certainly not my farm!), burying the pipe to the necessary frost-free line (check with local extension office if not known), would be the most ideal.
If your farm allows, a watering system placed in the middle of a field, with the paddocks going out as spokes on a wheel, the center being the watering trough, would simplify the above.
Providing shelter/shade could be as simple as placing a tarp up to block the afternoon sun. Planting a few fast growing trees or evergreens in each paddock would be ideal. As one might guess, protecting the newly planted tree with its own mini-fence would be a must until the seedling was established and of enough height not to be demolished by hungry sheep (or deer!).
I have been farming naturally for about 12 years now. I wouldn't change that for anything. The benefits to the animal, its wool, the land and finally the meat that comes to your table, is well worth whatever extra work that might appear on the surface.
I will in future posts be describing what I have done and learned from my experiences in raising sheep with natural practices.
Thanks! for your time ... I know it is a precious commodity! Diane
"... He maketh me to lie down in green pastures ..." Psalm 23