Tag Archives: lambs

Wisconsin Sheep and Wool 2015

In 2011 Joel and I went to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival. We had not lived on the farm for very long and only had poultry and rabbits at the time. We knew we wanted some bigger animals such as goats or sheep, but were unsure what breed would best suit our needs. At the festival we saw many different breeds of sheep, including the breed we would end up raising: Shetlands.

Its been four years since that festival and we have had three successful lambing seasons. I’ve come to love our breed very deeply, and try to improve upon the stock we currently own with each breeding season. We are breeding for polled rams, fine fleece, good confirmation, pleasant temperament, good mothering abilities and strong parasite resistance.

The 2015 Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival started on Friday but I had a presentation in class so Joel and I were not able to attend the early activities. We loaded our sale sheep up Friday night, got to the fair grounds, unloaded the sale sheep and then loaded up up to sheep I bought from Becky of River Oaks Farm (she lives in MN and was kind enough to bring them for me to pick up.)

Here is Minnie, a moorit gulmoget.


And Gillian (Gilly for short) a moorit, gulmoget ewe lamb


Joel started to feel sick while we were loading up the new sheep so we hurried home as we knew we would have an early start the next day. That morning Joel felt even more sick. We managed to get our show sheep loaded up and brought them to the show. My dad met us at the show. Joel was feeling so ill he drove my dad’s car home and my dad stayed on to help out. Our friends Cindy and Steve also came to help in and outside the ring so I wasn’t alone. I don’t know what I would have done without the three of them to help me! I am a lucky lady to have such wonderful friends and family!

The order of classes in the show is senior ram, yearling ram, ram lamb, pair of ram lambs, champion ram, senior ewe, yearling ewe, ewe lamb, pair of ewe lambs, and then some other classes such as best fleece on the hoof, best small flock, dam and daughter and then the very last class that decides Supreme Champion and Reserve Supreme Champion.

Our first class was yearling ram and I had Bruce. Bruce was excellent on the halter and walked at my side like a gentlemen. It was a small class with only two other rams in it, both of whom are stunning. I was feeling very intimidated, and I almost choked when Gilbert Mielke, our Scottish judge, handed me the first place ribbon. He shook my hand and I thought I was going to faint.

12011211_10155959018995456_4194353240840124214_n(yearling ram class photo by Garrett Ramsay)

Next up was the ram lamb class. We only had a few ram lambs this last season and I brought our favorite, Washburne. I believe there was a class of about 12-15 ram lambs and Wash got fourth place, earning him the chance to have his own breeding group this fall.

wash(Wash and I in the ram lamb class with Mike Bartles on the right. Photo by my dad, Martin Solis)

Then there was pair of ram lambs and I had a quick break to give Wash to Cindy and Steve and grab Bruce again to compete for Champion ram. In champion ram the senior ram winner, yearling ram winner and ram lamb winner go back in the ring to compete against each other. Bruce won again, earning him the chance to compete for supreme champion. We got a rosette! And a plaque! Our sheep have never even won a first place ribbon before so I was really over the moon and giddy at this point.

BRUCE(My face is like WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING??? Bruce is cool as a cucumber. Photo: Garrett Ramsay)

Right after this class was senior ewe and Cindy grabbed Ostara and I grabbed Cleo and Steve got Bruce put away. Cleo got third place.

bea 1(Mike Bartles on the right in first place, Terri Mahlkuch in second place and Cleo and I in third. Photo: Martin Solis)

Cindy and I showed Gretel and Beatrice for yearling ewe and did not place. Bea almost head butted me in the face while I was holding her for the judge to examine her wool.

The next class was ewe lamb, we had planned on Joel being there so we brought 4 lambs. Steve and I got Echo and Osceola in the ring and they both went nuts, throwing themselves on the ground and really acting foolish. Mindy slipped her halter before getting in the ring and Cindy caught her but not in time to get her in the ring. In my dad’s words, “good thing it isn’t an obedience contest!” We didn’t place in this class but Osceola and Echo did get second place pair of ewe lambs in the next class.

I believe the next class we were in was Best Fleece on the Hoof in which Bruce won second place. I took Raven to best colored, patterned or modified sheep and she didn’t place.

After all the other classes were done they called the Champion ram (BRUCE!) and the Champion ewe, Sheltering Pines Salicional back into the ring. They told the reserve champion ram and ewe to be on stand by. Our judge looked at both Salicional and Bruce and then called the reserves back in. I thought for sure that meant we had not won. I was just excited we had made it so far! Salicional won Supreme Champion and Bruce was Reserve Champion. I was thrilled!

FINAL FOUR GARRETT(Last class…Photo: Garrett Ramsay)


This is our third time showing at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool and I didn’t anticipate this at all. I am so grateful to our judges who came all the way from Scotland to judge our show and share their knowledge of the sheep we all love so much. I am honored that a UK judge and inspector sees so much potential in Emancipation Bruce. Gilbert Meikle(our judge) said Bruce was, “A superb ram with excellent wool and very true to type.” I could not possibly be more grateful. (Bruce might be a bit more grateful then I am when he finds out he is going to get so many more ewes this year).

One of the best things about the Jefferson show is seeing old friends, making new friends, and enjoying time with other people that love the same things.  This photo is (almost) all of us. I had an absolute blast. I could not possibly ask to be friends with a funnier, weirder(in a good way), kinder group of people. Watching everyone support each other, and cheer each other on was a thing of beauty. I can’t wait to see you all next year, and hopefully I will see some of you before that.

shetland sheep group


Riker and Katniss

Living on the farm has brought me a lot closer to the cycles of birth and death. I get it. You can’t have one with out the other.

Rabbits almost always give birth at night. I’ve find the babies the next morning but never have I seen the actual birthing process. I’ve only seen a rabbit nurse twice. Rabbits keep things on the down low.

The last few days have been interesting. Joel and I bit the bullet and bought a very nice incubator. It is mostly full with orders and working on paying for itself. I’ve seen broody hens hatch a clutch of eggs before but so much happens under the hen that you can’t get a good look at. One day they have eggs and the next day they have chicks. Watching the chicks hatch in the incubator is very different, and very cool. The chicks make the tiniest hole in the shell and from there, they slowly crack it open. After a time they heave the shell away from themselves and lay panting from exertion. They let out a few peep peeps and then fall asleep. At first they are still wet from the fluid of the egg but they dry quickly. When removed from the incubator they lay under the brooder light, basking in the heat and drying their feathers. Within hours they are moving around. They sleep with legs akimbo, sprawled out like a dead thing. They wake up briefly to eat, to drink, to wander and to peep. Then they sleep like the dead.

I’ve been thinking about those chicks all day. Thinking how amazing it is that they battle their way out of the eggs and the weak just don’t make it.

Today I was on my way out to the sheep pen. I grabbed my camera, like I have for the last week, in anticipation of lambs and saw the battery was dead. I put it on the charger and thought to myself “Now there surely will be lambs.” Sure enough, my beautiful Comfrey was in labor when I entered the sheep pen. The head of the first lamb was out with no sign of the feet. I freaked out, worried it was an abnormal presentation I was going to have to deal with. I called my sheep vet: he was on vacation. I called another large animal vet: they were out on other house calls. I called a fellow breeder and she talked me through some things. I called my awesome friend Amanda who is a vet and she said she could come over. I took deep breaths. I went back outside to see how Comfrey was doing and low and behold she had a beautiful ram lamb at her side. I sighed a million sighs of relief. As Joel and I looked on, another lamb, this one a ewe lamb, came into the world. Comfrey made it look effortless. Comfrey got to work immediately licking them both dry. Joel and I ducked in quickly to dip their umbilical chords in iodine, check their sex, and bask in their beauty. Within twenty minutes they were drinking milk.

Joel and I worked out an agreement. He names the ram lambs, I name the ewe lambs.

William T. Riker is the ram lamb. He is all black except for a white patch over his left eye, and a small patch of white on his left ear. He might have some white hairs in his wool, but otherwise he appears to be jet black. Fingers crossed for polled, but I think I might see horns. It is quite possible this guy could be our herd sire.

Katniss is the ewe lamb. She is also black, with a white facial pattern. I love her so much I can barely breathe.

Comfrey is currently rooing, so she looks a bit raggedy. Give her a break, she is a bad-ass.