March 04, 2024

From the Pastures: Orders finally filled

Hello from Graze-N-Grow. Other than about an inch of wet snow last Saturday, it has been a very enjoyable December so far, weather-wise. Conditions have been great for any fieldwork around here, and although dry, the pastures have remained green for the cattle and sheep. We just started feeding the cattle some of last year’s leftover oat and pea baleage, which has kept in surprisingly good condition.

The ewes still have some pasture to last through most of December, but I want to leave some residual to accelerate the spring greenup. Hay feeding always seems to start too soon. With the rye we seeded after a late corn harvest barely peeking through the stalks, the spring grazing won’t be starting as early as most years.

The flock went through the sorting chute a couple of weeks ago to sort off all the ewe lambs and these were divided into replacement females and market stock. The rams were put with them for late April lambing while the mature flock greeted their boys on Pearl Harbor Day. We sold 20 ewe lambs and one ram to a friend from Iowa who finally took my advice about adding sheep to his cattle enterprise. It’s going to seem boring next January without the usual shed lambing chores, but I guess I will take advantage of these “5 o’clock and dark” nights to quit early. That’s one of the many blessings of living in the northern latitudes in winter time.

As usual, we had a ram escape about five months ago, so we have four sets of twins so far and five or six more ewes gated off to drop soon. Although not good management on my part, it’s always a joy to see new life on the farm, even in December.

Our on-farm butcher lamb season is going to end soon, I’m afraid, since we only have about 15 ram lambs left unless I can convince them that females taste good, too. I asked the last guys here what the shepherds do in their home country with all their ewe lambs, but he didn’t know. So much for his input.

Ruth is still milking her cow, Ella, so I guess she’s not for sale yet, and the layer chicks we got in late last summer have started spitting out eggs so she at least still has her winter chores. We finally got all our pastured pigs processed, which proved to be a challenge during this COVID year, so our new (to us) walk-in freezer is well stocked with beef, lamb, pork and chicken.

Also we are very grateful for the patience of our customers who have finally gotten their orders filled. We still have 10 lambs held back for two January slaughter dates with most of them sold, so I hope the remainder will tide us over until next fall. With the Christmas season upon us, it’s an especially good time to pray for “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” Happy trails.

Jim Draper

Jim Draper

Sheffield, Ill.