This past Saturday, we weaned this year's lambs. By "we," I mean my sheep partner Roger and my daughters Lara and Emma - and our canine partners, Mo and Ernie. Fewer sheep meant the day went quickly - but the work also went fast because of our systematic approach and our ever-improving skill levels. The work also went fast because my girls are becoming damn good helpers!
After we gathered the ewes and lambs into the corrals, Roger reminded us all that we should take a few minutes to talk about what we needed to do and about the roles each of us would fill. I get impatient sometimes, but this brief "timeout" is always time well spent. We decided that Roger and I would apply ear tags and inject vaccines, while Lara would load ear tag applicators and syringes. Emma decided she wanted to be the clerk - she identified lamb ownership and wrote down permanent ear tag numbers.
At that point, we began putting sheep through the alley and cut gate - ewes went one direction, while lambs went another. With the help of the dogs, the sorting went quickly - even more so with the help of Lara and Emma. We've always emphasized low-stress stockmanship and the use of animal behavior to work our sheep. Both girls are very intuitive stock-people - they know where and when to apply pressure to the flock, and where and when to back off. As a Dad, I enjoyed watching them work!
Once the sheep were sorted and the ewes were moved to a more secure holding pen, we worked the lambs. We then put the lambs back through the corrals and ran each of them over the scale to get a weaning weight. Emma and Lara split the duties of recording weights on the computer and helping move lambs through the corrals. When we finished, Roger looked at his clock - we'd gathered, weaned, ear-tagged, vaccinated and weighed nearly 100 lambs in less than 2-1/2 hours!
Both of my girls have reached the age and skill level where they can be very helpful with this type of work. With their increasing skill comes efficiency and enjoyment - Saturday was a very enjoyable day - at least for me, and I think for Lara and Emma, too! As a Dad, I can't describe the pride I take in watching my kids anticipate what needs to be done - and then do the work well. Saturday was a great day!
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