Sometimes You Just Need a Dog To Be There

I mentioned last week that I moved the ten ewes with lambs outdoors to join the ewe lamb group. What I haven’t had time to share is how I got it done.

To get where we needed to go required a bit of walk. I often move ewes with young lambs by catching the lamb(s), giving mom a minute to settle and know her lamb is with me and then walk where I need to go. Last week, I moved seven of my ten family units this way.

But sometimes you get ewes who are too confused and stressed about their lambs not being at their feet, to follow. On the third day I was ready to move the last three ewes with the youngest lambs out but the first ewe was dumbfounded and would not follow.  One time I did manage to get her through the gate and she made to leave altogether, heading to pasture the way she was familiar going, which was the opposite direction from where I needed to take her. I managed to block her and she headed right back to the barn, me still holding her lamb, whom I noticed refused to offer any bleats like all the other lambs had upon being taken prisoner by me. A lamb that bleats catches moms attention and entices her to follow. Fine, she won that battle. I left her and the other two ewes in the pens for one more day.

The next day I was willing to try again. By the way I didn’t move the ewes and lambs as one lot because I find that with very young lambs at foot this seems to cause confusion, especially with family units who haven’t been together as a group yet, such as was the case with this bunch. The ewes twirl around constantly, paranoid about being sure they have the right lambs and head butting the wrong lambs. The lambs get knocked around and aren’t sure who to follow. Everyone ends up going in different directions to get away from each other. When the lambs are a bit older moving them becomes very different yet again.

But I also expected that ewe would be no different than she was the day before so I wondered about taking a dog with me this time. Sometimes the dogs only make matters worse when ewes have very young lambs at their feet. It takes the right dog and a patient one. Yet my hunch this particular morning was to use Cajun, a dog, by all past accounts of our work together, not particularly right or patient for this job. 

So I did. And it worked. I caught the lamb and I eased the troublemaker ewe out of the pen while leaving Cajun on a wait. Once in front with the lambs I asked him up. He came up nice, then moved into a brisk pace, and caused the ewe to turn back. But then he just held his ground. We gave the ewe a moment to think and after she did she turned in my direction and followed. She turned back, Cajun was there - being very patient. An astounding feat for him.  She decided following me was her best option.