Saturday, March 24, 2012

Aerial View of Stark Hollow Farm

Vanessa uses the Vermont GIS system to calculate pasture sizes each summer. These screen shots taken from a similar source, show the fields and the results of pasture rotation and management on the fields at HOWL. These shots are from August of 2011 and based on the shadow, were taken early in the day.


This shot shows the sheep's movement. The brown area is the most recently grazed. The white dots just above the brown area are the sheep on their second day in a new paddock. They are rotated every 72 hours. The large white dot above the trees is the hay stack we built after mowing and hand raking the top half of the Sundance Pasture. (see this posting for a information on building a haystack: Building a Hay Stack! To keep the grasses healthy and from going to seed (losing nutritional value), we do some limited and strategic mowing ahead of the sheep.


This shot shows the road coming in and the HOWL and farm structures. The line with the round structure further down the road is part of the ceremonial structures of Kunsi Keya Tamakoce, our neighbors. From this bird's eye view you can see the Labyrinth Pasture (lower right), the Pond Pasture, the Upper Meadow Pasture and the Sundance Pasture. These are the names that Stark Hollow Farm uses to identify the fields at HOWL.


This aerial view of the main pastures gives a better overall picture of the fields in their various states of grazing. Proper planning allows for intensive rotational grazing which provides better management of the fields and the animal's health. By understanding the size of the paddocks required for the number of sheep we are grazing, the number of days for each rotation and the rest period, we can really plan the exact movement of the animals through out the summer and into fall.

Stay tuned for dates of our Fencing Systems for Rotational Grazing workshop.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Getting Ready for Lambing

We are busy here at Stark Hollow Farm in Vermont getting ready for the 2012 lambing season, which officially starts this week with Vanessa on vigil, checking on expectant ewes every few hours. It is an exciting time, but one that requires preparation and vigilance. Each ewe's date of servicing has been carefully tracked so that we know within a day or two when she will deliver. Our goal is to be present for each birth and assist if necessary.

One side of the new modular lambing facility is completed, filled with straw and ready to go. There will be several lambing "jugs", small pens for mama to lamb out and then tend to her newborns undisturbed. This allows the mama ewe to properly bond with her new lambs, particularly important for first time mothers and especially with so many ewes ready to deliver. A ewe may "steal" another mother's lamb if she is so close to lambing that her hormones confuse her. When this happens, her actual lambs struggle to compete for milk and may miss out on the all important colostrum. Definitely a situation to be avoided if possible.





Vanessa has put together a detailed and well stocked lambing "kit". The lambing kit is important for quick and efficient birthing assistance and to provide all the proper care for the new born lambs. It contains such items as soft clean rags, lubricant, iodine with navel cup for sterilizing umbilical cords, stomach tube in case intubation is necessary, lambing ropes, milk bottles and nipples, and various other items that might be needed to manage the birthing process.



The first few ewes to lamb will be relieved of some of their colostrum and milk to save for lambs who have difficulty. The colostrum contains the very important vitamins, nutrients and antibodies necessary for the lamb's health and survival. Proper preparation, vigilance and a shepherd's can greatly reduced mortality among new born lambs and reduce the risk of complications in both the lamb and the mother during the days following.

Soon, hopefully, we'll be watching 35 or so of these little guys frolicking in the paddock just waiting to get out on the summer pastures!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chicks 2012


A new flock of chicks is feathering out nicely in the large brooder Vanessa built. They are cozy under the heat lamp up in the loft with the thumping of the rabbits to keep them company. These are layers, with the first eggs expected in July.

As usual we purchased a variety,including some rare breeds, in support of genetic conservation programs tracked by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (you will also find our Tamworth Pigs, a threatened breed, listed here).

There are Plymouth Barred Rock (recovering breed), Partridge Rock (recovering breed), Dominique (on watch breed), Buff Orpingtons (recovering), Speckled Sussex(threatened breed), New Hampshires (on watch breed), Black Australorp (recovering breed).