My nephew’s first encounter with a lamb, back when he was a baby.
My nephew’s first encounter with a lamb, back when he was a baby.
Can you see my right foot in the photo? Are you wondering why I am sitting in this awkward position? Well, let me tell you…
The lambs have all gotten too big to fit in through the creep openings. So, I have to let them in and out through the gate. The problem? The big ones are constantly trying to sneak in there and eat the lambs’ food. So why don’t I just let the lambs in and secure the gate? Two reasons. First, the lambs often want to come out mid-meal and get a drink, then go back into the creep. Second, some of the lambs freak out if they think they can’t get out. They will try to squeeze themselves through the too-small creep openings and get stuck. I’m always afraid they will hurt themselves, crack a rib or something. I sit next to the gate with my foot holding the gate shut. When I see a nose peeking underneath I know someone wants to come out. I take my foot off the gate to let it swing open while blocking the big ones with my arms and legs.
The adults drive me nuts! Hovering around like vultures, just waiting for their chance to sneak in. Such greed! They are willing to steal food from their own babies! How cold is that? And here’s the kicker…
Do you see that cute, fluffy ewe in the photo? That is Maggie Mae. She comes over to me, asking for scratches. She acts so sweet and affectionate. All she wants is some lovin’. Until that second that gate starts to crack open! Oh, I’m on to your game, Maggie Mae!
We are currently without a ram. We sold Riley at the end of last breeding season. He was with us for 2 seasons and had to go because otherwise he would have been breeding his own grand daughters. He also had to go because he was a true asshole of a sheep.
This is him, giving me the evil eye over the fence, angry because he couldn’t get to me through the fence. He was TERRIBLE! Most rams will butt their heads against people, especially when they are in rut. But Riley liked to get a running start! 350 pounds of testosterone charging at me full speed. Not fun. He had me down in the barn several times and once in the pasture when I thought he was trying to kill me. Not only was he an ass to me, he was a bully to the ewes as well. Fat as they are, he outweighed them all by at least 100 pounds and he was always throwing his weight around with them. About 1/3 of the flock would not stand for him. The only reason we kept him for 2 years is because he sired such big, beautiful lambs and lots of twins. But when it was time for him to go I said, “Buh-bye, now!” without remorse.
However, breeding season has begun and we do not have a replacement yet. Sissy insists on getting another Tunis ram. They are not common in the area. So it has taken her a while to line up a purchase and delivery. I would actually prefer some other breed. I like the variety we get from hybrids. I would love to see the lambs we might get from a Lincoln or a Romney. But she wants a Tunis, so we wait. Our new guy is supposed to be here next weekend.
In the meantime the girls are getting quite impatient. They want action now! I am seeing a lot of head butting between the ewes. And the 2 ram lambs we are trying to fatten up are trying like heck to get in on the action. They can’t quite reach, but they keep trying to mount. I expect them to ask me for a foot stool any day.
This is Maggie Mae. She has always been a beggar for back scratches. These last couple weeks she has not been begging for back scratches. She has been DEMANDING butt scratches. If I don’t comply she starts rubbing her butt against my leg. I keep telling her, “This is not appropriate behavior!” She doesn’t care. I am starting to feel uncomfortable…
Sooo, my nephew’s daycare provider cleaned out her pantry the other day. She packed up all the outdated bread, cookies, fruit, etc. and sent them home with my sister for the sheep. Included in the “donation” were a couple of rice cakes. At first I gave them to the chickens. They like grains of all kinds. Yeah, this morning those rice cakes were still there. Untouched. So, I decided to give them to the sheep. They will eat just about anything but meat. The sheep FEASTED on all the other goodies. They cleaned out their tubs and headed to their mangers to browse on hay. And still sitting there, untouched? The rice cakes. Now I say, if chickens, who will turn around and eat their own shit, and sheep, who are bottomless pits with wool on them, will not eat these things, WHY do human beings torture themselves by eating them?
While I was doing chores tonight a car pulled into the driveway. I did not recognize the vehicle, so I went to see who it was. It was a young family; dad, mom, 3 kids under the age of 5. They had seen the sheep grazing on the front lawn and just wanted to get a closer look. So, I started chatting with them. They have recently acquired 2 sheep and a couple dozen chickens. They had all kinds of questions; how often do you worm sheep? How do you keep your chickens safe from predators? How do you know if your sheep are bred? How long are they pregnant?
I answered as many of their questions as I could, gave them a few hints on things that have worked well for us. Some of their questions I did not know the answers to, so I recommended they try looking up on-line. Google is my friend. I often look up symptoms, questions about behavior, new potential food sources, and just general information about the sheep and chickens. They did not have internet access. OMG! I can’t imagine. I would be lost without it.
Taking on animals you have never cared for before can be a real trial. When they are behaving oddly, how can you know if it’s just a personality quirk or if there is something seriously wrong? How can you be sure what is safe for them to eat? I always want to know about their basic physiology. When I was a kid we had cows. Any question I had about cows I would ask my dad. He learned from his grandfather, who learned from his father and on back through the generations. My sister learned about sheep from a neighbor then worked on a sheep milking operation.
But when you are a small operation, when there is no one right there to ask, what do you do? The internet, of course. 10, 15 years ago, it never would have occurred to me to find answers on-line. Now I don’t know what I would do without it. An invaluable tool our forebears did not have. A sign of the times.
I felt bad for the family. I’m kinda wishing I had gotten their names. If they live nearby I could have tried to get some information together for them. Of course, I did not think of it until they were already gone…