Thursday, October 11, 2007
Rachel and Her Flock
I just love my girls! Now that it's fall, I have a lot of flock maintenance to do. The ewes need to be evaluated for internal parasites and de-wormed if necessary. They also need their hooves trimmed. Our soft clay soil doesn't wear the hoof material away very well. These aren't really hard jobs. I just set up my three sided catch pen made out of cattle panels. I install it between the place where two rolls of electronet meet. Then I feed the girls their corn treat in there for a few days until they don't worry about stepping in and out of the small space. Once their flight response has been sufficiently dulled by greed, I close it and capture the flock. The trick is to catch Rachel. (The grey ewe front and center in the photo) She's a savvy ewe that has no desire to be my pet. I usually defer to her preferences because, after all, she is the matriarch and I respect her judgement. But I can't just let her run wild through the countryside without hoof trimming and shearing. So twice a year, I have to employ the catch pen. In the spring I use it to take her out to pasture. In the fall I use it to bring her back up to the pens near the house. The rest of the girls would follow me and a grain bucket. Those girls are greedy little cuddle-bugs that won't leave me alone. I usually can de-worm each of them without the rest of the flock even catching on to the fact that, one by one, I'm sticking a syringe into their mouths. But not Rachel. She always knows what's up. The last two times I used the catch pen, Rachel refused to go into it with the rest of the flock. She decided to forgo the corn for the sake of her independence. Eventually, I got fed up and just took the other ewes to the destination. Rachel was left behind in the old pen. By the time we got back from working with the other ewes, Rachel had accepted her fate. I put the pen back by her fence, opened it up, put corn inside, and waited. She walked right in. I let her eat the corn. Then she willingly walked toward the flock while Clancy and I pulled the pen in that direction. (I suppose it's hard to be queen without one's subjects.) It's rather tedious to accommodate Rachel and her demand for special treatment. She's a smart ewe, though, and I've learned to respect her decisions the way I accepted my grandmother's decisions. I always think of Rachel as older and wiser than myself. In the end, Rachel is the easiest ewe to handle. She dislikes being caught, but once she is caught, she accepts the situation with grace and cooperation. Her more friendly underlings are perfectly willing to be caught, but they are exceedingly intolerant of being parked on their hind-ends to get their toenails clipped. Rachel is a dream to trim and shear. So that is what I have to look forward to: 6 ewes that are happy to walk into the catch pen, and 1 ewe that refuses to do so. 1 ewe that sits quietly for manicures, 6 ewes that try to turn themselves inside out to escape the insulting shepherd. I better get busy if I'm going to have those girls ready to meet the rams by Thanksgiving.