Lush Grass and Bloat
The ewes gave us a clear sign they were ready to move yesterday but with other things on the go, we decided to ‘just leave it and do it tomorrow’.
It was such an innocent decision. There is so much grass at their feet it is easy to be lulled into the idea of holding them to graze it just a little more.
This afternoon we took the tractor out to pull the water bus through the low lying wet spots in order to catch it up with the sheep and we moved the flock.
Tonight we picked up a dead ewe - she died from bloat. There is no way to be sure she would not have bloated even if we had moved the flock yesterday but any dead animal catches our attention and causes us to ponder the choice we made.
It’s June and the grass is prime. Since it has been raining so frequently we haven’t been able to avoid the wet conditions on most moves. If our pastures did not contain plant species that cause risk of bloat we might get away with just leaving it and moving tomorrow (provided the animals are satiated, not hungry). The grass will pay the price for the late move but the animals probably won’t bloat.
Our pastures contain alfalfa and a lot of it. We have to move frequently, preferably just prior to the animals telling us it’s time, and always when they are full. Even then, we can lose the odd ewe who can’t stop herself from eating too much fresh alfalfa. Our bloat risk is compounded by our terrain. It is easy for ewes with very full bellies from gorging on new grass, to become cast on a hillside depression. This risk of casting is greater prior to lambing when the ewes are very heavy with lamb in their bellies.
We can’t go backward and get that ewe back to life. So we go forward, lesson learned; we’ll be picking up the pace on our pasture moves once again.