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.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sheep One, Shepherd Zero

When it comes to feeding the sheep hay, things have been a little different this year. The whole hay buying deal hasn't been normal this either. Firstly my regular hay guy that I get square bales from didn't put up any squares this year. So I was referred to his brother. The price was nice and they were delivered as usual. However...the bales are nasty, the size of the bales all over the map and so on. Since the sheep aren't bred this year though, there is some leeway with the hay. They are grained daily.

On to the round bales, which is how I primarily feed them over the winter. I've arranged this deal with a local Mennonite that lives just down the road. I buy a bale as needed and his son drives it up and puts it in the sheep paddock. It works great...unless his truck is broken down! I finally got the first bale a few weeks ago, (delivered by a very cold boy on a tractor). Their truck is now fixed, thankfully. The biggest bonus to this system is that my Dad doesn't have to fire up his tractor, and we don't have to wrestle those overly large bales onto the bale buggy. (Last year they wouldn't even fit!)

I expected this bale to last at least three weeks, closer to three and half. As I mentioned though things are different with the hay feeding this year. When I added Callum (horned whether) to the flock and kept two wethered lambs (silly little horns), it made it a bit more complicated. Normally I use a 16 foot cattle panel wrapped around the bale to keep the sheep somewhat contained from the bale. Especially with Callum, this couldn't be done. The sheep have to reach in quite a ways to get the hay, and with his big horns he wouldn't be able to. Not to mention the risk of getting caught up.

See--this should last three weeks!

These bales are huge. You can see that from the picture of the newly delivered second bale. There are twenty sheep eating off it---15 of those shrimp sized Shetlands. It should have lasted beyond three weeks.

But it got even more complicated. The sheep decided to tunnel under and eat off only one side. The bale became progressively more unstable and dangerous, so I had to tip it on it's side. That is when the fun really began (for the sheep) and they proceeded to pound it to the ground. All the while, I'm telling them through gritted teeth--it will last you for three weeks! I mean it.

I held out to two weeks and three days. They really did eat most of it up and were digging through the wreckage daily. If you look at the photo again where the new bale is, off to the left where most of the sheep are standing was the old bale. Not even a hump left. But I couldn't take the squalls and reproachful looks any longer. And there was that snowstorm that was suppose to move into the area.....

The biggest piggies of the bunch are four out of five of the big white sheep. Gracie (the matriarch) does have some decorum about it all. The other four just eat...and eat...and eat.

Rouen (11 years old) begs for her nightly cookie

But we aren't paying 27.00 every two weeks for a new bale. Three weeks, maybe. So I have a plan. If they continue to abuse the situation, I will have the next bale put in another smaller paddock. They will have access to it during the day, but will be shut out at night. I'll switch their grain feeding from a.m. to p.m. to facilitate getting them away from the hay. That way no more 24/7 gorging. Sounds like a good plan, huh? That is until the sheep stomp all over it.

Sure hope she doesn't expect our bowl of food to last three weeks.....
(Noah, Gabe, Chaco--and if you look closely you'll see more cat legs behind the stove)


Louise said...

I've seen the same thing happen with horses, Tammy. You put a round bale in their sacrifice paddock, thinking it will last a couple of weeks at least. Two days later you look out and they have torn the bale all apart, looking for the good stuff. The rest of the hay is tromped into the mud.

I don't think your sheep will suffer if they don't have hay in front of them 24/7.

Voni said...

I have come across a catalog that has supplies for goats and sheep. One of the items is a gate system that will push inward as the animals eat the hay, thus everyone gets to eat and no hay waste. They say it will not fall over on itself. Let me know if you want the catalog's name. Voni

thecrazysheeplady said...

HAHAHAHAHA Been there. Done that. The horses LOVED it. Sigh.

Kelly Bartels said...

Premier 1 has a feeder that performs just like Voni was saying, and they are very reasonable. I think they are under $100

Donna said...

I hope your plan works Tammy!

Nancy K. said...

Your cats are SO spoiled!

If you think your sheep are bad,
try keeping a couple of PIGS in your garage...


Kathy said...

ROFL!!!! that last picture looks just like our house, Tammy!
$27 for a big round bale???? Wow! I gotta move! I have to pay, for what they call "3-wire" which is a regular rectangular bale of hay with three ties on it weighing about 8-0-100 lbs (IF I'm lucky) = $20!!!
When I buy 10 bales and have the feed store deliver it, I have to add another $20 for that privilege - then pay the $200+ for the hay as well.
I have gotten to where I will take a flake from a bale, then use a bread knife to saw it in half or thirds if I need to feed an individual animal or group.
So, when they fling the hay all over, or won't eat what they walk through or pee on, all I see is money going down the tubes. I am looking for a better feeding system but am very limited as to what I can get here.
Now you can see why I really am ready to move to a place with better pastures and less expensive hays. If I could only get the HHWB to retire earlier! is Blue doing?

AJ-OAKS said...

To me 27.00 for a round bale is very reasonable. Heck, I'd love to even find round bales around here! I pay, are you sitting down? 16.99 for a three wire, 160 pound bale of hay! It is gorgeous hay and the horses and donkeys love it. As like you I don't want them wasting even one stock or leaf of it! Not at that price.
Your sheep will be fine without food in front of them at night. Besides, it's nightime and they should all be sleeping, right? :)
Gotta love 'em!

John Gray said...

love the fire shot
I have the same fire too but there is a bulldoh in front of it!

Heritage Farm Village said...

cute post, silly sheep. wish you had a follower widget. tried to email you on your site and it refused to go through. have a great day! love you kitties...i have nine.