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Lacomb Lamb Company

Blogging the Lives of Shepherds...

Pasture Lambing

29 March 2020 By Jared Lloyd

Outdoor lambing has its pros and cons, for sure, but you are able to select for the fiercest and most adept mothers and weed out lines that produce weak or aberrant neonates. Cons are that you probably take more losses, but the investment in the future is solid gold.

The policy that I follow is this: assist, but record and cull.

A ewe has ONE job. 
If she can't do it, she should be delicious, nutritious mutton. Or at least, not be reproducing.

I like my ewe lambs to breed up in the fall with their dams. I breed entire maternal family groups to the same sire. For instance, all of my Dailley Violet line, or my Cochran Alana line, or my Cochran Connie (the B*tch) line, or my Spor's Chocolate Chip line gets a sire from another maternal line that compliments or enhances the traits that I want to see in my stud program. Breeding the ewe lambs to produce as yearlings help me weed out any potential junk a year early. Poor mother? Eat her as a hogget. Bye, Felicia!

These are three of my Rockstar ewe lambs that lambed at Cristom today.  

I've run into a challenge this year that I've never faced before...

My young ewes and some of my pensioners are too fat. This feed. OMG. Now that they've adjusted to the climate and the available forage, they're hog fat. And I don't trail them anywhere, really. So they don't get exercise. They just sit and eat. Good thing summers are pretty dry and I can challenge the ewes enough on some poorer quality feed so they don't turn into wussies. 

So that results in some new things to watch for, but they're still doing fabulous work. Here are some of the stud ewes with their fresh lambs.

Yin and Yang...

Thick. 
We like them real thick and juicy...

Lacomb Lamb Company

Blogging the Lives of Shepherds...

"I Wish You weren't so Flockin' Awkward, Bud."

14 February 2020 By Jared Lloyd

I wholeheartedly try to keep a flock as close to their ancestral type as possible. Our flock was founded with sheep that still had "Island Ram" and "Island Ewe" as their grandsires and granddams. I've seen rapid divergence and extreme types develop in both the US and the UK over the last twenty-two years. Lambs have lost birth coats. Ewes have lost the ability to lamb on pasture. Ears have gotten longer and lower set. Shetlands are kept more for exhibition instead of lamb, mutton, wool and land stewardship. Dewlaps and caudal folds, chalky-opaque and spongy wool, donut horns, blunt staples, mounded polls, extension dominance and patterns alien to the breed and other traits evidence hybridization in the SSS and Flock Book stock. Stock that should have been culled have entered the NASSA and FFSSA mainstream; lethal horns, sickle hocks, low pasterns, flat rib, dippy shoulders... Huge, hairy sheep to weakling "fine fleece" sheep have developed and every extreme justifies their cause with some clause or quote.

Things happened along the way, and the sheep we have are the sheep we have. The extremes don't work for me, because they don't work.

