Moving Sheep in a Crunch Time

A week from today, the students will be gone. After that I will have three days of staff meetings, and then I will be on summer vacation. What a gift! I am holding onto this thought as I contemplate the whirlwind of obligations crammed into this final week.

Meanwhile I spend an hour every day moving sheep. I first put the sheep out on grass in the third week of April. This is much earlier than usual, but without snow this year, we skipped mud season. The ground was bare and tawny.

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Putting the flock out early is actually a good way to transition sheep from hay back to grass. The ewes are eager for green stuff but there is so little they can’t gorge and make themselves sick. They have to search out the juicy blades.

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As the days and then weeks have passed, slowly the grass has turned greener.

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However, we’ve had so little rain this month that the grass is barely growing. The twenty-four sheep (8 ewes, 1 ram, 15 lambs) go over each section like a vacuum, leaving only the weeds. I have to move them every day.

Stash enjoys this. He comes with me each morning and runs around the field (trailing a leash, just in case) while I take down fences, drag them to a new spot, and re-set them.

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I move the shelters, move the water, re-fill the trough from the water tank on the old truck. The job usually takes about an hour. I lead the sheep out of the barn and bottle-feed two lambs (more about them another day).

Stash is happy and I try not to give into anxiety or irritation as the minutes tick by and I’m aware I need to be showered and prepared to teach classes in a very short time.

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I’m often wet-haired and gobbling a piece of cheese for breakfast on my rushed drive to school.

I haven’t had time to test my fences and charger for spring so don’t yet trust them to keep the sheep safe from predators during overnight stays in the field. Thus every night I bring the sheep in. This is easy. The sheep know there will be sweet feed waiting in their hay feeders at the barn, so they wait at the fence-line for me to open the gate.

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All I have to do is turn off the fence and fling the gate wide. The sheep thunder toward the barn at a gallop. Even the lambs know the routine by now. I walk after them at a much slower pace and simply close the barn door.

It’s all good, but my grass is thin and poor at the best of times. Without the spring rains, the situation is worrying. I haven’t put the cattle on grass at all. There isn’t enough.

Yesterday we had a twenty-minute drizzle. Looking at the weather reports, this upcoming week has 20-30% chance of rain on four different days. As I rush from obligation to obligation, I am praying.

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2 Responses to Moving Sheep in a Crunch Time

  1. ned says:

    Have you considered Livestock Guard Dogs to protect your flock? Fences fail but the dogs are part of the flock. I have had Great Pyrenees for about 10 years now and love them. A couple of years ago we lost our male. Last summer we bought a GP/Anatolian Shepard mix male puppy. We have gotten one litter from him and our GP female. We quickly sold all but one of the puppies. We decided to keep one from this litter because one of our doge is getting old and we don’t know how many more years we will have her.

    We are very impressed with these dogs. With no training they instinctively take up with the goats and other livestock and protect them.

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Hi Ned: I have thought of LGDs but my understanding is that they patrol, barking, all night and I cannot do that to my neighbors. I’m so glad they have been successful for you.

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