Saturday, 23 August 2014

Sheep Scare

Every day I visit the sheep at least twice, often much more. It's important to keep an eye on them, for if one is afflicted by flystrike it can go downhill very quickly. Last week I headed down the land in the morning and my heart sank when I saw a bundle of wool just laying in the grass. It just didn't look right to be sleeping or resting. Something was up. But all the sheep had been fine the previous evening. No illness could strike this quickly, could it? It reminded me of when I found the goose after a fox attack a couple of years ago. But surely the sheep are too big now for this to happen. I clapped my hands hoping that the bundle would lift its head and get to its legs, but nothing. As I approached further, I could see that it was number 6, always the smallest and the weakest. It had only just recovered from a limp which seemed to go on for an age.
As I approached closer, it moved. I ran over and found it fatigued but wriggling and unable to right itself. How can a species survive which is more than capable of rolling onto its back and getting stuck? I lifted number 6 to its feet expecting it to run off ungratefully, but instead its legs gave way and it flopped back onto the ground. I was worried but frustratingly could see nothing obvious to cause this. I lifted her again, this time supporting her, and she managed to stay upright, but quickly sat back down and rolled onto her side when I moved away. I began to contemplate calling the vet for advice, but decided to try just once more. I stayed with her for a few more minutes, steadying her when she wobbled, and then she just waddled off as if nothing had happened.
A little wobbly and a little messy. But still standing.

I guess she had rolled over and tired herself out trying to right herself. Obviously her two left legs had gone to sleep which explains why it took her so long to be able to stand and walk again.
But it shows the importance of checking on the sheep.

Anyhow, back to today and moving the sheep. I keep my sheep on a strip-grazing system. This sounds complicated but it's not. All it means is that I divide the grazing land into sections and move the sheep around the sections in rotation. They munch one area until there's not much left to munch, then they get a fresh green area to gorge on for a week. By the time they get back to the first one, there should be plenty of lush grass in there again.

Ready to move to a new area.
One section seems to be enough to last the sheep for a week, so every Friday it is time to move them on. The operation today would be interesting, for one sheep, the White-faced Woodland, has taken to crossing the line. It has worked out that the electricity only pulses through the fence every second and that if it puts its head down and goes for it, those horns and the coating of wool will see it safely through to the other side. (I'm not actually sure it has quite worked out all the detail, suffice to say that every time I go down to the sheep it is on the greener side of the fence!) It doesn't really matter, as he still stays with the flock, just preferring to eat the greener grass on the other side. Unlike the Shetlands, he doesn't destroy the trees and if I need to he is tame enough to catch.

There's always one!
So I duly created a gap in the fence and called the sheep. Once the first comes, it doesn't take long for the rest to follow. "Hang on a minute! He's eating the green grass over there." Of course, a couple were so busy munching that they didn't notice. Another couple of ewes were engaged in a tussle until they eventually noticed and trotted through the gap.


In no time at all, 18 sheep were moved onto new pasture. That just left one. White-faced Woodland was running up and down bleating. Where were all his friends going? He still respects the fence enough that it is some kind of barrier. I let him worry for a while. Maybe it will be a lesson not to keep crossing the fence.
Eventually he found his way through and all was well. But I expect it won't be long until he decides that the grass on the other side is greener!
White-faced Woodland reunited.

And that just leaves two sheep unaccounted for. My Shetland ram and his wether companion. I have moved them into the pigs' old quarters, which has rapidly become overgrown with weeds, in the hope that they will do me a favour and munch it clear again. But I always have to give them a helping hand, chopping most of it down with a grass hook. I guess that some of the stronger tastes must dissipate once the weeds have wilted a little. Anyway, they seem happy enough in there and haven't tried to escape (yet).

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