Week 20, 2022｜Kristin Kimball｜May 20, 2022
I plan to tag the year’s 298th lamb today, a single ram born to one of last year’s ewe lambs. To satisfy my itch for round numbers I would like to hit 300. We’re deep into the quieter second cycle of lambing now, with only a few ewes left to go. The ewe’s estrus cycle is approximately 17 days long, so every ewe successfully bred in the first 17 days after the rams are turned in will lamb in the same 17 day period. Over 90% of the ewes were bred the first time so the first cycle was madness. Now, things are slower, but more complicated. I’ve noticed over the years that the second cycle of births tends to offer higher rates of dystocia, malpresentations, bad mothering, and metabolic problems, presumably because the underlying reasons the ewes didn’t settle on the first cycle resurface at lambing. I perversely enjoy these puzzles, now that experience has made me capable of handling most of them competently. And in a year like this, with so few complications, and so many happily routine births, it adds a little interest to the end.
We’ve had a dozen surprise births in the cull flock, which had no ram in it. I am extremely puzzled about this. We’ve gone over the possibilities and as far as anyone can remember there were no escapes last fall, no mix-ups, and no ‘fence line breeding’ – a form of animal gymnastics I’m sure you can imagine without further description. It couldn’t have happened between electric nets with the flocks separated by 100 yards. The timing was perfectly synched with turn-in of the legitimate rams, not early as we’d expect with a half-castrated or uncastrated ram lamb in the cull flock. Only a small minority of the cull ewes were bred, which adds to the mystery. If we solve it, I’ll let you know. Here’s to the whole crew for the really amazing team effort to lamb a large flock well. It takes good care year round to bring the ewes and lambs through lambing with such a high rate of success. Thanks, all!
We were a solid 2-3 weeks behind the usual spring grazing schedule, but we are rolling fast now. The dairy cows went to grass first, and you may have noted the change. The cream is more yellow, and you can taste new flavors in the milk. Production gets a big bump as soon as grass is available so we are managing the good problem of abundance right now. The beef cattle are also grazing. The beef herd numbers 78 head now, and they can totally consume 3 acres in a day. The hens are on pasture, and the pullets, who have just begun to lay, will follow soon. Piglets will be arriving any day now too. The sows look comically large.
What about the plants? The asparagus is coming along steadily, and we’ve enjoyed it every which way in our kitchen: blackened in a very hot skillet, with yogurt sauce, as soup (those tough ends get put to good use), and steamed, with hollandaise. I feel about asparagus exactly what I feel about lambing: love it immensely and just when I start to get sick of it, it’s over, which it will be in about a month. In other plant news, the tender tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are going from the greenhouses to the field today, a week ahead of the date considered frost-safe, but with highs in the 90s predicted, we feel good about it. We have 17 acres of field corn planted and germinated, and 18 acres of soybeans in, a hedge against the astronomical rise in corn and bean prices this year. Scott Hoffman is baleing the year’s first forage for next winter, hooray. And our two summer farmers, Casey and Annie, arrive next week. That’s the news for this wild 20th week of 2022. Find us at 518-963-4613, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Insta at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball