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ejano

Organic parasite controls?

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I've been doing some research regarding production and marketing of organic wools and meats. These markets preclude the use of traditional chemical topical and internal dewormers and pest controls.

 

In addition to careful rotational grazing, what organic-approved methods are available?

 

S.A.R.E reports some success with Garlic juice as a dewormer - has anyone tried or heard of this? Here is more information on the study.

 

I've also found some information on some success in grazing sheep on sericea lespedezabut as I understand it, this is not a grass that is native to my area and am reluctant to introduce it.

 

 

What is your experience or research into these or other kinds of organic approved pest controls?

 

 

Liz

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There's no scientific evidence that garlic juice or DE -- the two things often called organic wormers -- actually work.

 

Any plant with high tannins such as lespedeza or birdsfoot trefoil will have some effect of inhibiting parasite growth, but it will only make a small difference at the margins.

 

Your best bet for producing organic lamb is to be in a dry climate, use long rotations, graze horses or cattle between sheep grazings, and buy stock from a flock enrolled in NSIP or Lambplan that is documenting resistance to parasites in it flock. At the moment, I believe this is limited to a handful of Katahdin breeders.

 

Do not buy into the idea that hair sheep are naturally parasite resistant, or even that if you buy sheep with documented parasite resistance that you are all set.

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There's no scientific evidence that garlic juice or DE -- the two things often called organic wormers -- actually work.

 

Any plant with high tannins such as lespedeza or birdsfoot trefoil will have some effect of inhibiting parasite growth, but it will only make a small difference at the margins.

 

Your best bet for producing organic lamb is to be in a dry climate, use long rotations, graze horses or cattle between sheep grazings, and buy stock from a flock enrolled in NSIP or Lambplan that is documenting resistance to parasites in it flock. At the moment, I believe this is limited to a handful of Katahdin breeders.

 

Do not buy into the idea that hair sheep are naturally parasite resistant, or even that if you buy sheep with documented parasite resistance that you are all set.

 

I'm thinking at the moment that sheep are walking hosts to any number of creepy crawly things :). The sheep that I am obtaining come from a flock that has been wormed using traditional methods - the ewes were wormed just before lambing. The lambs have not yet been wormed. They are just beginning to nibble on greening pastures (spring is so late here!) which have been previously grazed by cattle. I expect to douse them with some kind of dewormer (likely ivermectin) before they come to me. I'll do a fecal count (somehow!) to see where they are at and then make some decisions about future dewormings based on those findings.

 

What did you think of the S.A.R.E. study? A farm in Maine used a S.A.R.E grant to do some research with a small flock regarding the effects of garlic juice. It was only one study of course, and the author noted the need for more long term tracking. She was also culling out of the study any lambs that became overburdened with parasites.

 

Liz

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There are two factors at play here: resistance of parasites to anthelmintics and tolerance of sheep to the affects of parasites on their health. Has it been proven some sheep actually are resistant (prevent infection) to parasites as opposed to being tolerant (reduced affects) of the infection)?

 

 

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Garlic juice doesn't work consistently and when it does appear to work, there is probably mitigating circumstances. The SARE report was not in a peer reviewed journal, the study had some serious flaws. We just got through with a study on goats where garlic juice was one of the treatments- it was innefective at controlling any round worms. Sheep and goats share the same roundworm parasites.

 

Use it at your own risk.

 

Mike Neary

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Liz,

 

Even the author of the Maine study acknowledged that she didn't know if the results she saw were due to the garlic or to other things that she was doing -- including removing the poor doers from the study on humane grounds. If I recall correctly, there were no control groups, so she couldn't attribute any result she saw to any treatment she was providing.

 

Mark,

 

In most of the research about parasitism in sheep, fecal egg count is considered a legitimate stand-in for parasite burden. Based on that, the Katahdin breeders would be selecting for parasite resistance because they record FECs and run those through LambPlan or NSIP to develop expected breeding values for the trait for each individual.

 

Programs that rely on FAMACHA or packed cell volume as a marker for parasitism (as I believe the SARE farmer grant study did) are flawed in at least three ways. First and foremost, they are looking at just one symptom (anemia) caused by just one parasite (Haemonchus contortus). There are other conditions that cause anemia, and Haemonchus can be present without causing anemia. Many other worms can sicken and even kill sheep without causing any anemia at all.

