The Beginning of the End
We’ll its finally over. Just in time to start again. This year we were able to raise and market an all time high of nearly 50 lambs!!! As always, a great many lessons were learned along the way. We even managed to add a few new ewes to flock too. We would like to thank our customers for all of their support and we hope everyone is enjoying the fruits of our labor.
We expect lambs to start hitting the ground in the beginning of February, so we are busy preparing. More to come soon…
ESSAA is about more than just raising sheep. Being a student-run group, our goals extend far beyond maximizing profits. We hold education, experimentation and outreach as core values to be upheld in all aspects of our operation.
To demonstrate this commitment, we dedicate a portion of all sales to sponsor campus and community events, organize field trips, and provide resources for students to pursue their own agricultural interests. Below are just a few examples of what your support has allowed us to do:
- University of British Columbia Animal Welfare Program Trip Consumers are increasingly concerned about the well-being of farm animals. People believe strongly that farm animals deserve a high standard of living regardless of whether or not they are destined for someone’s plate. So to learn more we crossed the border into Canada to visit perhaps the most well-known animal welfare research program in the world. Once there we met with researchers and students from across the globe to discuss the ethics and the science of farm animal welfare. This experience reminded us of the need to continually reevaluate what we owe animals and to what extent.
- Heritage Turkey Trials For the past couple years we have been experimenting with raising a small flock of heritage turkeys — evaluating the potential they have for integration into our pasture rotation. Thus far this has been a pretty successful endeavor and we hope to start offering Thanksgiving birds to our customers soon.
- Animal Rights as a Mainstream Phenomenon w/ Dr. Bernard Rollin ESSAA has always had a deep commitment to animal welfare. Unlike some involved in alternative agriculture, we’ve learned that simply putting animals on pasture and letting them fend for themselves is no guarantee of humaneness (being killed by coyotes, dying from exposure, and succumbing to parasites are all ‘natural’, but in no way humane). To adress these and other issues ESSAA sponsored Dr. Bernard Rollin, University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University and animal welfare pioneer, to explain the philosophical underpinnings of animal welfare and what it means for animal agriculture. We were pleased to have more than 100 people in attendance at this event which saw vegan animal rights activists rubbing elbows with cowboys.
- Eastern Washington Trip In May 2011, we spent a busy couple of days learning how agriculture is done on the other side of the mountains. When it was all said and done we had visited a hay and potato grower, a plant breeder, a 6,000 cow dairy and the largest beef cattle feedlot in all of Washington (~50,000 head!). Our gracious host for all of this was WSU-Forage Extension Specialist Dr. Steve Fransen. We can’t thank Dr, Fransen enough for organizing this event and being the most knowledgeable and accommodating guide anyone could wish for!
- Wonderful Wool Working Workshop For a decade now the Evergreen State College has hosted its annual Synergy Conference to discuss issues surrounding sustainable living. For the past several, ESSAA has sponsored local fiber artist DeAnna Dailey as she walks students through the processes involved in sorting, cleaning, carding, and spinning wool from our flock’s of sheep. Students get an opportunity to make their own drop spindles, use drum carders, and operate a spinning wheel.
As you can see, your purchase of ESSAA lamb supports so much more than meets the eye. It allows us to deepen and expand our educational aspirations and create forums for others to join with us in these endeavors, and for this, we cannot thank you enough.
It’s been a while since we’ve updated our blog. It’s amazing how time flies!
The flock has relocated to spring pastures, but before they departed the ewes were sheared. Their thick wool has done a excellent job of keeping themselves and their lambs warm and dry through an exceptionally long, cold and wet winter, but with summer temperatures fast approaching, it simply had to go. Since our flock is raised for their meat and their fiber is of below average quality, we simply donate the wool to students who “spin” in exchange for a little hands-on help with the harvesting of the wool. Sheep shearing is always a spectacle, but we had a good turnout and the weather was pecularly cooperative. While a lone professional sheep shearer could have accomplished (and probaly done a better job) in an hour or two what took nearly a dozen of us an entire day, we got the job done.
After shearing the flock was moved to summer pastures and we are proud to report they are doing great! While the individual attention the lambs needed early in life has definetly decreased as they are better able to fend for themselves, it doesn’t mean our work is over just yet. We stay busy checking and moving waterers, moving fences, monitoring health, and observing behaviour, but perhaps the most challenging of these tasks is managing the pasture.
As you may know, we practice rotational or Managment Intensive Grazing (MIG). While this system is proven effective, it is by no means simple. Essentially our goal is to match the growth cycle of the grass (which varies tremendously from day to day and paddock to paddock) with the nutritional needs of the flock. This requires that we move the flock every few days to one of approximately 4-8 smaller sections of pasture or “paddocks”. If we wait too long to move them we risk “overgrazing” the area and severely impacting the health of the grass stand and its abilty to regrow rapidly. On the other hand, if we move them too early we will leave perfectly grass behind to age and become less palatable. To do this well takes a tremendouse amount of time and knowledge.
For comparison most coventional sheep operations will transition their lambs to feedlots at this stage where they will be confined in one area and fed a high-concentrate diet (grain) to speed their growth. Historically, this has made good economic sense, but with skyrocketing grain prices (tied to the price of oil) and increasing consumer demand for grass-fed/grass finished products, our grass-based system is looking better all the time.
Evergreen Students for Sustainable Animal Agriculture presents Dr. Bernard E. Rollin on April 12, 2011 at 6 pm at The Evergreen State College in Seminar 2 C1105.
Bernard E. Rollin is University Distinguished Professor and Bioethicist at Colorado State University. Dr. Rollin was a pioneer in reforming experimental lab animal use and has consulted for U.S. Congress, National Institute of Health and the World Health Organization.
He has lectured extensively on animal ethics, genetic engineering, animal pain, animal research, animal agriculture, veterinary ethics to medical researchers, psychologists, philosophers, veterinarians, animal advocates, farmers and students in over 60 countries.
He is the author of over 500 papers and seventeen books, of which the best known is Animal Rights and Human Morality.
It’s that time of year again! Our lambing season is in full swing and we’ve been busy with all sorts of exciting things on the farm. In the past week we have had six of our twenty-two ewes lamb. There’s nothing better than watching the eight little lambkins follow their mothers around and the curiousness they have as they discover the world. It can be enjoyably noisy at times when the lambs are hungry or stray from their mother, as each ewe and their lamb has a call that is as individual as a mother calling a child by their name.
Sadly, we lost one of our best ewes Barbara to old age but she gave us two lambs that we were able to graft onto another ewe. We are proud to say that with very little coercing, Booglie has graciously adopted these two lambs and they are healthy and nursing well.
We are very excited for the rest of our ewes to lamb and with a close eye and much attentiveness we hope that the lambing season will continue to go smoothly! Stay posted, for there will be more to follow!
Our ewes really expressed their holiday spirit the other week by tromping around in the snow. They are doing fantastic and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of this year’s lambs! Our first lambs should be here the first week of February, and we’ll be sure to post some pictures as soon as possible. Until then, have a happy holiday season and stay warm!—ESSAA