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JaderBug

What do you love/hate about your farm?

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Starting to collect tidbits for building a farm to be ready for whenever we do finally take the plunge and thought I'd ask about experience and preferences.

 

What aspects about your farm/livestock/dog management do you love? Hate? Any tools, fixtures, hardware, products, designs, etc. that you particularly like? How about the layout/funcitonality of your farm- any components (i.e. a race, chute, pens, yards) that you have/don't have that you'd recommend?

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Major hate - mud.

 

Set up your entrances/exits to buildings, fields, etc., with consideration as to how the locations will respond to wet conditions, snowy conditions, etc. We have an entrance to a field that is always a problem as it is a deep mud hole and the snow drifts in in winter so it's impassable (it's along a roadside and so ditch water moves through it as there is no culvert and it's quite a dip).

 

Set up entrances/exits to buildings, fields, etc., also with location in mind. Animals are easier to move in and out of fields if openings are in corners rather than along long sides so you can push them to the corner and they will naturally flow out the opening. If the opening is along a side of a field, it is easy for animals to overrun the opening; for stragglers to get "stuck" behind the fence as the first animals move through the opening and along the side of the field; and especially for calves or lambs to get left behind and then not be able to figure out how to get to their mothers.

 

Don't skimp on your fencing especially the corners and other locations that provide support. Loose posts will ruin your fence work in no time.

 

If you are making hay and also want to be able to clip fields, get a mower that will do both jobs well - not a big mower/conditioner but a flail or disk mower (they are also a lot easier to work and maneuver).

 

High tensile electric fence is more affordable than woven wire but less secure in general for sheep and LGDs. If you use woven wire, use the best quality you can afford because some is not worth the effort it takes to put it in as it won't hold up well. And use a strand of high-tensile electric along the inside bottom to deter going under, middle to deter standing on the fencing, and top to deter reaching over, as you may or may not need to.

 

Nothing beats a good pair of fencing pliers for many jobs.

 

A good handling system will take a lot of the effort and stress out of working with your stock. We use Priefert for our cattle. Premier is a good source of supplies (fencing, handling, feeding) for sheep. There is also a good source of all sorts of sheep supplies but the name escapes me right now, and I'm sure someone else will mention it.

 

Good luck!

 

Just some thoughts!

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Farming is great, till ya run outta money

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My only regret has been using field fence and cattle panels in certain areas where lambs and kids can go through it. At the time, I only had to worry about horses and hotwire kept them off, but my sheep and goats don't respect the hotwire.

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There really isn't much I don't like about our farm. In fact, the only thing I call think of is open barns. What with all the wind we get here, I hate them in the winter!

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Farming is great, till ya run outta money

Amen, Tea!

 

As they say, there are three ways to lose money (the quote was oriented towards men) - women, gambling, and farming. Women are the most fun. Gambling is the quickest. And farming is the surest!

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Amen, Tea!

As they say, there are three ways to lose money (the quote was oriented towards men) - women, gambling, and farming. Women are the most fun. Gambling is the quickest. And farming is the surest!

Couldn't have said it better myself.

 

Jaderbug, not sure what livestock types you're considering, but a few things are very important;

1. Good fences make good neighbours. Never a truer word was spoken, apart of course from the fact that it also keeps your animals where you want them.

2. Good handling systems - races, pens, chutes; look around at other peoples, steal ideas but eventually you'll find what works for you personally. A good handling system makes life a lot easier.

3. Good barn(s) both for your livestock to live in and to store your feed and equipment in. A cold lam or a cold kid is not fun to deal with. And if you're feed gets wet it's often ruined. A good barn is worth the money it cost to build in gold.

A dedicated lambing shed is also a huge bonus, I'm assuming you'll be breeding either goats or sheep and lambing is so much easier if you have the proper setup.

4. Know how to slaughter and butcher the types of animals you're planning on keeping. Inevitably there will come the day when you have to help one out of it's misery. Whether it's ill or it broke something or a number of other reasons it's going to happen.

5. A good Vet. Worth his fees in gold, especially if you can call him 8am on the day after Christmas and say "my pig sow had a litter of thirteen piglets yesterday and now she's dead, what do I do?"And have him calmly give you the formula to feed the piglets.

