The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Northumberland County

March 4, 2013

Counting sheep at the Owens Farm near Sunbury

SUNBURY — With 60 lambs born since Valentine’s Day, the Owens Farm is looking at a banner year for its sheep flock.

So far, the 60 births this year have come from 28 ewes. There are still 57 pregnant ewes on the farm.

“We’re not over the hump yet. We can’t even see the hump,” said Caroline Owens on a tour of her farm on Sunday. The youngest lambs were born at 11:30 that morning and were already walking around their pens.

“Within 15 minutes, they should be walking,” Caroline Owens said.

She estimates there will be about 160 lambs born this year, up from 136 the year before.

Twins are commonly born to ewes, although new mothers may give birth to a single lamb their first time. The lambs will be nursed by their mothers for the first several weeks, and should be able to switch over to grass around April.

“If everything goes right, they’ll be 100 pounds by September,” said David, Caroline’s husband.

The farm is a family operation, with help also coming from Caroline and David’s three children, Kyle, 18, Kevin, 16, and Melissa, 14.

Care for the lambs involves giving them a shot of selenium to stave off white muscle disease, which can make it difficult for them to stand. The lambs are also weighed and tagged so that they can be easily identified and paired with their mothers.

Two breeds of sheep are raised by the Owens family, Coopworth and Katahdin. Coopworths are sold for their wool and meat, while Katahdins, a finer-haired breed, are sold for meat. Because the Katahdins’ wool is not sold, the Owens family paints tag numbers right on their backs.

The family started raising and selling sheep in New Hampshire in 1992. Demand increased a few years ago when the local food movement began to grow across the nation.

“We needed a bigger farm,” said Caroline, which resulted in the family buying and moving to a 112-acre Sunbury property in 2008.

The Owens also keep bees, pastured pigs and pastured chickens on their property.

The farm was originally started, said Dave, because he and Caroline wanted to ensure they had a healthy food supply for their children. The farming started as an outgrowth of that.

Saturday, the family will hold its annual “Lambing Clinic,” where they will demonstrate proper ways to care for and raise lambs. The clinic is usually packed, but a few tickets are still available this year, said Caroline. More information can be found on the farm website, www.OwensFarm.com.

 

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