Alberta Style Sheep Drive


I wanted to share some pictures from running the ewes home last week. We had 250 ewes grazing a few miles down the road at Alyssa’s parent’s farm this summer. Since we only have a 16′ trailer, hauling 250 ewes home ends up being an all day job for a couple guys. The crops were off all along the highway, so we knew we wouldn’t risk damaging any crops by running the ewes down the ditch. 


We had two hired hands as well as myself on quads while Alyssa’s dad drive the side-by-side. Alyssa followed behind with the truck and trailer to help make us more visible, and also to transport any ewes that tired out along the way. 


All in all it went really well. Our road is fairly busy so we had to be pretty cautious. There were a few times the sheep wanted to start crossing the road, and we had to quickly move them off. The hardest part was actually going past one of our neighbours places on the opposite side of the road when their hound started baying at our sheep. The ewes were really curious about the noise and started trying to cross the road all at the same time. Thankfully the dog was fenced in. Otherwise that could have gotten really interesting. 


Thankfully all of us and all the sheep made it home safely. Only one ewe with a sore leg tired out and had to be lifted into the stock trailer. 


If it works out again in the future I think this is the way we will move ewes to and from pasture. It saves a lot of time, and it’s a lot more fun! 

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First Lambing Group 2016

As we catch up here between lambings I wanted to share a couple highlights from our first lambing group. 

Our first group of ewes was slated to start January 20. That was based on 145 day ewe gestation length. Most resources will tell you that a ewe’s gestation ranges from 147 to 149 days. The reason I use 145 days to calculate our lambing is so that we are prepared for the arrival of the first lambs.

I charted the number of ewes lambed out on each day of lambing. When ewes go into heat in the fall they tend to self synchronize to one degree or another. Heat will happen in cycles 17 days apart. So when I made my chart at the beginning of lambing I circled my ‘due date’ Jan 20 which was 145 days from when the rams went in. I also circled Feb 6 and 23. These were the 17 day spacings.

Lambing started out slow and although there wasn’t much of a bump on the graph it was pretty clear that the peak of the first cycle was around 147 to 149 days. With such a slow start we knew that there would likely be some pretty busy days ahead. Sure enough, things started to pick up significantly around Feb 4th and kept increasing until our peak on Feb 10 at 55 ewes in 24 hrs. All together about 75% (300hd) of the ewes lambed in the second cycle over a period of 14 days. The majority of those ewes lambed in a 7 day period (250hd).

Interestingly the lambing zeroed out on Feb 19 before a very small third and final cycle. The lambing had also dropped to one ewe in 24 hours between the first and second cycle. So we definitely saw a very strong synchronization effect from this breeding. We had flushed the ewes with barley, but no teaser rams were used. I suspect that, because the majority of the ewes lambed in the second cycle, the ram introduction at breeding caused an effect similar to what a teaser ram would cause. Some of the ewes cycled immediately and where bred while most had a non fertile heat and then a fertile heat after a typical 17 day period. 

  

In any case it was an interesting thing to track our daily lambing numbers. I’m hoping to continue doing so. It helped me anticipate the busy days and focus my energy. 

I’d be interested to hear if anyone else tries charting their lambing progress. Share your experience and what you learn from it. 

– Miles 

Fleecing the Flock!

Shearing week was a big success! With just about four hundred ewes to shear, I wasn’t sure that we would be able to get finished in the five days we had given ourselves. We were thankful to once again have Connor and Brayden Pearson come out to help for the week. I might be shearing still if it hadn’t been for them.

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We managed to get the shearing chute operational in time, which was also a major factor in our ability to get finished as quickly as we did. The chute provides the shearer with sheep close at hand unlike our old method of catching the sheep out of the pen and bringing them up to the shearer. The sheep move up the chute easily because the design of the chute holds one ewe at the front end taking advantage of the sheep’s following instinct.

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Monday started off well and each proceeding day got continually better with Connor and I both increasing our daily tallies. I’ve noticed a lot of progress in Connor’s second year shearing. His sheep are looking nice and clean and I can tell he’s focused on improving his time as well.

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Brayden also tried his hand at shearing this year. He started by shearing a few sheep from start to finish which is quite strenuous if you’ve never done it before. Later in the week, I tried a New Zealand approach which I have heard of where I would shear the first portion of the sheep giving instruction as I sheared, and then letting Brayden take over on the last side. The idea is that as a trainee progresses, they begin to take over earlier and earlier on the sheep until they can shear the entire sheep on their own. Though this sounds backwards, anyone who has learned to shear, knows that the last blows(passes with the shearing hand piece) are the easiest. Brayden is doing well and by next year he’ll have the shearing pattern figured out and will be working at becoming quicker.

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One of the biggest differences for me this year, was the addition of the back support which I had built into our shearing chute. I was very excited when by the end of the first day, my back wasn’t hurting at all. I thought that perhaps as the week continued I would begin to tire and feel it in my back, but, amazingly as the week went on, I never did have any pain and I think it’s safe to say that the back support was a big success. The design for the support was improvised based on what I have seen from others’.The chest strap is actually a weight lifting belt that I happened to find at Princess Auto. The long springs I had to hunt around for but eventually found them at Gregg Distributors. Having experienced the difference of shearing with and without, I can’t see myself going back to the old way.

