Benefits of Night Penning

Ever since we made the choice to follow a natural and sustainable ranching path, that mindset has permeated every decision making process, including night penning the flock.

We began night penning in 2010 out of desperation. We were low in guardian dog power and coyotes took advantage of the situation. We needed to do something to help the dogs we did have, and to save our lambs.
Night Penning November 2010
We have since increased the number of guardian dogs on duty and through being forced to do it, have come to realize the value of night penning.

Bringing the flock to a small paddock for the night is one management tool that allows us to coexist with the predators we have. Rather than adopt an annihilation tactic on all predators we choose to find ways to live with them. Like them or hate them (and there are days that I do hate them), predators have an important role to play in the surrounding ecosystem.

The very first evening we tried night penning the flock in 2010 I can distinctly remember thinking we’d never keep it up if it went like this every time. Thankfully with practice, we, our dogs and our flock have become well versed in gathering and moving. I now find evening gathers and walks home to be a very peaceful task.

With moving the flock each day we have the chance to see the ewes moving. Lameness and animals who are ill thrift stand out and are noticed sooner.

For the guardian dogs, movement of the flock instills the practice of traveling with the flock. It also instills the practice of bedding down with the flock overnight. Being in a small paddock overnight, gives the dogs a reprieve. They do not have to cover miles of territory in order to protect the flock. They can easily watch the back doors so to speak.

For the ewes, night penning instills the practice of bedding down together at dark. Often there are days that we go out to gather in the evening to find the flock is already grouping together and bedding down together if not already heading in.

Night penning does give us a curfew, which is hindering on some days. However we found it easy to adjust to and it isn’t set in stone. If there is a night that we cannot get out in time to bring the flock in, it isn’t a big deal. The ewes can stay out an occasional night or two. We also only night pen at certain times of the year; when predator pressure is riskier.