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.

Spring really is coming

We have finally given up on the sheep having any more babies. So we tossed the last five ewes in with the rest of the main herd. It is a lot easier tracking one herd than two. There is a third (now second) herd down below. They are the eating ones of which we already have nine sold. We know spring is here as I have commenced the inaugural lawn mowing of our front yard with the sheep. It takes 2-3 days for the sheep to tear the lawn down. They like the shortest grass so clumps of tall grass tend to standout. I had just tossed out a pound of clover seed on the hillside before letting the sheep out to graze. They will push the seed down into the ground. The clover also does great with trying to stay alive after getting eaten so it will spring back twice as thick as it was before the sheep grazed on it. We are finally starting to get some clover all over the hillside now. Due to the clover we have now given up chemical weed control on the hillside. All thistles and stinging nettle are removed with a shovel. I spent a couple of hours this weekend digging weeds.

Since the bees have survived the winter I dug up a couple of patches of dirt and planted flowers on the hillside. I will need to add a small fence around them to keep the dogs out but we should have blooming flowers in 45 days. We are going to use our circle planters in the back yard to plant marigolds in and around our garden. We are hoping the marigolds will help with insect control. We are trying to get more flowers growing for the honey bees. I have a couple of other spots I want to toss out some flower seed on.

Saturday, Meathead and I worked on getting the five new half wine barrels ready for herbs. I drilled holes in the sides so that water could drain and then she filled each barrel with five gallons of gravel to cover the bottom. I would like to say she carried a full bucket of gravel but that is not really realistic. She carried it in two half filled buckets. We had a long discussion about me using the tractor to scoop it up and drive it around but by the time we go through all of the gates and still carry it the final way in a five gallon bucket we have not saved any time so she got to carry gravel in buckets. It takes four buckets of soil to fill the barrel the rest of the way. We have a big tote with gardening soil in it that we are using to fill them.

I took chance out with me to put the sheep in and she did great! The picture of her above is in the lamb shed when we were feeding the ram and bull. She kept them from coming into the shed when I opened the door to feed. She did so well after everyone was put away I let her off the 30’ lead. Huge mistake, she took off running and would not listen to me. I may have gotten upset and hollered repeatedly which caused her to look at me, come within six feet and stay out of reach. I finally calmed down, bent down on one knee and called her, she came running and got hugs and licks in. She is too smart for her own good. It turns out that Annmarie had tried to use Chance to get the sheep out of the yard earlier in the day but only had her on a a six foot leash. The puppy did well enough that Annmarie let her go and then Chance dove for a lamb and would not let it up. This incurred the wrath of Mom which may explain why she was so good working the animals with me later in the evening. Once I got her back onto the lead I used the alpaca as training fodder. This works for the dog and me and the alpaca don’t really care for the dogs so it gives Chance a shot at moving a difficult animal. She did really good.

Our second bee hive arrived, I just need to assemble it. We are going to keep them in the lavender patch. I was out working today and had 4-5 honeybees land on me. I am unsure what they were looking for and as long as you just ignore them and don’t accidentally squish them they are harmless. It takes a while to get used to ignoring them.

Dang Dog

I think every puppy gets a post like this. And it’s really, at the base of it all, our fault. We know it – every time. As usual, we haven’t spent enough time actually training the puppy, and now we get to pay the price for that. The good news is that no-one was hurt. The only potential casualty is my cell phone, and maybe a pair of shoes. I should start at the beginning.

Steve had asked Mr. Professional to check on chicks at the local feed supply store. Steve had not mentioned this to me, but Mr. Professional had, so I was not completely surprised by the early morning text from Steve begging for Sarah and I to bail him out and pick up the chicks, all necessary supplies, and get the brooder out of the chicken coop where it lives. He assured us the chicks would be ready at 10:00am, and that the feeder and waterer were in the brooder. Now, it’s important to understand that for the past several years we have been timing our chick purchase so that they can brood out in the coop in the baby Fort Knox Steve built for this exact purpose. So it’s been a while since we have used this particular setup.