Farming is a great life - most of the time. Right now on my farm it's kidding season for the goats. To walk into the kraal to new lives being born is amazing. You cannot describe the feeling to anyone. The silence, the peace and quiet and the freedom to do what you want when you want. Depending on the animals off course, they do love to shove a spoke in your wheels. The days can be long, hard, cold\ hot depending on the season. It's hard when an animal you grow attached to dies. But tomorrow you help a screaming wet, icky goat kid or lamb into theis world or you see a piglet sitting on his butt drinking the bottle you give him, and you dive right back in there with everything you've got. Because at that monent you feel like the luckiest person on earth.

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Thanks all, I meant it in a cheery way!

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I am sure there are more, but the first two that popped into my head are:

I wish I had more gates between pastures to make moving from one to another more efficient.

I wish that the people who built the barn had thought about the prevailing winds and where to place the doors. Our barn has the most open area (doors/overhangs) on the north and west sides. Thus, in the winter when the freezing winds are blowing in from the north and west, they blow into the barn. If you have to build a barn, it is better to orient your barn openings where the animals will be most protected (in my case, to the east and south).

 

Otherwise, it is wonderful to be outside. I have become so used to spending an appreciable time outside every day that I often feel out of sorts if I stay inside too much.

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We really like the commercial grade zero turn mower and the Kubota RTV 900 (with hydraulic bed lift) we bought last year. Eventually we'll get a 40+hp 4WD diesel tractor with front end loader and 7' or 8' rotary mower deck. If I still had lots of fence to put up I would also get a post pounder for up to 8" diameter wooden posts. I would not bother with an auger; too much labor setting and securing the posts in the hole. With unlimited funds I would have the tractor with just the mower deck and get a skid steer with attachments.

 

We have a really nice almost 200 year old bank barn but the doors through the stone foundation into the stalls are too narrow for equipment to use for cleaning out the manure. We find that feeding square bales broken up into flakes and spread across the fields has reduced the waste in the barn and does not lead to dead spots on the fields from too much hay waste. More work in the winter but less clean-up and waste to deal with later (dealing with waste/manure is under governmental regulations here). Buildings open enough to get equipment into are ideal. Round bales have less labor handling the hay (and require equipment) but lead to more clean-up and dead spots; "pick your poison".

 

Spring fed drinking water troughs are ideal; there is always water (no carrying water in the winter) and little maintenance (no pump lines to freeze).

 

We're looking at a tilt table to spare my old back from hoof trimming. I prefer galvanized; painted and powered coated neither seem to delay rusting as well as galvanized. We use the dogs and a barn stall for worming (with a back pack drench gun).

 

We love our aluminum stock trailer; we use it to haul all kinds of stuff in addition to sheep. When you set-up your fencing you'll want to find an easy location to load sheep onto a trailer; easy access for the trailer (even when wet) and an enclosure (pen or building) for the sheep with easy access from a field. We use an old dairy barn that has fenced concrete walk ways from the fields and loafing shed that the cows would use going in for milking.

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Funny timing for this topic; I just hauled my first set of yearlings to market yesterday. I always went when I was little, but didn't really grasp everything going on. In more recent years it's always been a task my Dad has done b/c of school/work/convenience. But he can't anymore, so I got to challenge myself to deal with it. We butcher our own lamb and pigs for our freezer, but hauling these fellows who have so kindy (most of the time) helped me and my dog figure things out over the last year was different. Not terribly bad, the auction house folks were super nice and very kind as they cleared them out of the trailer, I'm going to let that be my last image and hope the kindness stayed throughout the sale process.

 

So, today I would say the tough choices and feeling helpless are really challenging. Animals get sick, injured; babies are born with things wrong with them, you don't always have the answer. And even if you do, the answer doesn't always solve the problem.

 

But that miracle moment when things are going wrong and you are able to step in and give help that actually works is pretty amazing.

 

Buy and build everything stronger and bigger than you think you will need. Higher gauge wire, more gates than you think, bigger barn, larger pastures. Get to know your property and the weather before doing too much to it. Learn where the low spots are, where water travels, wind; it will help you in the future to avoid mud etc. Make sure your vehicle access area to the barn is big and easy enough for amatuer trailer drivers to get in and out of. Nothing like having a couple with a jack-knifed trailer stuck in a tiny area with several tons of hay on a trailer, rain coming in and not close enough to the barn to carry hay to threaten the beginning of a war.

