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kajarrel

What are you doing now?

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I desperately need to talk about working dogs or I'll go crazy . . . so I thought maybe we could talk about what everyone's doing this time of year.

 

My winter lambs are about 3 months old, and the ewes that didn't lamb last time are lambing now. It's amazing how easy lambing is this time of year vs. dead of winter. I always think "maybe I'll put the rams in later this year." But the upside of having earlier lambs is that we hit the Easter holidays. As most of you know, we cater to the ethnic markets. Last weekend was wild (May Day & Orthodox Easter). We had Bosnians, Ukranians, Greeks, Macedonians, etc. slaughtering lambs at one time (and critiquing each other - pretty funny/fun - almost like a party). Since we haven't had a free weekend since Easter, Mike and I decided to take this weekend off and we've already had 3 cars stopping by for lambs today (Mother's Day?). Next weekend we have lambs reserved for people too - any idea what holiday that is?

 

I'm always reminded this time of year how smart these dogs REALLY are. It's still too early here to put the sheep on pasture full time, although I put them out there briefly when we're putting out hay and grain in the paddock. The dogs have been moving the sheep to and from our pasture for about a week. A couple days ago I wanted to finish chores quickly (we wanted to go out to dinner before the restaurants close at 8:00 p.m.), so I conversationally said to Zoe (my 9-year old) "why don't you go on over there, go through (the gate) and get the sheep?" Sure enough, she took off down the back of our property, around the hedgerow (which obstructs her view of the sheep), over a bridge, through a stream, slipped through the gate and gathered the sheep, which were scattered over our 20 acre field. By the time I walked to the gate, the ewes and lambs were all standing by the gate grazing calmly, waiting to return to the barn for the night. We haven't been doing this but a few days so I don't think Zoe was following a routine, instead I'm fairly sure she understood what I wanted and did it. Amazing dogs. What would we do without them?

 

So what are you guys doing on your farms or to prepare for the trialing season?

 

Kim

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That was our project last year - literally. We spent the whole summer fencing the 20 acre field I referred to before. What type of fencing are you putting in?

 

We took the dogs with us when we were working on the fence and it was pretty obvious that they thought this was an incredibly boring activity. :rolleyes:

 

Kim

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Fencing here too - High tensile. Fenced all last year too, now we're getting to what we didn't get last year. Ugh.

 

The sheep were all sheared two weekends ago - Yes, it was the last weekend in April and we had a snow storm! Between 8-10 inches of snow. Bet the sheep were majorly cussing us out!

 

They've been able to go out on pasture since then, but have access to come back up the lane to the barns and to get water.

 

We still have a ewe lamb out of the blue - some straggler who just didn't feel like lambing with the rest of 'em :rolleyes:

 

BUT most of all this time of year is FIELD WORK TIME. We farm a few hundred acres, so this is busy, busy, busy time of year. Pretty soon it will be hay season and y'all won't hear from me for awhile. Then, it will be time to combine, and you won't hear from me again. Hehehe. Tag has his own 'spot' on each piece of farm equipment. He lies under the seat on the Allis Chalmers. He lies behind the seat in the big 6080 & 1086 tractors (big enclosed cab with air and radio). He rides in the skid loader bucket to cross the road because he knows he is not allowed on the road, so he runs to the edge and turns and waits for DH to come pulling up with the Skid Loader, and Tag jumps in the bucket so he can go across the road with DH. Tag will also 'call' the sheep or beef cattle when we are taking silage out to the pasture. DH says "Here Sheep" or "Tag, call the sheep"... Tag does this combination howl/yelp/whine/bark thing, but the sheep and cows know what it means and they come running for their dinner - Tag says "Who needs herding when you can just sit on a tractor and call the animals to you???" Sometimes Tag spends most of his day just riding on a tractor with DH - oh, such the hard life :D

 

Well, speaking of work - we're having a cookout today and it was requested that I make "Better Than Sex Cake" and my oven timer just dinged. Then make some deviled eggs. Then head outside to do some chores, and throw a ball, over, and over, and over again for Molly. It's always good when you finally discover your purpose for your whole existance on this earth - Mine, is to throw a ball.

