Monday, April 14, 2014

A Difficult Day

It's been so long since I had a regular 9-to-5 office job, I'm probably out of practice when it comes to complaining about Mondays!  I hope you'll bear with me - I'm going to complain about this one!

First thing this morning, I checked our ewes.  We're down to 4-6 ewes left to lamb, I think.  We'd had a new lamb yesterday (which I marked this morning), and I found one more new lamb this morning.  The sheep had been moved onto fresh feed yesterday, and they all looked contented!  I left them to check in on a grazing project we're doing in collaboration with another company here in Auburn.  So far, so good!

The grazing project is for Pacific Gas and Electric.  This morning, we moved 400 goats and 400 ewes from Rock Creek Reservoir in Auburn out to another property near Halsey Forebay in Christian Valley.  The move went fine - our partners on the project - Star Creek Land Stewards - are real professionals!

I had planned on spending at least some of my day at my other job - with U.C. Cooperative Extension.  I stopped by home after supervising the PG&E move, only to receive a call from the landowner where our sheep are grazing (adjacent to Hidden Falls Regional Park here in Auburn) - seems our sheep were out!  I collected my three border collies and headed out to take care of the problem.

As I was bringing our sheep back to their paddock, I noticed that the lamb I'd marked earlier this morning was missing - much to his mother's dismay (she kept calling for him).  I also discovered 3 places where the fence had come down.  One was minor, but the other two sections involved a substantial amount of fence - like the sheep had been chased through them.  Since I was planning to be gone in Rio Vista for the next two days, I decided it might be smart to move the sheep to fresh pasture today (I assumed that they were tired of the rapidly-maturing ripgut brome in their current paddock).  I talked this over with the landowner and we both decided that this would be the best option.

After a quick trip to my UCCE office, I returned to the sheep and started building fence.  I also looked for the missing lamb - without success.  After I built a holding pen for the sheep, the dogs and I moved the entire flock down the hill.  During the move, I noticed a ewe with blood on her haunch.  I caught her to examine her more carefully, and discovered that she'd been bitten on the rear leg and on the neck - typical of a dog attack.  I found one additional ewe who seemed to have blood on her neck.

Now I have no idea what happened.  The sheep could have decided that they were tired of the feed in their current paddock and broken out - at which time a dog (or a coyote) attacked.  Alternatively, a dog could have entered the paddock, discovered how much fun it was to chase sheep, and attacked the ewe.  Regardless, the entire episode left me feeling very depressed.

My job as a shepherd, ultimately, is to care for my sheep.  I've written previously about our desire to be "predator-friendly" - I get a thrill out of seeing coyotes and mountain lions.  That said, the thrill disappears rapidly when my sheep are harmed.  As I said, there's no way to figure out what attacked my sheep - I'm just saddened by the loss of the lamb and by the potential loss of a ewe.  It feels like a failure on my part.

Here's to better days the rest of this week!

No comments:

Post a Comment