Sunday, November 4, 2007

Senter's New House (Part 1)

A while back, I mentioned that we had some design ideas that might work for building an affordable new shelter for our stallion Senter. Today we (meaning mostly Ken, with some design suggestions from me) started the first stage of the building process.

First, Ken had to gather his materials together, and get the approval of his supervisor, Madrigal (aka Maddy-Cat):

After a lot of measuring and conferring, and weighing the pros and cons of various options, he started cutting the base pieces:

Okay, so that's not a huge amount of visible progress for one day, but look---he made nice neat notches for the end joins, almost as if he was a real carpenter who knew what he was doing!

I'll post more on this topic as we make more progress.

Last year we used one of those tarp sheds for the shelter in Senter's paddock, but it didn't hold up very well, so when we had all the stone dust put into the paddocks to improve the drainage and footing this spring, we pulled the tarp shelter out.

It's hard to design an inexpensive shelter that is still sturdy enough to safely withstand the wear and tear a horse will put on it. I hope our design works out okay. At least Senter is not particularly destructive---unlike the broodmares, who destroy everything in sight, just by scratching their enormous 1400-lb. butts on it!

Another chore that couldn't wait today: We had to mix up a new batch of minerals for the sheep. I think the mineral content of the soil in Iceland must be very different than the mineral content here in the USA, because the sheep's health really suffers if they don't have constant access to a good mineral mix. They simply can't get the nutrition they need from hay and grass grown on our mineral-depleted soil, without good supplements.

I mix up my own combination of sheep minerals, soy meal, kelp, and selenium/vitamin e powder. My recipe is in a constant state of adjustment, trying to get the levels just right. This time instead of using just sheep minerals, I mixed them half and half with regular pasture minerals intended for cattle and goats.

I did this to increase the copper levels in the minerals. Most shepherds have been sternly warned away from allowing their sheep to have access to copper, because it is supposed to be highly toxic to sheep. However, more and more Icelandic breeders are finding that their sheep are actually becoming copper DEFICIENT, which is practically unheard of in other breeds. Again, 1100 years of evolution on a volcanic island apparently leads to some slightly different mineral requirements.

Unfortunately, these needs seem to vary from region to region, from farm to farm, and even from sheep to sheep. So, like most other Icelandic breeders, I just keep experimenting and watching the results demonstrated in my flock's health.

Every time I adjust my mineral mix recipe, I worry, of course, that maybe I've added too much of this ingredient or not enough of that. But that's the essence of experimenting: You have to take some risks.

I just keep watching what happens, and try to make the best decisions I can from there. Surely after I've been doing this for a decade or so, I'll have more knowlege and experience to go by, and will be able to refine my choices even better.


Meggie said...

Nancy: Will the new shelter havethree sides or four? Keep up posted on its progress. Didn't realize minerals were so important for healthy sheep. I learn so much from your post.

Nancy Chase said...

Hi Meggie.

Technically, the shelter will have "no" sides. It's meant to be an open-air run-in shed with just a roof to keep out the rain. But it will be attached to the side of the barn like a lean-to, so in reality it will have one side to block the wind.

Because Senter doesn't grow a thick, fuzzy winter coat like the other horses do, he has a blanket that he wears when the weather is bad.

With his snug blanket on, he doesn't need a shelter to keep him warm, he just needs one that will help him keep DRY.

If our shelter design works out okay, we could decide to close in two more sides of it later. But I think Senter would prefer it to be open. He always wants to be looking around and keeping an eye on what everyone else on the farm is doing!