Watching the Flock

Having the sheep out on pasture down the road adds an extra hour or more to my daily chores (moving fences, moving shelters, toting water) but in good weather it is so beautiful down there I don’t mind. Canada geese fly over, honking, in the mornings, heading north.

The days have been sunny and the nights cold. I’ve tipped ice out of the water troughs.

Betty’s field works perfectly for Premier electronet. I move the sheep across the field in rectangular paddocks that are ten fencing panels long by three fencing panels deep. The field is exactly three paddocks wide.

The cold has kept the grass growth slow. The flock grazes off each 125′ x 40′ paddock of tender new shoots in eight hours. I move them at 8 AM and 4 PM. When the grass becomes more lush, it may take them two days to graze off a paddock.

grazed on the left; ungrazed on the right

I’m excited to have the flock moving so quickly this year. Perhaps I will be able to stay on top of the grass. I never found out how many paddocks deep Betty’s pasture is because the lower field turned into a jungle before I could get the sheep there. Though I mowed lanes for my fences, the sheep barely made a dent; after years of neglect goldenrod had gone riot. As an investment in the future, late in the summer I traded a freezer lamb to Tony and he brush-hogged the lower half of the field before the goldenrod went to seed. My hope is that a second season of grazing will bring the field back.

Already it looks better.

I know many of the men who farmed this field over the last fifty years: Ham, Walter, Harry, Leonard (he moved the rocks), John. Three are dead and two have moved away. I think of them all often and I like to imagine they are pleased.

*    *    *

Two of my lambs, 10 and 11, both little rams, are scouring. I’ve never had this before. Diarrhea can kill any infant so I have been watching them anxiously.

It’s not clear to me what has caused this but I suspect it may have been the worming. The markings on the drench syringe are vague in the smaller amounts and it’s possible they got too much. (Next time I shall use a needle-less syringe for my lambs.)

Last evening 10 was perkier but 11 was stretched on his side in the grass, panting. Not good. I stepped over the fence and picked him up. That he let me do this also was not good. Healthy lambs are usually impossible to catch. I laid 11 down again gently and drove home to mix up some electrolytes. I keep on hand packets of a product called Bounce Back.

Jon had stopped by on his way home from work and providentially had a soda bottle in his car. I washed out the bottle, filled it with warm electrolyte solution, capped it with a nipple, and drove back down to the pasture.

Again 11 was easy to catch. The rest of the sheep scattered in panic, but as I pulled 11 into my lap I was aware they were venturing close again, peering to see what I was doing.

One advantage of having bottle-fed most of my lambs at least a few swigs of their mother’s colostrum at birth is that they are not too outraged by a rubber nipple. 11 was not interested in the sweet and salty electrolytes but he didn’t fight me, either. He lay in a tired heap in my lap, swallowing obediently.

After eight ounces he had regained some strength. He struggled to get to his feet and I let him go. When I left for the evening he was resting again, but sitting up on his brisket and even nibbling at grass.

I will carry the bottle in the pocket of my coveralls this morning but my hope is that 11 has bounced back.

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2 Responses to Watching the Flock

  1. Missy says:

    Poor 11. I hope he’s feeling better in the morning.

    Betty’s Field is gorgeous. Maybe you need more sheep over summer. Could you take your cows down there at the height of the grass growing time?

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      He is better but not 100% yet. He gobbled another half bottle of electrolytes though and I’m hoping just rest and fluids will get him over it.

      Your idea about my cows is one I have thought of many times. I wish I could do it! There is no fencing. I have some temporary fencing I might set up but there is no shade and I don’t think I could build something inexpensive that would be strong enough for cows to scratch against. Also I would need to buy another battery fence charger. Finally, only Katika is halter broken and so could be led in and out of a trailer without fuss. Argh! I have been over and over it in my mind, trying to figure out a way. Some day! 🙂

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