 

Further, even if we were to accept the the level of anemia is a legitimate marker for parasitism, it is only a clinical sign of disease. As you point out, there are probably individuals capable of carrying a significant parasite load without showing clinical signs of disease. These "typhoid Marys" contaminate pasture and infest the less resilient sheep. I don't know whether the existence of such sheep has been conclusively proven, but there are certainly plenty of stories about sheep with very high FECs that seemed to be in fine fettle.

 

Third, if you rely on FAMACHA as a measure of the extent of anemia, you are relying on a pretty subjective criterion. The operator has to judge the color of the eyelid against a printed card to determine what level of anemia is present. There's no quality control once the cards leave the training session. Over time printing inks fade, and magenta is actually one of first to go meaning that over time the reference for anemia will become paler and paler. Leave the card in the sun and this effect will be sped up considerably.

 

PCV is an objective measure of anemia, but again, it's an inaccurate stand-in for parasitism.

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Liz,

 

Even the author of the Maine study acknowledged that she didn't know if the results she saw were due to the garlic or to other things that she was doing -- including removing the poor doers from the study on humane grounds. If I recall correctly, there were no control groups, so she couldn't attribute any result she saw to any treatment she was providing.

 

 

Agreed - She also noted a spike in wet weather. Another thread posted in 2009 contains abstracts of studies done several years ago. The results of the various studies were mixed.

 

I have no real objection to using a commercially approved product but if I am looking to develop a product for a certain market, then I have to play by their rules. I have the unusual opportunity to go into this "organically" because, other than a little Roundup in one vegetable garden across the road from the pastures there have been no chemicals used on the property since the mid-1970's - no commercial fertilizers, no pesticides or herbicides on the fields. In the 171 years the property has been in the family, no sheep have ever stepped hoof on the property (most recently it was a dairy farm). The last animals to occupy the space I plan to put the sheep were cows back in the 1950's. It's been hayfield since the dairy closed.

 

More thinking - and research to do. Any further guidance gladly appreciated.

 

My next question to ponder: How worthy of attention (measured in the amount a consumer would pay) is the "organic wool" label? Maybe the market isn't big enough to be worth the trouble...?

 

Thanks,

Liz

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Here is my info so far.

 

I have been consistently breeding for tolerance. And I indeed think it is tolerance now not so much resistance. 9 years now

 

I lamb in feb. They utilize indigenous brush, the tannins indeed seem to help. The lambs then are not as exposed as early to wet spring grass. The barn is deep littered.

 

Any sheep unable to walk the distances required, lagging behind etc is culled. The lagging behind is interesting as those sheep always have a big load.

 

I have used garlic juice and not found it to be reliable. It does seem to help with coccidiosis. The pure dairy lambs that come to me at a month old often have this because of the confinment system they are raised under.

 

It may help as a tonic. But I haven't made enough reliable study on it to say.

 

But I will tell you what does seem to work.

 

Everything Bill said, I do. That all works.

 

I have tried the herbal wormers from Fios/ hoeggers/ goat suppply. I made little balls out of them with molassas. However....they may seem to work because my flock is tolerant.

And you must use it three days in a row, and once a week. However you can grow the herbs yourself. Be careful with wormwood. I try not to use this as it is a powerful drug even though it is herbal.

 

But again...I say...it may be ONLY because my flock is tolerant and I practice all these other things. I have experimented. And I mix it with things Grandpa used. But again the stock in Grandpa's day were tough.

 

I have one milking sannan (Goat) that is very intolerant of parasites. You probably know that parasites loads make milk taste bitter. This was how the old people could tell without microscopes and fecal exams.

(That is if the animal showed no outward signs of unthriftiness or her manure didn't tell you by its consistancy and shape.)

I can chemical worm this goat and her milk sweetens.

 

I can herbal worm with the stuff from hoeggers/Fios and the milk sweetens.

Then I do a fecal count and I begin to get an idea of what actually is happening. (My Vet hates this.)

 

But I am trying to use methods that my Grandpa used.

