10 Surprising Facts About Sheep

With lambing season right about to start, we figured it was appropriate to present some fun and surprising facts about sheep. Hope you enjoy!

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a sheep?

Despite a recent decline in domestic sheep production within the US. The US still imports around 40% of its lamb and mutton from abroad. Most of the 162 million pounds of imported meat actually comes from down under! That’s right, most of our meat is imported from Australia and New Zealand, the two largest lamb and mutton exporters in the world.

Oh give me a home! Where the sheep and lamb roam!

In the U.S the states with the highest number of sheep per capita are Texas, Wyoming, and California. However, more than two-thirds of domestic sheep call the Southern Plains, the Mountain and Pacific regions their homes.

Where’s the mutton?

Did you know that lamb is the least amount of meat consumed in the US? The average American consumes 86 pounds of chicken, 65 pounds of beef, 50 pounds of pork, and only 1 pound of lamb per year. I guess why the saying is “where’s the beef?” and not “where’s the mutton?”

Like A Steel Trap

Sheep have amazingly good memories. They can remember at least 50 different people and other sheep. They’re able to do this using a similar neural process and part of the brain that humans use to remember people.

I’m not as dumb as I look

Contrary to popular belief, sheep are actually extremely intelligent for their species. They’re capable of problem solving and have a similar IQ level to cattle, and are nearly as clever as pigs. Looks can be deceiving, a farm is a smarter place than most people realize.

More sheep than people

Currently, there are approximately 34.2 million sheep on New Zealand. That’s enough to outnumber the humans living there seven to one! That’s quite the population, good thing sheep aren’t predators. However, back in the 80′s, this figure was even higher, with sheep outnumbering people 22 to 1! That’s a lot of sheep.

Top-notch vision

Sheep have amazing peripheral vision. Their large, rectangular pupils allow them to see in almost perfect 360 degree vision. They can even see behind themselves without even turning their heads. At least they never have to wonder if they have something on their back.

Spanish Sheep

In the 15th century, Spanish Merino wool was so highly prized, that the wool trade is what funded the conquistador expeditions, including Christopher Columbus’ expedition to the new world. Because this wool was so highly prized, exporting Merino sheep from Spain was punishable by death.

A Bond Between a Ewe and a Lamb

Female sheep, known as ewes (pronounced You-s) are very caring mothers and form deep bonds with their offspring. A ewe can recognize her lamb’s bleats when they wander too far away from the herd.

A gourmand’s best friend

Mutton and lamb is widely eaten around the world and is often used in gourmet dishes because of the delicateness of its taste. Additionally, sheep’s milk is widely used in gourmet cheeses (such as feta and romano).

 

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Some Pre-Spring Tips for Lambing

two lambs

I know we posted this back in the end of Fall, but with lambing season beginning soon, we felt that we should bump this post back to our front page. This will help make sure that you’re prepped for lambing this Spring (which is only two months away, by the way). Also, if you’re new to raising sheep or are researching the possibility of adding sheep to your farm, we have a short tip sheet as well as put together a more in-depth guide that you should take a look at!

Even though the winter might feel like it lasts forever, it will eventually come to an end, and lambing season will be upon us sooner than we expect. So, here are a few tips to remember when it comes to lambing this Spring.

Is your space ready?

First thing to remember is your lambing barn ready? No two barns are going to be alike, and there isn’t one correct way of going about this. It all depends on what your needs are and what resources you have available to you. However, there are a few things that you need to make sure of. Firstly, that you have a warm, clean area for the ewes and their babies. However, there is a fine line between a warm barn and one that isn’t getting good airflow and has high humidity, you have to find a balance between getting fresh air into the barn but not creating a draft through it. Secondly, you need to make sure you have the lambing pens ready at the same time, these should be a large enough space so that the lambs have room to move around, and are equipped with a heat lamp.

Attentiveness is key!

I cannot stress this enough, when lambing you need to make sure that the lambs are getting colostrum right away. Producers should always be prepared to deal with weak or cold lambs as this can happen, especially when lambing gets into full swing. The longer these lambs go without an colostrum adequate intake and/or are still cold the most likely they won’t recover.

