Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Farm Fun - Paty had a little lamb...

While growing up my family had 200 head of sheep. The summer months we moved them from pasture to pasture. The herding wasn't too bad, we had a Border Collie, Hutch, who was  good sheep herder. When my brothers and I were small we'd be placed in gates or alleyways to keep the sheep from going that direction but there was always one that would act as if we weren't yelling and flapping our arms and ram into us, knocking us flat. Then we'd scramble to the side because the rest would follow just like lemmings.

This time of year the lambs were born. Some ewes would have twins and even triplets. If triplets were born the smallest usually ended up in the house in a box while we bottle fed it until it was strong enough to go out in a pen. Feeding the bummer lambs was fun until they butted the bottle and their teeth would cut your fingers where you were holding on the rubber nipple. As the lambs grew they became more aggressive while eating and could suck a nipple right off a bottle if you didn't hold the base along with the neck of the pop bottle.

The pastures looked like fields of popping corn as the lambs frolicked; running, jumping, and bouncing. While lambs are cute and fun to watch, sheep (the adults) have very little personality and are dumb as posts. At least that's the little bit I gleaned from all the years we raised sheep.

We had one ewe that had personality, Tillie. She had a speckled face and dark legs. We raised her as a bummer lamb. She would follow us and while she was in the herd, helped to lead the others where we wanted them to go. Tillie respected Hutch and didn't try to ram him or ignore when he barked and herded. She learned the routines and was a stellar example of a sheep.  That was the one and only sheep I ever liked and cried over when she died. The rest were what my husband calls, "field maggots".

Nothing is grosser than "dipping" sheep to get rid of maggots. If the weather is wet and warm and the sheep haven't been sheared, they can actually have maggots growing and eating at their flesh in the hindquarters from manure sticking to their wool. We had to do this a couple times due to the weather and the shearing not getting done before the warm weather set in. The whole process is nasty.

The other "medical" part I didn't care for was docking and castrating. Docking was cutting off the lambs tails and castrating is pretty self-explanatory. This usually took place when we'd get a pen full of lambs about two weeks old. During lambing season this happened about every two weeks and there would be 30-40 lambs to deal with each time. The girl lambs would be docked and vaccinated and the boy lambs would be docked, vaccinated, and castrated.  I always offered to work the gate my brothers would go through to catch the lambs. Mom or my granddad would hold the lambs legs while my dad did the docking and castrating.  As my older brother grew and became stronger he would hold the lambs and my mom would hand my dad the equipment,leaving the catching to my younger brother and I.

Once I left I swore I would never have sheep again. Then one day a neighbor came by with three bummer lambs. My husband just shook his head when I took them. And then began grumbling about "stupid sheep". That was my one and only lapse in judgement as an adult.


bn100 said...

Some of that does sound a little gross

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Paty Jager said...

bn, Yes, it was a lot of fun and why I don't raise sheep now.