Lambing jugs

 First lamb in the new lambing jug.

First lamb in the new lambing jug.

As our flock has grown, so has our need for more lambing jugs. A lambing "jug" is a small pen that a ewe and her lamb/lambs are housed in after lambing. In this small space, separate but still near the flock, the mother and lamb bond. The lamb learns the sound of its mother's nicker and how to nurse away from the jostling of the flock. The ewe/lamb bond is very important for the  success of the lamb, especially when the flock is turned out onto pasture.

We cut panels from our local ag' supply store with 4"x4" openings to length then "stitched" them together with spiral posts from Premier. The backbone of the jug pens is an uncut 16' panel. The spirals make a perfect hinge for the front of the jug and a clip latches the front door closed.

A bucket hook holds the water safely off the ground, away from the curious lamb. The welded wire hay feeder was an add on item I ordered from D-S livestock when we bought our handling system last November. It hooks over the wire panel (or a wood board). 

If all goes well, ewes get two days in the jug; new mothers and groups of twins or triplets get a few extra days before they rejoin the flock.

 

Boat barn to sheep barn

 The Boat Barn sits across the drive, behind and a little to the right of the Barn.

The Boat Barn sits across the drive, behind and a little to the right of the Barn.

The Boat Barn stores our assortment of homemade,wooden boats and farm equipment. With its access to the North Field and physical separation from the Barn Field, it is a great location for overwintering the vacationing rams,weaning lambs from their ewes,and providing an extra pen for sorted sheep.

 Sliding door on the north corner of the Boat Barn

Sliding door on the north corner of the Boat Barn

A sliding barn door works best,especially when piled snow is on the ground and would impede a swinging door. If we need to keep the door closed,the opaque window panel opens,adding ventilation to the pen inside.

 The hay feeder and water bucket are accessible from outside the pen.

The hay feeder and water bucket are accessible from outside the pen.

I can add hay and water from outside the pen which is especially important when the rams are unhappily separated from their ewes. The Boat Barn has electricity to keep water in a heated bucket unfrozen, running water,and an easy to clean concrete floor.

 High stall walls should keep separated sheep in place.

High stall walls should keep separated sheep in place.

Tucked around the small craft, there is room for some convenient hay storage.

Just for this winter,we pounded posts and wired on temporary fencing for a winter ram paddock. In the spring we will permanently fence the North Field with small grazing paddocks,access to the orchard,and long gates so that big boat can leave on its next cruise.

The Barn

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One of my favorite writers, Gene Logsdon wrote  The Sanctuary of the Barn in a recent weekly post. His essay reminded me that I love our barn. It was sited in the hill, barnyard facing the low winter sun  by wise farmers before us. Repaired and renovated, it still serves as a haven for our livestock and us.

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Moveable pig pen, AKA the pig tractor

All the animals on the farm must do more than fill our freezer and grace our table. Beyond eggs,meat and broth,the chickens turn table scraps and pulled weeds in the compost pile, tend the next generation of poultry, and scratch and fertilize sparse pastures. The ewes and lambs repeated rotations through fields and orchard improve the quality of our pastures while filling freezers with delicious grass fed meat. Like the birds and sheep,the pigs must work for the farm. Last year's pigs lived behind two strands of electric fence in the woods that border the orchard. I increased the size of the paddock over the course of the summer and this spring sowed a pasture grass mix into the almost bare ground. Later this summer the sheep will graze in the improved woodland pasture thanks to those busy pigs' snouts.

In addition to providing meat and lard for the table,this year's pigs have a formidable task: to renovate the Hill Field,a worn briar patch of a pasture,across the road from a plug for a fence energizer and a yard hydrant for water. With profit margins close for small farm raised meat,the pigs management system must be efficient as well as effective.

Applying the knowledge we have gleaned from our moveable chicken pens,outfitting with built in feeders and improved water systems,a pig tractor seemed the sensible choice.

When planning our pig tractor,we knew the pen would have to be heavy to keep the pigs from lifting it,yet light enough for an old Subaru or small skidsteer to pull it across uneven ground;provide shelter;support our feeder (which holds 300lbs of feed) and  the gravity fed nipple waterers;and have a gate for easy access. Since we like pork and plan on raising pigs for years to come,the pen must be durable and house pigs of all sizes.

Our pig tractor is 8'x 16',set on 16' skids,with a metal roofed,rough-cut lumber sided shelter at one end. The short side, opposite the shelter, has two gates. Adding two heavy 4' x4' posts across the pen, supports the feeder we built last year and braces the frame to limit racking when we pull the pig tractor. Metal cables on each short side permits pulling from both directions

This is the gate end. The shelter end cables attach on the top of the cross piece.

The pigs are happy this first 48 hours of the pig tractor "experiment". We have successfully moved the pen three feet and will add the two nipple water founts on the weekend.