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Getting Paid to Graze?! Darn Right!

We've provided vegetation management services using targeted grazing for a number of years.  Every year, I receive calls from landowners who are interested in using sheep or goats to solve their fuel loading problems.  Invariably, several potential customers will say something along the lines of, "I've got all this grass [brush, weeds, etc.] - you'd get free feed for your sheep [goats]!"

We charge for this service for a variety of reasons.  One of the major reasons we charge is that a great deal of planning goes into the short period of time we're on a specific property.  I've got to plan the transportation and set-up before the animals arrive.  Perhaps more importantly, I have to make sure the animals have a place to go once they've finished the project.

This week, I was reminded about several other reasons for charging for this service.  We're currently grazing on a site that has no fences - including along about a half-mile of county road - which means we're building thousands of feet of electric fence each week.  The site also doesn't have water, which means we're hauling water to the sheep.  And we're grazing in rough, brushy terrain, which means we're at greater risk for predation.  Last week, we built fence through blackberries and poison oak - always a fun job, but especially enjoyable in hot weather!  This week, we had a ewe that appears to have been bitten by a rattlesnake.

In other words, "free" feed is rarely worth what you pay for it!
The ewes like grazing on blackberries, but it's not much fun building fence through it!

I'm pretty sure this ewe was bitten on her foot by a rattlesnake.
I treated her with antibiotics and dexamethazone today.
She should recover, but we'll keep an eye on her.

The snakebit ewe heading off through the poison oak - this is also nice for fence building!  Fortunately, I'm
reasonably immune to poison oak!


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