By Jean Ruzicka
Frank and Debra Vogeltanz of rural Laporte are once again counting sheep, and it’s not a matter of insomnia.
Sammy, a Dorset Southdown ram, and Emily, a Dorset ewe, added quadruplets to the herd April 21.
While this is not unusual at Sheep Haven Farm – quads having arrived four of the past five years - this is a first for both Sammy and Emily. Triplets and twins are a norm. And there is no artificial insemination at the farm.
Larry, Curly and Moe, the males, and Tova, a female, were enjoying supplemental formula this week from Frank, who’s been raising sheep since a child of 5, his family’s main occupation on property just west of Garfield Lake.
“I married into it,” Debra jokes.
The young lambs become docile within a week of meeting their “shepherds” and begin nibbling grass at three or four weeks.
“We watch them get off to a good start,” Frank said of shots, vitamins and bands on tails (so the 6-inch appendages fall off).
When the sheep began producing quads five years ago, they’d originally credited the ram. “It wasn’t.”
It may be the friendly atmosphere.
Sissy, an orphaned lamb with brother Billy, were bottle fed after mom died shortly after their birth. Now Sissy knows her name, answering with a bahhhh, and greets them on arrival, subsequently tailing their movements.
“Billy’s quieter,” Debra said. “Sissy does all the talking.”
The lambs are regular passengers on the family golf cart.
The rambunctious foursome and mom took up residence in Bambi’s Bungalow, named for an orphaned fawn the Vogeltanzes raised.
Like Sissy, the fawn became their sidekick, following them if they departed, until she returned to the wild.
Sheep can be breed at six months and undergo a five-month pregnancy. Shearing takes place in March, the 39 sheep producing 340 pounds of wool this year. Last year, the wool sold for a dollar a pound. This year it brought 60 cents a pound.
The sheep, whose population reaches 90 by summer, are aware of wolves, arriving back from the field at dusk and becoming quiet as night descends.
Meanwhile, the three stooges and sister Tova have one more acquaintance to make on the farm.
Rosie, a border collie, is recovering from hip surgery, “drawing unemployment,” but she will be back to work soon.
“She’s the herder,” Frank said. “Saves me the legwork.”