Nursing

In an ideal situation the lamb should nurse from the ewe around an hour after birth so that the lamb can get the full nutritional benefit of the colostrum. If the lamb is too weak to nurse, it might be necessary to tube feed the lamb. This should be done by someone who is skilled at this due to the potential health risks on the lamb from tube-feeding. Additionally, you should have some frozen colostrum and milk replacer handy in case of weak lambs. When defrosting the colostrum make sure to bring it up to temperature via warming in hot water, never in the microwave as this will destroy any nutritional value of the colostrum for the lamb.

Finally, you should have an immunization schedule in place prior to the start of lambing, by doing this you’ll be prepped for lambing and will have all the necessary equipment in place.

Lisa Podwirny is the owner of Ketchum Mfg. Connect with her on !

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Holiday Safety Tips for Pets

Kitten-indoor-playtime

The holiday season is upon us, and many pet parents plan on including their furry counterparts in the festivities. As you gear up for the holidays, it is extremely important to try to keep your pet’s routines as close to normal as possible during the holiday madness. Also, for your safety (and sanity) and theirs, make sure to be careful with how far you go with your holiday decorations. Here are some tips to make sure your pets have a safe and happy holidays with the rest of the family.

Secure Your Christmas Tree

Make sure you securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water from spilling which can cause your pet to get sick.

No Meeting Under The Mistletoe

Mistletoe and Holly can be poisonous or sometimes deadly to your furry holiday companions. Opt for safer artificial plants made of silk or plastic, or a pet-safe bouquet.

Wires, and Batteries, and Ornaments Oh My!

Keep wires, batteries, and glass or plastic ornaments outside of a paw’s reach. Wires could give your animal a potentially lethal electric shock, and a punctured battery can cause severe burns to their mouth and esophagus, while shards of broken ornaments, outside of being a pain to clean up can be a safety hazard to your pets’ paws.

No Desert for Fido

Of course, it’s a no brainer to never feed your pets chocolate or anything sweetened with xylitol, but, to make sure your pets don’t get into anything they’re not supposed to, make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.

Careful With The Adult Beverages

If your celebration includes some extra booze in the eggnog or other cocktails, be sure to place your drinks where pets can’t get to them. Alcohol can put your pets into a coma which can ultimately lead to death.

I know this sounds extremely gloomy for the holidays, but making sure your pets are safe can make sure your pets help you bring in the holidays without worrying about what trouble they can get into.

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Cow Tips: Raising Cattle

American_farmWith calving season once again around the corner, I wanted to revisit an old post of ours that gave out some quick tips on how to raise your cattle. So, without further ado, here is part one of our cow tips!

Most people who live in the countryside, at some point, learn how to raise cattle, especially when spring comes. Greener pastures and warmer temperatures make it ideal to raise cattle for dairy or for meat. However, raising cattle is only half the battle, once you raise them you also have to maintain them, and that’s learning what you need to do all year round to make sure that your investment, stays alive and healthy. So here are some tips for raising and maintaining cattle.

Raising CattleRaising Cattle

BuyingThe first thing that you want to do once you decide you want to raise a few head of cattle is you need to find a good source for the cows. The best thing to do is to buy a few weaned calves or feeders that are a little bit older depending on your experience and comfort. You can usually scan through local newspapers for ads selling cattle or calves or you can place an ad yourself offering to buy. Also, it would pay to visit the local co-op as this can sometimes lead to some good leads to farmers who have some stock for sale. Auction houses can be another good source for calves, but buyer beware, auctions are notorious for getting rid of sick or ailing animals. If you are unsure what to look for, bring someone who has some expertise with you so you’re not sold a false bill of goods.

ShelterOnce you have your calves you’re going to need someplace to put them. A lot of beginning farmers waste a good sum of money in building expensive barns or sheds to place their cows. Honestly, a windbreak can provide sufficient shelter for calves and older cattle. A lot of beef cows spend most of their life in the open and mainly use what they can find in nature for shelter. While calves should have some protection from wind and rain, even the older feeders are pretty hardy as long as they have access to mom’s udder. One thing you absolutely need to consider when providing shelter for cattle is to make it draft free, but not air tight. Cattle expel a large amount of moisture in breathing and voiding waste. Structures that don’t allow that moisture to escape can cause serious health problems in your cattle.