Sarah was tasked with getting the brooder all put together while I picked up chicks, bedding, feed and a new heat lamp. As is usual, when I arrived, I was told things were not exactly as we had anticipated. I thought I was picking up 25 reserved chicks of unknown breed. The feed and supply place said they weren’t doing reservations this year and the limit was 10 chicks. At that time I was only the fourth person to show up for chicks so I took my number and gave the chicken lady my sob story. She said she would ease up on the limit since it didn’t look like too many people were waiting (there were only four of us at that moment) but that the chicks wouldn’t be ready to go for another forty minutes or so. Well, the feed and supply store is never a place I mind shopping in, so I wandered around, filling my cart with things we need or will need soon. I picked up some T-post sprinklers for the pasture we are going to reseed this year, some new gardening gloves for when I can eventually get into the garden, and the chicken supplies. I didn’t do too bad. Only two items of clothing made it into my cart. The rest were honest-to-goodness farm necessities. Really they were. I went back to the chicken lady with my number 4 in hand, and discovered that there were now 11 people waiting for chicks. I was not going to get my desired 25. But, I talked her into 12, so I could live with that. I checked out, got loaded up, and dove home.

Sarah had everything set up, but after some consultation and consideration of the coming holiday (Easter is in 10 days), we decided we needed to move the chicks upstairs to inside office (as opposed to my new office). So, the bedding, the brooder, the headlamp, feed, feeder, and what Sarah thought was the waterer went upstairs. It turns out the waterer was missing. What Sarah thought was a waterer was another feeder. We got the bedding spread, and the chicks in the brooder, and I tasked Sarah with filling the feeder while I called Steve to see where he thought the waterer might be. All of his suggestions were various locations in the coop, so I kept him on the phone so he could offer clarifications while I went out the the chicken coop. All was well until I opened the side gate.

Chance, who had not rushed a gate in ages dashed out that gate and straight to the overturned horse feeder where the rooster and a hen were sheltering from the rain. The hen beat her off and ran for the coop, so she turned her attention to the rooster. She chased him all over the ram pasture, with me shouting, “Chance, No!” at regular intervals, while not chasing her since that would only enhance the game. Eventually the rooster turned his circle back towards the coop, and hunkered down in a corner behind me. I wasn’t able to get my hands on the puppy, but I was able to give the rooster a chance to get to safety. Chance was not too sad, and took off for a turn around the pasture. I was done yelling at her, and called her over so she could get back in the yard. All was going well – she was actually coming back – until she noticed the gate to the sheep was open. She put on the brakes and dashed through that gate at full speed.

Now I was chasing her, and hollering, “NO!!” since she was headed for the babies and mommas. She ran them back into the barn and turned to look at me as if to say, “Didn’t I do good!” I called her back and again everything looked OK. Until she saw the one lone ewe. There is something about loners that turns the dogs’ brains off. Chance locked on and wouldn’t let up. She was pushing the ewe towards, which would have been fine, but the ewe was panicked, and slipped in the creek. The next thing I knew, Chance was also in the creek nipping at the ewe’s back legs. I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and say she was not actively trying to hamstring the ewe, but that is sure what it looked like! So I had pretty much no choice but to jump in the creek too and drag the dog off. Now we were all three in a corner by the little foot bridge at the end of the momma-baby pen and were in pretty close proximity to one another. I had Chance by the scruff. She kept eyeing the ewe until I finally started correcting that behavior – firmly. Chance go the message and eventually started sucking up to me. In the meantime, Mouse had decided to come help and was laying down pinning the ewe in place with his border collie stare. I needed help. So I tried to use Siri to call Sarah. Apparently Siri did not appreciate my panicked tone of voice and refused to respond. So I laid my cell phone on the nearby bridge and operated it one-handed to call Sarah. She came running out. She was able to call Mouse off, which freed the ewe to cross over the bridge (where my cell phone was still sitting) and run into the ram pasture. I got Chance and me up out of the creek, and realized my cell phone was no longer on the bridge. Yep – it was in the cold muddy rushing creek – nowhere in sight. My shoes were full of mud and water, and I was wet up to my knees. Sarah came back and took Chance. I knelt down on the bridge and felt around the creek bottom. Miraculously I touched my cell phone and was able to fish it out. There was no apparent damage, and it was still on, so I am hopeful.

The ewe was walking rather stiffly, but made it back to the barn where she can dry out and warm up. Chance is completely unrepentant and is unaware of the forthcoming nightly training sessions. I’m pretty sure my shoes are ruined. My cell phone might recover. It’s supposed to be able to tolerate water up to 6 feet for up to 30 minutes. We will see.

There was no chick waterer in the coop. Steve is picking one up on his way home.