November 9, a sunny warm morning, I came back to the farm from Needham expecting to feed the animals and get on with a little list of tasks with Bessie, who is currently staying with us. I got some hay out of the hoop house and brought it to the manger in the field where Litte Ram, his friend Truitje and her lamb, Palm have been staying. It seemed oddly quiet in there. I didn’t see any sheep, even when I walked up and down the perimeter on one side. Hm. I looked around the farm carefully, because I did not want to be caught unawares by a charging ram. Within seconds, I spotted the three of them, looking slightly lost behind the solar panels, near the barn. My first thought was to get the ram into the barn where he was safe (I mean, I was safe from him). That was easy enough since the trio were quite interested in being reunited with the rest of the flock. Knowing that breeding season was coming and having seen a bit of sniffing going on between Little Ram and Truitje I stayed and peered over the little half door at the full flock. Sure enough, Little Ram was sniffing everybody’s butt, including the two purebred Babydoll ewes. We do not want Little Ram breeding with the Babydolls – since I had just made those other arrangements. He needed to be separated from them pronto, but just to put him back in the field with Truitje was not possible. Some quick thinking produced a seat-of-the-pants plan: ASAP fix the pasture so sheep would stay in; two, get all the sheep except the Babydolls into the pasture together; three, put together the temporary home for the Babydolls and suitor in the other barn; and then convince the Babydolls to go to their new home. None of our sheep are halter trained, so all such maneuvers would need to be done with cajoling and persuasion.
Fixing the pasture fence was simple. We had used some weaker fence for a part of the enclosure when our good woven field fence had run out. Where that weaker fencing was attached to a post, the sheep had just pushed out the sparsely distributed fence staples. I secured the fencing to the post with a board. Note to self: long-term solution will be to replace that part of the fence with proper field fence. We then put up a chute between the barn and the pasture with some fence netting - we have found chutes to be a wonderfully reliable way to get sheep to move where you want them, like new paddocks and we no longer live without them (see an earlier story on sheep adventures with fences).
Then, Bessie and I went back into the barn and made a battle plan for how to get the sheep out, but keep the Babydolls in, through two doors and the chicken area, to the chute and finally to close the pasture gate so nobody would be tempted to get back out. I was nervous it would all go wrong, and sheep would be all over the bloody place. Deep breath and I opened their barn yard gate. Miraculously, all the non-Babydoll sheep came out first, so it was easy-peasy to close the gate again with the Babydolls inside while Bessie ran to the pasture gate and secured that. Sometimes sheep do just what you want them to. Oops! Except the lamb ram, Pepper, was still in the barn yard and he too was interested in some sex. I don’t know how we managed to get him out as well, he is flighty, but we did.
Well, things were happening in that pasture! Little Ram’s nose was flared wide open, his lips curled up and his head lowered and stretched forward. He was making constant snorting noises. In fact, he snorted the entire day. The ladies were into it, sniffing his behind, putting their noses into his neck fleece, letting themselves be licked. It was quite the show, and absolutely impossible to miss, as predicted! I am afraid I was so fascinated I did not shoot any photos. A small sideshow included Pepper, who was an absolute distraction for Little Ram. Half the time was spent making sure he was in a corner away from the ewes, but as soon as Little Ram turned his back, Pepper would escape to do his own sniffing and flirting. It was pretty funny, but hopefully this did not prevent Little Ram from servicing and impregnating the ewes who were ready.
Meanwhile, Bessie and I secured the second barn yard area with some stronger fencing, put up the manger I had built earlier in the week, hung up a water bucket, and built a barn yard gate. I think I was on adrenaline the entire time because it was quite a bit of work, and the Babydolls definitely needed to be moved in their new home before all the other sheep had to go back to the old barn yard at the end of the afternoon. We managed. We then put up a chute from the first barn to the second and opened the gate to let the Babydolls out. There are four of them – the two ewes we want to breed Noel and Naomi, their wethered brother Newt, and the late Spring lamb, May. Babydolls are pretty cautious, so they came out slowly but followed the chute, into the other barn. There, they apparently noticed this was a different place (with different chickens too) and they all scampered back out. After that they were pretty skittish. Luckily they couldn’t spread out because the chute limited them (ah, the awesome chutes!). We let them eat some of the grass in the chute and gave them time to calm down. Then we got a container of their treat food and got Newt and Noel’s attention. Once they started moving so did Naomi and May. And eventually, we got them all into their new situation, maybe a little confused but contentedly munching on fresh hay.
What a day! It’s never boring when you don’t really know what you’re doing!