They don't want to live. Their wool is commercially unusable. "Fine" isn't actually any finer. That's just a clique, that I openly renounce. The hairy brutes win the shows. So what? Do you have recipes or patterns for ribbons and trophies?

~~~

In Which He References Epigenetics. 

Pitter, patter. DNA in every creature is being constantly rewritten. It is complex information storage. When you take a hillsheep, lamb it in a barn and feed it grain, the next generation produces sheep that are adapted and becoming dependent on that system. They are becoming barnsheep, or grainsheep, or alfalfasheep, and are becoming not-hillsheep. The subsequent generations intensify the adaptation and dependency- and rapidly, even in a passively selective system like this. How much more rapidly if you select intensively for single traits? What other traits do you lose, or lose sight of, when you select aggressively for one other? If you breed the Shaela (Shell) and Iset (Roan) patterns off the solid colored sheep, what else do you lose? If you breed out the distinction of the primary and secondary follicles, what else do you lose? If you select for sheep that Club Lamb judges put purple rosettes on, what can you possibly gain? All of the sudden Shetlands are huge with trashy wool, but Dr. Dinglehopper from the Midwest Prolapse Sheep Program uncrossed his eyes long enough to sort the class out from largest to smallest. Good for you.

Nobody wins that way.

Look Back to Look Forward.

Talk to crofters on the Islands. In 1814 "we took a little bacon and we took a little beans" and we decided again that the English don't get to tell us what to do any more. So go to the source. Look for the purest and oldest strains. That's why I love the Dailley sheep so much. They're unpolluted with all the Cheviot, Merino, Welsh Mountain, etc. blood that is in the mainstream now. I've pretty well weeded out all the Flock Book genetics from my outfit (via Centennial Livestock Auction- bye Felicia!), but I have a lot of English influence in my main ewe families. The more improved types don't hold up on pasture or hill and auto-cull, and the more hill type ewes gain genetic dominance in the program. The largest exception to my experience with the Anglo hybrids is via Shirehill Minder and Roban Dillon influence. The Torddu and Torwen influence from those imported sires doesn't seem to weaken the filial generations as hill sheep. There is a notable opacity to the wool and if you double-breed those lines, they get rather Welsh Mountain shaped heads. But those are very minimal drawbacks.

I need my ewes to work as hard as I do. They have a very simple job description- eat the available forage, maintain condition, deliver lambs and nurse them on pasture unassisted, make lots of milk and wean off big twins, and shear off a big, soft, long fleece. In return, I bust my butt for them. I'd literally die for the occasionally ungrateful, little baaaa-sterds.

Most of the time I love them. Okay, all the time, but sometimes they are abysmally infuriating. Some days, it takes rather more profanity to express my devotion. Maybe it's justifiable to hurl a bucket at a habitual dog food eater every now and then, or insult them with really snotty slurs like "human!" or "Democrat!" or "Republican!"... 

~~~

In Which He References Freewill

Over the years I have found that there is a certain amount of selection that needs to take place, but to a greater degree you have to let a Shetland be a Shetland. There are boxes you can't squeeze them into, even if they are smaller sized creatures. You can't breed away things that make them what they are and then be surprised when they aren't... 

"Your Mother Was a Shetland!"

My girls left me some wool on the fence when they got out the other day, and I picked off as many locks from the barbed wire as I could. I cherish that there isn't a single one in the bunch that is exactly the same. I love that their wool is what it is. I value that the less I try to control and manipulate them, the better the wool and the lambs are. Like wine. Or other craftsmanship and artistry. They've taught me a lot. Shetlands are a most excellent study in freewill and examination of human character. If you ever want to come face to face with your flaws, try herding a flock of Shetlands.

Flock... Flockety, flock, flock!

They say you're drawn to animals that you're the most like. Color me about half feral, then. Like the Shetlands, the less pressure and expectation you put on me, the more beautiful my work. 

Beats the heck out of being fed a ration at a bunk and living in a square. 

All the comforts- and a free pair of shackles. 

Lacomb Lamb Company

Blogging the Lives of Shepherds...

In Which Jared uses Potty Humor

5 February 2020 By Jared Lloyd

To be honest, poop jokes have never been my forte, and I have a bit of a phobia about human and predator poo... Seriously. You see all the health department posters squawking about washing your hands after touching animals, and all I can think about is how disgusting humans are. All the fluids and scratching and nasty, nasty humansessss... 

Lest I digress into Sociology and Philosophy... 

Whereas cleaning stalls or a chicken house or pigeon loft, or wearing substantial quantities of cow sh*t, calf scours, slobber and snot after working cattle, or being greasy, snotty and covered with sheep sh*t after shearing, or clearly by the fragrance of my pickup it doesn't bother me to throw wet saddle blankets and sweaty saddles in the back seat... But I almost need deliverance ministry after using public restrooms, because people are booger-pickers and urine-splatterers and Lord save us!

What I want to talk to you guys about today is relative more to pasture management and parasitology, rather than my reasonable fears of my own perverse species. (Yes, reasonable. You're nasty.) Specifically internal parasites in sheep. More specifically, let's address nematodes, or round worms. 

