Sunday, May 31, 2015

Triple Sweetness

Looking through recent photos I discover a tidy theme of babes in three's.   Interesting that we say a set of triplet lambs but we do not say triplet goslings or triplet puppies.





Friday, May 29, 2015

Catching Lambs

We catch all new lambs on the pasture as we go through lambing so that we can place a constrictive ring on the tail and testicles, hence docking tails of female and male lambs, and castrating males.  We prefer to do this when the lambs are very young.  It is easier on the lambs and easier on us.  

We use a shepherds crook to catch lambs and if we spy them early enough they are not too difficult to catch but it does take some finesse.  We carry our supplies in a backpack and do what is needed on the ground where we catch.  Single lambs are pretty straightforward, twins are tricky as you need to catch both lambs or else the ewe will take off with the one she has left, giving up on getting the one you're holding onto, back.  Triplets are triple the fun to catch.  Since it's pretty tough to take a selfie when doing this, you get photos of Allen instead. 


It’s best to catch calmly and work quickly, if we rush about after lambs we risk driving the ewe off in a panic causing her to give up on getting her lambs back and disturbing other ewes and lambs in the process.  When the lambs are caught we take a moment to let the ewe know where they are.  The majority of ewes hang around, murmuring, baa-ing and circling in worry.  The more uppity ewes will take off, frantically searching for their lambs and then you have some extra work to put ewe and lambs back together.  Many of our ewes make a quick huffing noise at us, some call loudly and repeatedly, the real calm ones sniff and murmur to their lambs.  The occasional ewe becomes aggressive and shoves you or knocks you with her head. 


We don’t ear tag lambs at this point, instead the lambs receive a paint mark so we know they have been done which saves us trying to catch them again.  The ewe and lambs and any comments are recorded in a pocket size notebook. 

Catching lambs is done morning and evening and once in awhile at midday as well.  During the peak of lambing that can mean thirty to forty times per day.  Today I did thirty lambs.  The bulk of lambs are born in the early morning hours with another surge in the evening.  Of the methods we have tried we find catching on pasture as we go the least stressful for ewe, and lambs, and human.



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

All The Babes

The pups seem to be changing by leaps and bounds now, becoming more curious and exploring further.



Out on the pasture the older lambs are kicking it up a notch.  The practice of head butting starts early.


And the lamb races are on.





Monday, May 25, 2015

BJ's Trio

Jill and Tamara, and anyone else who has been waiting to see some puppy photos - this post is for you  :-)

The days are full of lambs and pups with a bit of time in between to put my feet up.  I injured my ankle last week and am getting around with a support boot on so the feet up part is needed right now.  The weekend was a blur with lambing check in the morning, taking in the stock dog clinic for the short afternoons and back to the pasture in the evening to catch lambs. 

Allen, home from work for a few days,  did all of the lamb catching today to give me and my sore foot a reprieve.  I drove the Ranger and did the recording in the lambing book.  There are 35 - 40+ lambs birthed each day right now.  I suspect this will be our busiest week and then the pace will taper off again.  We are about half way through.

The stock dogs are not seeing too much work right now and BJ’s trio takes up a bit more time nowadays.  We take them outdoors for the day and return them indoors overnight and spend time each day handling them and enjoying them.  They are really emerging into individuals now and I was amazed to see the first brief instance of stalking behavior in the pups already.  They are just shy of four weeks old.



 


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Intermissions

Lambing is chalk full of intermissions with BJ’s precious trio.  If I've had a rough loss on the lambing pasture they help soothe it.


I need to take recent photos as the pups have changed considerably just in the last week.  They are mobile and talkative and now able to spend warm days outdoors in one of the dog runs, coming back into the house for overnight.  Their bodies are taking shape and their features becoming more distinctive each day.  They show some recognition of things other than their mother.  They play more frequently although still not for very long.  I’m am enthralled with watching them grow and change. 

Another intermission is a stock dog clinic taking place this weekend although this time at another location.  Allen and I chose to take a break from hosting clinics this year and then some dear friends stepped in to organize it and host it at a different location so it could still happen.  We loaded and hauled our dogging sheep there yesterday, giving BJ a break from mothering to help us load.  Today I returned with a few stock dogs to work the sheep in the new place.  I will not be able to fully participate in the weekend clinic due to lambing, but I’ll be stopping by for sure to say hello to some good friends.  I’m quite excited the clinic is still able to happen and do wish I could be there in full to work dogs and visit. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sweetness

Lambing is moving along swiftly, full of the successes and losses it is prone to and roller coasting me on the ride along with it. 

With the loss of fences and the ewes moving around on the 800 acres they have access to it is tougher to keep track of the numerous lambs on the ground now.  I'm not sure I could call this drift lambing but I guess it's a natural variation of it.






Sunday, May 17, 2015

That'll Do Kelpies, That'll Do

I traveled southward this weekend to help Larry and Liezel at Shamrock Ranch with the vaccination of sheep they are custom grazing/raising for a year.  I took a couple stock dogs with, in case there was some stock work to be had and indeed there was. 

Our first hurdle before working sheep was convincing several guardian dogs we were there in peace, even though we were going to move their sheep.  Next was negotiating two very protective llamas that wanted to stomp the dogs.  After that was worked out we were good to go to work.

It became apparent that these sheep would move better if driven from the rear rather than gathered.  They were not interested in following a human leader.  They are also in a new place and so didn’t have the familiarity of knowing where they might be headed to as farm sheep often do.

They flocked quickly and tightly and when they felt insecure about going into an unknown they set to milling immediately, which is really a thing of beauty in its own right but very difficult to direct motion from.  Gibson and Mic and I did some beautiful and difficult pieces of work to get  forward movement of the large milling flock and then long stretches of driving work across the pasture up to the corrals.  

