The animals at Slate Run Farm are much the same as those that would have been found on a family farm in Ohio in the 1880's. Many visitors are curious about our animals. Here is some information about some of the animals at the farm.
Our cattle are all Milking Shorthorns, originally called Durhams, and were all born here on the Farm. This was the most common breed of cows in central Ohio in the 1880’s.
We are currently expecting three calves this summer: one each in June, July and August of 2015.
Cattle played an important part on a farm in the 1880s. Cows provided meat, milk, cream cheese, and butter for the farmer's table.
Any surplus cream could be churned into butter and then sold or traded at the local general store. All of the skim milk left over after the cream had been removed was used to feed "slop" the hogs. This provided important nutrition to their diet.
In order to secure a never-ending supply of milk, the farmer kept two or more cows on the farm and then staggered their breeding times so that he could have a cow "fresh" (providing milk) year round.
For the past several years, all of our sheep have been Merinos, a breed developed in Spain, and the most common sheep in this area in the 1880’s. The original Merinos had very wrinkled skin and were known for their fine wool. The modern Merinos still have the best wool, but the wrinkled skin has been bred out of them. Our sheep have been back bred to return to the wrinkled skin.
The sheep are sheared only once each year in the spring. Some of the wool goes to market and the rest is given to the school groups to take back to the classroom. The sticky feel of the wool is caused by lanolin, a naturally occurring oil. When the wool is commercially processed, the lanolin is washed out and used in lotions.
The female sheep are known as ewes, and the male is a ram. A castrated male is a whether, and the young are lambs.
Most Merino ewes give birth to a single lamb, but can have twins. The ewe lambs stay with the flock to replace old ewes that are sent to market, and the ram lambs stay only until they are old enough to market. The tails of the ewes, and any rams we keep, are normally docked, or cut off, for sanitary purposes. The sheep do not have names, only ear tags for identification.
I was visiting the farm on May 17th , 2010 when I took the pictures below.
It's dinner time and Farmer Mike has come to the pump to wash up. Look who gets there first!After Mike washes up, he heads to the house to eat. Guess who follows.
As Farmer Mike heads into the house, the lamb--as usual--is right on his heels. The ladies won't want a lamb in the house!
The staff and volunteers sit down to eat lunch and there's the little lamb right by Farmer Mike's side. A young visitoris delighted to keep the lamb company while the farmers eat.
Can We Pet the Animals?
Usually, it's fine. Sheep and cows are kept either in the barn or in the fields during the day. Horses will be in their stalls resting or they will be harnessed and outside somewhere on the farm working with the farmers.
When the farmers are bringing the horses out of the barn to get them ready to work, they will often stop and let visitors take turns petting them. When a farmer is with a horse and invites you to pet, then it's a safe time and you are welcome to approach the horses.
However, when a horse is in harness and working, please don't go up and try to pet them or stand in the road in front of them to take a photo. The horses will be concentrating on the work at hand and are not always aware of bodies and little fingers that may be in their way. Give them plenty of space.
As for the other animals, if an animal choses to come up to the fence (barn, stall or pasture) within reaching distance, you're welcome to pet them. Most of them are very used to being petted and enjoy it. Sometimes animals (like people) get tired. So if they step away from the fence and back up out of reach, this is their way of saying, "I need a break. Please don't pet me right now."
This is especially true of our barn cat. She likes people and being petted, but sometimes she just wants a break. We do ask that visitors do not pick her up or chase her. She does not like this.
Pigs are kept in the pig pen. Adult pigs like to be left alone. Mom pigs are extremely protective of their babies so if you are with young children, it's usually good to "visit" them from a distance.
Geese and ducks roam free throughout the barnyard. Please do not let your children chase them.
When Can We See Baby Animals?
Generally, most of our young livestock are born in the spring and early summer. Here is a timetable of when animal births usually occur.
LAMBS: Mid-March to Mid-April
PIGLETS: Mid-March to Mid-April
CHICKS, DUCKLINGS, GOSLINGS (baby geese) AND POULTS (baby turkeys) : May
CALVES: We're expecting three in 2015. One each in June, July and August
PIGLETS: Fall piglets should be here around late September to early October
When there are babies (spring to early summer), the farm staff will often bring one (lamb, piglet, calf, chick, duckling, etc) out of the barn, pen or pasture and sit down with it so that visitors can pet it and learn more about it.