The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

So Long, Buddy!

May 15th, 2016 by Ed Bruske

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We sold our ram Buddy to a local couple and I was sorry to see him go. We purchased him as a yearling from our friend Ashley and her father in December 2013 and he did his job well building our flock of sheep to the point where we don’t have any room for more animals to overwinter in our paddock shelter. I’ve got my fingers crossed that all these critters–sheep, cows, goats–will find enough to eat on our 12 acres of pasture.

Fact is, we didn’t need two rams and Buddy leaves behind his friend Tucker, a pure-bred Dorper ram. My wife and daughter drove more than four hours across New York to fetch Tucker and four female Dorpers as part of my plan to build a herd of hair (as opposed to wool) sheep, thinking that in our dotage we wouldn’t want to be saddled with shearing chores. Dorpers shed.

Turns out, it’s not expensive at all to hire someone to shear the sheep and what we traded for is a breed that grows hooves at lightning speed, meaning we now face the back-breaking task of trimming hooves on a regular basis.

Still, I figured there may be some demand for purebred Dorper lambs for meat and breeding purposes, and as long as Buddy’s on the property we can never guarantee his genes won’t proliferate. Not that there was anything wrong with Buddy’s genes. He’s a Romney-Corriedale mix and as you can see from the photo he grew into a mighty handsome fellow. I know his new owners will make a happy home for him with their small flock.

In just the few short years I’ve been livestock farming I’ve learned that letting go of animals is one of the hardest things. They say you shouldn’t name them, but of course our teenage daughter does. She named the Friesian ewes I bought shortly after moving here after her friends. She finds names for the lambs and for all the goats as well.

We anthropomorphize–project human traits onto our animals. And when you’ve been around them long enough, they do seem to develop personalities. One of the older ewes will seek you out on your pasture walks to scratch her head against your leg. Another follows you around, begging for a bit of grain. The alpha female goat will let you know vocally and in no uncertain terms when she has a complaint.

Buddy was very territorial at first. He’d come running and try to head-butt you if you stepped into his turf. But he settled into a relaxed older gent who spent most of his time off to himself or lounging with his pal Tucker. He had a face that came straight out of a Winnie the Pooh story. Scratch his chin and he’d love you with those big, dark eyes. We’ll miss him.

 

 

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Abort

April 28th, 2016 by Ed Bruske

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Recently we noticed something rope-like hanging off our Jersey cow Emily’s back side and feared something might have happened to her gestating baby. Sure enough, when the vet arrived and reached in he withdrew a dead fetus about three months old–meaning it had been in there dead for about a month.

Fortunately, the aborted fetus had already been expelled from the uterus and, according to the vet, cows are equipped to deal with these things better than humans. Emily seems to have suffered no ill effects and continues to wander the pastures with our other critters, feeding off the emerging spring grasses as if everything is perfectly normal. The vet says the fault lies with the fetus–malformation, genetic defect, or who knows what–not the mother.

We’re glad Emily is in good health but this is just the latest setback in our milking program. We jumped through all kinds of hoops last year to get her pregnant–all those hormone shots and whatnot–and we may be looking at more of the same in the next couple of months.

The good news: this means we can get her back on a more reasonable schedule of calving in early spring 2017 rather than in the middle of this summer. But we won’t be enjoying Emily’s fine Jersey milk again any time soon. And that we will certainly miss.

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