Celebrating 1 year of our Shooting Star Sheep Flock!
One this day 1 year ago we began our journey with sheep, and what a journey it has been! I want to take this opportunity to reflect and document this year and share the ups and downs along the way and what we can do better next year.
It sure has been one steep learning curve, but over all we are so grateful for where we are with the flock, the sheep we have, and the success this first year has brought us.
Today is our one year anniversary of Shooting Star Sheep! On this day one year ago, May 28th 2022, we were up and out of the house early. It was the big day I had been hoping and preparing for for so long. If you have not already read Our Story you should read a shortened story of how we got into harlequins and found our starter flock. We spent over a year looking for the right flock for us and I had dreamed for years about getting sheep.
One year ago on this day we arrived at the farm and prepared for the arrival of our Flock. We purchased our starter flock trio of registered Harlequin sheep from Oregon and had them trailered down to us. After a few hours of last minute preparations a blue trailer pulled up to our farm. In the trailer was Shooting Star Sheep 'original trio' as we call them today.
And look how far we have come since then...
The summer was a long hot California summer with a record-breaking heat wave although thankfully without any major fires. We had a few days where it reached 118ºF and it was a constant battle with the weather, getting up early enough to feed and do chores before it got too hot.
The water buckets and automatic waters grew algae daily and had to be scrubbed and refilled consistently. The foxtails (a sharp grass seed head) we extremely bad that summer too and we were regularly pulling them out of the sheep's wool, face, eyes, ears and hoofs and legs. Having lost a dog to a foxtail that got in his lung, I was very anxious about them inhaling a foxtail, but thankfully we only had one goat who got a foxtail in her eye and we were able to get it out quickly. We survived the heat of the summer with temporary shade structures for the sheep, hosing down the sheds and dust, putting ice cubes in waters and with a little panting as possible on the sheep's part.
As September approached and the start of school, we began giving our sheep some sweet cob grain and the ewes a small amount of alfalfa every now and then. We turned the buck in with the doe goats the first week of September and I keep changing the plan of when I was going to put Axel in with the ewes. As it turned out, I did not fully latch the gate on Axel's pen so he was put in with the ewes on September 13th, so we just went along and set that as our breeding date.
As the lambing date approached, I was not sure if my ewes had been breed and if they were when they were due. Thankfully both of my ewes were proven mothers and my ram a proven sire, but I was still a bit nervous because it was my first year with sheep.
Ideally we would have had the sheep shorn 4-6 weeks before lambing but I was not able to find a shearer in the winter and it was still a bit cold. In the end, I decided to wait until March or April to shear, and if the ewes weren't showing any signs of lambing we would sheer them then.
As it turned out, we were at home on Saturday, February 25th, because it was my day off from feeding, when we got a call from the farm manager that one of my ewes had lambed. He sent along this picture
It was they day after a record breaking snow storm and I immediately rushed to the farm. Hazel's twin lambs Filbert and Willow were up and healthy and starting to nurse. I think Filbert was the a bit older, guessing by the fact that he was cleaner and so therefore he got tag 001.
Ingrid was soon after, delivering he ram lamb Thunder the next weekend, also during a rare thunder snow storm. I guessed the night before that she was going to deliver soon, although I didn't realize how soon, and it was a slight surprise to see a lamb with her the next morning. When I found them he was pretty clean and dry, so I am guessing that he was born in the late hours of the night or early morning. Thank goodness they were both easy births because I was not around to assist if needed - next year I am not going to leave it to fate.
What I learned from our lambing season week is that next year I will have more faith in Axel, so be prepared to lamb at the earliest date, will have all the stalls cleaned out, and be more on the watch since I plan to breed first-time ewes.
I am going to try to match the sheep breeding with the goats so that they lamb and kid at a similar time so that I limit the amount of weeks doing night checks because last year I wanted to lamb after the goats due to busyness and work.
I have not figured out the breeding groups yet, but I am considering doing two waves of breeding/lambing. Also if a buyer on the waiting list would like a lamb from a particular ewe and ram then they might have a say with a deposit on the lamb.
All things considered in this year, our flock has grown from three to eight and we are so happy that it all went smoothly. Hopefully it will be the same for next year and the followings.
Filbert, Willow and Thunder were all registered as F2s with the HSSR, and the ram lambs and will be going to start a breeding flock in Santa Ynez. We have keep Willow for our breeding flock to expand our flock. We plan to breed her to a F2 ram lamb from Texas in the fall and so hopefully we will have a FP lamb or two for sale from her in 2024.
Contact me if you are interested in either a registered Harlequin or crossbred Babydoll lamb from us in 2024 and we can be in contact.