Greetings to all you wonderful farm followers! Forgive me for my absence on this farm blog. I know that in order to keep folks informed I need to share information a bit more. So hopefully 2019 will be a year with more information shared. Time is precious and the Lord reminds us to always be in the state of redeeming it. So when I waste it, it is truly the forsaking of a special gift. Social media and the internet in general can be a real time stealer if I myself am not careful. I am guilty so many times of “wasting God’s precious time”. My desire is to be a person who adds to your life not takes away from it. So please if what I share is of no interest do not waste your time reading my words. Like I stated above it is a precious commodity. This post is an update post of what is going on around here on Didaskalos Farm. The focus topic for this post is Sheep, to be more specific our sheep the Gulf Coast breed. Some call them Gulf Coast Natives nevertheless they are what we raise here. This is going to be quite a lengthy post so be prepared. :-)
Gulf Coast sheep are a very endangered breed of sheep. Critical status according to the Livestock Conservancy. Here you can read about them: https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/gulf-coast After I pondered that information about five years ago I decided to do a bit more research and then perhaps try my hand at being a Shepherdess. Now I was new to sheep and sadly there are not very many mentors available so what I have learned has mostly been by reading extensively, interacting with other sheep owners and my own trial and error. We like to do things very naturally around here. Which in the world we now find ourselves in is no easy feat! Any grain fed here is always organic. We try to work with the animals immune systems first before we reach for a chemical of some sort. It is not always easy but we are convinced it is right. We try and give our livestock the best we can provide for them and in turn they provide for us. We try based upon their genetics to get them back to as natural a state God made them to thrive in. It is a constant challenge.
Late last summer we traveled to Connecticut to pick up a new ram for our small flock. I kept seeing the same genetics over and over again on potential herd sires and decided that I wanted some new genetics in my flock. So working with another breeder we made a trade on yearlings. She received one of my ewes and I one of her rams. My youngest son Brian, his son Braxton who is one of my 19 grandchildren and I traveled up to Connecticut to make the trade. Not wanting to tow a large trailer I had a travel cage custom made for the back of our Ford F-150. Off we went! Our trip went well, the Kramers were awesome folks and Titan was now heading to SC to start another generation of Gulf Coasts!
In early October I was informed by a lady who was a Shepherdess but gave up her farm that a fellow breeder was selling out and that she had some ewes that she thought would be good additions. I made the contact and after reviewing the registrations of her available animals and viewing photos of them I decided on two ewes. After a Vet check on both, travel paperwork completed I set out to Georgia to retrieve these two. They were very skittish which is not necessarily abnormal for sheep but nonetheless we got them loaded and I headed home. They appeared heavy in wool and I could not adequately assess their condition so I inquired as to the date of their last shearing. Apparently for whatever reason they did not get sheared in 2018 so they were carrying two years worth of fleece. Bear with me as I share this information for in hindsight this information could have been a big help to me in the future. They were also left with the owners ram so we did not have a confirmation of their breeding status. My desire was for them to not be bred so I could breed them to our new ram since their ram was related to my ewes here on Didaskalos Farm. So my only option at this point was to isolate them till I could observe estrus and go from there. By December neither showed signs so I could only assume they were indeed pregnant. The one ewe I was told normally has twins. Now I have a big ewe who has given me to this point three sets of twins. So I saw no reason for any issues but in my ignorance it would be a major factor in the weeks to follow.
On January 9, 2019 the one new ewe lambed a good size ewe without any problem. We jugged her and attended to her needs as we do with all our sheep mommas. Baby was given the once over after birth and they were left to bond as they should. So at this point we knew that the other ewe was not far behind. On January 13, 2019 this ewe did not rise in the morning to feed with the others. Acting quickly I checked her body temperature and praise God it was normal. I decided a call to our Vet was needed and sadly he was on vacation. He gave some phone advice and I did as instructed and gave the ewe some corn syrup and water. He suspected pregnancy toxemia so I frantically called Vet after Vet to find some help for this poor ewe. Now I have experienced milk fever in one of our heavy producing milk cows in the past. But pregnancy toxemia was new to me. Finally located a Vet and she arrived about an hour later. My husband had been comforting this ewe, he had wrapped her in a heavy blanket and spoke sweetly to her to keep her calm. Vet arrived and we discussed potential scenarios. The ewes blood sugar was checked and it was on the low side so we decided at this point that a hospital evaluation was necessary. We loaded her up in my SUV and headed over to UGA to have her evaluated. Several hours later we were given the diagnosis of pregnancy toxemia. Her blood work was abnormally low in some areas and at this point my medical mind just could not rest. I got on the internet and did some research and what I witnessed in this animal was like milk fever in my cow. Her calcium was very low and quite unstable. She was also pregnant with twins and they did not know if she was going to survive. I made the decision after praying with my husband that we would let them stabilize her and make a decision about the baby lambs in 24 hours. The next day I made the decision to bring those lambs out even though they were a bit premature. So on January 14, 2019 in the afternoon two baby ram lambs were born via c-section. They were a bit premature and the hospital staff gave them their full medical attention. Fast forward to today, rams are alive and thriving , being bottle fed since no bonding with their momma. They are growing well because of the Lord’s gracious hand. Their momma is still in recovery mode, still has a residual weakness in her left back leg. Her future here is being carefully evaluated since we incurred well over $2600 in Veterinary bills. So what did all this experience teach me? I am quite ignorant in so many areas. I need God more than I really understand and farming is both wonderful and hard. The best thing I am learning is that as God teaches me I can then impart these precious lessons to help others. Hopefully our painful experience will be a blessing of knowledge to other struggling young farmers.