A day in the life of a sheep rancher…Fun Fact Friday

This morning on my drive to the office I called my folks. My Mom was filling me in on the adventures of her lambing. Lambing is what it is called when the ewes (pronounced “you”) have their babies. My Mom has about 70 head of ewes, and a ewe is a female sheep. A ewe can be bred to have babies at eight to 10 months of age. Her gestation length is five months. A baby sheep is called a lamb.

sleeping lambs
A set of twins (not the ones I will tell you about) sleeping on a warm straw bed under a heat lamp.

Yesterday a ewe had twins (which is very common for sheep), but they were born outside, and the ewe didn’t clean them off very good (when an animal has babies they lick them to remove all of the embryonic fluid and dry them, while doing this they also “talk” to them by making low noises, which stimulates them to stand and nurse), and the lambs got very cold. So the lambs were taken into the lambing barn and put under heat lamps. It is VERY important for all baby animals to receive the “first milk”, which is called colostrum. Colostrum contains proteins, peptides, and high levels of antibodies (these are the highest in the first milking), which aid in building a strong immune system enabling babies to fight possible infections. A new born baby does not carry antibodies since they do not pass through mother’s bloodstream into the placenta, but the lamb (or any other baby) can get these antibodies in the colostrum!

A lamb tuber with a very soft latex tube – used to feed colostrum.

Since the lambs were not yet strong enough to stand and nurse on their own, the ewe was milked out by hand. The lambs were then tubed. In the sheep world, the feeding tube is a large disposable syringe that has a very soft latex tube that is slid down the lamb’s throat, past the esophagus, and into their stomach. This would look very much like a feeding tube that a human would have, but this is not permanent. The colostrum is put into the syringe and then once the tube is in the lamb’s stomach, the milk is dispensed and the tube is removed. This causes them no pain. Ensuring that the colostrum gets into the lamb’s system as soon as possible can mean the difference between life and death! A newborn baby may need to be tubed several times before it is strong enough to stand and nurse on its own. While the mother’s milk is ideal, sometimes a powder replacement is used or colostrum that has come from another ewe can be used ( it can be frozen and slowly thawed for later use).

The lambs didn’t show much improvement after receiving colostrum, so they were taken into the house, yes the house that my parents live in, and put in front of the wood burning fireplace to warm up. This can be a common occurrence for livestock ranchers. Just like people, animals can get chilled to the bone and have a hard time warming up, so a toasty fireplace is a good place to go. We have had many lambs and calves (baby cows) in the house growing up. This is just what you do when a baby has gotten really cold or just isn’t getting off to the start you hoped it would. I can remember several times when we brought calves into the house, and after coming back in when chores were done we have found the calf has gotten up and has been walking around the living room!

Yesterday afternoon the lambs were taken back out and put back into the heat lamp and straw warmed pen with their mom. Additionally, the ewes put off a lot of heat since they have a thick wool coat! My Mom shared they both made it through the night! Yay. Today the lambs will receive help standing and may need assistance in finding the ewe’s teat to nurse, and they may even need to be tubed again just to make sure they are still receiving the nutrients needed to be healthy and out of the danger zone.

Most lambs are born with no problems and never need the extra assistance from us as their caregivers. But if they do need that extra attention we are always there to provide it, both in and out doors!

A lamb sleeping in its mom’s hay tub!

Pizza Perfect…Fun Fact Friday

Friday nights seem to be pizza night in our house. So today I thought I would share some fun pizza facts with you…

Buffalo Chicken pizza – blue cheese as the base, chicken, buffalo sauce, and blue cheese/mozzarella cheese on the top!
The “Kitchen Sink” pizza – homemade wheat crust, and what ever you can find in the fridge on top.
Thai Chicken with peanut sauce pizza – sweet and spicy sauce on the bottom, grilled chicken, grated carrots, cilantro, and peanut sauce drizzled on top!

Did you know Americans eat about 100 acres (1 acre is about the size of a football field) of pizza a day!! Or 350 slices a second?!

Each man, woman, and child in America eats roughly 46 slices of pizza year!

