I belong to a sheep association with an email list. Not long ago one of the top breeders wrote about “real farms,” as opposed to (the scorn was evident) “backyard ‘farmers’ with six sheep with names.” Ahem. I have eleven sheep with names.
Last night I was working on my sheep records while Lucy sat at my side, doing homework. She loves the record program, Flockfiler, because if you enter the data, it calculates everything with precision. For example, as of today our youngest ewe, Chai (Vanilla Chai, daughter of Vanilla Bean) is exactly nine months and ten days old. Her breeding is 3/4 Clun Forest, 3/32 Corriedale, 3/32 Romney, and 1/16 Lincoln.
Obviously, the more data you enter, the more information you can glean. We are just beginning to explore all the options. (Click here for a short video overview of Flockfiler. It’s really quite fun.) But there is still the problem of human error.
Lucy names most of my sheep. It is her contribution. Looking at my records, and the entry for Kiwi who died last year of peritonitis, she frowned.
“Mom, Kiwi and Blossom were not twins. Kiwi and Mango were twins. Remember? They were fruits; Blossom was named Blossom because she was smaller.”
All my sheep have ear tags, so my records are accurate as to numbers, dates, genealogy, and lambing histories. But I had typed in the names incorrectly. WHITE 04, whom I think of as Blossom, had been named Mango by Lucy. WHITE 06, whom I think of as Mango, is actually Blossom. The two big, white, lop-eared ewes look quite similar (each being 3/8 Corriedale, 3/8 Romney, and 1/4 Lincoln) but after three years not only can I tell them apart, but I think of them by name. The wrong name, as it happens.
“Well, Luce, as long as their tag numbers are correct, their names don’t really matter, do they?”
Lucy gave me a look. It wasn’t quite the look of horror given me by my mother, when at eight years old I suggested that since everyone misspelled my name, why didn’t we just change the spelling. But it was of that ilk.
I have now gone through and corrected my records, so WHITE 04 is listed as Mango and WHITE 06 is Blossom. Soon I will go back and correct my lamb stories here on the blog.
Blossom Mango was the first to lamb. I think she will be the first again this year, and at any moment. All six older ewes lie around the sheep stall, grunting softly and looking like beached whales. I checked them at 3 AM today, then at 8 AM chores, and will soon check them again at lunch. I wish I had a large barn and could keep them inside under cover in these last days of heavy pregnancy, but I don’t. So I let them out in the snow, and then I worry.
Here is Mango last spring, patiently chewing cud while one of her twins climbs on her back to check out a salt block. That ewe lamb is now in the flock.
(TEAL 01, Madeleine. 1/2 Clun Forest, 3/16 Corriedale, 3/16 Romney, 1/8 Lincoln. She is exactly one year and eight days old. We love Flockfiler!)