Friday, January 27, 2012


Vaccination workshop participants learning how to tip the ewes and give injections.

This past week has marked the last of our major preparations for lambing.  Last Sunday, we started vaccinating the ewe flock for enterotoxemia and tetanus - we hosted a workshop for folks interested in raising sheep.  Some much needed rain on Sunday afternoon put a halt to our workshop, so we finished up with our vaccinations on Tuesday.  While we were giving these injections, we also evaluated each ewe to determine if she needed to be "tagged" - that is, we looked at the amount of manure clinging to her wool on her backside, and the amount of wool on her udder, and decided whether to have this wool shorn.  Of our 230 +/- ewes, we marked 93 ewes for tagging.

On Wednesday, I hauled the ewes that didn't need tagging onto fresh feed.  Yesterday, everyone else was hauled home.  Shortly after 1 p.m. today, our shearer (Derrick) arrived and tagging got underway.
Ewes awaiting tagging.

Tagging our ewes serves many purposes.  First, by removing the soiled wool, we reduce the chance for infection or other problems in the lambs.  Second, removing the soiled wool lessens the possibility of fly strike when the weather warms up in the spring. Third, by removing the wool from the belly and the udder, we increase the likelihood that the ewe's lambs will find a teat instead of a lock of wool.

Courtney and Josie - along with Matthew Shapero - part of
our tagging crew!
One of the things I enjoy about raising sheep is the ritual associated with our yearly tasks.  Breeding, tagging, lambing, shearing and weaning are annual tasks - each associated with a certain type of work and with certain friends (like Derrick).  I was reminded of this today when our friend Courtney joined us to help with tagging.  Her daughter Josie, who just turned a year old, came with her - Josie also joined us for shearing last spring - by the time she's three, she'll be doing most of the work herself, I think!  My oldest daughter, Lara, also joined us - keeping track of ear tag numbers as Derrick worked.  Lara's been helping since she was not much older than Josie.  These annual rituals become part of the fabric of our lives - I look forward to the transitions that each task represents.

Now we wait!  The first ewes will lamb in the next several weeks.  Before we know it, we'll be weaning lambs from their mothers and starting the irrigation water!  The year marches on!
Waiting is tiresome work!

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