Gazillions of dollars and untrackable hours of research have gone into control of roundworms, especially Haemonchus contortus (pronounced "he-MON-cuss"), or Barberpole Worm, by Universities and nerds, and probably millions of good sheep and goats have been culled for exhibiting susceptibility to this particular species. Some universities have dumped their entire barberpole resistance breeding programs. Good! Because it's not addressing the actual problem.

Before I go into why this hasn't worked, we need to address the root of the modern industrial agricultural complex. This entire system is a Humanist construct that is out of synch with natural design. It is engineered for frantic, maximum extraction of commodities for Keynesian false markets by a Prussian style industrial drone army. (A good resource for understanding this entire system is Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave by Dave Breese.) Livestock are treated as soulless automata. They are not. Row crop production has depleted and degraded vast landscapes and polluted waterways and aquifers. Wildlife species are disappearing. Farms are being lost by farmers and bought up by soulless corporations. But by god (which one?), we have to feed the world. 

Traditional methods are overlooked and dismissed as primitive, impractical or unproductive, and to be fair, many are. I won't mention things like worming sheep with garlic. Oops, I just did... Dang it. 

There are two axiomata that ovine parasitology should focus on to be successful. 1) An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 2) Never let your sheep graze a pasture long enough to hear the church bells ring twice. The latter is a very applicable, old Welsh proverb. Let me just proffer this; you want to take advice about sheep from people who exist because of their sheep. So if a Navajo shepherd is speaking, you listen. Give me the advice of a Dine' elder, or a transhumant Romanian shepherd, or a Scottish crofter ANY day over a University extension specialist. 

In which the Proof is in the Pudding...

My grandpa always preached, "if things don't work the way you think, change your way of thinking." Then first thing is first. You're a steward of the landscape before you are a shepherd. Soil first. Forage second. Animals third. Humans last. Humanists of both the Wall Street and cult Evangelical Gnostic affiliations have this ass-backwards, here in Babylon 2020.

The soils and forage species can't take constant pressure from grazers. This is where parasites flourish. Entropy in one form fuels more entropic system collapse. Haemonchus eggs are shed in sheep feces, and hatch at varying intervals based on temperature and humidity. Their cute, little larvae crawl up grass and herb stems and wait to be eaten by sheep. Once munched, they attach to the host's stomach lining and suck massive amounts of blood. Sheep get anemic and die. Some are more resistant than others. 

Being the culture that we are, instead of teaching people how to manage their pastures, we subject sheep to constant parasite exposure and dump chemical anthelmintics into them. Or garlic. Neither work at one point or another. 

So, here is what I practice. You need to plan your pasture rotations for soil and forage health, for optimal nutrition for your flock, and disruption of the Haemonchus life cycle. Don't have stock grazing any rotation longer than seven days, and let the pastures rest at least six weeks before sheep are restocked there. Plan your grazing rotations. (And don't give me the sh*t about how you can't rotate your pastures. It's an excuse that nearly everyone with worm problems uses. "I can't." If I can, then you can. And I'll help teach you how as my blog and vlog progress.)

You've probably all read the FAMACHA literature and know how to look at inner eyelids to assess anemia, and that's a good tool to have in your guerilla agricultural arsenal. But we're about to look at some turds here. Feast your eyes on these beauties! 

This is a pretty one! It's perfect pebbles and representative of about 90% of the turds being plunked out by my flock. This is on washy, soggy grass pasture too. (Wet feed shouldn't make your sheep have diarrhea. Do you get diarrhea when you eat soup?)

This is the softest turd in the entire pasture, and it was a bit degraded by heavy rain. As you can see, it still is not sloppy. I took a sample of this turd in to Dr Dietrich's and we did a fecal egg count off of it. There were only a few Trichostongylus eggs in it. 

