Sheep sorting again, ram time

Yesterday was sheep sorting day. We have a bunch of skinny mommas and we need to wean off the lambs that are old enough, we need to worm everyone, create two herds (edible, keep) and turn the Ram loose in with the mommas (keep). This seems simple enough on the surface but nothing is ever simple when you are working with animals that have not been touched in three months. Most of the lambs have only been touched once in their entire life which makes them the most difficult group to handle. We started by having to dig trenches in the barn to be able to move the panels around and create chutes and three large pens in the barn. Once that was done I found the oral drenching tool and our wormer. I did not have enough oral drench so Annmarie volunteered to go to town and get more while we tagged and banded. I had about a 1/3 of a bottle so we could start while she was in transit. Mr Rainman and I then attempted to push the sheep into the barn. Nope, they would not go, no matter what we did, they kept breaking free of the pile and would not go into the chute into the barn.

Mr Rainman went and got Chance, border collie puppy, and he attempted to get her to move the sheep into the barn while she was on a lead. She would not really listen to him and since she is learning you have to be patient and strict at the same time. I took over and she was baling them up well but they would not go into the barn. She would be within four feet of them and they would not budge. One broke loose and she dived for it, I had a hold of the lead rope with just my hands, no gloves. I had to clamp down and grab rope to jerk her back for a correction. I ended up with a two inch rope burn on my middle finger! But I did get the puppy stopped and corrected. We had to go get Mouse also and squeeze the sheep from both sides and push them into the barn with the dogs. They just would not go on their own, and before that would work we had to open up the barn so they could just go through the door, once in the barn we pushed them to the far end so we could run them through the chute. We were still having trouble getting them into the chute so Mr Rainman started to just catch the little ones and then I could tag and band them. We had about ten lambs that needed tagged and banded still. On one of his snags he caught a pink tagged big lamb that was a ram! So it got banded, which was not easy as the testicles were so big I had to pop them through the bander opening one at a time. I have not made this mistake in years, so it was a great catch by Mr Rainman.

We used the oral drenched but the little clip that holds the bottle to the belt does not work so I tie it upside down under the belt with a piece of cord then it will work. It’s fairly redneck but it does the job and using the drencher hand pump is so much faster than having to measure out a syringe every time you need to dose a sheep. Once we had two groups of sheep we had to run them through the chute again to count them! Here are the final numbers: 46 ewes, 10 babies (too young to wean) , 1 ram in the first group and 40 lambs, 1 cull ewe, 13 eating size in second group for a total of 111 sheep. We are going to be taking the eating size ones to sale soon to see how they do. The ram is now in with the momma herd and we are keeping them in the orchard for now so he doesn’t have to chase them all over. We are bringing both groups into the barn lot every night to keep the predators at bay. One group in the front side and one group on the back side. They can see each other but not mix. There is an amazing amount of noise for the first few days once we separate off the lambs.

I hooked up the sickle mower onto the Kubota and tried to cut the orchard but the space is full of trees and metal rings around the trees. I did not even make it around the field once before I hit a cow panel and popped off a tooth from the bar. So I had to go put that sickle bar up and put the rake on the Kubota and set up the smaller sickle bar on the John Deere. We did not use it last year so I had to make some adjustments and get it all greased up. The Italians that designed it put one essential grease zirk where it is near impossible to access. It took me 30 minutes to get the thing into a spot where I could access it with a small grease gun and a 90 degree elbow. It is of course exactly where the bolt fails every time so it has to be done. I can pop the other mower apart and redo the rivets but that will take time. So it will be something I need to do after hay season. I had to pull the break away bar from the mower and beat on it with an eight pound sledge hammer to get it back into some semblance of shape and function. It’s not perfect but it is much improved. I am now ready to cut more hay today. The plan is to cut 1/3 of the leftover ground today and turn it on Tuesday. Then bale it on Wednesday. I will cut more hay on Tuesday, another 1/3. We have managed to bale 346/900 needed bales and 252/900 are in the barn. I was able to scavenge another 20 bales yesterday from the leftovers.

