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  • Kristin Ramey

New Additions to the Shirley Club

You know I like data, right? What would life be without my sheep spreadsheet...

I was making some updates today - some that made me sad. But it made me take a look at my productivity chart. Ewe productivity is important, and it's not that we are treating them like machines to crank our babies - but mamas that can have successful twins that grow big and strong are better for our pasture than mamas that just produce - aka, I have to keep less mamas year round if the ones I have are good producers. So mamas that don't allow their babies to thrive, mamas with bad attitudes, mamas that throw birth defects - they get to go. They also age out eventually. I've said it before - 3 strikes and you are out. Miss a year completely? Strike. Have singles twice in a row? Strike. Abandon your babies and make us feed them through bottles? Strike. Straight up bad behavior (like ramming humans, jumping fences, being terrible to other babies)? Strike.

Shirley Girl was definitely a farm favorite! What a great mama!

So this chart helps me gauge who stays and who goes. There are two lines on here that are my gauges for who is a good producer. Reminder that the blue bars are what those ewes have already produced for me. The red is an estimate of what they have left in them if they live to be as old as Shirley - she was 11.5 and our original best producer. The yellow line shows her productivity over the course of her life on our farm. That used to be my aspirational bar. It's now my low bar. The purple line represents Persephone - one of Shirley's lambs that came along to outproduce her until she had a complete mastitis blow out and we needed to say goodbye. That's now my aspirational bar. Persephone was not quite 9.5 when we lost her, so she could have had 2 more years of production.

Don't pay too close attention to the numbers. These are all normalized and turned into a factor. The green line, just an FYI, shows their age. So they are roughly in order of age, which is why the younger ewes have more red and sometimes no blue. They don't get blue until their lamb gets processed and the weights get recorded.

Now, Persephone crossing the Shirley line was a HUGE thing for us. We never thought it was possible. And then, Margaery snuck in behind Persephone and crossed the Shirley line too. Some of these gals really have the potential to knock Persephone out of the PARK.

Meg with baby Maple in 2018

But looking this morning, I noticed that Meg and Applejack crossed the line too. Applejack is Persephone's daughter, so Shirley's Granddaughter. This is expected. I kept her hoping she would be as good or better than her heritage. Meg was a teeny surprise. She came from off farm, a Katahdin, instead of a Dorper. She's 9.5 years old this year - so a hair older than Persephone, 2 years from Shirley's max (Shirley was the oldest ewe we ever had) Meg is strong, healthy, calm, throws twins most of the time. She's an easy keeper - we can handle her with and without babies. She doesn't realize that the loss of Persephone made her the flock matriarch. She's earned it. Calm, well behaved, she sets a great example. I'm glad we got to have her in our flock.

This is Applejack and her Sister, Shutterfly, on their birthday, Jan 10, 2016 with mama Persephone

You'll also notice that she likely won't catch up to Persephone. Persephone often had triplets, that's hard to beat. So the new race is to see who catches or beats Persephone. I honestly have my dollar on Onyx. I know Ellen has the highest spike, but she's young and just had a set of triplets (feeding them all, too!) If she continues to have triplets, then that bar will stay high. Otherwise it'll temper down.

The update that makes me sad? Removing ewes from my charts and graphs after they are gone. It breaks my heart. I've curated a good flock. It's not as easy as it used to be to select the cull ewes. There are 24 ewes on the ground right now. There are twice as many on the other side of the rainbow bridge. Some were harder than others to say goodbye to. So I have to focus on the hellos from the new lambs and ewes that come to the farm.

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