Animal Behavior


EarlyLambsIs how long it takes for four rams to find five fertile ewes in a group of 120 ewes all circling in chaos. This happened last September, I was doing some chores in the field and driving back and forth between pastures. At one point, I only shut one of a double-gated passage, thinking I was going to go back through there in a few minutes. The mature rams are vigilant and watch my every move when I’m going through gates, and they don’t miss an opportunity. I must not have latched the gate securely, and they pushed it open while I was distracted doing something in the field. I figure they were in there for about twenty minutes before I was able to get a dog and wrangle them all back to where they belonged. Twenty minutes resulting in nine early-bird lambs born at the end of February. (more…)

I have been sorely remiss in blogging; but my excuse is, I’m just busy! Somehow, blogging is falling down, and off, the priority list; but I’ll try to do better!

Still the biggest focus of my farming efforts is growing this silly pup into a good guardian dog. Bronte, sadly, passed already (I’ll save that topic for another post), so this “li’l” pup is needing to grow up fast and fill big shoes. But, growing she is; as you can see, she’s nearly as big as Moses already, and he’s a 100 lb dog. She is now eight months old. I’ve officially named her Brinsa. Though, often I find myself calling her “Woojee Toodle,” and my husband refers to her as “Dum Dum”; so I imagine one of those two dumb names will stick.

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PupIt has been nearly three months since Bronte was diagnosed with bone cancer, with a stated typical timeline of roughly six months left to live. I have switched her to a ketogenic diet and started treating her with CBD (an extract of marijuana, minus most of the THC), in an effort to slow the cancer’s progress and buy a little more time. She is doing very well thus far, most days just slightly favoring the leg and still very cheerful. The wrist tumor is getting bigger, however. This timeline weighs heavy on my mind, both knowing that Bronte doesn’t have long to live, and also that I don’t have a lot of time to get her replacement trained and functioning reasonably well.

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Worried

Our new pup is a Maremma. She was born on a 2,000 acre ranch. And I don’t mean “the breeder who produced her owns a 2,000 acre ranch.” I mean, this pup was born and reared in an environment where she and the group of dogs into which she was born ranged over 2,000 acres. Naturally, the dams of the litters stick close to home when whelping and rearing young pups. The breeder described that at sixteen weeks, the pups still weren’t ranging far from the safety of the homestead. But, they were indeed ranging, and acclimating to the lifestyle of learning to protect a large span of territory from predators. She hails from Eastern WA, where wolf packs are now a force to be reckoned with, and most ranchers are needing to run large groups of LPDs to protect their livelihoods.

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The most common model used in the U.S. for managing lambing time is to “jug” each ewe into a 4×4’ pen in a barn right after she gives birth. Most people leave ewes jugged for several days. This definitely helps the ewe be sure to “learn” all of her lambs, and not get confused by any intruders into the birthing scent cone. It also gives the lambs ample chance to nurse on a ewe that’s not a moving target, to learn the smell and sound of their dam, and to gain practice at finding and using the ewe’s teats. If there is a problem during jugging, intervention is easy, since they are all easily caught in such a small space. The upside of this practice is reduced mis-mothering incidents (either caused by the dam’s or the lamb’s behavior), which can be a source of lamb losses.

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In the olden days, people navigated the earth using a combination of maps, agreed-upon street numbering and naming conventions, and indicator signage. When folks wanted to go somewhere, first, they would consult a map. Then, as they drove, they would follow the map readings to identify turns along the way, helped by signs which indicated the location of the turns.

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I have a crew of complications housed in the barn, where it’s easier for me to keep an eye on them. These resting ewes may look like they have whole litters of lambs, and in a way, they do.

 

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