Haying 169/900 bales completed

It’s definitely haying season. I get to go to work (paying job) then come home and continue working until dark, repeat this over and over until all of the hay is put up. Mr Rainman has been coming out a couple of times a week to help out. It helps out tremendously but I have to keep cutting and turning and mowing after work to keep up. If I get it all prepped then when Mr Rainman shows up he can spend a day and get it all baled. Today I was trying to figure out how much hay we really needed to get the sheep through the winter. This grass is very nice so I figured five bales per day for six months. That is quite a bit of hay but I wanted to make sure we have enough on hand. This means we need 900 bales to get the sheep though the winter. So now the countdown to enough has been started.

I have been able to cut and turn every night and get done just as the sun was dropping. One night I did have to turn on the lights to get it finished. In between all of the hay I had to readjust the gate going into field #3. I had to fix the hole in the fence behind the house that the bull and sheep had widened. I also dropped the panels over the back creek behind the house so we can let the sheep out onto the back hillside.

After I patched the hole in the fence that the bull was using Annmarie tried to get him out of the field. I had opened the gate in the hope that he would just walk out. He did not, so she tried to push him out but he walked over to the gate, looked at it, looked at her then walked away. He stayed on the back hillside. This is the one nutter that is now a two nutter and needs to go away.

Chance has been doing well on the lead rope when I take her out to bring the sheep in at night (predator deprivation prevention). Annmarie was telling me that Chance was doing well for her so I have started to let her off the lead on the way back to the house after we have worked the sheep. Annmarie noticed me doing this and commented on how brave I was! I told her I thought she was doing the same, so I had assumed it was safe. It was safe but not because Annmarie was doing it also. I was feeling pretty good about the puppy, we have been teaching her every chance we get and it is starting to pay off. Then one night I was getting eggs and water for the baby chicks so I failed to latch the yard gate. I knew the gate was not latched but I thought the sheep were locked out of the ram pasture so if the dogs got out of the yard they could not cause any chaos. I was wrong. I came out of the chicken coop and Chance had a bunch of sheep balled up in the ram pasture and she was moving the herd back and forth across the pasture. I tried to call her, I tried to get her to lay down, I tried to catch her, I did a lot of yelling, she was having a grand old time. Eventually, she listened and laid down as instructed. I walked her back to the yard. On the plus side this time, she did not dive directly into the herd to grab a sheep, she circled them and bunched them all together. She did go for any sheep that tried to leave the bunch. So we are back to the lead only when working the sheep and we are really pushing the down command at any moment so she learns to listen better. She is improving every day we just need to keep after it, she is only one year old and it normally takes us two years to train them well enough to work the animals without too much difficulty.

The new sickle bar broke last time I was using it. I, of course, do not have a cache of spare parts for it yet as it is brand new. It looked like it was something I could correct so I broke out the welder and actually fixed the problem! The weld looks better than anything I have done to date. I have yet to actually try out the repair. I will need to use the bar mower tomorrow so that will be the real test for my repair.

Predators 3/ Farm 0

Well the predators are definitely bold! We lost one lamb in the orchard in late January and we lost two more lambs in the orchard last night! The lambs had not had rigor set in by the early morning and neither were torn up but one was missing its entire abdominal cavity contents. I noticed the magpies fighting out in the orchard on my way to work and messaged Mr Rainman to check when he came out. He is coming out a couple of days a week to help out.

Due to this calamity between the houses we are no longer letting the sheep stay in the orchard overnight. They are getting moved into the barn lot at night. We think its a coyote, both of our dogs sleep in kennels inside at night. We are going to look into some solar motion activated lights. I think there is a solar set of red eyes that you mount on the fence at predator eye height to scare them away. I will need to do more research on that item. The funny thing is I have not seen a coyote this year at all. Our 11 month lambs running around on the back hillside have all survived, only the lambs have been killed. We have woven wire fences already.

I am mowing the yard again with the sheep. It’s just easier and more environmentally friendly! Again, the sheep poop is very wet and slimy due to all of the green grass but they are working on the yard. They like the hillside better as the grass/clover on it is shorter. They like to eat the short grass first before eating the tall grass. It’s pretty weird.