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Love: amazing views, easy maintenance setup, dry land so no irrigation chores, easy commute to town/work, good neighbors (except one), small enough to manage myself, great outbuildings

 

Hate: no irrigation/no grass/limited stocking, foxtails (lots of them), not large enough for the operation I'd like

 

Advice: don't skimp on undersized/underpowered tools, for folks who work during the day don't skimp on outside lighting….most of my farm chores Fall-Winter are done in the dark. Control drainage aggressively…..clear drain ditches, rock areas around feeders and waterers and pass ways (gates)

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I haven't been here long enough (two and a half weeks) to hate anything yet. Well, maybe the electrical work in the barn, which was clearly installed by an amateur and looks like a fire waiting to happen. I had an electrician out the other day to give me a quote on bringing it up to code and installing more outlets (for shearing, a microwave, and for the plugging in the chicken coop) and lights. I'm guessing I should sit down before opening that letter! And maybe the extent to which some of the floors in the old part of the house lean - we had to have a carpenter come in and build a platform for our sideboard/china cabinet. Otherwise the lean was so extreme that the sideboard was wracking; doors wouldn't close properly, and with the thick carpet and pad underneath, it swayed if you put a finger on it. Fortunately we found someone who didn't charge us an arm and a leg. We're also having to get someone out to do some minor barn repairs. He's going to repurpose some of the wood in the barn, which will save us some money. I hate to keep hiring people to do all these things, but if I want to get some sheep from my mentor, I need to get the barn fixed up and at least part of the fencing in place within the next couple of weeks - which is exactly the time frame when I also need to complete end-of-semester grading.

 

I can tell there's one 'heavy use' area around a gate next to the barn that's going to need improvement. Tends towards wet and muddy, so next year I'll probably have it excavated, filter cloth put down, and then backfilled with gravel and road millings (which I'll probably also add to the night pen we're having built).

 

I think I realized when we bought the property that we were going to have to move two fencelines. One is being undercut by a stream that's just outside the fence, and the other has a small stream running on our side of the fence. Both could provide access to predators, and the second really isn't mow-able (too wet). The perimeter fence will be harder to maintain in these areas.

 

Wish I had money for high-tensile woven wire fencing this year. Instead I'm going to try to repurpose (in some cases reposition) the existing wooden posts, and replace the five-strand high tensile (two wires of which are "hot") with 2 x 4" "no climb" woven wire, with hot wire near the bottom and at the top, mostly for deterring predators. Don't see much point to running it in the middle; I'm getting wool sheep, who probably will be sufficiently well insulated to be oblivious.

 

I may look into having some trees taken out of the woodlot on the property. It's overgrown, and it's possible that I could sell a few of the mature oak trees to help pay for good fencing on the rest of the property next year. The partially grown trees would probably thank me for the chance to grow.

 

I do have six chokecherries in the pasture - I'm not good at identifying trees when they have no leaves. When I asked the seller, he said that the farmer who owned the calves that had been kept here had lost a couple of them to the chokecherries. I guess they're coming down; the contractor doing some barn repairs for us (at a very reasonable rate!) loves woodworking, and he's promised to take the wood in exchange for making something for us out of it. But it'll be more $$ to have them removed.

 

I do have three improved springs (need to clean out the algae!). One is higher than the others so I'll take a leaf out of Mark's book and throw in some cinder blocks (and put some on the outside) to make it harder for lambs to drown themselves in it and easier for them to drink out of it. One is leaking, and I need to find time to cap off the inlet so that I can figure out whether the leak is in the tank vs in the pipe draining it into the stream.

 

The neighbors we've met seem nice and excited about sheep. I do have one neighbor who is running an illegal junk yard, with all kinds of stuff that's on our side of the property (the part that isn't fenced yet). They've also been haying some of our land. The property has now been properly surveyed, and we've mowed along the fenceline. And our handyman, who loves collecting scrap metal, has asked me if I have any problem with his removing the junk that the neighbors have allowed to drift across our property line, and take it off and sell it. Nope, not one bit, be my guest... He's also going to haul off the miscellaneous broken gates.

