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Memories of a Great Ewe

April 14, 2013

If you raise sheep long enough, you start to lose track of some of the details. I can tell you that I lambed out between 35 and 40 ewes this year and over 45 last year, but the year before that? Psshhhtt, I have no clue until I go look it up in the spreadsheet. I can’t remember exactly what year a lot of the girls were born without looking at their ear tag (color-coded.) Think about it–if I lamb out 40 ewes on average, and they average 150% births (they usually do much better than that), then that is 60 new faces each year, and I’ve been raising sheep for more than 30 years (ohmygosh, that’s 1800 sheep!) Some of those faces leave here before 6 months of age, and relatively few of them spend their whole lives here. Many are sold to sheep dairies to be milked, a bunch are eaten, and a few unfortunate ones succumb to parasites or disease or accident. As my friend, Jamie Robertson, noted today on Facebook: “Circle of life, Flo, circle of life.”

But there are a memorable number of ewes, and a few rams, that leave a mark on a flock and a farmer. Bruce, a 40% Lacaune ram, improved the udder conformation of the flock almost overnight. His half-brother, Dante, continued in that vein. I remember most of my 25 original dairy ewes, each named after a different state, though I no longer have progeny from many of those lines. Illinois lived longer than any of the other dairy ewes (to date), passing away one hot day last summer at the age of 13 and 1/2. One of my original Hamp ewes, Trip Mama, had twins at age thirteen. She went down 3 weeks before giving birth, the strain of pregnancy just too much for her. We induced labor a week early, hoping that unloading her lamb burden would enable her to recover. Sadly, she only lived for a few days after, as if she just wanted to live long enough to give her twins life–a protective mama to the end.

One of those great, memorable ewes was Fargo. As her name implies, she was in the Dakota line, a big ol’ horse of a sheep with a big personality to match her size. She wasn’t obnoxious or pushy, but she always made sure to come over and greet you every time you entered the pen. She always had twins or triplets, and she had this grocery sack-size udder with plenty of milk to feed them. I called her ‘Farge’ for short, and I truly loved her. In fact, she may have been written about on this blog as much as any other ewe (Here’s an example.)

Two summers ago, when she turned eight, she was starting to slow down. Some nice folks from Missouri had contacted me about starting a small homestead dairy flock, and I asked them if they’d like to buy Fargo and maybe a ewe lamb to go along with her. Why would I want to sell my beloved ewe? Well, I work a full-time (and then some) off-farm job, and have 40 or so other ewes and their offspring to care for, and I felt like Fargo would be better served to be in a small flock where she could get lots of TLC. I explained to Debbie and Alan that they would likely only get a couple more years of lambs out of her, but that she would help them tame down any other sheep, and she was an easy keeper to boot. So Debbie and Alan loaded up Fargo, the old lady, and Ottumwa, the ewe lamb, and off they went to Missouri.

Fargo Goofy

Fargo lookin’ goofy after being sheared last year

Fargo rewarded the Smitheys the next spring by having triplets–all girls! This year, she had another productive year, giving birth to twins last Friday, a boy and a girl. It became apparent, however, that something was very wrong with Farge the next day. She had gone down and couldn’t get up, and she was running a high fever. Debbie gave her penicillin to combat the infection and Gatorade to keep her hydrated, but she just kept getting worse. Debbie and Alan made a trip to the farm store to get a different kind of antibiotic, in the hopes it would knock the fever back, but when they returned home, they found Fargo dead. All of us who knew this big, strapping, goofy ewe shed some tears at this news. You couldn’t meet Farge and not like her. As Debbie wrote me later: “Fargo taught us a lot about sheep and lambs and milking. We will never forget her.” Nor will I. RIP, old friend.

Fargo and her 3 girls: Abigail, Annie, and Angelica

Fargo and her 3 girls: Abigail, Annie, and Angelica

(Photos courtesy of Deborah Smithey)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2013 9:15 pm

    I’m sorry your special girl died, nanc. Tipping my hat to Fargo’s good work…RDK

  2. April 14, 2013 9:18 pm

    RIP, Fargo ♥ So sorry ~ psb

  3. jan barry permalink
    April 14, 2013 9:36 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about Farges passing. I so well remember the night she was
    born. I went to the barn at ten pm to do a last check and walkies talkied up to the house that Flo had better get down there! We had three dairy ewes pop that evening and as we were finally leaving one of our Hamps, Jordan…decided to have her first lamb!

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