Thursday, April 28, 2011

Visit to Stauber Farm, Bethania, NC

A few of the Stauber Farm ewes and lambs
Today we visited owner Charles at Stauber Farms in the rolling piedmont of central North Carolina, just outside of Winston-Salem. Very pretty terrain and picturesque, historic farm.

The present owners maintain heritage breed St. Croix sheep and Delaware chickens, and keep intensive raised bed gardens and raise honeybees.

We're quite interested in St Croix sheep as easy keepers (they shed hair annually, thereby removing the sheering requirement) and have strong herd instincts. Many of Charles' sheep recently lambed and most had twins or triplets (shown on the left: a curious mother ewe who came over to be petted and didn't mind at all when we put a camera almost right on the tip of her nose - note that her hair has fallen out naturally in preparation for the warmer weather ahead).

One friendly small lamb (pictured on the right behind the simple wire fence) was a sole surviving triplet from a ewe with chronic mastitis, an infection that effects the teats and makes her unable to nurse her offspring properly. Charles will remove the mother from his breeding program as this condition may be inherited. He is striving continually to upgrade and improve his herd.

The little lamb followed us around quite a bit, crying for a bottle. She's been fully weaned to eat grass now and Charles refuses to spoil her. We felt a little bad, although in fact she's doing just fine!

Since there are only about 5,000 St Croix in the US, he and a nearby breeder have joined to bring new breeding stock from Oregon in a program to upgrade genetic diversity.

Charles uses donkeys to guard the flock from coyotes and feral dogs. One, a young jenny, was especially friendly and came around to have her cheeks and ears scratched. (Avery note: pictured here is Gordon talking his head off while gesturing to our host, which the jenny found to be most interesting. She  was quite careful not to step on our feet, nor did she attack the two house cats who followed us into the field.)

Charles also has Delaware chickens a large, very attractive breed that lays large brown eggs and are excellent meat producers. He has designed and built "chicken tracters" (mobile chicken coops on wheels) that are moved to different parts of a large pasture to provide fresh forage and the chance to remove insects from the property.

We enjoyed and appreciated the hospitality and reinforced our desire to have both of these breeds at Valhalla.

We learned a lot of good information from the visit, and got some ideas on livestock and poultry management that we hope to use.



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