The month of April is a tough month if you’re a sheep at Dog Tale Ranch. First there was shearing (and cold weather), then vaccinating, tagging and sorting. And this year we selected more culls in April. For the readers who like hearing about flock management this is what our last few days of sheep marathon was all about.
We vaccinate the ewes after shearing (before lambing) as it is easier to needle without being hindered by a full fleece. By the way, I’m up in the air about whole flock vaccinations but I’ll save that explanation for another post. We went ahead with doing so this year because I wasn’t quite brave enough not to.
On the first day of the sheep marathon we vaccinated the ewe lambs. The ewe lambs were all tagged last year so we didn’t need to tag anyone but we did do some sorting. I need a group of ewe lambs to use for stock dog training and an upcoming clinic and trial in May. If you recall, back during breeding time I allowed the largest of the ewe lambs a chance to be bred but now want to make sure none these girls are in the dogging group. This meant reading tag numbers and then checking with our breeding list.
The next day we began vaccinating the main flock of ewes. We also tackled a tagging project that was long overdue. When we bought our last, large group of sheep, the only tag they wore was a small, pink, metal, CSIP tag, required at that time when selling an animal. Since we rarely have our sheep anywhere to catch them, which you need to do in order to read these tags, these type of tags are less useful to us. So this year we put a plastic, number tag in any ewe who didn’t already have one.
Since we had every ewe in the catch chute to vaccinate and perhaps tag, we also did any treatment that was necessary. We wormed a few and we treated a few with runny noses. As well, the rams were still in with this group and needed to be sorted out. So the checklist for the day was: vaccinate, check for a tag, apply new tag if needed, treat if needed, sort it out if it was a ram.
We were close to done at supper time but just had to call it a day instead of push through. Allen recently had shoulder surgery so one arm is still in a sling. He still manages to do a lot of work but in this case it was me doing all the hand work and I was getting pretty tired, slow and frustrated.
On the last day we finished up the remaining ewes, which made for an easy day compared to the two previous.
Our groups of sheep are now comprised of:
The main flock - ewes, and bred ewe lambs, and some non bred ewe lambs (free loaders :-)). They are out on pasture, along with the horses who happened to slip through the gate when we opened it for five minutes.
The dogging group - some ewe lambs (not bred) and a dozen cull ewes. They are in a large paddock near the yard.
The boys - rams and the wethers still growing up. They are in the barn paddock along with PJ llama and the cows.
I feel pretty good about what we were able to accomplish. We’ve done what we can to ensure healthy animals and better management for another year of raising sheep on grass. That feels very satisfying. Now we just wait for the grass to come.