Could have played that classic Smithfield Fair song yesterday when i received the call from the highway department guys that the highway is full of sheep! Sheep In the Road. Thankfully, Dallas and I were already up at my farm tending to the cattle when the call came through. Frustratingly, however, just 20 minutes earlier we had been with the sheep cutting down scrub trees and brush in the timber for them to eat. Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Nevertheless, all but about 20 head were strung out about a 1/4 of a mile along Hwy Y. Usually, I’m absolutely and totally ticked that the sheep are out. This time was way worse, because they had never been out of the perimeter fence, only before out of the confines I had set for them. Although, I kept the sheep netting ‘hot’ (very well electrified), there was always something knocking it over, sometimes deer, sometimes the guard dogs, sometimes a lamb that decides it’s invincible gets tangled in it and through its struggles wads up and takes down a good section. So, even though the tangled lamb didn’t get out – all the rest do. Untangling a struggling lamb from electric netting can be a challenge, but they sure are happy to get free! The sheep have just become FAR TOO burdensome. I’ve tried for three years to make them work in my system, but they are just too much work. They can certainly be used for pasture management, but the constant threat to their lives (predators, mud, water, heat, getting lost) is more than I’m willing to take on anymore. Add to the fact that sheep are worth far less than cattle right now and the economics and quality of life for keeping sheep are simply not there. So, with this escape, the sheep selling off has been fastracked to hopefully within the next 30 days, although some of the lambs may be too young to sell. However, the vast majority of them should be gone soon. At my age, I’m going to to cut back on work load and the sheep will go. The marketing starts next Thursday, with sorting off all fat ewes (those who have lost lambs, so aren’t suckled down) and the older winter born feeder lambs and they’ll go to Midwest Exchange Regional Stockyards in Mexico, MO. Once those are off, then the feeder lambs’ moms will fatten quickly and then they’ll go to market. After that, I’ll see how the nursing ewes and spring lambs look and make a decision as to when to market them. I’m really disappointed that the sheep won’t work out – I had such high hopes of them being part of my grazing management plan, but they are just too much work and worry Perhaps if they were located closer to our home, it would be better, but driving 35 minutes to check them nearly everyday is more than what i want to spend, plus too many times i’d have to round them up and too much death loss to predation. CHeers! tauna
Yesterday, I found two ewes and a young lamb stuck in the muddy ditch. Of course, I had not worn my mud boots, so my short work shoes would suffice, though I was up to my shins in sticky clay. They were a bit of a challenge to remove leg by leg out of the muck, but with their cooperation and effort, I made fairly short work of it.
Today, I drove up with the specific purpose of walking the ditches in case more had found themselves engulfed in mud, but none were thankfully. However, the storm moved in and i was completely soaked from the thunderstorm. Additionally, I counted seven live newborn lambs as well as two ewes were beginning to go into labor.
We have missed the worst of these passing storms, however, and for that we are grateful.
Wow, it is amazing how warm weather can energise a person into working and really enjoying it!
Monday morning started off a bit rough though since it had been quite cold the night before and my early morning check of the lambing situation found 5 dead (cold) but 7 thriving. At this point, I’m beginning to think there is a vast difference in mothering ability of these ewes. However, all get a pass until the weather stays warm. With warmer weather this afternoon, the ground is thawing on top, so it’s very slick to have a pickup out in the pasture, so after nearly getting stuck in an area I had pulled into to load some gates, I decided to drop them off at their new location just inside the gate and later I would drag them down to the water tank with my Gator. Additionally, in the afternoon, Dallas and I moved the cows and calves a half mile to fresh pasture. A little bit of green showing, but mostly they are picking at old stockpile which will serve them fine as long as the weather is not stressful.
Apparently, through the excitement of moving the cows, the guard dogs flattened the electrified netting that held in the sheep and unfortunately, once we returned, all but 5 nursing ewes had escaped. That’s the way it goes, of course, since I was planning to move them down the road the next day up to the corral. However, too late for that, so we spent the next two hours pushing the ewes more than quarter mile through two paddocks and across a ditch with deep running water. I was so proud of them actually ploughing through that water! Sheep can really be stubborn about getting their feet wet. I was calling the sheep to follow and Dallas was pushing and so the little lambs that couldn’t cross, he grabbed and threw them across to their mums.
Once over the ditch and through the gate, the key was to give them access to the hay pile so they would be occupied while iIset up seven nettings quickly before they escaped the area. Meanwhile, Dallas went back around to shut the gates behind the cattle (two had come back because they forgot to take their calves with them!!! aaargh!), so all were together, then he continued on through to Cord Road to drive all the way around the square mile by gravel road. I then sent him down to gather the 5 ewes plus lambs into the corner by Morris Chapel cemetery and install a netting around behind them. That way they would be safe until we could move them next morning to be with the rest of the flock. It was pretty much dark by this time.
We had noticed hours earlier a ewe having difficulty with giving birth, so when Dallas came back, we walked through the flock with the torch and found her. I walked her over to the hay bales, grabbed her hind leg while she was distracted by eating and flipped her over. The first lamb was fairly easy to pull out, so it was a mystery why she was having trouble. So, i reached inside her and way, deep inside was another lamb. It came out easily, too, so not sure why she was having trouble. Nevertheless, I laid them around to her head, but she would have nothing to do with them; not a good sign. I let her up and she just walked away, lambs baaing and wet. Stupid ewe. Dallas and I tried to push her back towards the lambs, but she would have nothing of it, so we caught her and walked/dragged her to the corral. I packed the two lambs up to her and we tried for half an hour to get those lambs to nurse, but the ewe didn’t want them and they didn’t want her.
Both Dallas and I were tired and hungry by now (about 9:30pm), so we headed home and 35 minutes later we were back and fixing a light supper. While it was warming, I went out and fed my five bottle lambs, back in for supper, then, taking a big box, I drove back up to see if a miraculous love fest was happening. Nope, not at all. I left her shut in the corral, grabbed the lambs and brought them home for feeding. At midnight I finally got a shower and headed to bed.
They were very unhappy lambs and cried nearly all night in the basement. But by morning after multiple feedings, they were strong.