I turned all the sequestered ewes out into the pasture yesterday. The older ewes have been in the barn for a month; the younger ones, for two. It’s roomy enough in there, they aren’t overcrowded, but it’s likely boring. Each evening as I prepared their grain, they’d kick up their heels in anticipation, doing fancy twists and sideways jumps. Life is easy in the barn, and yet, it’s just not the same as being outdoors with room to roam, apparently.
I chose not to use a dog to move them, as I don’t like to risk some kind of a rodeo with pregnant ewes if I don’t have to. I just led them out with a grain bucket, which is enough of a lure when they’re going someplace positive (often not enough when heading someplace perceived as undesirable). Halfway down to the pasture, they broke into a canter on their own, eager with anticipation to rejoin the other sheep.
I took a shortcut and led them over a six foot wide wood bridge. They were in such a rush, they pushed and shoved over the bridge, and several of them slipped and fell down. So much for going gently without a dog… I hope no fetuses were harmed in this operation. But likely not at this late stage; fetal development is most fragile in the early stages.
Once in the pasture, an hour of celebration ensued. Much sprinting in circles racetrack-style, bucking, sideways kicks and vertical leaps. Alas I did not have my camera with me to capture the acrobatics. There was also some scuffling with familiar ewes, and the boys offering the newcomers a little romance, just in case. And then, things settled down to their regular late pregnancy repose.
Much of the rest of the weekend was spent cleaning out the barn. Kirk’s skilled tractoring made fairly quick work out of removing the 8 inches or so of bedding which has accumulated over the past year. But that’s still a couple of hours of plodding-speed driving back and forth, one bucket full at a time. Boring. The bedding was woven together like a mat, so at least we could get a very large bucketful at a time.
Then there was sweeping, lots of sweeping, emptying water buckets and putting things away. It will be good to let the barn air out for the next month. I set up a few lambing jugs, in case I need them in April. But my hope is to keep the sheep mostly outside, where nature can do their housekeeping, instead of me! Indoor farming is a construct of modern agriculture, and of climates which mandate it. It presumes cheap labor, fuel and materials; none of which we have here (arguably, nobody has those anymore). And as is obvious by their joy at being released, the sheep would rather be outside than cooped up.
The other luxury for me is cutting chore time in half, by feeding one set of sheep instead of two. I am pleased with the condition of the ewes I fed in the barn though, they look good, so hopefully the extra labor and expense will translate to robust, good-sized lambs. Ah, welcome spring! Five more weeks to go until lambing starts.