Susie Benitez; ACRE Student: From Fleece to Yarn

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One Saturday morning at about 5am Professor Trimpey and I got up while the moon was still out, piled into the car, and started our drive 300mi north of Cedar  City into the Ogden Valley Mountains into a town called Eden in search of the Snowy Mountain Sheep Creamery. I found the creamery while doing some preliminary research online about sheep farms in Utah while writing the proposal for our ACRE. The creamery seemed like the perfect place to go because they had a large flock of sheep consisting of a few different breeds and sold fleece as well as cheese.

When we arrived in Eden after about a 4 and a half hour ride, we had a little trouble finding the creamery. We eventually pulled up to an unmarked ranchet and knocked on all of the doors. We were beginning to think that we had come all that way to find that the creamery was closed when Sue (the shepherdess) pulled up the driveway. We told her about our project and she was so excited to tell us about her sheep and give us the grand tour. She also informed us that she was in the middle of lambing season and of her 180 ewes, 20 still had to lamb. She had to leave to go bottle feed one of the new born lambs, but we made arrangements to come back an hour later for the tour.

Sue has three different types of sheep on her farm: Icelandic, East Friesian, and French Lacaune. She crossbreeds her sheep as a part of a special project with the state of Utah to create a new breed of sheep with optimum fiber length and bulk for meat. Sue had two gorgeous great pyrenees dogs to guard her sheep and protect them from threats such as mountain lions and bears. The dogs were so sweet with Sue and when you were on the outside of the fence, but they are ferocious when there are unwanted intruders.

On the tour, we got to see so many of the babies. Some of the lambs were only hours old and they were so cute. One of the East Friesian ewes lambed while we were there. Ewes normally have 2-3 lambs at a time. The first lamb made it out perfectly, but the second lamb didn’t survive. It was most likely a breach birth during which, the lamb can die if someone doesn’t pull it out quickly in one pull. The lamb can take its first breath inside the womb and drown on the fluids. Sue believes that lambs can become breached due to shearing and how you have to turn the sheep over to shear it. It was a sad sight, but the rest of the trip was amazing.

Stay tuned for the next entry where I will talk more about our trip at the Snowy Mountain Sheep Creamery and the wonderful surprise that was the cherry on top of our trip.

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