Since you have discovered this whole adventure started with 4 little hairballs better known as Katahdin sheep, let me take you from the beginning to present day.
My first sheep was and still is better known as Old Mama (one of my all time favorite ewes), Jane ( a bit snobbish) and as bad as I hate to say it a lady whom I had named but have since forgotten what it was, and last but not least Dodge the ram. Original name huh. The 3 ladies are still a part of Triple M Farm while Dodge after bearing many beautiful babies was taken to slaughter. Let’s face it folks all of farming is not pretty but it is the cycle of life for most farm animals. I was sad to see the old boy go. He had a very distinct bahh no other sheep to present day has had. His life however at Triple M Farm had to be cut short when his daughters were old enough to breed. This is just part of the job and how you keep a healthy stable flock.
Growing the Farm with an Outside Source
The journey had begun and at this point we were enjoying the journey. Little did we know we had been bitten by the farming bug. We decided it was time to add more to the flock and to do this we were going to buy more from an outside source. After all waiting on babies to be born and grow up took time. We purchased 9 more ewes and got a ram thrown in for free. Of course we didn’t really want to keep him for breeding since he was obviously a brother to the ewes but we would hold on to him for a while. Soon we had the last of Dodge’s babies on the agenda and operation flock increase was a success. The babies started coming and most were no longer single births but instead twins. It is during this time that we sold a few ewes and that little ram we were given. It was also during this time my own motherly skills were about to be put to the test!
Learning to Bottle Feed Orphan Babies
I suddenly became aware of a huge problem when I found a baby lamb mom-less hanging out with the guard dog crying for food. I watched and waited for mom but mom just was not going to come. She simply did not want this new life she had given. Tractor Supply suddenly became my second home for lamb colostrum, milk replacement, and nipples. It was of course during winter and the only barn on the place is open to also offer just one more plot twist. Babies can survive just fine as long as they are part of the flock in cold months but not when they have been abandoned.
Out of options this new baby who would become known as Pip Squeak (Pip for short) became a new household family member. We made him a makeshift pen in the bedroom corner and puppy pads. Folks sheep are not clean animals. They have no issue laying down in their own waste. So not only did he use my bedroom for housing he soon took over my master bath tub as well. Folks bathing a sheep is tough business. Dawn dish soap became a new staple in the bathroom.
The excitement don’t end here. Before it was all said and done I had not one but two sheep housing in that pen in the corner. My second adoption came on the coldest of winter nights when I found a beautiful brown little girl with ice frozen in her fur. She soon became known as Brownie or as my husband called her Brown Cow because she looked so much like a baby calf. These two stinkers had the house until the first signs of spring. On nice days before I went to work I would take them to the field to run and play with the other sheep but bring them in at night until the last cold spell had broken. Once spring sprung my babies moved to the field to start an almost normal sheep life…minus the humans who fed them.
Almost Giving up the Farm
I raised these little lambs from tiny babies until they were sufficient to be on their own. They grew and become more like the other sheep. Pip however always would come running when I was in the field wanting to be petted and talked to. He never forgot who raised him. Brownie would still on occasion let you pet her but nothing like Pip. If goes without saying Pip soon became my favorite sheep in the flock. Since we wanted to keep him we decided to band him so he could become a wether, meaning he would be unable to breed. They honestly don’t have a lot of purpose aside from keeping a ram company when he is not allowed to run in the flock with the ladies. I had no desire to part with him and decided that was fine on my part.
You can only imagine my dismay when I found my little boy late one evening very sick. He was just lethargic. Late evening and all vets closed I made plans to get him to the nearest vet first thing the following morning. I worried about him and couldn’t really sleep so at some point late that night my son and I headed out with flashlights to check on him. Sadly I found the scene I feared. He had passed. Finding there was nothing I could do but protect him from the elements and varmints covered his little frail body up until morning when he could be properly put to rest.
I was heartbroken. I loved my sheep but I was about ready to throw in the towel and probably would have had I not still had little Brownie whom I had also raised. I am so happy I held on to the sheep and farm. Especially these ladies. Remember the banding some entirely new farmers attempted? Well turns out, it hadn’t worked! My ewes soon began to show all the tale-tell signs of about to give new life!
Birthing Babies & Present Day
April 2019 brought me a whole flock of new babies! Once again there were good and bad moms. Soon my small farm of 9 ewes turned into a farm of 25. We again had some single births and some twins. I have yet to have any triplets though I have been told they are not uncommon. Once again I inherited 4 babies to raise on my own. Tractor Supply employees began to recognize me when I came into the store. Lucky me this time it was summer and these babies could live outside with the rest of the flock but chose to mostly hang out with the dog. I spent a small fortune on these 4 little knot heads but they were totally worth every dime. One of the little guys did have to be introduced to the local vet when he had the symptoms of his dad. I am happy to say he recovered fully and I learned new farming skills like giving meds and shots twice a day. The names of these babies are Tooter, Sick Baby (you can guess how that came to be) who looked almost identical, Brown Leg and Tiny Baby because he was a very tiny little thing at birth that we honestly didn’t know if he would survive. They all 4 did wonderful and are still apart of Triple M Farm. They will likely have to be re-homed soon since their moms are still on the farm but for now they are doing wonderful grazing here.
This was our first year that most all the babies born were boys. All 4 I raised were boys and probably over half the others are as well. Sadly one of our beautiful little ewe girls passed after what we believe to have been a snake bite. Other than that however it was our best year for babies yet!
Update on Babies…
Since the original publish date of this post we have sold 10 of the babies. Yes this included my bottle babies that I so badly hated to part with. Again if you are an animal lover farming is not always easy. I spend time with my animals every day and those that I have bottle fed even more. I do get attached. If you are an animal lover you will too. You have to learn that you can’t keep all the animals and that it is a business and the animals are NOT your pets. Not saying it makes it easier but it is what it amounts down to. On a positive note one of the babies we are keeping is a little girl. I am naming her Piper in honor of her dad. She is not as sweet as Pip but she is a part of him and that makes my heart a little bit happier.
The sheep have taught me a lot about raising animals. Loving, losing and letting go. The circle of life. So a few pointers for those who are thinking sheep is a great addition to the family farm.
- Know that people will tell you all kinds of things about what it is like to raise an animal. Do your own research! Sheep are not as difficult as some animals but they are also not as easy as everyone led me to believe. Any and all animals will require some work. If you don’t want to put in the time please don’t get the animal.
- Sheep especially Katahdin do require some work. You don’t have to shear them like wool sheep, because they shed like a dog or cat since they have hair and not wool but they do require other care. If you don’t have rocky soil you need to keep an eye on their hooves. They may need worming or other medications to be healthy. Sometimes they need supplements.
- Any animal is an expense. Be prepared financially to make sure you can get all supplies, requirements and emergency care your sheep may need.
- If you raise babies they are expensive. You will likely NOT recoup your fees by selling. Taking on orphans is very much worth it but expect that you will probably not even come close to breaking even especially if your baby is a ram. Ewes are a bit more financial smart if you plan to allow her to breed and raise her own babies.
- Remember to show your animals love and care. Yes, they are animals not humans but it is beneficial to both parties. A happy animal with little to no stress is healthy and will likely be a part of your farm for years to come. Most importantly enjoy the journey and farm life.
I am so happy I made the shift from Corporate America to the simple country farm life. I love the animals, the garden, my home, the land in general, and I am not ashamed to say I count my blessings.