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Thursday, March 07 2019

If you raise animals, spring is like having a second Christmas - except you can't shake the boxes. I was so happy with my 2018 lamb crop that I used the same ram again for nine of my ewes before I loaned him to a friend
and then sold him.

I used a young ram lamb with a completely different look on the rest of the flock.

He's small and young and I'm not sure how many of his breedings took, but I figured I'd give him a shot this year anyway. Next year I'm hoping to use him on the 2018 daughters of brown ram. And so now I sit, waiting as impatiently as a 5 year old on
Christmas Eve. March 6 was the earliest possible due date for the first group. They are like 55 gallon drums waddling
around the barnyard. Even heavily pregnant Navajo-Churro sheep can be quite agile, and just yesterday I noted one of my 55
gallon drums leaping a low spot in the fence like a deer to gain access to some tasty spring grass on the other side. 


Because I don't want anyone lambing in the pasture, I've got all the girls locked in the barnyard until lambs are safely
on the ground. Understandably this does not sit well with pregnant ladies who want more than pickles and chocolate ice
cream. 

I also shut my Livestock Guardian Dogs away from my pregnant ewes at this time because I don't want any accidents. I'll
return them when lambs are safely on the ground. In the mean time, the dogs are confined around the sheep so their
presence can deter predators. Confinement keeps them honest, discourages any bad habits, and allows ewes to lamb in the
barnyard without the stress of a large hulking white dog impatiently waiting for the afterbirth. 

While it's tempting to think of a farm as a lovely Walt Disney film, with everyone getting along, the reality is that dogs
are still just dogs and I don't want accidents. It happens too often on too many other farms. I must also consider the
personality of the sheep. My dorper sheep are quite fond of the dogs and most probably wouldn't mind a dog hovering near
them when giving birth. They consider the dogs part of their flock.

My Navajo-Churro sheep are wilder. They know without a
shadow of a doubt that a dog is a predator. My churros do NOT want a dog near when they're lambing. They also do not want
a dog around their young lambs. Churros will not hesitate to t-bone any dog near their babies or someone else's babies.
These sheep will beat a dog up.

For the welfare of my dogs and my sheep, it's easier to lock up the dogs and keep the
sheep close to the barn. And wait. Impatiently. For Christmas morning. 

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:35 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Monday, March 04 2019


 

The walk of shame. I'm all too familiar with it. If you run a farm you probably walk that walk too.  You are late to
meetings, choir practice, and any other important functions in your life. Despite your best intentions, the farm has once
again forced you to slink into a meeting which has already started. Sometimes you apologize, sometimes you just grab your
choir book and slither to your seat. Others pause briefly to nod a wordless greeting. Late again. They've come to expect
it.  Your shame is compounded by the fact that not only are you late, you are also dirty. You often have the stains from
animal bodily fluids smeared on your jeans - even after they leave the washing machine. You have stomped your boots in the
parking lot so hopefully there is no cow shit in the tread. There was no time to change clothes. 

And that's really what it comes down to, time. Some people, the non-ranching variety, will point an accusing finger and
say it's really about time management. Poor time management on your part. Irresponsible. You. Yes, you. The person who
rises before the sun to care for animals that cannot care for themselves. You, who have a calf in the kitchen, and chicks
in the laundry room.

I would argue that the root of this kind of irresponsibility is in fact, responsiblity. You are responsible for so much
more than the average nine to fiver. You have lives depending upon you. Animals have to be fed and watered. Outside of the
simple animal welfare part of it, if you run a ranch, it comes down to dollars and cents too. Every young animal that
doesn't survive is money taken from your wallet. Around here cattle pay the mortgage. Each calf eaten by a coyote is a
direct hit to my pocketbook, so it's in my best interest to monitor calving closely. I simply cannot afford to feed
coyotes. 

I'm not sure which is worse, being late, or not showing up at all. Sometimes the farm won't allow you to simply be late,
the drama is of such magnitude that your attendance is required more at the tail end of a straining cow than at the tail
end of a meeting. Such was my last Sunday. I sing in the choir. Don't get excited. I'm not any good. I'm the poster child
for the phrase "joyful noise." Nevertheless, when you sing in the choir, even badly, people still count on you to be there
and I hate letting them down. But I had a cow down. A pregnant cow. An expensive pregnant cow that I cannot afford to
replace. 

The cow appeared to be in labor. Not hard labor. Just thinking about it. The problem was she was "just thinking about it"
the night before too. And she was walking like a foundered horse. We watched her for a while and made the decision that
church would have to wait. We couldn't afford to lose this cow in a bad delivery. So once again I fired off a text
explaining my absence.  While I looked through binoculars and pondered why I bother to try to have any kind of life off
the ranch, my Other Half left to feed more cattle in another pasture. Normally he would have done this after church, it
was just a twist of fate that we were skipping church so he fed early that morning. 

My cow who was thinking about labor decided that she really just had gas, so after a good fart, she was bellying up to the
hay bar when Other Half rattled into the barnyard and announced that my help was needed in the other pasture. A cow that
we hadn't even been watching had given birth early in the  morning and the calf couldn't walk properly on its back hooves.
The tendons were contracted and the hooves were flipped back so the baby was forced to walk on her joint. She had nursed,
but keeping up with the herd was not a possiblity. Thankfully her mother had brought her back into the relative safety of
the big herd and so Other Half found her when he fed them. But she couldn't stay there. 

This baby was a Coyote Happy Meal.

So instead of going to church, we were kidnapping a calf and slow-rolling the calf and her
mother from the lease pasture all the way to the cattle working pens below the house.

There we would be able to monitor
her and give her a little bit of physical therapy to help loosen the tendons. She would also be close to the sheep and
would thus enjoy the protection of the Livestock Guardian Dogs. 

Each day the tendon loosened and by Wednesday we were able to turn the baby and her mother out with the other cows which
have temporary residence in the lower sheep pasture.  My heart smiled as I watched her run for the first time on working
legs.

She loped away taking with her any guilt I had about skipping church that Sunday. I doubt God minded anyway. In
fact, I cannot help but wonder if God didn't have a hand in this little drama. The cow who had us convinced she was in
labor on Sunday still hasn't calved, yet if we had not skipped church and fed the main herd early, in all likelihood we
would have missed the lame calf. The herd would have moved on and the baby and her mother would have been left alone. Our
experience in the past has been that a single cow cannot protect her calf from a pack of coyotes. She needs the herd. Or
an Anatolian. 

When I let that calf out to run, I let go of some that guilt too, because when you live on a farm,  and farm drama gets in
the way of a 'normal' life, oftentimes the main person pointing the accusing finger of blame at you is really just you. Let that guilt just gallop away. 
 

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 02:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  9 Comments  |  Email

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