 

And His one piece of advice that stuck with me is this.

 

"Tea, when I was a boy, if they weren't tough, they died."

 

The old people didn't breed for size of chops or carcasses. They bred for health.

 

But it costs me the same ammount of money to USDA slaughter and cut and wrap a big lamb as well as a small one. So there's the rub.

 

One other thing I breed for sheep that will really protect their lambs, And have great feet.

 

My big dorset meat ewes couldn't walk the distances. and would not utilize indigenous brush.

 

Some Katahdins are indeed not tolerant of parasites.

 

My crossbreds are by far my best sheep in terms of this. However they are small and rarely twin.

 

Yes people will buy organic wool and organic fertilizer. But you must certify it. I sell it but as non- commercial chemical free. I hate all this d*** word play. It is beggining to freak me out.

 

So..thats what I have done so far.

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Tea makes some really good points. My hardiest, most resistant (and willing to browse/forage) sheep were my karakuls. They are built differently than most sheep, very lean, rarely twin. I had a hard time selling them for meat because folks looked at them and didn't see the ideal big, fat sheep. And of course the smaller sheep brings smaller profit because the cost of butchering (and shearing) is the same, regardless of size. And speaking of shearing, unless you plan on doing it yourself, consider that shearers generally charge significantly more per sheep for really small flocks. So for everything there's a tradeoff.

 

I read somewhere that organic wool can command 20% more than regular wool. Of course that presupposes a wool market, and really if you market to handspinners and use the term "naturally raised" or "minimal meds" or similar you probably still could make good sales without having to worry about an organic label. I think this is where your niche would be because I don't think there's a huge market for commercial wool here in the US.

 

The thing with trying to raise sheep organically is that you are going to have more losses, especially at first, than someone using chemical wormers. You have to decide if you are okay with those losses (and are willing to cull the poor doers) while you build a flock that has resistance/tolerance.

 

Because Tea uses brush for "graze" she is also likely exposing her sheep to fewer parasites in the first place (since sheep pick up parasites on the grass they eat). The best way to keep the parasite load down in a grazing system is to rotate and follow one type of livestock with another. This is what I would do if I were trying to get a certified organic label.

 

J.

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I am not sure how many sheep your are talking about here, but i would balance the extra work in, vs the extra money made, from going organic. A "natural" label can pay more( than reg. not organic), and the hoops to jump through are much less demanding. Depending on the buyer, "natural" may also include thing such as "low stress" handling, and pasture rotation. They almost always incude no feed additives or antibiotics.

 

We worm very little, but i would not be willing to loose that tool if i needed it some year.

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As others have said, the single most effective non-chemical worming strategy I have used is multi-species grazing and careful pasture management. My horses graze sections behind the goats and sheep, and we've run cattle & poultry behind the sheep. Cattle & horses are great, too, because they run "clean-up" duty eating a lot of stuff the sheep won't eat. The poultry takes more work, but they add a lot of fertility to the soil.

 

Also, keep in mind that it's not that hard to build resistance to chemical wormers. Ivermectin resistance is a genetically dominant trait (if I remember correctly). Like Tea, I've selected pretty heavily for parasite tolerance. I worm my market lambs maybe 3 times a year, often less. My market lambs get it about the same. They graze sometimes all year.

 

This reminds me I need to go borrow a horse for the grazing season since my old mare is reliving her show days teaching a 4H-er the ropes...

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Thanks for all of the good advice -- keep it coming! Chickens might be a doable alternative grazer...have to investigate their flying ability as they absolutely cannot get into my cousin's lawn -- he'll have them for dinner! Would love to have a horse again, but the sheep are occupying his stall if they need to be tucked in.

 

Once I get the dogs fully trained rotational grazing won't be a problem but I need to bring them back to the barn at night -- too much "wild" down in the valley. I don't plan at this point to ever go above 20 sheep so there is plenty of area to move them about. Whatever profit I may make likely won't be on the sheep, but on a greenhouse operation - the sheep are there to graze down the slopes and to provide occasional compost for the gardens. But I thinking I can do what I want and still treat the sheep with dewormers...

