Each year we mark the calendar when we begin to see romance out on the sheep pasture. This year, we made notes early in September. Since ewes have a five-month pregnancy, this means we might see lambs early in February. So it seemed time to do a health check of all the ladies. We have to catch each one, put it on the grooming stand, give a shot, trim wool around the behind and the udder, and trim the toenails that grow over the pads of the hooves. It is a good opportunity to see if we can detect impending birth–usually, a full udder means lambs in a week or two. Of course, if we are going to all this trouble for the six adult ewes, we might as well catch the other 7 sheep and check them out as well.
I began to scheme. How to make this easier for them and for us? Suz came to mind: she is usually up for the opportunity to do a little sheep-tending. With three people, two could catch and entice the sheep to the grooming stand and one could be ready to put the side rails on. Once the sheep is secured on the stand, one person could give the shot and keep records [me], one could trim the feet[John], and one could shear the wool from the udder and back end [Suz].
Just as we finished lunch and began to summon the energy for sheep wrangling, a car drove up. It was Ed, the neighbor, last seen around Christmas time when he offered to shoot the Nutria that punched two big holes in Bud’s back. We heard shots the next day, but Ed reported that he did not think he hit any nutria. However, we have not seen them again. So maybe his shotgun was more effective that he thought. This time, it appeared he stopped by to talk about the Nutria again. Stories emerged over a cup of coffee: the time he worked on a cattle ranch, the times when he “grayed out” testing planes over Vietnam. It really was time for us to get busy if we wanted to be done by dark. We said as much and Ed replied: “I want to see what you are going to do.”
He followed us to the barn. Watched as we brought the sheep in, closed the gates, built a movable “corral” around them with metal panels. Watched as John and Suz caught the first sheep and brought her over to the stand. A minute or two and he was in the stall. By sheep three, he was trying to do the catching, helping to pull/push the sheep over to the stand. I always had a comment about the wool, showing him the beautiful shiny locks under the dirty tips.
About 10 animals into it, Ed helped John catch a lamb, parted its wool and said “This looks like nice wool — now that I’m an expert!” We all had a good laugh. It was much easier and more fun to wrangle the sheep with a committee of four.
None of the udders were filled out. Very little to indicate pregnancy. That means lambs in March. Stay tuned.