Voices From the Farm - Lamb Tele-Auction, A Happy Lambing, Birdsfoot Trefoil Pastures, Electric Fencing

January, 1980

The barn gets a paint job

Southeast MN Sheep Producers’ efforts to establish a Lamb Tele-Auction continued. Largely due to our President, John Larick’s connections to the Iowa Sheep Producers, we recruited two excellent speakers from that group, and on February 26, had a very productive meeting on the preliminary steps needed to get things rolling on the Tele-Auction.

At the end of February, the lambing season was about to get underway. It was going to be a lengthy one, as the 48 mature ewes would lamb first, and about the time they were finishing, the ewe lambs would start lambing.

At breeding time the previous fall, either by a stroke of luck, (or genius), I had made a late decision to move two mature ewes, “Bluebird” and “Forward,” out of the mature ewe group, and in with the ewe lambs and the 1/2 Finn-Targhee ram lamb. Both of these ewes were very prolific, but Bluebird was especially so. However, she was also a hard luck sheep.

She was the ewe that, during the years before we had good barn doors, lambed outside the barn in sub-zero weather, and for two successive years had frozen lambs.  The first year it was twin ewe lambs, the next, triplet ewe lambs. Since she had the propensity to produce multiple ewe lambs, I decided I should breed her to the new 1/2 Finn-Targhee ram lamb in the hope of getting some very prolific ewe lambs from the cross.

All through March the mature ewes were lambing.  They produced 78 lambs, of which only two were lost. A good lambing! Then during April, 12 of the 14 ewe lambs gave birth, all had single lambs, none were lost. Forward had also lambed, twins, a ram and a ewe. Finally, at the end of April, the last ewe, Bluebird, had a beautiful pair of twin ewes, which became #145, and #146.

Lisa and lamb in birdsfoot trefoil

In future years these two Columbia/Corriedale/Finn/Targhee ewes, which were only 1/4 Finn, became the highest producing ewes ever in my flock.  #146 consistently gave birth to triplets, and #145 alternated between quintuplets, (5 sets), quadruplets, (2 sets), triplets, (1 set).  She singled her first year and her tenth year – a total of 38 lambs. A Super Sheep!

The previous year I had my nephew, who rented my crop land, double disc the native grass pasture that lay directly below the crop land. It had, in fact, originally been part of the crop land, but I felt it was too steep and put it into pasture. After the discing, I hand-seeded it with 6 lbs per acre of birdsfoot trefoil and 2 lbs. per acre of red clover.

The pasture was lightly grazed by lambs later that summer. This year it would be a lamb pasture, post-weaning.  It was a lovely pasture, and my life-long love affair with birdsfoot trefoil was on! Also the old alfalfa/bromegrass pasture, which had caused us so much trouble with bloat in the earlier years, was reseeded to birdsfoot trefoil that spring.

Now, I was on a search to find portable electric fencing, which I knew existed both in New Zealand and England, but not in the U.S. At last, Hugh Kramer, who was one of SEMSPA’s Board of Directors, got an entrepreneur, who had spent time in England and had started a fledgling fencing company down in Iowa, to come and give a presentation at one of SEMSPA’s  meetings.

Portable electric fencing

I did not waste any time before getting some of that fence! Those first fences were rudimentary, but they improved rapidly. We had a lot to learn about fencing, rotational grazing, paddocks, etc., but this was a start.

That entrepreneur became the well known “Premier Sheep Supply” at Washington, IA, and Hugh Kramer later became the owner of “K-Fence,” a fencing supply company at Zumbro Falls, MN. My son Sean, who in addition to his regular job as a Diesel Mechanic at Caledonia Haulers, is also a fencing contractor, and a dealer for K-Fence.

May, 1980

Rochester’s Agri News came out to the farm, did an interview, and ran a very nice article on my sheep enterprise. They also made reference to the new area sheep organization, SEMSPA, in the article.

This generated a lot of mail from people wanting to know more about “locker lambs,” tanning lamb pelts, and other things mentioned in the article. It also garnered some new members for SEMSPA, that hadn’t heard about it before, and brought me some people interested in breeding stock.

May 23, SEMSPA sent several members, including me, to a Tele-Auction lamb grading school at the Don Gooder farm near Cresco, IA. This included the grading of live lambs, as well as viewing carcasses as part of the grading.  Tom Wickersham of Iowa State Univ.was leading this learning experience. We were going to need several people who knew how to grade lambs for our Tele-Auction.

July 8, SEMSPA held its Annual Lamb BAR-BQ, and a lamb grading seminar for members at the Fairgrounds in Rochester. There was a large group in attendance, as people were anxious to participate in the up coming Tele-Auctions, and eager to learn about the grading process and the rules for committing lambs to the Tele-Auction.

Also in July, I attended a 3-day short course on various topics relating to sheep raising at Pipestone, MN.  Lots of great speakers with a plentitude of knowledge to share. A very rewarding experience!

July 28,  SENSPA’s 1st Lamb Tele-Auction took place. We joined with another group of Wisconsin Sheep Producers to put together a 400 head semi-load of lambs. Bidders from all over the country were bidding on these lambs. We received a price which was more than $2.00 per hundredweight over South St. Paul’s price that day.

