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Bill Fosher

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Everything posted by Bill Fosher

  1. I use color for year, following the ROYGBIV sequence, except that indigo is too obscure for most ear tag color schemes so it becomes a wild card year. Black is reserved for ewes to be culled. The ear tag number starts with the last digit of the year, and is a serial number after that -- ear tags in 2012 will be 2001, 2002, 2003, etc. Ewe lambs are tagged in the right ear, males (99.999 percent are whethers) are tagged in the right. The number is linked to pedigree and production records. When a ewe is added to the flock permanently, she gets a USDA scrapie tag in her left ear, and that tag is cross-referenced in the records, so if one tag or the other is lost I can still identify the ewe. Having color linked to age has turned out to be a big help at lambing time. I can tell from quite a distance if a ewe in labor is a first-timer, an experienced mother, or an old girl who might bear watching. When sorting lambs for market, having a quick way to separate ewes from whethers is handy. For the most part, I don't need detailed information that would be linked to the sheep's records for things that I do in the field. It's adequate to take down numbers and look them up when I get back home. I know some people who use PDAs, tablets, or laptops for record keeping in the field, but I have seen what my clipboards and notebooks look like when I get done and I don't think I want to subject electronics to that kind of abuse.
  2. I live near Keene, NH, which has an annual pumpkin festival. At one point, it held the world record for the most jack-o-lanterns lit in one place at one time -- 30,000 or some such. The morning after, they welcomed help from anyone who wanted to haul pumpkins away. We used to get probably 3,000 to 5,000 pounds of pumpkins. I would have orange-faced sheep for weeks. The festival has since downsized, and they have a professional clean up crew, so that opportunity isn't as bountiful as it one was, but if you can get pumpkins for cheap or free, by all means, stock up. If you don't break them open, the sheep will roll them around until they find something to push against to bite on them. Breaking them open is half the fun.
  3. The only way you'll catch a wild single sheep on its own reliably is with a rifle. I'd say that the next time you get a sighting, head out with a small group of sheep. Bring the many to the few -- or the one in this case.
  4. Hi Liz, Yes, sheep will control brush. They can't reach quite as high as dairy goats, but otherwise they are at least as effective and easier to contain. But if you are looking for short-term stock and have access to goats, then you should give them a try. The problem you're going to run into with dairy bucklings is that the dairies will want to get rid of them pretty early on, and they may not suit your purpose until they are older. Do you know what kind of brush you're trying to clear out? Glossy buckthorn is a pretty common invasive often found at the margins of fields. While you can control it with sheep, we never found a way eradicate it by grazing. We were running stocking densities as high as 500,000 pounds per acre, but it refoliates so quickly that the best we could achieve was stem mortality, not plant mortality. However, a little bit of glysophate goes a long ways with it.
  5. Hi Liz, I'm familiar with the general area of your new stomping grounds, and I know of one documented gray wolf kill not too far from you (Shelburne). The wolf, a young male, was killed. Multiwire electric fence will not provide adequate protection from your two main threats: domestic dogs, and the Eastern coyote (which is probably a red wolf hybrid). Both will find ways through seven strands, even with 8,000 volts on them -- at least they did in Amherst. It may work for a while, but when it fails it will fail suddenly and permanently, so you might as well have something else in place from the get-go. FWIW, I think you'll find that your sheep, if managed correctly, will do as good a job as goats on your brush.
  6. Ben has no coyotes to worry about, and the fence he describes would do little or nothing to deter them. I love my Electronet. It is not cheap, but it is 100 percent portable. You just have to change your mindset from fencing the field to fencing the feed. Very effective at keeping sheep in and predators out.
  7. If you live in a place where there's very little darkness this time of year (as I assume is the case if it's just dusk at 10 p.m.) then raccoons will start foraging in the daylight. They prefer to work under cover of darkness, but they also need a certain amount of time to tend to business. And yes, a muscovy duck would be on the menu.
  8. I love the stuff with single spikes. All the benefits and none of the hassle and bent spikes, etc. Apparently Premier started making the double spiked stuff when people who had been buying from them started to switch to a competitor's product (Kencove, maybe?) that was offering a double-spiked net. I guess it works great on crop ground.
  9. Well, in my world a little meat is better than a live rooster. My batch of 100 meat birds (all cockerels -- seemed like a good idea at the time) is starting to crow. It's like they swallowed kazoos. July 17 can't get here fast enough.
  10. Double spiked Electronet is the very devil in any soil that has rocks in it. I got paid to use the stuff last summer, and even if there hadn't been other reasons to leave that job, the net would have been sufficient.
  11. Around here, duckweed is only a problem where there is a nutrient management issue -- usually excess animal manure washing into the pond. But it can also be caused by excessive lawn or crop fertilization. I believe it's nitrogen that causes the issue, but it could also be phosphorus. So, while the duckweed itself might not be toxic (as some algae are) perhaps the water is carrying enough contamination to be unpalatable or even dangerous.
