Sheep social distancing

Big day today at Morning Star Meadows. This was a day we had to warn the neighbors about!

Normally, when we hear lots of vocalizing from the sheep, they are either alerting us to a problem or letting us know they aren’t happy about something. Some of our neighbors have been kind enough to let us know if they hear something that concerns them. Most commonly they vocalize when they see us and think they are about to be rotated to a new pasture! They call out loudly, demanding we move them ASAP!

Today they will be talking a LOT to each other, so we alerted the neighbors a few days ago in preparation. It is the language of love that the ewes and lambs have had since the lambs were born. They have learned to call to each other when they are separated in the pasture so that they can reunite, but today that reunion will not be possible. We are physically separating (distancing?!) them for the first time in their lives, and they are not too happy about it.

Although it is a “baaa-d” day of sorts for the lambs, we are trying to do this as gently as possible, doing what is known as “fence line weaning,” where lamb and ewe can see each other through the electric fence. In the top photo, we had just sorted them all after weighing them, taking fecal samples, and checking them for parasites. The ewes had their quarterly pedicure as well. Here they are separated by the fencing inside our yards where we work with the sheep.

Auntie Felicity, our ewe who failed to fall pregnant last fall, is with them. She’s not too happy about being apart from the other ewes, but she has always seemed to enjoy being with the lambs, and they will be happy to have her presence amongst them as they get used to being separated from their moms.

Here you can see her leading the pack!

This weaning process will allow the ewes to regain their body condition a bit prior to the next breeding cycle. In about a month we will bring them all in again, weigh them and re-sort the flock. We will reintroduce the ewe lambs to the ewe flock (the mom’s will no longer have an udder from which the lambs would try to nurse) until breeding season. The boys, who have all been castrated, will either stay as their own flock or hang out with their dads, the rams.

So far we have been able to work our flock without the use of sheep dogs. We have some agile young sons and daughters who have helped us through the years! We took advantage of their friends who were visiting today – the more bodies, the smoother things go! It does truly amaze me that a good sheepdog can do the work of all these people!

This video shows the lambs, and Felicity, heading into their weaning area, seeing their moms and realizing they are separated. It’s going to be a noisy day or two around here! We will keep a close eye on them for the rest of the day to be sure no one tries to test the fence and cross over! Social distancing is NO FUN!

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