I’m starting this post “the night before” so time references will reflect that.
Tomorrow morning we head up to Johnson City to bring three ram lambs in for processing. This will be the first meat ever harvested from our ranch. We’ll be using Harvest House Farms to do the job. They’re USDA certified which makes things much simpler than a Texas Dept. of Agriculture (TDA) certified facility due to labeling requirements. Since we’ve never done this before, we’ll have to get educated on what cuts we can get out of an animal. While there are many possible cuts, only a certain number of them can be realized. And if you pick one cut, you may lose the ability to get another kind. I figure we’ll see if we can get any sales out of this meat and then decide when or if to process more. We have four more in the immediate queue. I do know we’re going to stock our own freezer with a bunch of this and, I hope, thoroughly enjoy it. You’ll be some of the first to know!
So tonight, we had to play shuffle the sheep, trick the sheep, capture the sheep, and load the sheep. It’s quite a game as you might imagine. Then you follow that up with the “secure the trailer for transport” game. Lives depend on that one so you gotta do it right. I was behind a rancher hauling cattle once. His trailer had rotten parts in the floor. I was watching cows put their legs through the floor while this guy continued to tool on down the road. I stopped him and pointed out his problem. Not sure exactly what he did about it but I did what I could that day. But you see what I mean. Animal transport for any reason is not something to do carelessly. But back to the “______ the sheep” game. Our set up is very Red Neck Chic around here. Nothing is modern or in good condition. That makes the game more challenging. Shockingly, and I do mean shockingly, we pulled off the whole maneuver without a hitch. God had mercy on us! It was almost like we knew what we were doing and had done it before. Well, we have done some of it before. Shuffle the sheep is an integral part of shearing day which we just had. We also had a trick up our sleeve for the “trick the sheep” part. You put the trailer where the animal is going to end up in the paddock with them and feed them in it for a few days. Then they want to go in there. One of the three didn’t even have to be caught, he just went right in. I’m really hoping that tomorrow will be highly anti-climatic as I really don’t want ANY excitement to occur on this trip. Excitement normally equals bad. Now if we happen to find a winning lotto ticket lying around, that’s different…
For now, off to never never land until morning arrives far too quickly.
This was our redneck engineered livestock trailer.
The next day…
We got up at Oh dark thirty this morning to get on the road by 6:30. We nearly made it. Fortunately, the processor has a window of between 8:00 and 9:00 to drop off livestock. We made it in plenty of time. The trip was a little nerve-wracking for me as I’d never transported animals before. I kept my speed down which at times blocked traffic behind me but not too badly. Most of the trip was through the scenic hill country. Unfortunately, that also means lots of curvy single lane roads with lots of ups and downs. I worried about the trailer and cage staying together even though I secured it so heavily the guy at the processor even mentioned it to me. The setup was a small 4 X 7 foot trailer with a sheet of plywood for the floor and a cage on top. You can see in the pic above that we wrapped it with a tarp to keep the wind off the sheep. It actually worked pretty well.
Once we arrived, we had to wait in line. After a couple of cattle trailers unloaded, it was our turn. Since the whole thing could not go off without a hitch, I busted one of the trailer side tail lights backing up. Not badly but I’ll probably have to replace the whole light. The unload was super easy. They had a pretty nice multifunctional dock that fit my trailer as well as “normal” ones. Once we unloaded and took off the now unnecessary bits of the setup, we went inside to set up the cut list. Since this was the first time we’d ever had an animal processed, we had no idea what to expect or ask for. I think they were so used to it that they really didn’t know what to tell a first timer but they did try. I made it out the door to the truck twice before I turned around and asked questions again but I think we got most of it. We’re getting a variety of cuts including one done in total ground so we’ll have a lot of ground lamb burger to sell. The trip home was uneventful.
Now this next bit is kind of a sensitive subject but I want to be honest and open about the whole thing. The trip was rather emotional. Most people don’t think about where their food comes from for a second. When you grow it, it’s a whole nuther ball game. Even if you distance yourself from the animal, I found that for me, being directly involved was a little emotional. It was a lot emotional for Mary. In our work as ranchers, we’ve always felt the loss of any animal pretty keenly. And if you did something that contributed to that loss, it really could hit you pretty hard. In this case, we’re doing something on purpose that will cause the loss of the animal. It makes the same feelings show up. For me though, it means I’m going to respect the meals we get and the sales we get from those animals a whole lot more than I would if we had just bought some meat. Now if you are not a meat eater for “moral” reasons, I’ll respect your choice if you respect mine. I won’t argue with you about it in the comments though and if you’re an ass, I’ll delete you. Honest questions are fine.
