Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Working the Sheep

Busted again!

Just get it over with already.....

No escape this way... but everybody keep checking!

The 'sheep supply pouch'

Clipboard/notebook/pen & wormer, hanging from the rafters, safe from sheep lips.

Today the weather is lovely, a bit nippy, but warming up nicely. The sun is weakly shinning through the clouds, and it's a pretty fine January day. Last year on this date is when the monstrous ice storm was starting to move into our area, and panic was starting to reign.

I decided to take advantage of the nicer winter weather and work outside this morning. Number one on the agenda was 'working the sheep'. I wanted to worm all the Shetland girls and do a general condition check on them. It all went off pretty smoothly, with no histrionics on the girls part. Since I discovered the 'incredible shrinking catch-pen' awhile back, these things have become allot easier. I'm not sure why it took me so long to implement this. One of those long drawn out duh moments, I reckon. Since the Shetlands can be pretty crafty and clever, I have a catch pen set up that I feed them in all the time. It's fairly roomy to start off, and is comprised of cattle panels. Once I get the main 'gate' panels pulled together and wired, then they are at my mercy...mostly. If you are doing this yourself--then do not, do not, trust the sheep to be good little citizens and stay where they are suppose to! A little extra work before starting to catch them will pay off in the long run. Make sure you use sturdy fencing (tall cattle panels are good), and make sure they are wired together very good, especially at the bottom! Nothing like losing the whole flock when they shove into a corner and one clever soul pushes the wire open on the bottom of the panel, escapes and takes them all with her. So, once I've got them all in the main pen, it's time to start 'shrinking' their options. You have to be a little careful here too, if you have highly evolved escape sheep that watch your every move and prey on a weak moment. I unwire one end of one section of panel, and start moving in towards the sheep, with myself in the opening. I keep doing this until the sheepies are crowded in a smaller area. If you can put up a cross panel (if you have room) this works well too especially if you need to sort some off into a second pen. I put one up this time, but didn't actually need it, since all the girls were very cooperative today.

Today, I wanted to do a little more than just a quick worming, so I took a notebook, pen and clipboard with me. I wanted to evaluate condition, as well as make some notes on fleeces and markings (such as they are...). Since I do these things by myself, I have had to come up with some 'third hand' ideas. One of those is the tool-pouch reinvented as a sheep supplies pouch. It can either be worn on a belt, or a shoulder strap or tied to the fence. The belt didn't work well for me, since sometimes rodeos happen and things can fall out of the pouch at the worst time. Unless I'm trimming hooves and giving shots, I just tie it to the fence. (Well up, away from sheepy lips). I also tie the bottle of worm medicine up high where I can refill syringes but the sheep can't maul it. I use bailing twine. This time I had the clipboard, so did the same with it, although a nail would have been a handy place to hang it. This pretty much leaves your hands free so you only have to deal with the sheep and one syringe at a time. Cookies are kept in a pocket and doled out as a consolation prize to long suffering sheep.

It was interesting to really look at and observe things about the sheep that I had overlooked before. I even looked at tongue color just as a future reference as I continue to breed for spotted sheep. As far as condition, everyone looked good, and eyelid color was good all around. Next I will have to 'schedule' appointments for the big white girls, as they need to be wormed as well.

Just as an aside note, in the last picture you can see how I make use of an old hay ring that my horse used to use. It's not in very good condition, but I've turned it upside down and used panels and wire to make gates on either side of it. It's purpose is to keep the 'big' sheep out of the area where I feed the Shetlands. For the most part it works good, except right after shearing when some of the smaller Dorset's can scooch thru.

Hope your day is spent doing the things you enjoy!

Go, go, go before she tries to catch us again!


Corinne R. said...

Good ideas for when you don't have a helper...or even when you do have a helper.
What would we do without cattle panels and baling twine?LOL

Tina T-P said...

The one thing The Shepherd asked for for christmas this year was s Shepherd's Crook - he had watched our friend Donna use one to separate out a couple of sheep. I ordered one for him from Premier and he's happy as a clam - haven't tried it out yet, but it has it's place of glory in the barn LOL... Glad to see you're OK from all the weather we keep hearing about in your neck of the woods. :-) T.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Enjoyed seeing the cats' and dogs' presents and the sheep's "misery." Very clever use of the old hay ring! I need to get busy and trim sheepy feet and worm everyone here, too.

Kathy said...

Great ideas! Instead of wiring your "shrinking pen", have you thought of using double ended snaps? We use both those and a snap that looks like it was the first design for a carabiners (as I have had a brain-fart and can't remember the real name of them). They make moving cattle panels really easy!