 

So far the handyman has been the best part of things. I happened upon him by accident - his wife works at the vet practice I use. He's done a little bit of everything, from viticulture, to beekeeping, keeping cattle, horses, sheep. Runs a yard service and has been doing the mowing and orchard pruning while we try to unpack and get on top of work (moving in mid-April is a nightmare for anyone tied to an academic calendar, but of course it's also the month when everything in the yard and on the pastures explodes - try not to move at this time!). He's been training us for a modest fee on things like "how to mow the pastures with the tractor safely" (and also doing the spring maintenance on the tractor; he also evaluated all the equipment the sellers had to offer, and made recommendations as to what we should buy and what we should pass on). He's going to help us locate a good used zero-turn mower for our property. He built a great fence for the dog yard for us, and is going to turn to the perimeter fence next. He's been a fabulous resource.

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really enjoying this thread.. lots of common themes (very reassuring to hear others have similar issues) combined with good advice.

 

My additional 2 cents are -

 

Definitely get to know your land and the prevailing weather patterns..

 

water.. great if you have natural springs/streams as drinking supply.. but it's also helpful to have contingency plans ready in case they dry up in a draught or get contaminated. Wet,Boggy ground..unless you specifically want wetland areas, consider putting in a few drainage ditches.

 

I have kept a large pile of gravel/hardcore on site and when a gate entrance has got particularly bad.. then I just dump some in that area to firm things up. My sheep seem to also like using it as 'environmental enrichment' .. so it's important not to have the main pile too near the fence line (or else I'm sure they'll work out they can use it as an escape route)

 

Wind.. If you don't have natural wind breaks (terrrain contours/trees/hedges old walls etc) in all your fields then consider putting up some wind breaks near areas where the stock tend to settle down. I have found the up-ended pallets put over fence posts are highly appreciated my sheep (being a primitive breed, they are not interested in using covered field shelters) They also use them to shelter from the sun.

 

Stock.. try to choose a breed that really suit your terrain/conditions. Even if you get your animals from someone you trust, still try to quarantine them for at least 2 weeks (pref longer) and consider preventative treatments for footrot, worms, scab etc before you let them out into your clean pasture.

 

..As well as using your vet for when an animal gets sick.. sort out a healthy flock/herd plan.. In addition to vaccination/worming schedule.. consider whether your 'nice-looking' pasture/soil may mask nutrient and/or mineral-trace element deficiences. I have found that managing these with drenches or long acting boluses has lead to fitter sheep and faster growing lambs than just relying on the sheep using a mineral lick.

With worming, do Fecal egg counts and Fecal egg count reduction tests to check whether your actually need to treat (and then whether your wormer is effective). Although it may seem a bit of hassle at the time, it can end up saving a fair bit of money (using less ineffectual wormer) and time (don't need to worm as often).

 

As others have said, good perimeter fencing is a must.. as well as high enough, if your ground is uneven, make sure there are no lamb-sized gaps at the bottom. Plus fully agree that with gates..make sure they are large enough and think carefully about their position (both for your ease as well as whether the stock can be herded through them easily).

 

Get a handling system from the start.. this doesn't need to be expensive.. you can quickly build a very sturdy race with a few posts and planks. When buying hurdles etc, check the quality of the welds as well as whether the struts themselves are robust enough to cope with being climbed over or animals being pressed against them. IME 'budget priced' hurdles tend to buckle quickly and break easily, so you end up spending more in the long term. Like Mark says, galvanised is good.

 

However boring..try to keep some basic records..either in a desk diary or electronic calender.. these don't have to be detailed but noting things like weather patterns (snow, floods, draught) grass sward length plus when and how many sheep you put in a particular field for how long can really help you work out a sensible grazing rotation plus also help you budget feed costs in future years.

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This merits a longer answer than I have time for right now; just over the middle of a synchronized lambing. And because the arctic winter decided to return (snow and frost) we have not able to put the older lambs out on pasture (they are partying all over the barn). I am hallucinating lambs and ewes in labor...

 

At the moment we are kind of "in between farms", this is not the same as being in between jobs ;) .