The puppy Chance is doing well when we use her to work the sheep and cows on a lead. I had the sheep in the front yard so the dogs are in the backyard. Our side fence is low and temporary and Chance decided yesterday that jumping the fence and playing with the sheep was fun. It was fun for her but not the sheep. She totally went crazy, running around, running into the herd, biting everything she could touch. She would not listen and would not follow “down” command. There was zero off switch. I had to wait until she grabbed a sheep then grabbed her. She spent the rest of the day on the overhead run. No way to get loose and as long as the sheep stay away she cannot harm anything. We spent a lot of the day going into the “down” command with me across the yard or from the road. There will be a lot more training to teach her that she is to herd the sheep, not chase or bite them.

Cow sorting gone bad

I was up early, ready to go out and load the steer at 0730. We had kept him in the corral for the last two day so we would not have to sort everyone. Sorting can take 2-3 hours on a good day. We had even kept the dogs in the back yard, otherwise they can get right next to the corral and harass the animals. We had let the sheep back out into our yard for one day and then I pushed them over into our orchard area. The orchard area is getting tall and I did not want them to knock the clover back down. Even though it had already grown about two inches since the last time they had been on it. It grows pretty aggressively when it is grazed on. The yard is a little out of control, the sheep may have to come back in soon so I can be eco friendly and not run the gas powered lawn mower! The trade off is you have to dodge sheep poop on your way to the front door.

The customer came with a horse trailer. It had a solid door on the back that was much wider than the opening of the chute. I figured if we backed up on one corner then got the cow in we could pull forward and quickly shut the gate. I backed him up to the corral and there was about an eight inch gap. Annmarie came out to the yard and the dogs got out, Chance was still pissed about getting rolled two days ago and just started tearing it up, barking and running the length of the corral and trying to get through the fence into the corral. She would not give it up, or listen to us. I had to catch her and Annmarie drug her off by the collar to the back yard. She listens when she is on the lead, but not off when we are around livestock. She will listen off leash now to us but now we have to get her “off” switch wired so she will drop down no matter what is going on around her. This is harder than you think to teach. It means constantly exerting your will over the little things so she learns to just obey on command. It takes time.

Cow top left of picture, me from road on tractor, not where it belongs

I had money in my pocket from the sale and we loaded the cow. It went into the trailer then I shut the chute gate so it would not get out and it spotted the 8” opening. Once it had its head through it was all over! It got stuck twice but just kept bucking and hollering and got through in about 15 seconds. I rearranged the barn lot gates so we could just push it back into the lot and try again. I went and got the tractor to shoo it back toward the now opened gates. It jumped the fence into the fallow wheat field. I had to drive down to the corner then up the road then out into the wheat field. Annmarie had to come out with Chance and open the gate out into the wheat field. I was just going to drive the cow along the fence line to the gate. The crazy cow was not scared of the tractor and I had to keep blocking the fence line with the bucket to keep it from going past me. This worked until it jumped the fence back into the main house area, Chance was involved now and then it eventually jumped the fence again into the small seven acre fallow field, then jumped back into our main pasture area by the school house. I went to go talk to the buyer while she did the chasing into the school house field.

Chance (1 year old puppy) is the white Border Collie, Mouse is the grey/white one

I gave him his money back then we discussed options. I told him that if he called around and could get a carcass cut and wrapped that 243 therapy and assistance in cleaning and skinning would be available but he was going to have to plan on a few hours to do that hard work. Damn cows! He left without a cow and us without any money. He will reach out next week after making some enquiries.

I spent the rest of the day assembling a new bee hive. We purchased it before I knew about someone else wanting to get rid of their two hives. So now we have four full hives and a bunch of extras. I am going to have to clean up an area for all the extra bee supplies. I am thinking about moving the old lamb shed and creating a clean sub room inside it. I can use an old road side billboard sheet. They are fairly inexpensive, line the entire inside of the room, seal the edges and put in an airtight door. I will have to look into this more. I have a lot of extra stuff laying around and if I cobbled it all together I think I could do it fairly cheap.

