Our barn started life as a cattle barn. It then was used for pigs by the previous owners. Now we are using it for sheep. This means there is a bit of work for us to figure out how to best use a space that was designed with a different animal in mind. So far, our sheep don’t live in our “cow barn”; instead, we primarily use the barn for lambing and for our handling system. As we get ready for lambing in a week, we aren’t just doing the basic cleaning; we are also continuing to adjust the space itself to suit both our animals and our own management system.
Last year, Brody and I cleaned out the barn for our first time. It turns out that you basically have to budget a full week to getting the barn ready for lambs. Cleaning is a three-day job at least, as we both remove the bedding from the last lambing group, power-wash and disinfect everything, and then put down fresh bedding. It is a job that is actually weather dependent; we have to wait until we can drive out to our manure piles without completely rutting up the ground (and worse case getting the tractor stuck). This spring was cold and wet which definitely delayed the barn clean out.
After the cleaning, we turned to set-up. This year, we invested in more of the Mar-Weld creep feeder equipment to both expand the space and add more feeders. This equipment creates a separate area that is only accessible to the lambs. Last year, our creep feed area was both smaller and on the south side of the barn but this year Dad knew we had unused space on the north side that could be better utilized. I took a look, and I realized we could remove a section of the wall and replace it with the main entrance gate into the creep feeder. It worked out really well.
Next up, we will be working with gates. We still need to mount the lambing pens to the south wall, as well as finish retrofitting the north and south gates so they are safer for lambs. So still a few more tasks, but we are close to having the barn ready for the lambs. This year we will be watching to see how this works, so we can plan for any changes needed before the next lambing in October. That’s another bonus of having four heads involved in our farming business – together we are figuring it out!