Magnolia

Happy Spring. It’s the start of lambing season here. I’m disappointed in the poor grass growth, it’s been a cold season and the fields are barely ready to graze. Some years, I’ve had sheep in rotation by early March. But not this year. The sheep felt lucky, anyway, bursting out onto fresh grass on March 31st. I’m cringing at a forecast of ten days of rain, which could make for a muddy mess for lamb births. But, thus is the gamble of spring pasture lambing; and lucky I have a hardy breed of sheep.

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I am late working on my taxes and 2017 financial summary. But getting ‘er done. Today I calculated my Lamb Check-off fee and wrote my check. This is the remittance I’m legally obligated to send to the American Lamb Board to cover my slice of the pie of industry promotion. Fortunately for me, my slice of the pie is pretty small.

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NightTie

In contrast to the ease in which Quincy Dog has integrated into our household and farm, I submit to you, dear reader, this P.I.T.A. canine. She is coming up on her two-year-old birthday and is still quite juvenile. One day last fall, I was out doing chores, she had escaped again, and I heard a ruckus near the chickens. She’d caught one that had flown outside their pen. I started chasing her with the ATV and she bolted, chicken in mouth. I finally caught up with her in the tree farm next door. She was laying low, and looked like she was burying the victim. She bolted again and ran for home. I looked and looked for the chicken, but couldn’t find it. I retraced our steps, white feathers marking the trail. It wasn’t dropped anywhere. I drove back to the tree farm and walked the row where I saw her lying down. Only to find the chicken, stuffed head-first down an excavated tree hole. The chicken was relatively unharmed and wound up surviving the ordeal. But I had lost my patience. On a day that this crazy dog let me touch her, I nabbed her, and tied her up to a stake in the ground, like a dog in the seventies.  She was quite sad-faced about this new curtailment.Open-mouthed smile 

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imageI’ve been stressing for a couple of years about a succession plan for our two remaining border collies, Maggie and Gene. They just turned thirteen and fourteen. Though they can still help with farm chores, their endurance is short, they aren’t fast enough to catch renegade sheep anymore, and they pay for it later- sore joints for a day or so. They love it and will want to do it til the day they die. But obviously that’s not practical. Yet, facing getting a replacement dog is also facing that they are getting old and we’ll someday lose them. That’s hard too.

I’d mentally waffled between replacement options. Getting a  young pup has the advantage that they usually bond best and make the best pets and companions. You can train them exactly how you want. Plus, you get the longest useful life out of them. But housebreaking a pup when working full time has its challenges. I didn’t think I’d have the time to put into that, plus also training the pup on sheep. Some border collies aren’t ready to even start working sheep until they are yearlings. I thought about whether I could send it out for training, but sending a housepet to a kennel situation for a month is a little cringe-worthy. Bottom line, a pup would be a big investment.

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BreedingPairThe sheep with the broken leg has healed nicely. I left the spoon splint on for eight weeks. The vet changed it out one time halfway through. She said normally she might change them weekly, but that due to being on dry, soft bedding, it was holding up well enough to leave it alone. I guess she normally splints a lot of animals that are left outdoors, and then their splints get wet and muddy and need more attention. I initially took it off at the end of the eight weeks and let her walk, only to be shocked by how bendy her leg looked. Though the break was well below her knee, near (or perhaps involving) her wrist, her knee looked very week and was bending backwards. I suppose it was just due to weakened muscles and ligaments from being on rest so long.

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SleepingLambI’m finally getting around to totaling up my 2017 lamb crop numbers. Partly because I’m about to order vaccine for the 2018 crop already, and I need to know what to buy! Here’s how the season turned out, and what changes I’ll make this year to continue to try to knock out sources of loss.

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SydellAn acquaintance of mine retired from sheep, and I was so pleased to be able to buy her Sydell sorting system at a discount. I have wanted one of these systems for a while, but the price for a new one, plus shipping, is staggering. A used system is much more practical to afford. I was finally able to go pick up all  the pieces last spring, but procrastinated putting it together all summer, partly due to analysis paralysis of how I wanted to put it together. The system I got came with a sorting “tub”, a guillotine gate, a slider gate, two sections of straight chutes, a “Spin Doctor” turn table, a sorting gate, an anti-backup stop, and a scale that is not of Sydell’s design. There is some decision making needed on the order in which to place all the elements.

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