 

While, I'm looking at the place holistically, I don't want to lose any sheep - all ready far to sentimental about them. They are from small flocks that have been carefully monitored for worms,and the owners actively use IPM practices. Both flocks use Ivermectin. It just doesn't make sense to hold back every advantage to them. Also, it seems the concern for Ivermectin is in regard to the meat - not so much the wool?

 

(I do plan to market the Shetland to the hand spinning market - the others' will be converted into some as yet undecided value added product for sale - maybe up to the roving stage.)

 

While I agree with Tea that "labels" are too confusing, I would like the farm to be certified organic -- it fits in with the history and farming practices of the place. The next generation after me (my son and his cousins) supports the idea as well. We're in the bullseye of the Marcellus Shale gas rush and it's a quiet statement to counterbalance some of the detrimental stuff that's happening.

 

So, my overarching concern is if I use Ivermectin as needed on the sheep, does that make the whole place ineligible to be organic certified? if I'm reading the organic lists correctly, Ivermectin is approved for "emergency" measures - so I'm thinking using it when the counts get above a certain preordained level would be permissible if it were part of a over all IPM organic management plan for the farm. Compost from sheep doused with Ivermectin is apparently acceptable in organic operations. What do I do if I find the Ivermectin isn't working?

 

 

More research needed..... :). But I won't hold back dousing them to maintain their health, principles not withstanding.

 

LIz

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Liz,

 

The nitty-gritty details about organic certification are something you'd have to discuss with your third-party certifier. In some places, that's handled by the state dept. of ag, in others it's handled by private entities. I would recommend that you look into what certification is going to cost and the paperwork involved before you go too far down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out what practices are allowed and what are not. For many farms that are not certified, the barrier is not the practices, but the overhead associated with certification. It can cost thousands of dollars per year, and the record-keeping requirements can be daunting, especially for a small operation.

 

Everything that you do in order to comply with regulations must be documented and recorded. One thing to bear in mind with any certification program, whether it be organic or GAP or HACCP, if it's not recorded and documented, it might as well have not happened.

 

I do know of places in New Hampshire that have certified organic vegetable and greenhouse operations on the same place as non-certified livestock operations. What hoops they have to jump through to do that, I don't know.

 

Here's my two cents on organic certification: if you are selling direct to your customers, or very nearly so (such as selling to a local restaurant or shop with whom you have a direct relationship) there is no need for you to be certified organic. Certification is a stand-in for farmers who can't discuss their practices with their customers. In my opinion, the only reason to be certified organic is if your market demands it.

 

Without certification, you can't call your product organic unless your gross sales are under a certain level -- I think it's $2,500 per year, but don't quote me on that -- and you follow all the practices that would be required for certification, including the record-keeping. But my experience is that most people who are buying directly from the farmer don't care nearly as much about that. You can tell them what you do and what you don't do, and answer their questions about it. They don't need the reassurance that comes from the certified organic label, which they might insist on at the supermarket where they have no connection to the grower.

 

Back in the dim mists of time, my vegetable operation was certified organic. In those days, there were guidelines for the management of animals on organic farms, but meat was not certified. When the regs came out, I found that I would have had to chose between certified organic lamb and lamb that I felt was raised humanely, so I chose humane. Parasite control was the main barrier in my climate and management. The main reason for this barrier was the restriction that required only ivermectin to be used in emergency treatments.

 

I found it a little strange that the only dewormer allowed for emergency use on organic farms was ivermectin, since it is the only one that comes out the back side of sheep and kills earthworms and beneficial (as well as deleterious) nematodes in the soil. Not to mention dung beetles. It has the longest half life and withdrawal time of any dewormer labeled for sheep in the US.

 

I believe the logic behind allowing ivermectin was that it is derived from a natural product (a fungus in this case) but then, so are nicotine and cyanide. Just because something is natural doesn't mean it's safe.

 

While my focus has always been on meat and veggies, I have sold wool both to hand spinners and commercial markets. Not one has asked me anything about whether the wool was organic or not. I did have one who asked if I used any topical insecticides on the sheep. I think that you'll find that organic with regard to wool is even less important than organic with regard to food, and again, unless you're selling to a market that requires it, I would skip it.