September 22, the 2nd SEMSPA Tele-Auction was held, and again our lambs generated a lot of bidding between buyers. We received an excellent price on our lambs. It was great to be able to market my lambs through the T-A.

I had to deliver them to Chatfield, our collection point, which was a distance of 50 miles, but much closer than Austin or South St. Paul, and the price was far better. I continued to sell some  of the lambs as locker lambs, and to sell excess ewe lambs to other breeders, as they were much in demand.

SEMSPA’s Annual Meeting was held December 13, 1980, at the Holiday Inn, South, Rochester, with 90 members in attendance. Dr. Dave Blahna of the Dodge Veterinary Clinic gave a morning presentation, and Tom Wickersham, Sheep Extension Specialist, IA State Univ., was our afternoon speaker.

Between sessions a delicious Leg of Lamb Buffet Dinner was served to members by the Holiday Inn Staff. It was a very enjoyable day, with lots of camaraderie, and everyone went home happy!

My county agent had again nominated me for the Silver Bell Award this year. Results will be announced later.

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4 comments to Voices From the Farm – Lamb Tele-Auction, A Happy Lambing, Birdsfoot Trefoil Pastures, Electric Fencing

  • Lea, again woefully behind in my episodes, but printed them to read in novel form….may take me awhile, but really look forward to the twists and turns of your wonderful and full life on the farm. I shall enjoy every page and remain glad that it was you doing all the work and not me, my only “chore” being to read about the life! Mary

    • Lea McEvilly

      Hi again Mary,

      My apologies for such a slow response to your welcome comment! I can only beg off on being carried away with catching up on restoring neglected flower gardens. So rewarding to see them coming back to normal. I even got a fairly decent sized veggie garden put in. Yay! Tomatoes, Peppers, Carrots, Kale, Mache’, Radishes, Lettuces, Kohlrabi, more Radishes, Corn Salad, Green Onions, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Winter Squash, etc. Can’t wait for those first radishes and greens!

      I think your idea of printing the stories so you can read them at your leisure is a great idea! Several friends are doing likewise,and my old buddies at SEMSPA are sharing amongst the membership. They love it!

      Yesterday was a rainy day, and I had promised myself I would get back to writing when that happened, as I was finally getting caught up a bit on the yard and gardens. However, one thing after another intervened, and I never got to the actual writing, although I did gather up some notes in preparation. Sean was home, after an early morning visit to a clinic in Onalaska, WI, to see an orthopedic surgeon.

      He had what he thought was a pulled muscle in his upper arm while at work a couple weeks ago. It was very painful for several days, then the pain subsided, but he noted that the muscle had apparently moved, and there was a large bulge above it, where there should not have been. After an examination yesterday, the Dr. still could not quite figure out what was going on, so Sean had to go back this a.m. to have an MRI done. It certainly looks like surgery will be in order, but of course, we hope not! Such a busy time of year for him… but then, when is it not?

      Lea

  • Wow, I never knew lambs could give birth to quintuplits. Do all of them survive? I am continually amazed. You should be so proud of yourself too, it was your pioneering spirit and can do attitude that has really shaped sheep farming in Minnesota. Your curiosity and wanting to do it better has made a difference. I really enjoy the stories and learning how very much goes into the food I eat- I am really trying not to take any food for granted now that I know the amount of work, time and research that goes into it. Take good care.

    • Lea McEvilly

      Hello Sands,
      Sorry I am so slow in replying to your last comment. My computer was giving me so much trouble I finally had to send it in for a tune up. They got the speed up a bit and added a few things to improve it, but in the process they switched from my Mozilla Foxfire to Internet Explorer, and then I couldn’t get into my email, so had to call my server for help and change my password, jump through endless hoops, and finally back in business.

      I still haven’t been writing, as there has been so much to do in the yard and gardens, and now that I am getting around and able to do those things again, I need to do a lot of catching up. Last year was pretty much a bust except for container gardening, so things got to be in quite a big mess.

      Now that I am getting fairly well caught up, and tomorrow is supposed to be a rainy day, I will try to get back on track with the stories! I have missed the writing, but have also enjoyed seeing the flower gardens respond to some TLC, and have a fairly good sized veggie garden in.

      I had a heckuva time reclaiming it from the weeds and the black raspberry plants which went wild and took over with big long thorny canes everywhere. OOOfdah! But they have been cut back and subdued and are actually setting a crop of berries, so that is cool!

      I am missing my sheep though, they kept everything grazed and neat, now we have the Black Angus cows and calves, but they don’t do as good a job as the sheep did. However, I am glad to have them working on this sea of grass all around me, and I do not have to be responsible for moving them from pasture to pasture like I did with the sheep, so that is good!

      Yes, those quad and quintuplet lambs were quite a thrill, and most of them survived, although one of the first set of quints did not make it, and two out of the third set were born dead. We sure had a lot of bottle lambs to feed though! A ewe only has two teats, so we usually only left two lambs on her and put the others on bottles, but the ewe that had the quints and quads did raise all her quads one year. That was pretty hard on her, so I never let her raise more than two after that.

      Well, will hope to get the stories coming again soon. Thanks for all your comments!

      Lea