Raising Finnish Landrace, Cotswold, Border Leicester, and Romeldales, in the Heart of Illinois, as well as working with rescue llamas.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Creative sheltering- make your own sheep shelters (test model #1)

     BRR! 18+ inches of snow and already several days -0*f this winter and winter is only a few days old!  A wonderful neighbor got out of cows a while ago, and has gone thru their barn and gifted us with things that help our operation that they no longer need.  This past summer they gave us 2 old round hay bale feeders for cows. We really needed shelter for our flerd (sheep flock + cow herd) that would not be up close to the barn in the cold winter months so we decided to use the bale feeders to meet the need. All summer we looked, we thought, we argued, then thought and looked some more about how we could turn those round bale feeders into useful shelters. We would walk away and come back to them just to sit and stare at them and scratch our heads and say "humph!" then walk away again. Thankfully, we got clever on one of those last warm days in November, the pumpkin pie muse hit and the shelters were built in just a few hours. Below are the photos of the huts while we were in the process of making them and the resulting sheep huts.

Step one: We cut out one bar that ordinarily keeps the cows from walking into the feeder and getting trapped in a round bale.
Step two: Buy a large heavy duty tarp/s that will go around the circumference of your bale feeder. We folded our tarps over the top of the bale feeder and overlapped the ends of the tarps by several feet to add some durability on the seam.

Step three:  We used 4"X4"  landscaping timbers as rafters.We will more than likely add crossbeams next summer, not because the the timbers are straining under the snow but simply to add it as prevention for strain. If we get a  larger snow fall we will simply have to go out and clean off the tops if the beams show stress this winter,.
 Step four: Then we attached plywood and covered the top in another tarp to protect the top from the winter weather.  The top can be further attached to the bale feeder using guide wires similar to the ones used as guide wires for keeping young trees growing straight.
 An interior view. You can see that there is the very important ventilation along the top and along the bottom when there isn't a layer of snow.

The calves and sheep decided to take us up on our offer of shelter! The sheep and calves pile in every night just after dusk and their dinner. Every morning they come out just as the sun begins to rise. I would love to get a photo of all of them inside together but I doubt they would let me sneak up on them without feeling the need to come begging for scratches and handouts and thus ruin the photo. I wonder if the cows are using the sheep for pillows or vice versa!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

AFTER the Fun

     Well, as with everyday on the farm there is work to be done, even on holidays!! For us, as with most farmers it is a labor of love, a lifestyle choice that we made and we are happy to live. A decision which some folks just don't get. After our relaxing day at the Peoria Area Rabbit Breeders Association show last month we figured since there were so many rabbits out of their holes, we might as well deep clean the rabbitry! I am always popular (not) with the family when I shift into rabbitry cleaning mode!!!

     We rearranged for the new additions because after a bad experience a while back we now quarantine all incoming rabbits. Then we burned and scrubbed all occupied holes. For cage burning, I use a propane powered weed burner to burn any fleece that sticks to the cage. I simply slowly wave the burner over the entire cage, pan supports, and legs. I go extra slow over favorite spots of the bunnies, because it seems every bunny has a favorite for certain things. The burning sterilizes the cages and keeps the bunnies who have hanging resting shelves in their holes from building up fleece on the support wires.  I let the cages cool then reinstall feeders, waters, and resting boards all of which have been soaked for at least 5 minutes in bleach water (10:1), rinsed, then soaked in fresh clear well water for at least 10 minutes, then dried.  Finally rabbits are returned to their clean homes. The result a nice clean tidy healthy, and a much better organized rabbitry.

Peoria Area Rabbit Breeders Association Fall 2010 Show

We were at the Peoria Area Rabbit Breeders Association show fall 2010 show a couple weeks ago. A very relaxing enjoyable day. A smaller show than it normally is, probably due to being so close to ARBA nationals and Thanksgiving.  Our French Angoras and Satins did well. Our American Fuzzy Lop senior buck Duke, got a DQ for being heavy. Poor Duke, he is just so big in terms of what is under the fleece.  Yet, he has such a perfect massive head.
The surprise win of the day for us was our French Angora BOB to Snowflake, our Chocolate Pearl brood doe. I have given her a well earned rest from kits this fall and her fleece has really come into it's own. Snowflake is talented in the nestbox, she regularly gives us huge litters, the last was 11, and tends her children very diligently.
French Angora BOS went to Noah, our broken Blue cream tort buck. Noah is just barely 7 months, but has a lot of promise both on the table and in fleece production. He will be 1 of our our long term main bucks, bringing broken genetics into our rabbitry.

In the main show and second show(satins):

BOV to Chip, our Siamese satin senior buck. Chip is one huge fellow and  given the judges comments on how much he liked Chip's massive body type could have gone further if his coat was in better condition, he was shedding the last of his summer coat however didn't look his best. However, Chip is such a great buck and enjoyable to be around.
BOSV to Babe, our new Siamese satin 6-8 doe,  New to us she has a lot of promise!!
 Joining us on our way home:  Babe and  Chocolate, another extremely promising a Siamese Satin Doe, 6-8, but just barely 6.