I can’t say I loved every minute of raising sheep, but I am sure glad I did it. As soon as I was old enough, my responsibility was to take care of the sheep at my neighbor’s farm. The sheep were my brother’s and I. Every year we had about fifty ewes that we bred.
The baby lambs always arrived around Christmas. We would check the barn every couple hours during the lambing season to see if we had any new arrivals. The twins and triplets were the hardest to take care of because the ewe wouldn’t always claim the lambs. That is when bottle-feeding came into play. Any baby lamb you bottle fed would follow you around no matter how old they were. Once the lambs were a week or two old we would give them their necessary shots and band the little boys. I don’t enjoy needles much, so I usually just caught the lambs and had my brother give the shots. The process was the same every year but it was a good project to watch the timeline of the lambs and seeing the end product.
Our lambs were also a 4-H project every summer. In my opinion, sheep are very, very stubborn! Breaking our 4-H lambs was always a long, hot process that took many days. Between my brother and I we usually showed market lambs at the county and state fair. This 14 year flock of sheep also helped me attain my Iowa FFA Degree when I was in high school, just as my brother did.
I am thankful for our sheep because it allowed us to sell our flock and become more serious in the cattle market. My brother and I also learned a lot about the birthing and breeding process that helped us with our cow-calf herd.
I will never forget the cold winter days or hot summer days working with the sheep. There was also so much anticipation waiting for the first baby lamb, which definitely was my favorite part! As I get older, I treasure my memories and lessons learned. My family and I often find ourselves reminiscing on cleaning the sheep barn out on Thanksgiving break, sheering, sorting and catching the sheep if someone ever left the gate open! (Trust me it happens on every farm!)
Kayla Degner was born and raised in rural Lytton, IA on a diversified grain and livestock family farm. She graduated from Rockwell City-Lytton in May 2012 and currently attends Iowa State University studying Agricultural Communications. Her past involved many agriculture venues. Kayla has a strong interest in advocating to the youth involved in agriculture.
Contact her at [email protected].