Thursday, March 01, 2018

Lambing Day at Black Cat Farm/Boulder County Open Space

Super fun afternoon with some sheep and lambs.

Because . . . baby lambs!

Boulder County leases its Open Space lands out to farmers and ranchers and every once in a while they have some activity on the lands so the public can see the importance of agriculture (done right) to the lands.  Black Cat Farm is an organic and biodynamic (better than organic) farm using regenerative agriculture methods and humane animal husbandry.  They lease several plots of land throughout the county and raise sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys and geese, mostly for the 2 restaurants they own in town.  I've never been to them, they are WAY out of our price range, but if I was in a different tax bracket and into spending money on fancy restaurants I would totally go there.  But more importantly I'm glad the county is leasing to folks like this who are improving the land and providing the community (albeit an elite segment of the community) with good quality meat raised and treated humanely.

The owner, who is also a chef at the restaurants, was there to explain his farming methods and answer questions.  I had a LOT of questions and I enjoyed listening to the answers to other people's questions.  He was super patient and spent a lot of time and energy interacting with the public.  He had no background in farming and learned a lot from books, seminars (I think) and YouTube.

Mr. Bad Ass Ram.  I don't think he cared for me pointing the camera at him.  He kept a wary eye on me and I kept my distance (this photo is zoomed).

There were about 250 sheep and lambs in all but only 3 rams.  The rams are purebred Tunis and Karakul and the females are a mix of those breeds.  He chooses female breeding stock based on parasite resistance, mothering skills, and history of producing twins with no regard to whether they are purebred or not.  Because farmers don't breed for 'nonsense' as the owner put it (cough, AKC, cough).

There were 2 livestock guardian dogs, both of which were super friendly with the public and excellent guard dogs.

This big mushpie went up to everbody, looking for snugs and tolerating the general public's mishandling (leaning over their heads, grabbing their noses, etc., I was horrified but the dogs tolerated it).  But when a runner or bikes went by past the fence line they took off running.

The dogs are Akbash and a mix of Akbash with Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees and Kangal.  Akbash are not recognized by the AKC so have not been ruined by the show ring but Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherd are so I'm wondering if the mixing is an attempt to breed some working ability back in to the AKC dogs.  I had a chat with the owner about the training they do, I've long wondered how they balance socializing the dogs to people and livestock and if it matters.  According to him the dogs will not want to stay with the livestock if they spend too much of their puppyhood with people.  One of the dogs he had was a reject from Joel Salatin's farm.  His interns kept petting the dogs and the dogs would consequently hang out where the people were rather than in the fields with the livestock.  The Black Cat owner was able to rehab her enough that she was useful but it was a lot of work and hard for him and his family because they had to ignore her.  He said with a puppy it's a matter of striking a balance between human and livestock exposure and there is no solid formula. 

This guy did take some time to play with a mouse.  Even working dogs need some play time.  The mouse was pretty smart and kept hiding underneath the dog.  He did get away eventually.

In all, a fun day.  I think I'd like to have sheep, they seem docile and easy to manage.  But house first, then sheep.

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