Friday, October 13, 2017

Doc, a Katahdin/Shetland cross ram

This is Doc, a ram we've been using on our crossbreds for a few years. His dad was a Katahdin, and his mom was part Shetland and part White Dorper.

The special thing about Doc is that a lot of his daughters turned out to be horned ewes. I do have some horned Shetland ewes, but Doc's mom was not one of them. But his daughters certainly have the trait, and many of his offspring have his black/white coloring.

Here is another picture of him. I might mention that his horns are kind of close-set. In my purebred Shetlands I usually prefer wider-set horns.

Another picture of Doc. I'm going to have to be selling him soon. Most of his daughters will also be going. I'm planning to downsize my sheep herd bigtime this year. I hope I will be able to sell most of the for-sale sheep before the snow flies.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

You need to identify your chickens: Wing Bands and Leg Bands

Keeping chickens? If you have several members of your flock that are the same breed, sex, and color variety, you have the problem of telling them apart. Maybe one of your identical chickens has lost a toe, or another is friendlier than the rest. But that's not enough. You need to be able to tell your chickens apart as individuals. For that, you need wing bands.

I have been using wing bands for some years now. For a while I had 3 purebred Buff Brahma roosters and 2 or 3 crossbred roos I was keeping for various reasons. Then I had some roos die.

The spring after I noticed one of my 3 purebred Brahma roos was beating up the others. I checked wing bands and I found out the mean rooster wasn't one of my purebreds after all, but a half-Brahma crossbred. He must have inherited his feisty nature from the other half of the cross--- pure Brahmas are very gentle, and often can't be raised in the same brooder as other, more aggressive breeds.

Wing bands are a permanent identification solution. For years I used metal tags--- I think the brand was 'Hasco' which were sent to me by the government as official government ear tags. But they gave my sheep and goats ear infections and most had to be removed. But they worked fine for chicken and duck wing bands.

Since I'm all but out of those I purchased some Jiffy bands, which come in several colors. They are lighter in weight and I don't suppose are as good for tagging adult animals newly acquired. But they can be used to tag chicks once they reach about a month old or so.

I originally kept my list of chickens and their wing band numbers on scraps of paper kept in the plastic tool box where I kept the boxes of bands and their applicator.  But now that I'm more serious about breeding rare breed chickens, I have a binder with pages and different breed groups are listed on different pages.

Wing bands are grand, but you can't see the wing bands unless you catch the bird. I use spiral leg bands also. My current system: purebred birds of the breeds I am breeding have color of wing band based on their breed. For Chanteclers, that is brown. Birds also have a second band on that leg to indicate their year of hatch.

I use the same system of year colors that I use for my sheep/goat ear tags, based on the Australian system. Here are the colors for the next few years:

White: 2017
Orange: 2018
Green: 2019
Purple: 2020
Yellow: 2021
Red: 2022
Blue: 2023
Black: 2024

And then you start over with white. The advantage of this is when birds get older you can identify which group to round up to make the management decision on which breeder birds get sold, which get made into chicken soup, and which get to stay and breed on your farm for another year.

Another reason it's good to be able to identify your hens individually--- hens go broody. That's a good thing because they can brood chicks, but you don't want them broody too often. If they are banded, when you see a broody hen on the nest, just check her number. In her official records, write the word 'broody' and the date. I raise breeds that are known for having broodies. If a hen goes broody too often, I wouldn't want to use her as a breeder because I don't want to breed too much broodiness into the line. But I do want birds that go broody sometimes. It's nice to keep accurate records, so you can make informed decisions about things like that!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

My Latest and Greatest Eartagging System

Thank goodness for Premier 1 supplies! That firm has a good number of styles, colors and shapes of eartags for sheep and other critters. Which enables me to come up with new eartagging systems every few years.

Currently I use 2 eartags in each lamb's ears, in case of tag loss. About 2 years ago I decided that the tag in the RIGHT ear should be in the system used in Australia--- they have 8 different colors of ear tags that indicate the year.

This year is WHITE in the system. Next year will be ORANGE. In Australia where the government forces you to use the system you can tell the age of a sheep by the ear tag. For the number, I use a letter plus numbers. This year's letter is G, and all or nearly all of lambs that get names will begin with G. I've been naming sheep alphabetically since I started and have gone through the alphabet once. Well, I quit at Y and started again with E or something like that. Not sure why I skipped some letters. It's fun every year to go through name books and dictionaries to make the official list of names with the right letter.

The LEFT ear tag indicates breed--- whether purebred Shetland or crossbred with hair sheep (Dorper or Katahdin).

white = single
yellow= twin
salmon =  triplet or better

spearmint = single
lime green = twin
green = triplet or better

In the Premier 1 catalog they say that they also use tags to indicate male or female. They put the 'main' tag in the right ear for males and left ear for females. I tried that, several tagging systems ago. It doesn't work for me. I always get a few males or females tagged wrong.

What I'm thinking of doing is this: I have a supply of tag pens. I thought I could make a mark with the tag pen on the male lamb's RIGHT ear tag--- the one that indicates the year. Tag pen marks don't last that long, but by the time the male sheep is old enough that the mark will have faded, you can tell he's a boy just by looking. I might also write the lamb's name on the inside of the tag, where the writing will be sheltered from sunlight.

I've also thought about adding a seventh color to the LEFT ear tag system--- gray to indicate male lambs which have been wethered and are going for meat.

As for the official government scrapie tags, when I started this new system I was not going to use them until the sheep was sold. That's what they do at Premier, according to their catalog. But at Premier they have a lot of help, and they have a sheep handling system. I don't have the help, and my 'sheep handling system' is a shed. I chase small groups into the shed to catch them in a small stall where I can grab them. So my LEFT ear tags are going to be official government Mark-of-the-Beast scrapie tags.

In my latest order of ear tags, I bought Q-flex 1.2 tags for the RIGHT ear tag and Q-flex 1.5 for the LEFT ear tag. So that even if I put the tags in the wrong ears I can tell which tag is which at a distance. Because most of my sheep don't like to come near enough for me to read the number on the tag.