ABOUT THE BAALANDS
The Baalands is a "boutique" 8.2-acre farm in Western Maryland, approximately 9 miles northwest of Hagerstown and 9 miles from the major intersection of I-70 and I-81. The flock consists of 32 purebred and crossbred Katahdin ewes. The ewes are of mixed colors, though mostly white. Most of the sheep are registered or recorded.
Sires for the 2019 lamb crop will Hawkeye, a purebred registered RR Katahdin ram from CMG Katahdins in Iowa and "Charlie," a ram lamb from Lee Wright's farm in Virginia. Charlie was in the Virginia Tech Southwest AREC Ram Test. Both Hawkeye and Charlie have especially strong EBVs for maternal traits. Ewe lambs were bred to ram lambs. The purpose of the breeding program is to produce purebred registered Katahdins, as well as crossbred lambs of two types: Katahdin "Mule" ( Katahdin x Blackface) and Katahdin "Dairy" (Katahdin x Lacaune). Maternal traits are emphasized.
During the winter feeding period, ewes and rams are housed in a 30 ft. x 72 ft. Clear Span "hoop" structure, purchased from FarmTek. A new cover was put on the hoop house in 2012. Movable pens are set up in the hoop house utilizing 8 ft. open gates purchased from D-S Livestock Equipment. The hoop house is cleaned out once a year (prior to lambing) and the manure is spread on the pastures. In 2016, a new building was installed to house the yearlings during late gestation and lactation. The core of the building is a carport.
Pastures are enclosed in high tensile, electric fencing. Six wires are utilized with all wires carrying a charge, except for the top wire. The bottom wire can be switched off. There are three permanent paddocks and a separate pasture for rams or other small groups. Electric netting from Premier can be used to further divide pastures for rotational grazing.
After the pasture resource is depleted, usually in mid-December, pregnant ewes are fed hay. During the last month of pregnancy, ewes are fed grain to meet their increased needs for energy and calcium. One half pound of grain per head per day is typically fed. If necessary, a locally-made pelleted protein supplement (38%) is mixed with the whole barley to increase the level of calcium in the ration prior to lambing and the level of protein and calcium after lambing. Barley is purchased from a local grain elevator. It is delivered and stored in a galvanized metal 3.5 ton bulk feed bin on the farm.
Ewes are vaccinated for overeating disease (type C and D) and tetanus prior to lambing. Starting one month prior to lambing, ewes are given free choice access to a vitamin-mineral pre-mix containing Bovatec®. Lactating ewes are penned and fed according to their age (mature vs. yearling) and the number of lambs they are nursing. Generally, ewes receive 1 lb. of grain for each lamb they are nursing. The composition of the grain ration is varied according to the type of hay fed: grass, alfalfa, or mix. Protein, then grain is removed from the ewes' ration prior to weaning to prevent mastitis.
In 2019, lambs are from mature ewes are due to be born in February. Ewe lambs were bred to lamb in April. Reproductive rate is maximized with fall breeding and spring lambing. Ewe lambs are bred to lamb approximately three weeks later. After lambing, ewes and lambs are put in lambing jugs for 1 to 3 days, before being moved to nursery pens of four ewes and their offspring. Lambs are weighed at birth and ear-tagged, but are not docked, castrated, or given anything. Once lambing is complete, ewes and lambs are put in two large mixing pens, Ewes with triplets are grouped separately from ewes that have twin or single lambs.
Lambs are creep fed a mixture of cracked corn and soybean meal. Fresh water and hay is also available in the creep area. When the youngest lambs are approximately six weeks old, the ration is gradually changed to whole barley and pellets. The lambs' free choice minerals contain a coccidiostat (Bovatec®). Prior to weaning, the lambs are also treated with Vecoxan® to prevent coccidiosis.
Orphan lambs are fed a milk replacer manufactured by Pipestone. They are weaned at approximately 6 weeks of age. Artificially-reared lambs are penned separately from other lambs, until several weeks after weaning. All lambs are vaccinated for overeating disease and tetanus twice. Prior to weaning, they are treated for tapeworms. While most farms do not need to worry about tapeworms, as they tend to be non-pathogenic, tapeworms have been determined to be a problem on the farm, demonstrating a negative effect on gut motility.
Lambs are weaned between 70 and 100 days of age, usually when the youngest lambs are 70 days old. Lambs are weighed at weaning and weights are corrected to a common age and adjusted for birth type, type of rearing, sex of lamb, and age of dam. The top-indexing ewe lambs are retained in the flock. Ram and ewe lambs are separated by the time they are 4 months old. After weaning, the lambs are given a 0.5 gram bolus of copper oxide wire particles. While other farms should not administer supplemental copper to their animals without knowing their farms' copper status, the Baalands is marginally deficient in copper and marginally high in molybdenum.
Ewes and weaned lambs graze orchardgrass-ladino clover and Max Q™ tall fescue-ladino clover pastures. While on pasture, lambs are supplemented with a 16 percent protein grain ration (barley + protein supplement). Ram lambs receive 1.0 to 2.0 lbs. per head per day while ewe lambs receive 1/2 to 1 lb. of grain per head per day. If insufficient pasture is available, weaned lambs may be housed and fed a diet of good quality hay and grain. Ewe lambs and the top-indexing ram lambs are sold for breeding. Lambs not sold for breeding are sold for meat.
Ewe lambs are fed and bred to lamb when they are approximately 12 months of age and have achieved approximately two-thirds of their mature weight (over 100 lbs.). Throughout pregnancy and lactation, they are fed and managed separately from mature ewes. They are housed separately during late gestation and lactation. They are not mixed with mature ewes until after they are bred for the second time.
Health and management
Hooves are trimmed as needed, rarely more than once per year, usually not even that often. Black hooves are favored in selection. Only rams with black hooves are purchased for breeding. Only lambs showing clinical signs of barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) infection (anemia, as evidenced by lower eyelid color via the FAMACHA© system; and/or bottle jaw) are dewormed. Combination treatments are not administered to clinically-parasitized animals. Few lambs typically require deworming, though this varies by year. Mature ewes are rarely dewormed. Sub-therapeutic antibiotics are not fed. With the exception of Bovatec® (an ionophore), antibiotics and other medications are administered on an as-need basis only. Proper withdrawal periods are observed. All market animals are antibiotic-free. Lambs are not implanted.
Mortality, afterbirth, and slaughter wastes are composted. No major health problems have been experienced in the flock. CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis) has never been identified as the causative agent of the occasional abscess. The flock does not test for OPP or Johne's, but has also not experienced any chronic wasting or debilitating diseases or hard bag. The flock was certified as scrapie-free (Maryland flock #23) in 2008. The original status date in the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program was October 18, 2003. Due to changes in the voluntary program, the flock is no longer enrolled. However, the flock remains mostly closed, with only males being introduced every few years.
The farm "employs" a Great Pyrenee livestock guardian dog, Boone, to provide protection from predators and possible intruders. The other livestock guardian dog, McComb, died March 21, 2017. He was almost 13 years old. McComb was a gift from Katahdin Hair Sheep International. He took his name from McComb, Mississippi, the location of the 2004 annual KHSI Expo. Thanks to KHSI for McComb! Boone was obtained at the 2008 annual KHSI Expo. He takes his name from Boonsboro, the location of the meeting (which I hosted in Maryland).