When I last wrote on Monday I said I was going to go out and work dogs and I sure enough did. It was an interesting session in many ways. First of all, when we got down there, I realized that one of the young black-headed Dorpers (one of the Mexican Jumping Bean sheep) had delivered a baby. She was one of the last (likely the last) of the first group of sheep bred to deliver. There is one more high percentage Dorper who hasn’t had a baby yet, but I don’t think she’s going to. She was the one who kept having recurrent symptoms of Barber Pole worm infestation and she may have aborted.
I took the group out of the ElectroNet using Gel and left the new mother behind with her baby.
It took a while to get the wethers separated off from the ewes and lambs. I first tried gate sorting them, but that didn’t work well. Then I tried shedding them off. That didn’t work either and there was too much risk of stepping on or falling over a lamb while I was shedding. So, I just waited for those wily wethers to separate off on their own. They know the property far better than the ewes and they soon headed off to greener pastures. I got them back into the field I was going to work in and tied Gel up and worked Fern first. She did well. I am having a hard time training flanks with her. Not sure why, but I think it’s because she’s got a good amount of eye and doesn’t move as freely as Gel did when I was training him.
Then I had a brainy idea about Cian. We started working in the big field and he soon was orbiting out into space. I started walking backwards towards the woods that edged the field and whenever he started to do that frantic flanking I said his name with a growl. When he was walking straight or flanking appropriately, I praised him. By saying his name (rather than lying him down) I was attempting to get him to think about what he was doing wrong and correct it on his own. When we reached the woods, I walked into them. Cian had a bit of a hard time getting them into the woods, but he did it. We walked through the woods for about 30 minutes. Because it was so tight in there, he had to keep in on them and wasn’t able to orbit. I have been saying I was going to take Cian into the fenced-in area with some panels and work him in there, but I haven’t done so yet. It’s just been easier to work him in an open field. Easier doesn’t always give you results.
We got back to where I had the dogs tied out just in time to see the ewes and lambs heading up to Red’s house. My landlord has blueberry bushes planted and I didn’t want the sheep messing around in them so I tied Cian up, started the ATV and went up to retrieve the sheep. Just as we were returning them back to the field that I wanted them in, I saw the wether flock entering the same field. Shoot! I quickly got Gel in position to head the wether flock off and we brought them back to where I had the dogs tied out.
Kessie was my last dog to work. I purposely left her last because earlier, when I was moving the ewe flock, before I could get them tied out, she bolted after them and ignored my lie down commands. She got spoken to about that and I planned to work her last to make the point. I tied Gel and sent Kessie for the wether flock. By that time, they were heading back to the house, but had not gone far. I guess they decided they had played long enough. Kessie couldn’t stop them. She kept trying to head them, but they wouldn’t stop. I sent Gel to help, but too late as they went out of sight. I let Cian and Fern loose and headed back to the house and was quite concerned when I didn’t see Kessie, the wethers or the ewes and lambs. Shoot! Where did they run off to this time? I tied up Cian and Fern and headed out to find the missing sheep. I found all of them up at Red’s in an area where the grass is almost always extremely green. I think there might be some sort of underground hot spring in that area because no matter what time of year it is, the grass is beautifully green and lush. Kessie made getting them back to the house rather irritating because she kept running around to head them thus interfering with Gel’s driving. Again, she was ignoring my lie down commands so I stopped the ATV and went out after her. I (gently) tossed over the fence where the goats and Rose were until I got the sheep back on the property.
I brought them back to the house and then remembered the single ewe and her new baby that I had left behind before I started working. Moving a single sheep can be very difficult so I get Gel going moving the entire flock back down there so I could move her that way. I planned to carry the new baby on the ATV. Just as Gel started getting them going through the gate into the back pasture, Kessie got out of the fenced in area and got in the way again. I finally just called Gel off and we went down for the ewe and her baby. Gel did a very, very good job of bringing her back without upsetting her.
Lesson learned: I need to plan a little better when I go down to work four dogs. All in all, it wasn’t a bad training session. There were some irritating moments, but nothing happened that caused irreparable damage to dog or sheep. I’d like to be able to permanently separate the wethers from the ewes and lambs, but I really don’t have fencing for that. As soon as our lambing is done and the lambs are a bit older, I can use the whole flock again, but that’s still several months away.
I had to work from 6:30 to 3:30 on Tuesday so I brought the sheep down to the ElectroNet at about 4:30 AM. Wally drove behind me in the truck providing me with light. It went very well except that when I got back to the house, I heard a lamb crying and realized the new baby had been left behind. That was pretty stupid on my part. Wally had already left for work so I picked him up and carried him to his mother who was quite frantically looking for him. I was smart enough carried him home when I brought them back up last night.
One of the ewes we got from South Carolina, a Barbado that we call Dreadlock because of the twisted wool she’s got on her back had a baby this morning. I found him when I went out to milk. It was raining and quite chilly this morning and I caught another head cold (welcome to working with the public and handling dirty money) so being outside was miserable. I finished milking, the rain had let up quite a bit so I got Gel and we brought the sheep down to the ElectroNet. I carried both the new baby from Monday and Dreadlock’s baby. I could have left them up in the fenced-in area, but I want the sheep to have access to clean grass as often as possible. The goats won’t stay in the ElectroNet so they have to be in the fenced-in area. As soon as the grass really starts growing and I can leave the sheep permanently in the ElectroNet (i.e. not bringing them up in the PM) I plan to get some alfalfa hay to feed to the goats to pump up their milk. I didn’t put her babies up so I didn’t milk Luna the past two mornings. Her buck kid will be sold on Thursday and I’ll start milking her daily beginning on Friday.
This weekend we plan to worm the sheep, tag and administer the copper oxide wire particles to the lambs. Hopefully we’ll be able to match them up to their mothers and begin to keep permanent records as to who is producing what, which ewes stay in the best condition, etc. They are all good mothers, but some of them stay in better condition than others. Three of the four high percentage Dorpers have not stayed in good condition. I think they may be older ewes. Any way I look at it, I will loose money on them if I try to sell them so I might wait until they return to good condition and then butcher them. Their meat will be worth more to me than what they will sell for.
Well, I guess I need to go and get a shower and head out to Food Lion to pick up my weekly order of beef heart, kidney and marrow bones. It never fails, when I check out with that order, the cashier always asks what I am going to do with it. I tell her I feed it to my dogs. She looks at me with amazement and asks me if I am not afraid they’ll become like Cujo. I had hoped this was going to be a house cleaning day, but I think after my trip to Food Lion, I’m going to go back on the couch and sleep a bit to kick this cold. I hate head colds.