Also you’re going to make sure you have some sturdy fences when raising cattle. Cows are big and heavy creatures and will tear through things like tissue paper if they’re not built to withstand them. While fences are expensive to build and maintain, one “hot” wire (a wire hooked up into an electric fence charger) will make sure that the cows keep off the fence and will help preserve it.

PastureSeasoned farmers have told us that a mixture of alfalfa, brome, and timothy is considered the best pasture for cattle as it encourages grazing. However, don’t overestimate the carrying capacity of your pastures. While you might see some great lush growth in the spring, that growth will easily turn into much drier and shorter come July and August and you can easily end up with too many cattle and not enough pasture. Plan ahead so you have more grass than cattle and not the opposite.

WaterFinally, make sure you have a good supply of water. Just to give you an idea, cows, on average, drink about 12 gallons of water per day. This average is a good rule of thumb to remember when setting up troughs or tubs as a water source. For the winter time, tank heaters are a great way to save your back from doing too much ice chopping as the weather drops.

Well thanks for coming by for some tips on how to raise cattle, come back next week to see some more tips on how to maintain your cattle and as always, for all your tag needs make sure to check out our range of cattle tags.

Lisa Podwirny is the owner of Ketchum Mfg. Connect with her on !

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Rainy Day Fun With Your Cat

Kitten-indoor-playtimeWith Fall now in full swing, the rainy days have once again come to Upstate New York. However, just because you want to curl up with your favorite blanket and binge the latest season of your favorite show on Netflix, doesn’t mean that your feline friend wants to as well. So, here are some great ways to entertain yourself and your cat at the same time. Plus, you get to add to the multitudes of cat videos on social media.

The Treasure Hunt

Cats are hunters by nature, so an excellent way to stimulate your cat is to set up a treasure hunt for your indoor cat. You can hide special treats for your cat inside puzzle feeders for your cat to discover. Also, spread a few around the house so that they never know when they’re going to find a treat. This is a great option to break up boredom for the cats when left home while their humans are at work.

The Agility Course

Creating a homemade agility course for your cat sounds complicated but actually isn’t at all. Start by making a paper bag tunnel and then give them a treat when your cat goes through it. Then add a second obstacle, then a third, and so on. Cats love being active and love the exercise. More important though, is to make it fun and stress-free, for yourself and for the cat. One of the nice things about a homemade agility course is that you can customize it as you see fit and build it to match your cat’s physical abilities.

The Paper Bag

One of the great things about cats is that it doesn’t take much to entertain them. Sometimes, all you need is a paper bag and they’ll be entertained for hours on end. One thing you can do is take 3 or 4 and put them around the room and sprinkle a little catnip inside the bag and watch your cat dive, pounce and generally act silly.

iPad Playtime

If you’re feeling particularly tired from the day, you can also set up an app (yes, they have apps for cats) that lets them hunt after bugs and fish. Some of the apps, even interact when the cat catches a fish or bug.

Whatever indoor games you decide to set up with your cat, keep in mind that your furry feline friend was born to move, and they have highly tuned senses. While it’s important to keep them safe indoors, it is also very important to provide them with adequate stimulation and environmental enrichment. After all, indoor games and activities may go a long way in preventing behavior problems down the road due to boredom or separation anxiety.

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Preparing Your Pet for the Cooler Weather

We originally posted this during the rainy end of last summer as it gave way to fall. While the weather is a little warmer this time around, the information that it brings is perfect for making sure that your pets are ready for the Fall because like it or not, cooler weather is right around the corner.

dog-fallIt’s not even the end of August, yet people are walking around with jackets and sweatpants. Let’s be real — it’s been a bit nippy outside lately. It’s not just rainy, it’s now rainy and cool. What gives, Mother Nature?

As much as I’d like summer to stick around another couple of months, Ketchum Mfg. is located in upstate NY. And of course, upstate NY is definitely not the warmest spot in the U.S. We can basically kiss summer goodbye at this point.

And of course, as the cooler weather starts to creep in, it means you need to follow different pet care protocol. Here are 5 tips for preparing your pet for the cooler weather.

Go to The Vet

It seems like this is something you get told at the start of every season, right? Well that’s because it’s the truth! Pets need a routine check up. You know how when the temperatures start to dip, humans tend to get sick? The same thing can happen to your pet. If your pet was fine without a checkup last year, it doesn’t mean that’s okay for this year.