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The sheep were all sheared two weekends ago - Yes, it was the last weekend in April and we had a snow storm! Between 8-10 inches of snow. Bet the sheep were majorly cussing us out!
Boy, I wish! I have to wait until June (don't do my own) and I live in constant fear of fly strike until then. It's still a little early, but I've started looking for messy butts and thinking about crutching . . .

 

Today, I'm trimming feet, since the ground is pretty dry. We're also planting 200 trees for a windbreak in the remaining time. Some "weekend off", huh? Honestly though - I love this life!

 

Kim

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This is the busiest time of year with our cattle. We are branding and turning out cows and receiving cows home from winter pasture and getting ready to A.I. heifers. We had a drought all winter and it finally started to rain about a week ago and it hasn't stopped since. We had a sheepdog trial on one of our cow wintering fields last weekend and we barely got the cows turned out in time for the trial. Scheduling a trial brought about the much needed rain so that was good.The older dogs get a lot of work this time of year but we don't use the young ones on the baby pairs. They will get a bunch of work this summer when the calves are a bit bigger and we have to move the cows from one allotment to another.

 

We only have about 40 head of ewes, just to train the dogs on. We are having the woolies shorn today if they aren't too wet.This is when I appreciate my hair sheep!

 

Most of my friends are off at a trial this weekend but I stayed home and am taking care of 6 of their extra dogs on top of my dozen. It has been a bit noisy around here with strange dogs but they are better settled in and were much quieter last night.

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Shearing!

 

Other than that watching lambs get fatter and getting ewes ready for running the rams in. Hoof trimming, regular worming, and rotating grazing.

 

Repairs. Reorganization. I come up with a new system for storing the lamb stuff every year and then forget what I did with it all by next lambing (how that would have made Steve roar! Sigh. I keep feeling like I'm trying to make a triangle with two sticks). This year we need to paint the new barn we built last year. We also need to upgrade the perimeter fence.

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And on the other side of the world? On my trainer?s superfine wool Merino farm, we?ve just finished trimming feet on about 1000 ewes ? and sorting out the few who still have footrot and they?ll go off for sale. We finished last week, just in time for the rams to go out to join the ewes. Wednesday saw quite a lot of stock work, bringing the mobs of ewes in to the yards, and the rams up so we could sort them out into ?their? mob of girls. Now we hope that the boys know what they?re doing, and that we?ll have a good lambing in October.

 

We?ve been pulling out some old fencing, and then we get to trim feet on the wethers ? about 200 of them.

 

Then things will calm down a bit, and we?ll be able to treat ourselves to some shepherding occasionally ? taking the mobs to parts of their 140 or so acre paddocks that they don?t prefer, to try to even up the grazing, and make sure we can get through the winter without too much feeding out. And we?ve freed up a paddock, so my trainer will be able to spend some time working her year old dogs.

 

I?ve been lucky enough to have lots of stock-work to do with my little bitch. She?s becoming a good little yard and shed dog, and is getting the hang of driving big mobs. And her gather is improving, although we still have to get reasonably close to our sheep.

 

Kim, that was a lovely story about Zoe getting those sheep in for you. One of those magic moments. Fly strike is always a worry, isn?t it ? it?s one of the nice things about the colder weather ? no fly. My trainer shears in late winter ? pre-lamb shearing, and then we jet the sheep against fly in late spring early summer, and then again at the end of summer. The jetting stuff is supposed to last about 12 weeks, but doesn?t quite.

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Barb, how often do you trim hooves on those superfines? and what's the soil/terrain like that they spend the most time on?

 

It's great fun talking sheep on two sides of the globe!