Moving cows is never easy, no matter what

Mr Rainman came out this week and finished spraying all the major fields. He has been backpack spraying the difficult to reach areas and still has more of this to do but I think he can be done in less than two days and will have gotten most of the farm, even the difficult to reach areas.

I came home early on Wednesday so that we could sort cows for butchering. It turned into sorting off six month old calves, sorting out 5 kill size cows and moving the old bull. This was going fairly smooth. I say that loosely as sorting any live animal does have its challenges. Mr Rainman is not a cow person, even really an animal and every time I got in the corral to walk around and sort out 12 jumpy horned cows he would squeal and get nervous. All was going well, I had placed Chance (1 year old border collie) on a 30’ lead and she was doing well. We are working on “down” command at any time and “left” and “right” commands. We only use “circle around”, “to Me”, “guard”(creates dog gate), “away”. “Stay” and “easy”. Those are the main ones, we do realize there are a lot more commands but over the years these are the ones we use. The only other thing is they have to learn to work in the barn with mommas and babies and to stay and allow the lambs to pass or sniff at them.

Once we had the cows in the barn lot, I tied Chance to the gate so the cows would not try and push on it and then we proceeded to push them into the corral for sorting. Everything was going smoothly (first indicator you are about to be in trouble) when one of the slaughter size cows reached the corner gate chain and lifted it off its anchor slot and pushed the gate open and got back in with the main herd. We finished sorting all the rest of the cows and even moved the weanlings off to the third holding pen so we could still use the main two and chute. We tried to push the herd back into the corral and they did not want to go especially the one we wanted. So I grabbed Chance and we pushed them into the corral. She got rolled twice by the cows, but she just jumped up and got right back at it. We pushed the cows in and I ran our target into the chute after he tried to climb the five foot corral fence. I failed to notice that I had left the sheep ramp in the chute. It is for running the sheep into the back of the pickup. It was leaning on the exit gate with about a 60 degree angle and the steer ran right up that ramp and jumped off it from five feet in the air. So we spent 30 minutes getting him back into the pen and in with the four sale cows. We never could have done this without Chance. We sorted off one steer (not crazy one) for someone to come pickup on Saturday morning (next warning sign). We would keep him in the corral for a couple of days until he could be picked up. The bull went into the corral to spend the night. He is so placid you literally have to go up and nudge him in the direction you want him to go.

I get up bright and early so I can be in Lagrande by 0730. Annmarie comes out to help me, the first four just go right into our livestock trailer. I try and run the bull through the chute but he keeps dragging his horns and having to turn his head. He is 13 or 14 years old and has a very large head and decent horns. So we let him back into the corral and Annmarie suggests just backing the trailer into the pen, opening the entire back and getting him to just walk into it by himself. We do this and he is coaxed in under five minutes. He is so calm.

I am off early around 0530, I adjust the trailer brakes and start the trip. I am going 55 mph and it feels fine. I get on the freeway and keep it at 55 mph, I can feel the animals moving around in the trailer. I creep up Cabbage hill at 45 mph. Honestly, except for my nervousness it is going well until I start coming down the hill on the backside. The whole rig starts shaking every time I hit the brakes over 50 mph. It did not do this on the flats. So more white knuckled driving and I pull in to Hines meat. I was there before the place was open. The guy comes out, compliments the bull on how good looking he is and we try and unload them. We got them unloaded but of course they did not want to comply.

When Hines called back this weekend to give weights on the cows they said there was one “surly” cow that gave them some trouble. Wanna guess who that was? Due to the small stature of a Dexter cow you get a lean meat and much smaller steaks. The carcass weights came in at 327#, 332#, 320#, 313# and the bull at 673#. The bull went to all hamburger. We are charging $3.50/lb hanging weight now. The average for our area is around $4-4.50/lb hanging weight.

On the trailer trip home I just dropped the horse trailer off at the tire place and asked them to balance all tires, check brakes and pack wheel bearings. The lights worked great!