Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Misty Morning's Work

Awoke to a fine mist this morning, so mild I could pretend it wasn't raining, but enough to have me soaked by the time I finished chores and sheep work....

As of this morning, I'm down to just 3 separate groups of sheep. As of last Friday, there were 5: Ewes with older lambs, ewes who hadn't lambed yet, Dudley (the 3/4 Suffolk ram), Buddy (the black killer ram), and Lucy and her brood. Now, Lucy and lambs are in with the pregnant ewes, and the rams are peaceably cohabiting after a lengthy transition. Each group means hay to feed, mineral to keep stocked, a water bucket or tank to keep filled, fences/sheds/gates/etc. to mind. The two groups of ewes are on automatic waterers and big round bales of hay, so they're easier that the little groups that require special attention.

I'll have more groups again, as the second wave of lambing gets into swing...soon, I hope. Idon't always sequester new moms with their lambs in individual "lambing jugs" as many operations do, but it isn't uncommon for me either. I watch the new family and see how they are doing before making that decision. Usually, the ewe will keep her and her lambs separate from the flock for a few days, naturally, and they bond well. But sometimes the ewe doesn't really want all her lambs, or two ewes lamb about the same time and get confused about who's who. Or, a very pregnant ewe may try to steal another ewe's newborn.

It appears that Lucy may have been bred prior to the second intentional coupling. When I took wethers (neutered male market lambs) to be processed in February, it turned out one of them had a single testicle. Under his long, thick fleece, it hadn't been visible...though I had noted with some confusion his unusual aggression with the ram he and his cohorts were penned with. Sometimes during castration a testicle slips up into the body cavity and is sealed there by the castration; such a "cryptorchid" is sterile because body heat kills the sperm. But this boy had a proper scrotum, according to the slaughterer, so he could have been fertile. I had innocently housed the market lambs with the breeding flock to consolidate chores, assuming the wethers were all really wethers....Silly me, when so many other things around the farm were done haphazardly by the former tenants.

I'm trying to get the ewes out on grass as much as possible. Since the permanent fences are in considerable disrepair after my absence from the farm, it's a boot-strap sort of affair. Each day or two I try to patch or repair or reinforce enough fence to get the girls some fresh grass. This helps manage the grass, and keeps them from putting too much pressure on the pen fences.

This morning I set another 165' of electronet fencing out in the "corner pasture". It's a love-hate relationship. One little twig, or even a weed stem, can keep the whole bundle of fencing from playing out in an orderly fashion as I walk the new fence line. Then trying to reach it to untangle it usually means I get my boot caught in the mesh of the fence, and tangle things even more. It requires the practice of much patience. It requires the practice of deciding to NOT be in a hurry even though my time is limited...because hurrying will only sow the seeds for more delays, more tangles borne of carelessness. "Haste makes waste"...wasted time, for sure, as I disentangle the same stick a second time because I didn't throw it far enough from the fence line the first time.

But when the electronet is laid out, and erected, and connected to the feed wire--how nice it looks, embracing a green sward of delicious grass and clover for the sheep! How happy they are when they first rush into a new area! Their first act is always to run all over the space, gleaning every yellow dandelion flower they can find like children in an Easter egg hunt.

Jesus said to become like little children. Maybe that includes being like sheep, looking for the pretty, tasty, nourishing yellow dandelions. Eat dessert first! Gather wildflower bouquets! Even in the rain!

No comments: