Saying Goodbye to Ash
Being a livestock farm that produces meat, we say a lot of goodbyes here. Some are harder than others. Some we may put off longer than we should. I've gotten pretty good at handling the day to day goodbyes and knowing it's just part of this life. We give each animal the best life that we can. But every animal here will be gone some day. In some cases, that goodbye was planned on the day they arrived. Whether they were born here or purchased, some animals were meant to be meat from day one. Our ram lambs, our meat chickens, our piggies. They all have a timeline.
But our mama ewes do not. Some get culled young because they aren't the best producers, or have bad behaviors. We've had illness and injury take some from us early as well. I've said it before that my sheep get 3 strikes and they are out. Things like being bad mamas, having stillborns or being troublesome sheepies. We had one that age 3 never got pregnant, so there was no need to keep her. I have to make room for new ewe lambs to stay, and hopefully build the performance of my flock. So mamas with too many singles, or stillborns, they get put on the list.
I complained a while back that I had done such a good job curating my flock, that I no longer have poor performers or bad attitudes. I have calm, good natured sheepies that are attentive mamas and usually give me twins. So the list gets hard.
My oldest sheepy is now Meg, at 9.67 years old. Shirley was 11.5 when we said goodbye and was our oldest ewe. Meg is still strong and healthy, and such a good girl. She's not a candidate yet. Our next oldest is Persephone - who is the flock top performer. She's 9.1 years old. I do have to keep an eye on them as we move forward.
But Ash is the next one that we need to part with. She has always been a sweet girl. She's 8.6 years old. I know many farms that would never keep a ewe that old at all, but we've always loved her sweet personality and her happy face.
She came to us with her flock in 2015. There were some lambs there that were butchered. We kept Meg, Ash and Juno as breeding ewes, and Hercules as our breeding ram. Herc didn't last long as he became wicked aggressive. Juno passed a few years ago when I lost 3 ewes to copper toxicity. But Meg and Ash have been here all that time!
In the years we have had her, she has given us 14 lambs. She averages 1.75 lambs per birth and a 91 pound live weight at processing. She's a solid performer. I have a chart that compares sheep to our Shirley, and I used to use this bar as a reason to say goodbye to a ewe. I don't have any ewes left that project to fall below Shirley, so that isn't a factor anymore. That's the LOW bar now. Ash is projected by the time she is 11.5 to surpass Shirley, but she hasn't yet passed the Shirley line. So there is no reason to pass her along. She hasn't come anywhere near 3 strikes. No stillborns, no behavior issues, no abandoned babies.
Except - she had a rough winter. This winter was hard on the entire flock. So much snow, so many very cold snaps. And of course, the flock gave birth in January and February, right in the middle of all of it. Add on top that I brought in some questionable bottle babies, and I believe one of them brought in lice. Ash definitely got the lice. She lost all her wool in the middle of winter, AND she had a really rough recovery from giving birth to a large ram lamb. She still hasn't gained her weight back. She did grow back her coat once she was treated for the lice. We've been trying to put weight on her ever since. She's been a little slower, she doesn't want to push in to get at the brewers grain. Shannon said even yesterday that other sheep knocked her over and she did get up, but struggled a bit. She can't get pregnant again, it's too hard for her body and she doesn't have the energy.
So she is going along to her final destiny. She will be so missed. I have rarely any white sheep left. We did keep Vea from last year, so we will have one white ewe! Plus our new additions, which include Charming, who is also white!
It won't be easy on Friday to part with her. I'm also taking in Nutmeg, our goofy steer. And Sorrel our three-legged ram lamb. And Spider Monkey! As well as our two goofy goats. I'll be a blubbering mess on Friday.
But the absence of Ash will be felt for a long time. Her sweet face. Her partially blue eye. Her calm demeanor. Her approachability. One of the few ewes I can hug without a freak out. She's a good girl. Whether it is true or not, I do tell myself that a quick passing and becoming nutrition for someone else is a far better destiny than suffering and dying. I'm going to hate this so much. And I am going to hate feeling like I am betraying her.