Last weekend I unexpectedly had the help of Luke, the college student who has worked for me on and off after school since he was 15. In four packed and slightly breathless days, we got lots of things crossed off my list. One was separating the lambs from the ewes and bringing the lambs home from Betty’s pasture to the farm.
The photo above shows the flock of Clun Forest ewes and lambs waiting for me to open the gate so they can move to fresh grass down the slope.
Betty’s pasture is problematic because the sloping field is enclosed by stone walls, so it is almost impossible to get a horse trailer into it. (My trucker friend, D, managed it once for me, backing through a 75-point turn, but I am not D.)
Thus my plan was to build a catch-pen in a corner of the pasture out of cattle panels and a pipe gate, run the sheep into it, use the gate as a gentle crush to crowd the flock, and then lift each lamb over the cattle panels and carry it the fifty yards to the borrowed horse trailer waiting in the lane.
This plan did work — after a fashion. Sweet feed quickly enticed the sheep into the catch-pen. I slipped into the pen with the flock, where I could easily catch each lamb. (Though some of the lambs are almost as tall as the ewes, they could be distinguished at a glance because I change ear tag colors each year — this year’s tag is blue.)
Unfortunately, I am not quite strong enough to lift a struggling, 75-pound lamb high in the air to clear a 52″ cattle panel. Luke is 6′ 5″ and could lean over the wire to help, but after a couple of lambs he and I were both slightly pop-eyed. Luckily Lucy and her friend Evie were on hand to help.
Our system became: I caught and lifted each lamb as high as I could. Luke and Lucy both leaned over the panel and grabbed a rear leg, to swing the lamb’s bottom over the fence. We all hung on until Luke had the lamb upright and snug in his arms. Then Luke (with Lucy hovering, just in case) carried the lamb to the trailer, where Evie manned the swinging door to pop each lamb in without the earlier lambs jumping out.
Luke, Lucy, and I were all puffing by the time we had separated and carried the last lamb.
“I think I have to figure out how to build a sheep handling system,” I said, hanging onto the fence to catch my breath. “I don’t know how I would ever get this done on my own … or when I’m older.”
Lucy wiped the sweat from her face and exclaimed, “I don’t know either!”
Maybe that can be a project for next year.