Diarrhea or sloppy, ploppy turds are indicators of parasite overloads. (And other problems.) We're not seeing these symptoms in my flock because I manage my program with an ounce of extra work on the front end to prevent a pound of problems. 

I got 99 problems and a Barberpole ain't one. 

#aintnohollabacksheep

This is just a bonus turd shot. It's the only one that I've observed over the last several months to have tapeworm segments. I thought you'd enjoy it. It's probably from a lamb.

Manure. Feces/Faeces. Poop. Crap. Turds. Sh*t. 

Whatever you call it, it is a crucial component in ecology. Much of our land is starving for it. Some of our land is polluted by too much of it. *cough*   feedlots   *cough*

There are so many species above and below ground that need poop. There are three different species of flies just on this turd in late January, along with innumerable bacterium, mycelium, annelids, other insects, and probably crustaceans if the sow bugs get to it. They, in turn feed the vegetation, that in turn grows more subsoil organic matter that soaks up precipitation, that preserves water runoff quality and feeds the grazers that feed and clothe the graziers. 

It's like Grandpa said, "if things don't work the way you think, change your way of thinking."

The way forward is behind us.
-Jared

Lacomb Lamb Company

Blogging the Lives of Shepherds...

The Holy Grail of Shetland Lace Wool

18 November 2019 By Jared Lloyd

This is a lock from one of our junior flock sires, Hawthorn. He's pure Dailley bred and reflects all the rugged unimproved qualities of a traditional hill type Shetland that works in our program. His fleece is what I like for producing lace fibers; super fine, super soft, well-nourished, lustrous, long, has a very good primary/secondary follicle relationship and cashmere type style and character. I prefer the drape and obedience of this type of crimp structure to more organized style and potential stretchiness of the improved types or semi-moderns that I find make the most fantastic knitting yarns for sweaters/jumpers, gloves, socks and hats. I do love that wide, lazy crimp that falls out like honey or caramel dribbling off your spoon... But I digress...

With this type, you get a nice blend of loft and drape and the beautiful bloom of Shetland wool's characteristic halo. 

We're proposing a fundraiser and contest with this fleece. Details to follow in a later post. I'm just whetting your appetite here!

Blergh... This looked like a better quality image on my phone, sorry...

His fleece has nicely feathered lock formation. Peel one off and separate the primary/secondary follicles, and you can see a very good relationship/ratio of the two distinct fiber types (that keep an unimproved, traditional type Shetland warm and weatherproof.) 
It is exquisitely fine and soft.  

I test-spun a lock on my knee, so draught and tension weren't ideal, but this fleece wins my snobby approval. (He'll most likely get a very large breeding group next fall...)

Did I mention he's pure Dailley? And from the Dailley Violet maternal line? The dude is bred as close to the Islands and original importation as you can get in North America until we can import real hill sheep from the Islands again. Well chuffed with this fella.

Lacomb Lamb Company

Blogging the Lives of Shepherds...

Guardians of the Flock

1 November 2019 By Jared Lloyd

Livestock guardian dogs are crucial members of our transhumant or stationary symbiosis. They protect the flock from predators using behaviors unique to their breed/landrace or individual personality. Both in Colorado and Oregon, or flock has had a great deal of human interaction. So our dogs have been chosen carefully to be very friendly towards humans, but still very proficient at keeping predators away with their presence, hazing techniques or 'removal.' These are rugged outdoor dogs, who, like their wild ancestors and their working cousins in Europe, Turkey, the Middle East and Central Asia, shrug off the elements and stay with their flock in weather that makes puny, pampered Pumpkin Spice pups pout.

These dogs have a dichotomous nature, where they are absurdly clumsy and floppy when playing, but agile and lethal when working. Humorously proficient...?

If you'd like to read a bit more about these big, floppy, coyote-chomping goofballs, I'm linking some solid resources below. I'll do my best to stear you towards reputable sources as I blog. 

Livestock Guardian Dogs- Texas A&M Agrilife Extension
Our friend, Cat Urbigkit, is a wealth of knowledge about LGDs, author and publisher.