Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rogue Lambs Part II

After yesterday's episode I decided that it was time for the lambs to move back onto the 'real' farm, to a bigger paddock. So far they'd been on the house side of the farm gate, which is why they managed to get so far when they got loose. Be warned that this is a long story of multiple failures....err lessons.

Looking back, my biggest mistake was attempting the big move while alone (with a useless Border Collie). Nathan started a new job today at a nearby farm. He is helping to run it for an american multimillionaire who will move there in case the world ends, and would like a self sustaining farm...100 acres of beautiful, has everything you could imagine, farm. Anyway, back to the lambs. I knew that moving two not-very-tame lambs through a small gate (where they could then get to the road) and then through another gate, down the driveway and through yet another gate, with multiple non-gate options, was going to be difficult. I like to think I started the morning with a real positive go-getter attitude...full of hope and possibilities.

My plan: First, lamb-proof the paddock immediately adjacent to the lambs' current yard. It has a wooden horse fence with the lowest planks about 3' above the ground, and 2' gaps between planks. Nathan has always said that it would be almost impossible to lamb-proof that fence. I decided to prove him wrong. I spent a few hours dragging boards from all over the farm, lining them all up along the fence and then nailing them a foot off the ground to fill in that 3' gap.

Side story: While getting wood from one of the piles, I must have shifted the pile and trapped a tiny baby bunny. When I freed him he ran straight into Abby's legs. They were both so stunned that they stared at each other, then tiny baby bunny ran off through the fence.

When I was about a quarter of the way done with the fence I decided that it would be really nice and pastoral to have the lambs in the paddock with me, munching away quietly while I worked. This brought me to the second part of the plan: Lamb-catching. This part of the plan was going to involve a rope that I would fashion into a head halter, lots of grain and one untrained Border Collie. Here is how it went in my head: Ryan lies at the first gate and blocks it while I go in and call the lambs over with grain. I easily slip the head halter on Oprah, and with Ryan's encouragement from behind, we make our way up the driveway. Then I repeat with Ewean. What actually happens: I manage to get the head part of the halter on but not the nose part. Oprah panics. Ryan leaves his post at the gate and starts maniacally circling Ewean, who is circling bucking Oprah and me. I yell at Ryan to leave, then somehow manage to get the nose part of the halter on Oprah...Oprah doesn't want to move. I pick Oprah up and carry her into the new half-finished paddock. At this point, even though things weren't quite going according to plan, I still felt pretty proud of myself. I only had about 2 seconds to feel self-satisfied before Oprah was running toward the fence baa-ing for Ewean, and Ewean was running along her side of the fence baa-ing back for Oprah. A-ha. This is why you don't move one lamb at a time. I went to try and catch Ewean and as I siddled up to her with some grain, I see Oprah jump easily through the gap in the fence - the gap that's 3' off the ground, that I hadn't even thought to fill. Now Oprah is loose in the full 15 acres of farm (fenced, at least) and I knew there was no way I could catch her. I had to let Ewean out with her...except catching Ewean was not working. She had seen the tricks I played on Oprah and she was having none of it. I tried to corner her with a big panel...she pushed out the side. Finally I ended up cutting the corner of the fence so she could exit the yard right onto the farm. As she and Oprah trotted off down the driveway, I went inside to call Nathan and tell him the happy news that I'd let the lambs out, loose, onto the farm.

After grumbling "you were right" a couple of times (very quietly) I went back outside with renewed vigor, ready to set things right. I brought some grain and found the lambs happily grazing next to the greenhouse. I called them into the nearest paddock and ...shock...they followed me right in! I closed the gate behind them and stood there for a good 10 minutes feeling very pleased with myself. I brought a bucket of water over and their salt lick. Two sides of the paddock are 8' deer fencing but one side (with the horses, bull and cows in the next paddock) is 3 strands of electric wire, each about 2' apart. While I was standing there I saw Oprah go up to it and get zapped - since she's the leader of the two I thought they would stay away from that fence after that. I went inside to call Nathan again and tell him that the situation was under control. He mentioned that he thought the lambs would be able to get through the electric wires, but I assured him that I'd seen Oprah get shocked and I didn't think they'd go near that fence again. I was feeling so very proud of myself this time that I grabbed a popsicle and the dogs and went for a stroll to see the lambs again in their new paddock. I didn't see them at first but I was pretty sure they were lying somewhere at the back in the longer grass. I started walking along the fence in the horse pasture to go find them when suddenly I saw Woolly Bully running. Woolly Bully never runs. Woolly Bully was chasing two very scared lambs. It was chaos. The cows were running, the dogs were running, the lambs were running, I was running and the worst part was that my popsicle fell on the ground. I ran back to the house to lock the dogs in and get more grain, then called the lambs out of the paddock and into yet another paddock with 5' deer fencing all around it (why I didn't put them there in the first place, I do not know). They are (fingers crossed) still in there, with the shade shelter that I build after putting them in there.

Did I mention that we're getting another ewe and a ram in a few weeks?


  1. What? No photos of the melting popsicle?

  2. love the sarcasm Jody--hindsight is wonderful, isn't it?

    I spent quite a bit of my afternoon the other day repeatedly chasing our guinea fowl back across the road where they invade the neighbours property and taunt their dog.

    We used 2"x4" wire roll fence and attached it to the horse paddock boards for our winter sheep enclosure. They can still put their muzzles through and chew the paint off the posts...Cattle panels are a cheap option for semi-portable yards, but the welds can be a bit sharp and small lambs can get their heads through and catch their wool. (even with the smaller openings at the bottom) Our saviour has been electronetting--and we've accumulated a few 160' lengths of it in the past year. You need a decent charger to hold a good charge on the netting, and you also need to scythe or mow the perimeter so the bottom lines aren't buried in grass. We're still trying to figure out what's best for the rest of the property--horses are so easy compared to sheep! My ideal would be that RedBrand woven wire then with a line of electric at 8 inches, one over the top, and now some companies are even recommending a strand of barbed wire right at the base to discourage digging predators (we have coyotes here and the potential for wolves) Our vet said he's seen far too many sheep ripped open from coyotes...Scary! You guys are lucky you have perimeter fencing! That must have been impressive seeing Wooly Bully running LMAO. I think you deserve another popsicle for not completely losing it during the chaos. Good job farm girl! So where are you going to keep your ram??