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Regarding bringing the sheep in at night -- this will also interfere with a non-chemical deworming strategy. Concentrating the sheep in a barnyard for half the day every day would probably just about eliminate any benefit of rotational multi-species grazing, unless that barnyard was bare concrete. You're better off investing in good fencing and guardian animals.

 

Ewes with lambs at their side need about 18 hours a day to graze, rest, and cud, so if you're going to bring them in at night, you'll be interfering with that natural cycle and turning out empty sheep in the morning -- the classic formula for bloat. Either that or you'll be feeding hay year round. And if you're certified organic, that hay has to be certified organic.

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Ben -- how close behind the sheep do you run the horses? I have the opportunity to do that this summer. For the sake of the pasture and maximum parasite control, I am thinking that I would need have the horses follow about four weeks behind the sheep. This would usually mean that the horses would be getting turned out on pretty lush pasture. But if I do it sooner, the grass won't have had adequate recovery time, and the infective larvae won't have hatched out.

 

I thought about just letting the lactating ewes skim the cream off the pasture and then having the horses clean up immediately afterward, but I don't think that would be as effective for parasite control as the graze-rest-graze strategy.

 

Any thoughts?

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Regarding bringing the sheep in at night -- this will also interfere with a non-chemical deworming strategy. Concentrating the sheep in a barnyard for half the day every day would probably just about eliminate any benefit of rotational multi-species grazing, unless that barnyard was bare concrete. You're better off investing in good fencing and guardian animals.

 

Ewes with lambs at their side need about 18 hours a day to graze, rest, and cud, so if you're going to bring them in at night, you'll be interfering with that natural cycle and turning out empty sheep in the morning -- the classic formula for bloat. Either that or you'll be feeding hay year round. And if you're certified organic, that hay has to be certified organic.

 

 

Bill, thanks for all of your valuable advice. Our state's organic "oversight" organization sent me some literature and yes, the prospects are daunting. Overall, the practice isn't difficult - the only e.g the hay - being certified organic wouldn't be a problem as it comes off our fields. The record keeping as you say, is off-putting. I'm also not sure I want to give up on some of the more useful commercial fertilizers (i.e for corn). A lot more to think about... the regulations seem a lot like "fizz bin" -- (anyone remember Star Trek?) where the rules change wily-nily to suit the players i.e. the ivermectin debate. I would like to wholesale perhaps to buyers beyond the local market - the only real way to make money on this mountain is to have a product that can be sold beyond the confines of this county.

 

I'd like to see the flock down in the meadows for as many hours as you suggest then bring them back into a paddock that is about an acre and half, secured by electric fencing overnight - cleaned too many barns in my youth to want to get back into that job full time again. And it is far more healthier - I've been looking into the different types of guardian animals -- the LGD, though appealing is off the list as I'm thinking the dog wouldn't stay within the confines too well - there are neighbors just to the north and south of the "home" pasture which the dog might also feel the need to guard - wouldn't be a good thing.

 

The lambs - three ewes and a whether are coming on Monday (and yes, they're being wormed with Ivermectin before they come -- headed over to help with that this morning! Stand by for more questions!

 

 

LAna - thanks for the tips/advice on the "organic" label for the wool - going with "natural" seems more feasible. They will certainly be "stress -free".

Liz

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Hi Bill-

 

Here, the horses (or cows) graze right behind the sheep, but we have very different grass growing conditions than you do. Our grass does not grow from about June-September. We get virtually no rain during that time. The sheep graze off what they like, then the horses come through and eat the tall fescue & stemmy stuff the sheep leave behind. When a paddock is grazed in, say, July, we may not re-graze it until the grass grows a bit in Sept or Oct, and sometimes not again until the next spring.

 

This time of year, when our grass grows insanely fast, we run the sheep through a paddock (they vary in size, depending on the pasture, fencing, etc), then put the horses on a few weeks later. We graze the horses in smaller sections so that they 1) clean up everything and 2) don't get too fat. We're also using horses that work for a living (draft & riding) or are older and need the extra nutrition, so we don't have so much worry about the grass being too much for them. Cows behind the sheep this time of year is best- they pack on the weight for June slaughter.

