A week or so ago I found two bottle lambs struggling with frothy bloat in the morning. It is a ridiculous-looking manifestation, a volcano of foam pouring out of their mouth like a B devil movie, and them choking, coughing and bucking, trying to shake free of it. I hustled to the kitchen and whipped up a cup of water with some olive oil and baking soda, and syringe-fed them a good dose each. It had amazing and immediate affect, within a minute or two, they were fine. I’m not sure if they’d gorged on milk that morning, or clover, or both, but I haven’t had a reoccurrence.

I barely made the bus to work and called to ask my mom to check on them in a few hours, just to be safe. When she did, she called to say, which group are they in, the one on the inside of the hotwire, or the outside? <sigh> Most of them had gotten out of the Electronet somehow and were loose in the pasture. I told her to set the rest of them free to prevent any more from trying to bust through the hotwire and I’d deal with them when I got home.

It was a Friday, and by evening, there were no sheep-LGD mishaps, so I decided to leave them loose for the weekend and see how things went while I was home to observe. And no incidents: not a single problem with either dog. Yay. I’ve waited a long time for this milestone of being able to trust the dogs with fairly young lambs (maybe next year I’ll test out newborns a little more).

So the following week, I left them loose in the far pasture, hoping they’d clean up the edges. They did to some extent, but they also re-grazed the tender, freshly grazed grass, which is the whole thing you’re trying to avoid with pasture rotation. The first few days, I was relishing the lack of overhead of moving the fence. But I started to stress over them being all spread out all the time. The lambs are hard to spot in the long grass, and I had to walk a lot more to feel like I checked on all the sheep to make sure they were all feeling ok. 

Last Saturday morning as I walked down with the milk bucket, I thought I heard a lamb bellowing near the road. Yet the flock was all way out in the far pasture. Sure enough, a lamb had slipped under a gate, got confused on how to get back, and was stuck on the outside on a narrow ledge in between fencing and ditch. Judging by the worn grass path, I bet it had just happened early that morning. It took a few acrobatics to retrieve him and get him on the right side of the fence. Definitely a reminder of why it’s nice to have gates everywhere, because animals have a knack for getting on the wrong side of the fence and needing to be let through.

Having the sheep loose in the pasture looks nice- it’s very pretty to look out the window and see them spread out in the green grass, with no crooked Electronet line or stripes of differently-grazed grass marring the landscape. But I found I hated having them loose, all that walking around after them felt like as much or more work as moving hotwire. I was also not liking their abuse of the freshly grazed grass, nor the prospect that they were picking up parasites in the same spots. And I worried about the ewes keeping track of their lambs, and vice versa.

So I moved them to the RCG field and re-penned them. All consolidated again in one rectangle, where I can easily look at them all during morning and evening chores and control their grazing patterns. Phew, much better. Now moving the hotwire doesn’t seem so bad.

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