By Kim Baldwin, McPherson County farmer and rancher
Last spring my father-in-law purchased a handful of ewes to graze a pasture near his house. The pasture had not been grazed in a few years, and he liked the idea of having some animals on his farm after getting out of the cattle business about six years ago. He decided to purchase the ewes and make it a project with the grandkids.
After the trailer of sheep arrived, each grandchild was allowed to pick out two ewes to claim as their own. Even before the sheep arrived, the kids helped their grandpa build the fencing and prepared the area for the animals.
Since their arrival, the kids have attempted to help tame these ewes that were born and spent the early part of their lives in the Flint Hills. The grandkids have helped feed and vaccinate the ewes. Some days I’ve found one of the kids sitting on the fence talking to the ewes as they anxiously eat their grain before returning to the pasture.
At the end of March, the kids watched as we turned out a ram with the flock. Soon blue chalk markings began appearing on the ewes.
Fast forward to September where we are now on alert for lambs to begin arriving any day now. While the kids are simply excited to have some little lambs running around, my father-in-law is more focused on maintaining the health of the soon-to-arrive lambs and their mothers. I’m most concerned about how many lambs we could possibly bottle feed at once and being prepared with the supplies needed to ensure we can successfully feed multiple babies.
It reminds me a lot of when I was pregnant with my two children and the different areas of concern people within my family focused on.
While I know my concern is one that can easily be addressed with a quick trip to town, I still want to be ready for the scenario in which we have bottle babies.
A handful of years ago my son was given a newborn calf whose mother had unexpectedly died on the coldest day of the year. My husband brought the tiny heifer home just a few hours after being born, and we quickly made adjustments to housing and bottle feeding the calf. In that scenario we weren’t even expecting a calf, but we were able to pivot quickly and begin caring for it.
That calf is now Sunflower the cow, and she, too, is due to have her calf any day now. Although she is an experienced mama cow, my son and I are still on alert as we await her newest arrival.
The anticipation of baby animals on the farm this fall is exciting, and to have my two children observe life through their animals is something I am so thankful to expose them to. As we patiently await and prepare for these new little additions on the farm, we have begun to embrace and understand the importance of the task of keeping watch.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.