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Each year during lambing, I find that I must re-learn trust.  Because we pasture lamb, I must trust that our ewes will deliver their lambs unassisted and take good care of them once they are born.  I must trust that our guardian animals (dogs and llamas) will protect the sheep from predators like coyotes, dogs and mountain lions.  I need to trust my own instincts, too - should I move the ewes to fresh forage, or can they make it another day where they are.  Experience and mistakes (I hope) lead to wisdom, and wisdom helps me trust in my own abilities and the abilities of my animals.

Most of the time, my trust is well-founded - we've established a flock that is well-suited to pasture lambing.  Our guardian animals, for the most part, do their jobs well.  Our border collies have the intelligence to change their approach to herding once the lambs arrive (the ewes are much more aggressive with lambs at their sides).

Sometimes, though, I find that things don't work out like I plan.  Today, for example, I found a lamb that had been injured by a guard dog - sometimes the dogs lick new lambs excessively, which wears a raw spot on their skin.  This afternoon, one group of ewes decided to ignore the electric fence and broke out of their paddock - twice!  They were telling me that I'd misjudged the quantity and quality of the forage in their pasture.

I'm so fortunate on days like this to have an understanding and reassuring family.  When I make mistakes like these, I tend to get down on myself.  My family helps out - Sami and Lara doctored the injured lamb, and everyone was understanding when I needed to run back to the sheep to put them in their pasture for the second time. 


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Trade Offs

As we were building fence for the soon-to-be-lambing ewes this morning, someone drove by and asked my partner Roger how long it took to set up the electro-net fencing we use for the sheep. Roger replied, "It's not too bad," to which the driver said, "Seems like a lot of work." Roger's answer - which both of us use with some frequency, was, "Yeah - but this way we don't have to feed any hay!" The driver, who obviously wasn't a rancher, didn't understand - and I suspect even some of my rancher friends don't understand the trade off we're making. Building electric fence is a lot of work - wouldn't it be easier just to feed hay?

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