We still live at the farm we rented the last seven years, but we bought the one "next door", four kilometers down the road.

We will move soon as possible after lambing.

 

Everything we dislike at our current place Will Be Made Better at the next. At least we hope.

 

Details to follow.

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Mark, for sure I'll take you up on your offer - as soon as I'm unpacked! Actually, I'm also thinking of hosting a small cookout (farm-warming party) for local sheepdog folk as soon as I can get a few dozen more boxes unpacked. You and Renee will definitely be included!

 

What kind of zero-turn mower did you get? I'm already wishing that Richard (our handyman) had installed wider gates in the dog yard. He said he'd sized them so that he could get a 5' deck in - but he subsequently said he's been popping the wooden gate off (!!!) to get in and out. That's heavier than I want to lift. Note to others, think of width of mower deck when sizing gates! I may be limited to a 4' deck when I do get that zero-turn mower.

 

We could have bought one from the sellers, but the ergonomics were horrible on the one they had. I couldn't reach the foot pedals, and the controls were hard to reach by hand. I wasn't convinced it'd be safe to drive.

 

Maxi, one of the first things I did was borrow a soil auger from the local ag conservation person (he walked the pastures with me three days after we moved in) and took soil samples from each pasture and sent them in for analysis. As soon as I get the results back, I'll work with the ag conservation person to figure out how much lime I'll need to spread, and how much (and what type) of fertilizer. I've located someone to do liming, and someone else for fertilizing - probably will happen as soon as haying happens.

 

Drainage ditches - we might get in trouble for draining wetland areas here. I'm just going to fence off the wet areas.

 

Here the recommendation is to avoid deworming (no matter what the fecal egg count says) unless the sheep are showing signs of anemia. Not to say don't do fecals, just that many sheep can tolerate a high parasite load without showing signs of distress, and overworming just contributes to the worms' resistance to dewormers. They also recommend culling your flock for parasite resistance. The person I'm getting sheep from (my sheepdog mentor) has done just that for decades, along with selecting for good feet, good mothering ability, and easy lambing. So I'll be getting sheep from a closed flock, which should increase my odds of avoiding nasties like foot rot (though if it's in the ground, I'll just have to learn to deal with it - there haven't been sheep on this property for as long as anyone remembers, so fingers crossed). And lucky for me, I'll also be able to get a ram lamb unrelated to any of my ewes.

 

I just took a FAMACHA class at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival so that we could learn to identify when to deworm a sheep, and what dewormers were effective, especially against barberpole worm (the principal worm we worry about). The person teaching the class recommended that I lock the sheep I'm going to get in a barn for at least 48 hours, deworm them on arrival with levamisole ("Prohibit"), one of the more effective dewormers. With luck I'll have a honeymoon period when it comes to barberpole worms.

 

Water backup - in addition to the improved springs, there are frost-free hydrants in the barn, in the garage, and adjacent to the future training field. So if the springs all freeze (or get contaminated), the only pasture I'd have to haul water to (by car or truck) would be the future ram pasture. And if all of the frost-free hydrants except the one in the barn or garage freeze, I guess I'll be hauling even more water, cursing as I do so.

 

Shelters: in addition to the barn, we also have a large run-in shelter (now full of 8 cords of firewood, which I'm going to have to relocate, sigh). With a little upgrading I'm thinking it will provide a night shelter for the rams (and also shelter against weather).

 

I do know people who have constructed simple hoop shelters using cattle panels and tarps. The sheep seem to enjoy them in hot weather as well as in rain. They cost far less than a run-in shelter. I'll probably be putting some up...

 

Record keeping: if anyone has software they recommend, I'd love to hear it! (Though perhaps I should start a separate thread...).

 

Stock trailers: I *love* the one Mark and Renee have! Not sure I can afford one this year, though. I've seen some simple and relatively inexpensive alternatives people have put together if they're only hauling a few sheep - everything from something purchased (Sydell sells something for $600 that fits in the back of a pickup truck), to a used utility trailer with a large chainlink dog kennel from Tractor Supply inside, with pegboard zip-tied in place on the front and sides as a windbreak.

 

The rest of my sheep handling system this year may largely be based on hog panels in one corner of the night pen.

