March 6, 2011

The New Girl

When we first moved to the farm we knew we wanted to raise animals. At first we thought goats would be perfect. They are small, easy to manage, we could do milk or meat breeds and they eat anything. Anything is correct, including the bark right off a tree. I learned, through talking to a rancher at the Clark County Fair, that goats prefer Doug fir bark to grass and will girdle our trees. Since we have many beautiful Doug firs that we would like to keep, we decided goats weren't the right animal. The next in line were sheep.

Our current sheep are a mix of Sufolk, Tunis and Katahdin. The mix is great because, like dogs and cats, mixed breeds are less susceptible to diseases. But I have wanted to start raising full-bred sheep primarily because they full-breeds get top dollar but also if Jordan decides to do 4-H she can show our animals. So today we purchased our first full-bred Sufolk to add to the farm. She is beautiful - black face and legs, thick white wool, except that with all the rain she is gray with dirt. She is 3 years old and proven, which means that she has lamb successfully.

The place we got her from was a tiny hobby farm in Cascade Locks, which is about 1 hour from our place. We don't have a trailer to transport animals. We have a huge cage, like you'd use to move a big, big dog. The sheep just barely fit inside and refused to sit down, so she kept loosing her balance as we drove around corners. Jeremy was afraid the whole cage would give under she shifting weight (approx. 150 lbs). Consequently, we had to drive about 10 miles under the speed limit. Long lines of cars kept getting stuck behind us because Highway 14 is a single-lane, extremely curvy stretch of road. At one point, an impatient idiot decided he couldn't take it anymore and spread around us causing momentary panic but avoided any collisions.

The last leg of the trip was up 164th, which is a main thoroughfare in eat Vancouver. We got many confused stares and finger pointing from passangers in other cars and people walking on the sidewalk.

The topic of conversation on the drive was what we should name our new addition. Jordan's first thought was "Oreo" due to her black-and-white look. But after mulling it over, Jordan announced "I don't like that name." I said "Well, what would fit with Notag, Lilly and Junior?" "It needs to start with an F," was her response. Jeremy said "How about Francis?" "Yeah!" So, Francis it is.

We moved Junior over to Eric's pasture and let Francis loose on Junior's. We figured that would give her some time to get use to the surroundings before Junior starts harassing her. About a week should do it. That will also give Francis time to come into heat. Sheep go into heat when they are with a ram, maybe it's the lovely ram-musky that sets them off. Junior and Francis can sniff each other through the fence. The week will also give us time to appraise Francis. I gave her a shot of dewormer, but you never know what an animal might have brought in from another farm.

Next weekend Junior will be a happy boy again with a new friend.

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