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We only keep enough sheep out here to work the dogs - most of those are ready to pop with lambs. My son is taking care of them and the dogs left behind while I run at the Bluegrass next week - he is terrified lambing will occur while I am gone. If it does, I am sure he can dial the vet fast enough to handle any problems.

 

We run a business non related to the land, livestock and dogs so farm chores are not too overwhelming around here. Livestock and dogs are more of a hobby for us. We are contemplating fencing in some more acreage this year but have not confirmed on that yet. We'll see how successful the lambing is first and decide then if we need / want a fourth field.

 

Ran the worst trail runs I have ever had this weekend - both dogs - ugh! Can I blame that on the sheep?? It appears there are a few minors to work on with the dogs before I go to Kentucky later this week. It is a good thing that I am a good sport about a low score...or no score!

 

It was totally disheartening to hear about Steve Saturday morning for all of us.

 

I love reading about those who farm on a larger scale than we do.

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Hi Becca ? yes, I love to hear what?s going on over your side of the world. Foot-paring is basically a once a year job (thank goodness). The sheep are out on pasture the whole year ? country varies from reasonably sandy in some paddocks, to some ironstone country ? the sheep running in those paddocks seem to have better feet, as you?d expect.

 

My trainer had bought a mob of sheep a few years ago who brought in footrot, so she?s now trying to cull that out (to avoid the expense of vaccinating the entire flock.) What?s interesting as we pare, is that within the same year group, we have a great variety of toe lengths and general hoof shape. Some are brilliant ? barely need anything done, while others have one or more toes that curl across or back. Since the ewes within one year group are all in the same paddock, it?s got to be genetic.

 

What helps with the feet is that we have compressor powered parers (although I must admit I prefer hand parers ? I don?t seem to be able to develop a deft enough touch with the power ones, although I?ll use those on the longer toes. However, the handling equipment is people-powered ? and I?ve got to say it was designed for taller people with longer arms! I really have to reach across quite a long way to get hold of my sheep and tip them out onto the cradle. Then of course there are the sheep who are not going to cooperate ...

 

Just think ? before last year when my Kirra started on sheep, I didn?t know any of this stuff. Now I?m getting a whole new career in retirement ? I love it.

 

Kim, commiserations on the weekend runs - bound to be better at the Bluegrass - or maybe not. As you say, it helps if you're a good sport. I've got to say I really fell on my feet being able to learn on the job in a larger scale operation (actually, it's quite small scale by Australian standards - many of the properties in the central part of Tasmania are shearing 15 000 sheep, or numbers like that.) It's so much easier for me to learn about stock handling with larger groups of sheep - although I'm spoilt in that these Saxon Merinos are really quite polite and cooperative sheep, and generally flock well.

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I prefer hand parers ? I don?t seem to be able to develop a deft enough touch with the power ones, although I?ll use those on the longer toes.
I've got to do something to make the hoof trimming easier. My right hand is blistered today, even though I wear a glove (and my hands are pretty rough for a woman's to begin with). I currently use one of the small orange trimmers, but for rams and some of the ewes with "thicker" hooves, it just doesn't "cut it." I'm thinking it's time to invest in a Felco trimmer. Any suggestions?

 

Trimming went pretty smoothly. We have a sorting chute. The dogs ran the sheep from a large holding pen, through the chute, into a small holding pen. My husband wormed and marked each sheep and I did the feet. But it still took us ALL DAY to get through about 80 sheep and 18 sets of hooves remain to do next weekend. Trees will have to wait too.

 

Only snag was the Rambouillet ram who decided that he couldn't fit through the chute and went into full fight mode (he may have been right). He's a big boy (around 300 lbs.) with a full set of horns. I was afraid that the dogs (or I) would get rammed against the wooden side walls of the large holding pen, and decided to run him straight into the small holding pen where we wormed him (so he's, unfortunately, still on the hooves only list for next weekend).

 

Lovely day here - wish it was Sunday!

 

Kim

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