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I also agree with a minimal worming program as Lynn has described.

 

Regarding sizing of the mower deck WRT gates: I can get my 5' Scag mower deck through a 5' gate. One must remember that the advertised width of the mowing deck does not include the "exhaust guard" (not sure of the precise name, but it is the rubber-type flap - about 10-12 inches long) that is fastened over the exhaust of the mower to control the spray of cut grass. It is a safety feature, but it makes the mower deck much wider. Since it is fastened by a hinge, I have flipped it out of the way (held back by a bungee cord). Yes, the grass sprays everywhere, but I prefer that instead of having it lay down a thick row of cut grass (the result of getting behind in my mowing duties and having to mow foot-tall grass). This way it is acting a little bit like a mulching mower - it doesn't chop it up like a mulching mower, but the long rows of cut grass are not good either because they are so heavy that they can kill the grass underneath.

 

BTW, aren't there 52" or 54" mower decks (depending on the brand of mower you buy)? Better than 48", but not as good as a 60".

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Jovi, I'm still completely novice at this zero-turn mower thing. Good to know that getting a 5' deck through a 5' gate *without* lifting the dratted gate each time might be an option!!!

 

Richard had originally said a 4' deck might be optimal for our property, but having mowed it, now thinks a 5' deck would work. I'm good with anything that's minimal effort...

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We bought a used 27hp exmark lazer z (gasoline) with a 5' deck (it will fit inside our stock trailer for transport to be serviced). We also looked at a diesel 5' Kubota but the salesman didn't recommend it (even though it was more expensive) because did not do well on rough ground. You already have experience on how hard we use (and will be using) our zero turn; after renting them for a few years I figured out that 25hp was not enough for how we use them. I was looking for a used commercial grade Scag, Exmark, or Hustler mower; my preference was an Exmark.

 

Our field gates are 12' or 14' to allow easy access for tractors or tucks with trailers. In the lower field we have a new double 14' for easy access of RVs to that field for event camping. The yards (dog kennel, house, and barn) have 8' or 10' gates in addition to smaller walk-though gates.

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Jovi, I'm still completely novice at this zero-turn mower thing. Good to know that getting a 5' deck through a 5' gate *without* lifting the dratted gate each time might be an option!!!

Lynn - just remember to bring your measuring tape when you shop!!! [Also, measure the true width of the gate too.] I find it is better NOT to assume everyone's 5' measurement is the same. ;)

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Cool, thanks, Mark!

 

I'm pretty sure that a used Scag was what our handyman has been recommending. As a vertically challenged person, ergonomics will be important for me, which was why we turned down the seller's Simplicity mower. We finally got the seat adjustment on the tractor (a 1985 John Deere 950 with 1500 hours, turf tires, a bucket, finish mower, and rear snow plow; 27 HP) fixed so that I don't need to drive it with a giant pillow shoved behind me :)

 

We bought a used 27hp exmark lazer z (gasoline) with a 5' deck (it will fit inside our stock trailer for transport to be serviced). We also looked at a diesel 5' Kubota but the salesman didn't recommend it (even though it was more expensive) because did not do well on rough ground. You already have experience on how hard we use (and will be using) our zero turn; after renting them for a few years I figured out that 25hp was not enough for how we use them. I was looking for a used commercial grade Scag, Exmark, or Hustler mower; my preference was an Exmark.

 

Our field gates are 12' or 14' to allow easy access for tractors or tucks with trailers. In the lower field we have a new double 14' for easy access of RVs to that field for event camping. The yards (dog kennel, house, and barn) have 8' or 10' gates in addition to smaller walk-though gates.

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A great suggestion, Jovi! Sheep fencing first - then sheep - THEN I'll look into getting that zero-turn mower!

 

Lynn - just remember to bring your measuring tape when you shop!!! [Also, measure the true width of the gate too.] I find it is better NOT to assume everyone's 5' measurement is the same. ;)

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never enough money.

 

We have a lot of varied terrain and it makes for good dog training. it also makes for good predator habitat.

Barn? What barn? We lamb and calf in the pasture. We use electric net a lot for various reasons-including ridding the neighbor's farms of ragweed and keeping grass low to lower fire danger.

