Sunday, May 01, 2011

Sunday Dose of Cute and Farm Life: It Was Sheep Working Weekend!

Hunky Farmguy to the Rescue 1
One sneaky little lamb tried to escape, but my hunky farmguy hopped the fence and saved the day.

Now that lambing seasonwhich lasted less than a month!—seems to be over (it doesn't look like that last ewe is pregnant), it's time to focus on other things, like keeping the sheep in tiptop condition. This means working them, which is always so much fun! Not.

More below. . .

Actually, when things go according to plan, it's usually not that bad. Of course things rarely go according to plan on a farm. Yesterday we lucked out and were finished in about four hours. Recovery takes a little longer.

First we herded 19 sheep and 30 lambs (who don't know their way around, aren't used to being herded, and have no response to a rattling treat bucket) out of an acre-sized pen located across the driveway from the barn (where we'd been forced to move them the other day when the barnyard flooded) and back over into the barn, where the two newest mamas and their their three lambs already were.

This was accomplished on, I believe, the fourth try. Sometimes getting the animals ready to work takes longer than the actual working. There was definitely yelling involved. And I may have almost accidentally let everybody out of the alleyway we'd constructed between the pen and the barn. (Thank goodness for some of that yelling.)

Once everyone was comfortably but snugly packed into part of the barn (it's so much easier to catch a sheep if it doesn't have a large area in which to race around and away from you), I put on my drenching 'backpack,' strapped on my drenching gun (although I did forget my leather holster this time), and one by one Joe caught each of the adult sheep with his crook and I gave them a dose of liquid wormer in the back of their mouth. This was the easy part.

Next came the lambs, and let's just say most of them don't exactly cooperate during the following seemingly simple process.

After catching one up, I carried it over to our makeshift work area, where we proceeded to band its tail using an elastrater (unless it's a 100% Katahdin hair sheep, which keep their long tails—you can read about how and why we added Katahdins to our flock here), give it tetanus antitoxin shot, put a little numbered brass tag in its ear (left for boys, right for girls), spray the banded tail with some stuff to keep the flies off, double check the tag number and write it down, and then let the lamb go running back to its mama.

Because we don't need any more rams around, we banded the—I'm just gonna call them what I always call them—balls on the boys, too. This is done before the tail banding, because at the slightest hint of fear or pain the boys will suck those little things so far up inside their body you have no chance of ever finding them, which is hard enough to do when they're being unsuspectingly held and pet.

Some sheep farmers use a knife to dock tails and castrate ram lambs rather than band them (which is done by putting a small, tight rubber band around the tail or ball pouch, which makes it go numb and then eventually fall off), but I've never had the desire (or stomach) to try that method. A farmgirl's gotta draw the line somewhere.

I think banding is less traumatic for the lambs, but once in a while it does have its drawbacks—like the sheep we had last year named One Ball.

Of course during all of this sheep working there was absolutely no snuggling or ridiculously sweet baby talk involved. Ahem.

Like I said, it went pretty well yesterday, though by the time we finished we definitely weren't up to trimming hooves, which is one of our least favorite jobs and something we're a little behind with—partly because we don't like flipping over very pregnant ewes, and partly because we've been putting it off.

We'll also have to go back and band a few of the boys, including the three newest ones, once they get a little older, and in 14 days we'll have to worm all the ewes again. At that time, we'll also drench each of the lambs with a small dose of garlic juice and organic apple cider vinegar, which we use year round on the entire flock as a natural wormer and all around health tonic.

This year while each of the new mamas was in her bonding suite, I gave them three to four large daily doses of the garlic and vinegar mixture because right after giving birth and while nursing is when the ewes are most vulnerable to internal parasites, which unfortunately coincides with their going out and grazing on new green grass in the fields where the worms are hatching and multiplying during the warm and wet spring weather.

The splinter flock of 17 sheep (made up of butcher lambs, young ewes we didn't want to breed yet, ewes taking a break from breeding this year, plus a few old pets) still needs to be wormed and have their hooves trimmed, too. We try to spread the excitement out and make it last.

Hunky Farmguy to the Rescue 2

Working sheep is never a lot of fun, but parts of it are often pretty funny.

Want to read a little more about life on the farm?


© FarmgirlFare.com, where the most exhausting jobs are usually the most rewarding, but not until a while after you've finished doing—and recovered from—them.

8 comments:

  1. I think this is the first time to see your hunky farm guy. At least with his face.....nice farm guy you have there....

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  2. ah banding is SO much fun (NOT) most cope well but we occasionally have a drama fella in the crowd who goes on - with wailing and dragging back legs. I used to believe they were really in pain - until we tried having treats available - they were always able to get to the treat area mighty fast - band or no band! No it isn't fun - but with our animals - and I'm sure most others - can't keep males with functioning sexual equipment around (animals I'm talking about - not our guys!) or things go bad in the herd quickly. Our wethers (have 3 we kept from previous years - yes pets - sorta)live a rather luxurious life -

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  3. Oh what a cute lamb!

    Check out our lambs here:

    http://craftsakimbo.blogspot.com/2011/05/sunny-ears.html

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  4. Interesting post. Doesn't Bear herd the sheep for you?

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  5. You are taking good care of them all. That's a funny. Makes me wanna give that lamb a belly rub.

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  6. Yeah, but only funny in a, "Look back and laugh" kind of way. Not so much laughter in the during part.

    At least not at Blackrock.

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  7. did i miss this info? did carey have a baby this year?

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  8. Oh my god you have a sheep named One Ball. I absolutely love it. Though, I imagine he does not. Good luck with the banding. Sounds like a good threat for those times when Bubba is acting up. I'll start wearing a rubberband around my wrist for such times.

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