Stay Extra Alert

For many American workers, the summer is a symbol of an easier work routine (a.k.a. “summer hours”). This usually means you’re around for your pet much more often. So when you get back to the normal routine in the fall, your pet may experience separation anxiety. They may start acting abnormally (chewing on household items is usually an issue). When you are around, look for changes in your pet’s personality.

Fall is also the time that decorations and holiday goodies start to come out. Keep your pets away from Halloween candy, Christmas lights & tinsel, etc.

Brushing

Noticing the start of a lot of shedding? At the end of the summer, pets tend to shed so that they’re winter coat will come in. Brush your pet regularly, as this will help to stop hair from being everywhere. If your pet is shedding heavily, you should get in touch with your vet. It can be a sign of deeper health problems.

Food

As humans, we often associate the cooler weather with hardier meals. Big holiday feasts, hot chocolate, and big bowls of soup sound familiar?

Pets aren’t the same way. Since most pets aren’t as active in the winter, they don’t need more food. In fact, they usually need less. This brings me to my next point…exercise.

Exercise

Summer is a time that pet owners can get lazy because it’s too hot to walk. Fall should be the opposite. It’s a great time to walk your pets – you won’t be dripping with sweat immediately upon walking outside. So get out there! Also remember –hydration is still important for your pet (and you as well!)

Lisa Podwirny is the owner of Ketchum Mfg. Connect with her on Google+!

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Tips For Choosing A First Family Pet

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Introducing a new pet to your household can provide your household with a loving companion that can teach your kids about responsibility and compassion as they and you help care for the animal. However parents, it’s important to remember that not all pets are created equal when it comes to compatibility with kids. Here are some tips that can help you select a first pet that’s suited to living with kids and won’t outgrow your home.

1. Consider Your Family’s Lifestyle

One of the most important things to first take into consideration is your family’s lifestyle as a whole when you’re choosing a pet. Is the house empty most of the day or is there someone at home throughout? If it’s empty most of the day, a puppy that needs to be taken outside multiple times might not be the most ideal choice.

2. Financial Responsibility

Any pet, big or small, requires a financial commitment from the family. Food isn’t free, and neither is healthcare for pets. That being said, some pets are much more expensive to care for and feed than others. Adopting a rescue might be a noble choice, but one that comes with preexisting health issues will also bring a slew of medical bills that might break the bank. Think about how much room there is in the family budget, and keep that in mind when you consider upkeep costs for the pet.

3. Allergies

Some pets are more aggravating to allergies than others, and living with an animal that triggers those allergies can be miserable. For example, no matter how much your child begs for a puppy or kitten, if someone in the home is allergic to pet dander, it’s just not a good idea to bring one home. However, there is a little caveat to this, there are cats and dogs that are hypoallergenic, it just takes a little research into which breeds (and how expensive they are) fall into this category.

4. Space Constraints

A small, cuddly, baby fluffball might be cute and extremely tempting to bring home, but sometimes, those cute little babies can grow up into large, unwieldy pets. An iguana might be small when you bring it home, but some can grow up to 6 feet in length! Similarly, a Great Dane might not be the best choice of canine companion for a small apartment.

Great Pyrenees being a goof ball

5. Animal Care Requirements

Every pet has certain care requirements that are non-negotiable and must be taken care of. Litter boxes need to be cleaned, dogs need to be walked, fish fed, and gerbil cages cleared. If the primary goal of owning a pet is to help introduce a level of responsibility for your kids, make sure that the animal care requirements aren’t beyond their ability to manage.

6. Be Realistic About Responsibilities

This next tip fits in with #5 above. You may have these grand ideas that your child is going to be a major participator in pet chores, however, be prepared to shoulder that burden yourself if the kids don’t hold up their end of the bargain.

7. Do Your Homework

The best way to choose a pet that will mesh well with your family is to simply do research about any type of pets that you may be considering. Don’t be swayed by the cuteness of certain baby animals, and make sure you don’t simply buy on impulse. Create a list of pet types that would be suitable for your home, and narrow down the options to find the one that will be a good fit for your family.

Also, make sure that if you get a four legged furry companion, that you have them properly identified. This will not only save you from heartache later, by making sure that they are always easily identified in case they get lost.

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10 common myths about farming

Farming and agriculture are the backbone of our country, without farms we’d starve. However, many myths and urban legends swirl around this hard-working bedrock industry. In honor of the farmers in New York, and around the US we’re helping to set the record straight by disproving ten of the most popular myths about farming.

#10 – All farms are large corporate industrial farms

Completely untrue! 97 percent of all farms are family owned and run, and some have even been passed down from older generations. Don’t let the names of some fool you. Just because a farm has an “inc.” on the end of their name doesn’t mean they’re a corporate farm.

#9 – Farmers don’t care about their animals

When someone claims that farmers do not care about their animals they couldn’t be further from the truth. Farmers do what the animal needs, when they need it to make sure that the animal is taken care of. From staying up all night birthing calves on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day (yes, this happens), to going out in sub-zero temperatures in the middle of the night to make sure their water isn’t frozen and they can get to their food, farmers do it all. For farmers, their animals are just another extended part of their family.

#8 – Farmers don’t care about their damage to the environment

Honestly, farming is one of the greenest professions out there these days. With advancements in technology growing exponentially daily, farmers are able to use less fertilizers and chemicals, while producing more product. Additionally, the land that the farmer uses is their greatest resource, it feeds their animals, and nurtures the plants they grow, why would they want to sully that?

#7 – Small farms don’t matter, and are eaten up by larger farms

You know how earlier I said that 97% of farms are family owned? Well, a good portion of that percentage is small farms. Small farms are what allow people to get locally produced food and able to know the farmer that helped raise their meal.

#6 – Farmers are uneducated

This myth is a doozy, and I can’t stand it! The truth of the matter, not only does the farmer have to know how to farm, they must also be mechanics, weathermen, vets, and a business owner. The days of using old farm wisdom passed down by family members is long gone. Times have changed and so have the duties and knowledge necessary to be a farmer.

#5 – Farmers are rich

Farmers don’t farm for the money, they do it for the love of the job. I’m not saying that there aren’t rich farmers out there, but a few does not make up the whole. Farmers farm because they love the lifestyle, they know it’s one of the backbone industries of our country, or they do it for the love of farming. Whatever their reason is, be sure it isn’t for the money.

#4 – There’s no future in agriculture

Completely untrue. One of the highest growing industries is actually farming. Not only are the numbers growing in agriculture related degrees, the number of young farmers is growing consistently.

#3 – Farmers line their pockets from the cost of food

Many people believe that food prices are driven by what the farmer wants to charge the stores so that they make as much money possible. However, only 15 cents goes to the farmer. The rest goes to paying things such as transportation, labor, processing, and other business costs. Unfortunately, many of the direct and indirect costs that farmers face, such as insurance and feed for the animals, are not as easily covered. Additionally, these costs are even harder to deal with when there’s a drought, hail, hurricane, flooding or any other sort of natural disaster that wipes out the crop, the farmer can lose most of their year’s income but still have to deal with the costs.

#2 – Food costs too much

In some parts of the world, this is absolutely true. It not only costs too much but is unavailable to many people. But in the United States, we have one of the most abundant and affordable food supplies in the world. In a recent study, food costs were shown to make up about 7% of our income. In Japan, it’s 14%; China, 21%; and India was 51%.

#1 – Our food is unsafe

Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the headlines that a commodity or a producer is having problems. Thus, the reason these stories are called news, because it is outside the realm of normal. The truth is, the food industries has some of the strictest standards and regulations of any industry. For example, before a cow can be cleared for slaughter, the slaughterhouse must test to make sure that any antibiotics or hormones have completely passed through their system. In fact, many other foods contain higher levels of hormones that are astronomically higher than that found in dairy and meat products.

So I hope this helps dispelled some myths about farming for you. So, next time, you want to pick up some great produce at a local store, remember to thank your farmers!

Sources:

http://wsm.wsu.edu/researcher/WSMaug11_billions.pdf

http://www.realfarmersrealfood.com/

http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/safetyhealth/productsafetyinformation/ucm055436.htm

http://www.usda.gov/documents/FARM_FAMILY_INCOME.pdf

http://findourcommonground.com/food-facts/corporate-farms/

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