Thursday, May 21, 2009

Weaning Time

Yesterday, we began the process of weaning our lambs from their mothers. We separated 40 or so of the biggest lambs and put them on our highest quality grass. The ewes went back to dry grass - their nutritional requirements are greatly reduced once they're not nursing lambs. In the next 3-4 weeks, we'll wean the rest of the lambs.

Since we had all of the sheep in the corrals, we took the time to do other things, too. We trimmed feet and ran everyone through a footbath to improve the health of their feet. We gave vaccinations to the lambs that we weaned. We ear-tagged each of the lambs that we weaned, too - this allows us to track their progress in our flock. Finally, we evaluated the condition of the ewes to make plans for them as well. Those that have chronically bad feet will be sold. Those that are in especially good condition are noted, too.

Two of our interns, Courtney and Julie, helped out during part of the day, as did our friend, Roger Ingram. Even with the great help, it was a very long day (especially considering that we had to move irrigation pipe once we were done putting the sheep back out to pasture).

The longer we do this, the more we learn about how to do it more efficiently and less stressfully (on the animals and on the people). Our corral system, which Roger helped us design, works great - the animals flow into smaller catch pens and into the working alley. Sorting all of the lambs (large and small) before we work them also helps the work go faster. We try to work the animals quietly and at their own pace - we go slow to work fast. My border collie, Taff, was indispensable - he moved the sheep into the corrals, helped to move them into the catch pens, and then helped us move them back out to pasture. Moving lambs away from their mothers is a test for any dog, and Taff did wonderfully!

Even though it was hard work, the day was very satisfying. It was chance to take stock of how our lambs are progressing (they look great). It was chance to work along side friends. It was a chance to get started on a big job!

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