I did make a poor judgement call when I put young Mic in the corrals to help with crowding ewes into a holding pen.  Some ewes had lambs at side and Mic was over-faced.  It fried her mind for a bit and she resorted to using her speed as power which was ineffective in this situation.  I could see the effect on her the next day when driving another mob again.  Back at home today I put her to work on a smaller group and she willingly stepped forward to turn heads so hopefully we haven’t gone too far backward.  Gibson surprised me with patience and control and holding the wings of the mob when I moved him over to do so.  He also showed a willingness to come forward and say move when the ewes tried to stand up to him.  He was tense about it but he sure stepped up and had good success. 

It was a treat to see Gibson and Coyote Mic work elsewhere on a large flock of sheep and to handle them through doing so.  It made my week to see the dogs work in that fashion and to have worked the two dogs together without having a wreck.  What I had done only occurred to me later.  At home I work two dogs together quite often with varying degrees of control, but I have never done so away from my own sheep or for that matter with an audience watching. 

That’ll do Kelpies, that’ll do :-)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Just Go With The Flow

Lambing season kicked into a steady pace already and today brought a dozen or so new lambs. 

A controlled drift lambing is so much easier than what lambing is this year.  The ewes are spread far and wide and most of the work is driving about the countryside on the Ranger checking ewes and searching for new lambs you know you saw earlier.  I think things will settle once there is a plentiful batch of lambs on the ground to hold the ewes but with only a small number it feels as though we’re more out of control than in.  I keep telling myself to just go with the flow, everything always works out.

With a steady pace of birthing there are also some losses already.  One ewe lost two of her set of triplets today which is SO disappointing.  They were born yesterday and moved with her through the morning but by afternoon they were failing and the extra feeding I gave them came too late and didn’t bring them around. Then Diesel interfered a smidge too soon with another birth and cost us a lamb. 

I’m not quite into my lambing time groove and am keeping my focus on finding and catching lambs to ring tails, so I have not been out with the camera.  I shall do so soon though.   We have some more sunny weather coming up, good for lambing and good for taking photos.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Back to Busy

A stretch of easy days with time to be in the art studio and work stock dogs melds into busy days with the arrival of the first lambs.  I always feel mild unease with the first lambs, I guess even after a decade of lambing, I'm never fully sure I'm ready enough for it. 

The first ewe to lamb, births in a sheltered spot, tucked over a hill, a curve of trees and brush at her back.  It’s tougher for us to spot lambs in this terrain but that’s precisely her point.  This is a two year old ewe, very possibly with her first lamb ever, so she’s picked up some good skills somewhere along the way.  


By finding such a sheltered spot to birth she is also away from the flock.  We pick up guardian dogs and take them back to her.  Oakley first and then Whiskey.  The dogs may or may not stay right with the ewe but it’s so much more comforting to know that they know she’s there with a little one.  They will remember.

His nose has already told him what he needs to know so Whiskey takes care of the first order of business before softly investigating. 


This second photo is deceiving since the shot is from behind the ewe.  I’m a short distance away so I don’t spook her off and there is more distance between her and Whiskey than it looks.


He can’t get too close to her either or she gets upset.  He shows some soft language and the tongue lick is deliberate.   He’s not here to harm anyone is basically what he’s saying.  I love watching these guys; both the sheep and the dogs are absolutely amazing creatures. 




Friday, May 8, 2015

Solo Photo

I remain hopelessly fascinated by BJ's trio of pups.  


This part of puppy raising is all BJ's doing right now and we just keep everyone warm and comfortable and enjoy the peace while it's here.

Lady is still doing well, the medications are helping her to eat better, and she has no trouble keeping up with the daily migrations the ewes are making.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Gangs All Here, At The Mineral Tub

I get asked about the mineral tubs we use and if the sheep figure out how to use them.

This tub is a covered, cattle mineral tub purchased several years ago from our local farm supply store.  There are three compartments.  In two compartments I place loose salt with a scoop or so of loose mineral stirred in.  In the other compartment I put kelp with a heavy scoop or three of loose mineral mixed in.  The loose mineral is my own homemade mix. 

The ewes do just fine getting what they want.


I have no doubt they learn from each other too.


And when word gets out that the tub has been restocked (especially if it has been empty for a few days)....


...everyone wants a taste.







Sunday, May 3, 2015

Vaccination Day

With lambing approaching it is time to vaccinate the flock, so we took on that job this weekend. 


I prefer to bring the girls off pasture the evening before and let them spend the night in one of the paddocks near to the building.  This way the work of bringing four hundred animals home is done, making the day of vaccinating that much lighter.  I also think it is less stressful on the ewes this way. 

We have used portable panels for our handling set up for many years, which allows us to change it as needed, and we’ve needed to change it many, many times in our attempts to create a handling set up that animals will flow into rather than be man-handled into.  I think we finally have it.

Since it worked on shearing day, we kept the same long raceway set up.  We skipped using the head gate altogether, putting an end gate in place instead.  We opened the large door at the front of the building which is where the raceway leads to and the ewes exit.  A couple stock dogs and I moved the flock from the paddock to the wide outdoor alley and started the first few into the bugle and heading down the raceway.  After that the ewes followed each other through and it was only when we got down to the remaining hundred animals or so that the dogs and I had to move them up again.

It made a huge difference.  We anticipated a long day doing vaccinations and were pleasantly surprised to be wrapped up and done, with the ewes returned to the pasture, well before noon.  It went so smoothly Allen and I thought we might have missed something.  We did the entire flock in half the amount of time it has taken us in the past.  We aren’t sure what else could have made that much difference. 

After a decade with sheep, we might be ready to make some permanent facilities.