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I always enjoy having Alyssa and the kids come out to visit and watch. One of the highlights for me was giving Timmy a chance to help hold the hand piece on the long blows. We won’t be shearing any ewes again until spring and these four hundred ewes won’t be lambing until the end of January. Before we get busy gearing up for that, we’re going to take a few days to slow down and enjoy some time with family this Christmas.

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Take care!

The Race is On!

Shearing is slated to start this Monday the 9th and there’s plenty to get ready before then. Things have fallen a little bit behind schedule due to the blizzard we received this past Monday.

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The better part of Monday and Tuesday were spent digging out and getting feed to all the different pens. Some of the drifts that blew up in the yard were a good 5 feet deep! In the field west of our house where we have straw bales stacked some of the drifts are two round bales high or about 10 feet deep!

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Not everything is completely dug out yet, but at least we are functioning somewhat normally again. The main task is getting a permanent shearing chute built. I’m designing the chute based on some pictures and what I remember from the chutes of shearers we have hired in the past. It’s a simple concept that keeps the sheep close at hand for the shearer as well as making it easier to seat the ewe down. While I’m building the chute I’m also trying to incorporate a back support system. After a back injury 3 years ago I get pretty tired and sore after shearing all day. I’ve seen something like this used once by one of our shearers as well as in several pictures. Hopefully it takes some of the strain out of shearing for us guys and helps the job to go more quickly and easily.

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Tonight I took a few minutes to get some combs and cutters sharpened up. It’s a skill that I haven’t quite perfected yet, but an important job to get right in order to make for easier shearing.

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Shearing in 5 days.
– Miles

Babies to Blizzards and Everything In-Between

I’ve been puzzling over how I can recap the last two and a half months in a single blog post? How about one word?… BUSY!
The busyness started August 29… well, late on August 28th actually. It started with hurriedly packing three sleepy older siblings into a minivan to spend the night at Oma and Opa’s while we headed off in the farm truck to the hospital.

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We’re thankful for the safe arrival of our fourth child Henry John Driedger! Born 1:45am August 29.

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Needless to say that kick started a very busy stretch for our family. It took a little while to adjust to four aged 3 and under. Of course we didn’t have to worry about that for long because as of September 25 we now have four aged 4 and under. And as much as that may make us sound busy, not more than two days ago I sold a few rams to a family expecting their sixth in 6 years! That made me thankful for our relatively quiet little family.

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Well, as expected, harvest with Alyssa’s family got underway when Henry was about 1 week old. A little young to break him in to the combine, but he seemed to enjoy the endless bouncing and rumbling when he’d come along for rides.

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Everybody got their turns riding along with the different family members. I spent most of my time running the grain cart back and forth between combines and the truck. It was a new experience and I sure enjoyed it!

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We wrapped up our stint in the field with a little bit of straw baling which is always enjoyable with a couple little riders. However, it sure was nice to have that wrapped up and get on to fall work as fast as possible before the snow hit.

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Fall work has been a bit of a blur as we tried to get as many outside jobs off the list as we could. Thanks to Alyssa’s dad for a big cleanup blitz around the yard as well as ‘clean-out’ inside the barn. We got the last few hay bales stacked into the hay shed and hauled the straw bales home thanks to our old neighbor’s home-made-self-unloading-bale-wagon.

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All this along with a number of other jobs and we were almost ready for the snow to fall. The last thing we needed to do was tear out a section of page wire and build some fenceline feeding for the extra 200 ewe lambs we’re feeding this winter. We were almost ready to get started when we heard the forecast for 20cm of snow over the weekend.

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I finished pulling out the old fence just as the snow began to fall, so after a quick lunch we bundled everyone up to join me outside. We hooked up the post pounder to the farm truck and buckled the youngest three in. Alyssa drove the truck along for me while Timmy watched from the truck box.

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It was slow going and the truck kept wanting to slide down the slope in all that fresh wet snow. The snow kept piling up around us and we had made it almost half way when it didn’t seem like the truck would make it much farther (it’s time for new tires). So everyone headed inside while I switched the post pounder over to the tractor. Alyssa’s brother, Andrew, was able to come drive the tractor for me and we just managed to get the last post in before sundown. The next day and a half were spent fastening up boards in the snow, which the whole family lent a hand with. While we didn’t quite beat the snow on that last job, we are thankful to have the extra feeding space for the winter months and are glad to have the project completed.

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With everything outside freezing up and buried in snow, our attentions have turned inside the barn where we have a number of jobs to get accomplished before ultrasounding and shearing. Both of which will be happening over the next month and a bit. Check back soon to keep up with the countdown to our first lambing of 2014.

God bless,
– Miles

Welcome!

Welcome to our new website!  Things are off to a shaky start here online, but we are hoping to improve this site quite a bit over the next while.  This blog page will keep you up to date on the current happenings here at Alysheep, the good the bad and everything in between.

I’ve always felt that there is so much to be gained from sheep producers sharing their experiences with one another as well as with those of you who are eating our lamb for dinner.  For now this website focuses mainly on current farm happenings as well as breeding stock that is for sale.  Over time we are hoping to expand it out to include a few more pages including fresh meat sales, wool products, more behind the scenes fun and many more fun and interesting things. Stay tuned. -Miles