 

When I was in Maine, we grazed the horses behind the sheep in small sections (single hotwire that we moved often), but the exact timing escapes me- that was almost 10 years ago. Those were also draft horses that we used pretty much daily.

 

You need a team of oxen. They make the best pasture clean-up mowers, and they're amazingly fun to work :)

 

I pine for the wet summers & grass that doesn't quit growing in the summer that you have... then I remember that you can't graze all year 'round. Of course, I really enjoyed those months when the sheep and hens were in the barn, the horses went out right behind it, and I never had to go outside to do chores, thanks to na old Maine farmhouse with the barn attached.

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Bill,

 

Make sure you fill the horses up good on some grass hay they really like before turning them out on lush pastures. You don't want a horse with colic.

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These aren't my horses; I'll just be telling the owners where they may pasture them behind my sheep. I'm a little concerned that horses may be too far out on an evolutionary limb to work in this scheme, but the owners are interested in trying to make it work.

 

Ben, I actually may have a chance to buy a team. I like the idea of having them in the summer, but winter housing and feeding could prove a little tricky. And of course, the time when I would have the most work for them would be in the winter.

 

Re: grazing all year -- no, you sure can't. I will push it farther than almost anyone I know, and I've grazed as late as Feb. 1 and started as early as March 17 -- just never on the same year. This year they were grazing until about Jan. 10, but they aren't grazing yet, and we just got an inch of wet, slushy snow that will surely slow the new growth down a little bit.

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Bill, go for the oxen! They're nature's ATVs. My biggest hurdle going from driving horses (which I still do) to oxen is that where horses will stop or avoid an obstacle, oxen will just run it over. And they don't run away. Ever. Too much effort for their lazy constitutions.

 

Ours spend the winter turned out in the woods, and in a tie stall in the barn with the horses. They eat about 40 Lbs of island grass hay a day. That's 40 Lbs between the two of them. Island hay is pretty nutritionally poor. Of course, we work them way more in the summer when they're on grass.

 

I still prefer plowing & harrowing with horses, but for outright hauling, you can't beat the oxen. They're astonishingly strong.

 

What breed might you get? We have Milking Shorthorns, who, at 6 years old, weigh about 2200 Lbs each. We have two, two-week old, Shorthorn x Devon bull calves out there right now that might make the next team. We had a team of Shorthorn x Holsteins, but they were just too big for me.

 

ETA: On the stuffing horses with hay before turnout- the idea for us is to NOT have to feed at all when the grass is growing, so that kind of negates the point. We just put them on small spaces, but draft horses don't run around all that much. Our horses are also in the barn during the day.

 

Sorry about the thread hijack, ejano!

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Bill, go for the oxen! They're nature's ATVs. My biggest hurdle going from driving horses (which I still do) to oxen is that where horses will stop or avoid an obstacle, oxen will just run it over. And they don't run away. Ever. Too much effort for their lazy constitutions.

 

Ours spend the winter turned out in the woods, and in a tie stall in the barn with the horses. They eat about 40 Lbs of island grass hay a day. That's 40 Lbs between the two of them. Island hay is pretty nutritionally poor. Of course, we work them way more in the summer when they're on grass.

 

I still prefer plowing & harrowing with horses, but for outright hauling, you can't beat the oxen. They're astonishingly strong.

 

What breed might you get? We have Milking Shorthorns, who, at 6 years old, weigh about 2200 Lbs each. We have two, two-week old, Shorthorn x Devon bull calves out there right now that might make the next team. We had a team of Shorthorn x Holsteins, but they were just too big for me.

 

ETA: On the stuffing horses with hay before turnout- the idea for us is to NOT have to feed at all when the grass is growing, so that kind of negates the point. We just put them on small spaces, but draft horses don't run around all that much. Our horses are also in the barn during the day.

 

Sorry about the thread hijack, ejano!

 

 

Hey, I'm learning a lot! For a few crazy moments, I contemplated getting a horse again , but then realized that we converted the two stalls into one sheep pen! :). It's chickens for me, I think, for some kind of pest control. Fat ones that can't fly...:)>

 

The lambs are coming tomorrow!

 

Liz

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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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