All in all, it was an adventure no matter how you look at it but I’m glad it’s over.
I know it’s been a while but we have been busy on the publishing front. The blog just got neglected. Now that I can tie it into the new web site, however, I think that may spur a little more content. At least I hope so. Here’s a gander at the title page:
Give it a click to go to the site. The URL is http://www.doubleportionranch.net since the dot com URL is taken for now. Come on by and check out the shiny new digs. We got some stuff you can buy now too! Animals of course. If you are close enough to us, or are willing to pay a ton of shipping, we got lamb and mutton coming available within the next few weeks. As some of you know, my wife makes beautiful heirloom quality baskets and we have some of them for sale there too. More to come as we figure out shipping options for the bigger ones.
Let me know what you think of the effort. It’s all GoDaddy templates so I can’t take credit for doing anything but the content and leggo block building. Still, I think it turned out pretty good.
This weekend Mary and I traveled to Waco for a workshop on sheep & goat maintenance. It started at 8 AM. We live 3 hours away. I’m not a morning person…
Still, it was an excellent experience. Even the drive up. It’s remarkably clear on the roads at 5 AM. Go figure! It was hosted by the amazing folks at World Hunger Relief. Click over and check them out, maybe make a donation or volunteer or something. The workshop was put on by the Texas AgrAbility Community of Practice folks (or on Facebook). Our instructor was the intrepid Erin Kimbrough. Topics covered included:
- Applying ID Tags
- Record Keeping
- Behavioral knowledge and selection
- Breed knowledge and selection
- Options for predator control
- Hoof care
Some of this was completely new to us. I had never trimmed hooves before or seen a kid or lamb banded, so we got some good info and hands on experience out of this that counted toward my phase three hours in the Battle Ground to Breaking Ground course I’m taking. Naturally we took some pictures and video for you to enjoy. Check it out.
And a few more pics…
Our instructor Erin giving a goat a copper bolus capsule using an insertion gun (more like a big syringe).
James from World Hunger Relief drenching a goat. This is a way to orally inject medicine to control parasites in some farm animals.
Checking parasite load using the FAMACHA method. Part is a bit blurry but doesn’t detract too much.
One thing I had never experienced before was what drama queens goats are. Man am I glad we raise sheep!
A couple of days ago I felt like I was being watched. Turns out I was right! This hen decided things needed to be watched a little closer around the ranch. Apparently the lack of supervision required her to step… er, fly in and take charge. We had just checked out the new lamb and were going to get pictures of the rams to post for sale when we noticed our work being checked!
Obviously the rams were up to no good. Horse play, tom foolery and head butting! Let’s get back to work boys.
Do you need something human? Can’t you see I’m super busy supervising things around here? You’re what? The owner you say? Oh, very sorry sir! Things are going eggcedingly well if you’ll pardon the pun. The rams were just getting back to work and your newest lamb is progressing well. Yes, er, um, back to the coop sir. Have a nice day!
Had the newest addition to the ranch this afternoon.
The black spot on her back is dirt. She was probably only minutes old at this point.
Mom’s taking care of her. It’s an assumed her at this point.
Whut ewe lookin’ at?
I’d like to introduce you to Spock.
No, not THAT Spock!
Yes, we have a lamb named Spock, for VERY obvious reasons. And he is, naturally, fascinating! I suppose for the first post of 2018 it might as well be a weird one. He’s a cute little booger. But then again, all lambs are cute. We’ve got quite a crop this year. All mutts due to a jail break the boys made in November. Who’s your Daddy? Heck if we know. While this did not help us grow our Gulf Coast herd it did give us some cuties.
As you can see he has the complete set of ‘brows. We’ll have to work on teaching him the Vulcan greeting with those hooves.
Not sure if he’ll be an emotional sheep or a logical one. He is a half-breed after all. This could lead to a spat of Capt. Kirk, Scotty, or McCoy sheep as we have not yet named everyone in this crop. I guess it’ll be OK as long as he doesn’t whip out a communicator and say “Baaaaeeeem me up!”
Woah! Another post in 2017. Better slow down a little 🙂
In January we’ll have been at the ranch for 5 years. Last night we got the biggest snow fall I’ve ever seen in South Texas. Don’t get too excited about that. It didn’t take much to qualify for that title. Still, it was very pretty to see this morning so I wanted to share a few views with you. If we had grass, the ground would have been white too. You can kind of see that when you look through the trees to the neighbors fields. I guess we got between 1 and 2 inches. Very pretty!