  12. If long-term ID is desired but not absolutely critical, you can use two tags and have them cross-referenced in a file. Then if you discover that one tag is missing, you can replace it and update your cross-reference. I place one tag, colored to mark the year of birth, in the lamb shortly after birth, and add a scrapie tag later if I decide to retain it as a breeder. Premier supplies good quality ear tags that are laser etched, so there is no ink to wear off. Many of the colors are hard to read at a distance, but they are very durable. I have had the best luck with their Snapp tags as far as retention, but they are not easily readable. The X series is more readable, but because it has dangly parts it tends to get caught in things and either break or rip out of the ear more readily. But any ear tag system can fail, and short of the loss of an entire ear (which has been known to happen) a tat is forever.
  13. Not that I am an expert or anything, but I brought home an Americauna "pullet" at 20 weeks and he started to crow at 22. Made a great stew.
  14. Grant income is taxable and is reported to the IRS. The EQIP program in NH doesn't require a specific match. The various practices have set prices -- a woven wire perimeter fence for sheep was priced at $4.75 per running foot the year I did it, for instance. I often provide the labor, which helps keep things under the budget, but you could just about hire it done for that price.
  15. Hi Haven, I started out working with a soil conservationist at the NRCS office. We worked out some ideas for how we might salvage a piece of prime farmland that had been badly abused by a string of dairy farmers who grew silage corn on it year in and year out without rotation and with very little returned to the soil. Because of the soil types, the terrain, and the location of the land, it gets lots of points in the ranking system that NRCS uses to make funding decisions. One of the sadder facts of NRCS funding is that you are more likely to get funded if your practices (or those of the operations that preceded you) are bad for the environment. Any way, we never applied for a program that the soil conservationist didn't think I had a really good shot at getting funding for. She handled most of the paperwork, based on our conversations and e-mails.
  16. Hi Haven, I'm not aware of any grant program for land purchase, but there are some low-interest loans available from the Farm Service Agency if you qualify. I have received grants from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service for fencing, rotational grazing, water line construction, and most recently, a high tunnel for out of season vegetable production. NRCS programs vary from state to state, and even by counties within some of the larger states, so your milage may vary. There are also some programs that are specifically targeted to young and beginning farmers. Be aware, however, that free money is never truly free. Don't make the mistake of allowing the grant funding to drive your farming decisions. Make your plans and see if there's a grant that will assist you with little or no alterations to your plans.
  17. Sexing standard chicks is not a 100 percent thing, even at the best hatchery, so even if the feed store ordered pullets, they will get the odd rooster in the bunch. The farm where I worked last summer ordered 350 pullets and we ended up with 14 roosters for the stew pot. Nothing better than rooster noodle soup.
  18. I won't say that wolves kill for fun, because I don't know what constitutes fun for an alien mind. But surplus killing is well documented in wolves, as well as in Eastern coyotes domesticated dogs, so the old saw about humans being the only animal that kills more than it can eat is a myth. A few years back there was a young male gray wolf killed less than 50 miles from here who had killed 32 lambs in two nights. He ate a couple and left the rest. I suspect that this was a released captive wolf -- there are some radical environmentalists who have proposed the idea of "seeding" gray wolves in New England in areas where they have been extirpated as a way of getting them back on the radar here. It's totally illegal, and I have no proof that this is what happened, but no gray wolves have been sighted in that area since. He was several hundred miles from the nearest known natural population, and there were no wolf incidents in the areas between the Quebec/Maine population's territory and western Massachusetts. I don't know that biology of the gray wolf, but I know that hunting Eastern coyotes only increases their numbers. When the population is under pressure, more pairs breed and each bitch produces a larger litter. Take two out of a group of eight, and they will be replaced with six or eight pups the next spring, at least four or five of which will grow to adulthood. So the macho cowboys of the West who think they can control wolf depredation by showing them who's boss may very well be cutting their own throats. Just something to think about before you load up the high-powered rifle.
  19. My definitive answer is that I would not worry about it. NB that I did not say that I have any knowledge about the toxic properties or lack thereof of the wild violet, but I know that I have eaten them and I have seen sheep, chickens, and cattle eat them with out ill effect. That Cornell list is a load of hooey. I really hope you're not fencing out clover and alfalfa, which are listed as toxic.
  20. Suppose you're right about the length of the film. I've been watching a film about shepherding for the last 21 years, and I still don't know everything one needs to know. I reckon if the time comes when I finally know everything one needs to know, it'll be time to try something else.
  21. I don't see how you could expect "everything one needs to know" about such a huge subject to be distilled into a single film.
  22. Rich and green doesn't mean good feed, necessarily. And with limited time on it, they may not be able to get enough of it to meet their nutritional needs. Sheep need about 18 hours a day of grazing, resting, and chewing their cuds to get enough feed out of lush spring pasture. They are eating an awful lot of water these days. You'll need to learn how to body condition score your sheep, and adjust their diets according to their body condition. Grain is a concentrated source of energy that can make up for deficiencies in the forage component of their diets. It's the easiest and surest way of putting weight on sheep. You do need to be careful about mucking around with it -- add it gradually if the animals haven't had it within the last few weeks. So, technically, the answer is that lambs don't necessarily need grain, but your lambs might and we can't tell the answer to that question without putting hands on them.
  23. The ones that I might get are Ayrshire yearlings. Pretty well broke and already pulling a sled and liking it. Problem: I don't see how 3,000 pounds of non-producing cattle could keep up with 10,500 pounds of lactating sheep plus lambs. Guess I need three more teams.
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