Good fences help. Figuring out a good creek crossing (the creek may rise 30 + feet at times-that is 10 M for those using metric) was tricky but finally got one.

It is fun to watch the neighbors faces when you are driving down the road with a group of escaped goats/sheep-you driving the car, giving commands to the dog driving the stock!

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Regarding barns and hoop structures, I have used both. The sheep love the more open spaces (tobacco barn overhangs (essentially one sided with the tobacco barn behind and the other three sides open or the equipment shed in one pasture, which was just a very high roofed pole structure). At one place, they would use the stalls in the barn, but only rarely. At another place whose owners asked me if I would put some sheep there to help with mowing/honeysuckle control, the shelters were all two-sided run ins (former pony farm) and the sheep liked that as well. Mine hated the hoop structure and would use it only to eat (because I placed the feed bunks in there). The *same* sheep now have a little barnlike structure in one field that they will use in bad weather; otherwise they lie around the outside of it in the shade it casts. My point being that there's no guarantee the sheep will use whatever you put up for them. When available, my flock likes to congregate under cedar trees for shade and for protection from inclement weather.

 

At the farm I live now, they have used big carport-like structures. These all have sides added, but I had some sheep raising friends who used them without sides. The nice thing about those is that they could be moved if desired.

 

I like round bales because they are more cost effective. I don't have specialized equipment, but that does make it easier to handle them. I like overhangs and similar structures because it's easy to put a round bale under them, which makes the bale last longer because it's protected from weather (and you can use cattle panels to devise something to go around the bale to help prevent waste). This year, the bales were just set down in the pastures and there really was a great deal of waste, especially due to weather since invariably it rained within a day of a new roll being put out. As Mark noted, the waste needs to be removed if you don't want the grass underneath destroyed (one more reason I like placing them in the run in shelters/loafing sheds--no damage to additional pasture).

 

Regarding fencing, you may find it difficult to keep sheep in five strands of high tensile. Henry Kuykendall uses high tensile, but I believe he's got something like 10 strands. It's also electrified (though wool sheep are rather insulated).

 

Things I love in general: lots of gates, larger ones for moving stock and equipment in an out, as well as walk-through gates. I really, really love gates that can be opened and latched with ONE hand. It's annoying as hell to be carrying stuff and have to set it down because I can't open or latch a gate with my one free hand.

 

I understand Sue's reason for loving gates in corners, but if you ever want to gate sort stock, gates in corners, depending on which side the gate is hinged, can be a real PITA. If you have a handling system, gate sorting might not be critical, but I can tell you that trying to sort through a badly positioned gate is difficult and aggravating. There's a handling system where I live now, but honestly sometimes it's more trouble to take the sheep to the handling system than it is to just gate sort or put in a corner or building and hold them with a dog while I do whatever it is I need to do to them.

 

Gravel at gates, etc., is wonderful. I hate slogging through mud at gates. Concrete pads (as seen on the Bluegrass novice field) are nice from a mud control standpoint, but sheep don't like to cross them, so I'd stick with gravel or perhaps rubber stall mats, which don't seem as bothersome to sheep.

 

Other things I love about where I am now: plenty of frost-free fountains, although we did have a couple freeze this past winter. Multiple pastures that allow for rotation. Very, very good fencing. The fencing here is mostly on wood posts, no climb wire (2" x 4"), with a strand of barbed wire at the top and bottom. Every pasture/paddock has gates that lead to other pastures or to the outside areas. You never have to walk "way around" to get from one place to the other. Shelters of one sort or another in all pastures, most of which can be closed off (i.e., you can put the sheep in the building and close a gate to keep them contained and then open pasture gates without risking losing stock.

 

Things I hate: Just a compilation from various places I've raised livestock: lack of ready access to water, gates not big enough to get a bush hog through, gates that are difficult to open and latch, poorly designed or situated shelters, pasture that has been allowed to go to broom straw or cockleburs or similar.

 

And Lynne is correct. Here it is illegal to drain wetlands without a permit. Not to mention that those wetlands will attract some wonderful wildlife! In fact, there may be subsidies/grants/etc. available for fencing off the wetland areas, which can be one way to offset some of the cost of new fence.

 

J.

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