Dealing with the Heat

The last couple of weeks have seen heat advisories and heat indexes over 100 degrees F. That is a real issue when you have animals outside. How do we deal with the heat at The Shire?

Our main tool for dealing with the sun is shade! We don’t have just one tree that every animal clusters under like some farms you might have seen. We have built in rows of trees so that animals are NEVER without shade. Trees not only provide shade, but they also release water vapor into the air. Under trees can be 10-15 degrees cooler than out in the sun as well as preventing sunburns from direct exposure.

In addition, we have to stay vigilant to keep water filled. Animals do drink much more water than usual during these hot temperatures.


Cooler temperatures for animals is only one of the many rewards of agroforestry.  The person who has inspired me the most on agroforestry has been Mark Shepard. (You can read about my opportunity to hear Mark Shepard in person by clicking here.)

Our first big project after purchasing The Shire was to plant 100+ trees: oaks, pecans, apples, hazelnuts (more of a bush), pawpaws, persimmons, mulberries, and honey locust. Those trees are now starting to provide rewards of shade and produce their fruits, but we are still several years away from hitting substantial production.

This year should be the first year we harvest hazelnuts and apples. There won’t be a large quantity, but we’re hoping that it is a sign of things to come.


Winter Storm

With today’s ice and tomorrow’s snow forecast, we are grateful for a shed full of hay and enough room for the flock to wait out the weather in a dry shelter. Preparations began months ago, and we continue to work to keep everyone as comfortable as possible. Last night was spent unrolling hay and stacking it in the shed to maximize bedding area and simplify feeding.

Hair, not Wool

When you think of sheep, you probably think of wooly sheep that need to be sheared, but not all sheep grow wool! Our sheep are referred to as “hair” sheep, but all sheep have hair and wool. Hair sheep just have more hair than wool. This means that like many dog breeds, their coat grows thicker during the winter and is shed in the spring. Their hair/wool is also covered in lanolin oil that keeps their skin protected and their coat dry. Hair sheep breeds also come with many more positive qualities, including lower maintenance (no shearing), high level of reproduction, are more resistant to internal parasites (worms), and more tolerant to heat and humidity.


As any livestock guardian knows, water is probably the most troublesome issue during colder weather. We have long been unable to use our outdoor faucets due to the temperatures, so we now carry very warm water twice a day to maximize fresh water availability to the flock. Sheep can go for weeks with little to no water when their forage is fresh, but when feeding on hay, they tend to drink more because of the dry hay. 

All this talk of winter maintenance has me dreaming of spring. I’ll probably go browse some greener pictures over on our facebook page:


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