EweLine

This has been my view these last few months, morning and evening, the line of ewes eating breakfast and dinner by headlamp. There are enough that they aren’t easily counted, especially as they jockey and jog up and down the line, looking for the best eating position. More and more, I count on the llama to let me know if there is a sheep not showing up for a meal, as I know she’d stay with it out there in the dark, and I could find their black shapes with a flashlight and try to figure out what’s wrong.

EweLine2Ewes hide their pregnancies pretty well the first four months, but turning the corner on the last thirty days, they start to round out pretty fast. This one in the foreground, ADS0038, will likely triplet again. The pinto girl to her right was my top ewe in growth metrics- and top lamb overall-out of JPS60224, and she is already looking like she’ll twin, as her mother did as a yearling. There is a littler ewelamb to the left, she is of smaller stock in general. You can really see the size difference between her and the big lunker ewes, and even her age peer who had better early maturation.

I have worked hard with spreadsheet and scale to ensure that they don’t overeat between November and now, which would render too-big lambs that don’t birth easily and risk the lives of themselves and their mothers. I am happy with the condition of most of them; there area  couple that are too fat or too thin, but not by huge amounts. The average is good, and that’s the best you can do with a mob.

Dusk

I have been grateful for the lengthening of days. For me, each gained minute is a noticeable thing. First, getting home with enough dusk left to really see the sheep, and then in the last few days, leaving my headlamp in the house for the evening meals.  And my work-from-home days allow for at least a once per week check in full daylight.

Dusk2

That’s KRK33 in the foreground, looking short and flush, as always. She is such a wizened old ewe. She always waits at the end of the feed line, patiently and pragmatically, for the last hay flake or grain scoop to be doled out. There is no muscling-in and shoving and competing for her. What she knows and the others don’t is that this extra minute of waiting gets her a spot at the end, where she eats a double share in peace with nobody pushing her from either side. Meanwhile, the ewelambs spend half their eating time running back and forth looking for a better position.

NewPen

Now it’s time to go full-on with major feeding, to keep the ewes gaining weight and not going backwards in the final push towards lambing. It’s also time to move them into confinement. Both to save the pasture from soil compaction as well as aggressive eating on newly sprouting grass. And to protect their now stress-sensitive bodies from something like silly Bronte giving them a sporting chase.

I might have confined them into a “sacrifice area” much sooner, but I chose to have them spend the winter together with the dogs, to foster their relationship. And that was time well spent. The dogs have learned some things about the sheep, but the sheep have learned a lot about the dogs. Today, there were some people lurking on the road, looking for something they’d lost. The dogs were barking their heads off. And the sheep got up from resting, grouped together, and moved close to the dogs and stood and watched the minor threat. So I think they have made the mental bridge, that those dogs are not only a warning system, but a warding-off system.

They turned their short pen into a mud mess in a day, so I spread straw out to give some dry footing. They love nosing through straw to find stray bits of wheat berries left behind in the fields; and had four bales neatly distributed in a few hours. Just four more weeks and lambs should start arriving.

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