I don’t bother picking up the sheep placentas in the pasture, because the sheep move on in their graze every couple of days, so the afterbirth doesn’t pose much of a biohazard to them. Bronte the LGD eats a lot of them, but eventually she gets full. She tends to opt-out of eating her proper dinner almost the entire two weeks of lambing, because she’s eaten so many placentas! Sometimes she finds them while they are still exiting the ewe, and she gives them a gentle tug to hurry them along. One of the many humorous and gross things that happens on a farm that makes a farmer just shrug. Placentas are very nutritious, after all.
I had the sheep in a few areas in the orchard near the house, where I didn’t put a dog in with them, so those placentas got left behind too. I figure some scavenger bird will find them and benefit from them, or else, they’ll fertilize the soil.
Sure enough, here is a pair of turkey vultures doing cleanup duty. I rarely see them land anywhere other than trees. I was able to sneak up and get a reasonably close shot of them on the grass (unfortunately beyond several sets of fencing, so they are somewhat obscured) before they busted up when they saw me. I sat down and got a few more shots while they lingered. They circled and circled, apparently reluctant to leave behind those delicious placentas- I’m sure those were a good find!
I never realized what these guys were until our neighbor got a close-up shot of one sitting in a tree, where you could clearly see his red, featherless (and rather unappealing-looking!) head. When I saw them in flight, I always assumed they were some variety of eagle. They are bigger than a hawk, but not quite as big as the bald eagles we see so often here. The patterning on the bottoms of their wings is very distinctive, however, if they are flying low enough to see it. Thankfully, vultures are indeed more of a scavenger, and less of a concern for predation.
We have multiple bald eagles that return to this valley each spring to nest and stay for the summer. I get uneasy when I see them fly over the lamb crop, but so far (knock on wood) I haven’t lost any lambs to them. A friend of mine who lives upriver on the North Fork Stillaguamish has a lot of trouble with eagles getting her lambs. For us, Bronte is a pretty good deterrent. Kirk has seen her come leaping up out of a sound sleep to chase off a bird that was zoning-in on the sheep. The eagle had to put ‘er in reverse pretty fast in midair to avoid that six-foot-tall, grizzly-bear-dawg standing up on her hind legs!
This dude (or gal?) was sitting on a fence post in dense fog the other morning, hopefully also just focusing on placentas, not eyeballing my live lambs!