24th August, 2012: organising sheep is worth planning. This saves them heading off in the wrong direction or getting into the wrong places.
Going in .... and coming out!
I keep my rams and wethers in one group, and the ewes and lambs in another. So weaning means creating a third group, while the mums dry off, and then combining the boys and the girls into two groups again. The boys may fight a bit at first and older ones will bully younger ones, but with a slightly larger group and plenty of space it's usually OK. If one is getting bullied too much, then he and a smaller "friend" can spend a week or so recuperating in a small paddock and then re-integrating. So how to get them to do this? Well, because sheep flock it is much easier to get a large group to go all together somewhere than a few and an individual is very difficult unless on a halter! So it is a question of planning which gates will be open in advance and ensuring that they go there - bribery in the form of food usually helps (I don't use a dog and Gotlands tend to chase dogs anyway).
So we brought the ewes and lambs into the barn and checked them over, then we let all the ewes out into another part of the barn, keeping the lambs back. Then we took the ewes back up the field, happily following a nice bucket of feed, and shut them into the top field. The lambs are less used to going places as, on the whole, they have been following their mums, so getting them to understand following a bucket is a bit more difficult, but we get there in the end and over the next couple of weeks they will get the hang of coming and following as a newly formed group, although of course we shall split the boys and girls very soon.
Blue-faced Leicester lambs eating without their mums ... and Gotland lambs as well
I have only been waiting until the four weeks has elapsed from the first of the Heptavac immunisations, so this weekend, we will do the second immunisation and also take small blood samples (with a sampler like the ones done as a check at blood donations, whichh we then send away for testing) so that we can genotype them, to understand better how to reduce the risk of susceptibility to scrapie. My flock all has OK genotypes anyway, but I need to ensure this continues and improves if possible. I shall also be taking faecal samples to get tests done to ensure that my worm treatment is the most appropriate - this just means picking up poo while we do the other stuff and putting it into sample jars to go to the vet. So Saturday will be fun for everyone!
After this, I hope to sell some! Some will also, sadly, have to go to the abbatoir, for reasons of age, over-stocking or not up to standard. This is always a tough decision and I feel horribly responsible, but at least know that they have had a good and useful life and my abbatoir is caring and respectful.
Harry .... Socks .... and Jupiter who also came in to have their feet checked
Lambs in the foreground, with their mums, now separated, in the distance! Job done!