Pepperoni is America’s favorite pizza.

In America, anchovies rank last on desired pizza toppings. (I like anchovies on my pizza!)

According to Domino’s, international favorites include: pickled ginger, minced mutton (old sheep meat) and tofu in India, squid (octopus), Mayou Jaga (mayonnaise, potato, and bacon) in Japan, and green peas in Brazil. In Russia, pizza is covered with mockba, which a combination of sardines, tuna, mackerel, salmon, and onions. In France, a popular pizza is the Flambee, with bacon, onion, and fresh cream.

For other fun facts on food check out the National Ag Day website.

What do you like on your pizza?

It’s a family thing…Fun Fact Friday

During the holiday season we reflect on the past year, spend time with family and loved ones, and prepare for a new and fresh year.

Speaking of families, did you know that of approximately 2.2 million farms in America, 97% are operated by families, family partnerships, or family corporations! (Source: American Farm Bureau Federation).

It is a common misconception that many American farms are “factory farms” – which is simply untrue. Personally, every single farm and ranch I know is family operated and/or owned (by some very fine people I might add).


This a photo from my wedding day of my immediate family. Both my Mom and Dad’s families were ranchers, and my sister and I are the 4th generation born and raised on our family’s ranch.

Freemartin…Fun Fact Friday

What the heck does freemartin mean you may be asking? Well it isn’t an event, a cause, or even a person for that matter. It is an agricultural term!

When twin calves are born, and one is a male (bull) and one a female (heifer), the heifer calf is referred to as a freemartin.

A freemartin heifer calf is considered over 90% infertile (or sterile), meaning she will probably never be able to have a calf herself. Her reproductive tract may not be fully formed or will be underdeveloped, and she may have some elements of a bull’s reproductive tract! It is important for a cattle producer to know this and keep good records so they can plan to sell her for meat instead of keeping her for breeding purposes. The bull calf will also have reduced fertility.

calves (Twin calves)

Why does this phenomenon happen? At about the 40th day of pregnancy the fluids of the two fetuses begin to mix, causing exchanges of blood and antigens that are unique to heifers and bulls. When the antigens mix, it causes them to develop characteristics of both sexes!

Interestingly, this usually only occurs in cattle, it generally does not affect pigs, goats, sheep, or people!

For more information on freemartins, visit: Oklahoma State University or University of Kentucky.

Rumination Facination…Fun Fact Friday

Last week I mentioned ruminants. Ruminants include cows, sheep, goats, llamas, camels, deer, and many, many more. As I mentioned they also chew cud (which is a chunk of food they regurgitate and chew again breaking down the particle size; this process is called rumination – but more on that later ).

Most people often believe that ruminant animals have four stomachs. That is not entirely true, they have one stomach with four compartments. In the photo below you can see the four compartments: Rumen, Reticulum, Omasum, and Abomasum – each one has a different role, but I will go more into that later.

142097_ruminant_digestion(Photo source: Ruminant Digestion)

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why ruminant animals can eat grass and hay and humans can not (we are monogastrics).

Sheep grazing (Photo source: Sheep grazing)

Toothless grins…Fun Fact Friday

Did you know…

Ruminant animals (animals that have one stomach with four compartments and chew their cud; includes cattle, sheep, goats, lamas, etc. – will explain more later) do NOT have teeth on their upper jaw?

Well, technically they have premolars and molars in the very back of their mouths on the upper and lower jaws, but no teeth upper front teeth. Instead they have a dental pad, which would be hard, slick surface.

Photos used in blog(Photo: Virginia cooperative Extension)

So how do they eat? Glad you asked! The part of their mouth where the upper teeth would normally be is called a dental pad. When they take a bite of grass they wrap their tongue around it and use the dental pad and their bottom teeth to bite it off.

So how do the young animals nurse you ask… They wrap their tongues around the mother’s teat and use pressure from the dental pad to suck.

cow's mouth 2_edited-6 This is what a cow’s mouth looks like – the dental pad on top and teeth on bottom only! (Photo: http://downlandviews.blogspot.com)

I know, very cool stuff!