Saturday, January 24, 2009

Paying Attention

I mentioned yesterday that sheep are always communicating...Here is a photo that illustrates my point.
Whitepine Silverthorne is standing in the distance. She is a lamb I bought from Garrett this past summer. She is the only ewe in the pen that was not born here or has not lived here for more than one year. Ewes tend to find solidarity in family units. Often I will see Rachel and her offspring at one feeder, Dolce and her daughters at another, and Anna and her twins at a third. That leaves Silvy and Rai Min (orphaned at 9 months) to scurry between feeders as the families butt them out of the way. Luckily, Rai Min was born forward. She's always just shoved right back when knocked around. And she's so unpredictable, none of the other girls are quite sure what she might attempt. Rai Min likes to kick up her heels for apparently no reason. She's a very silly ewe.
It has taken Silvy longer to gain confidence. She is petite compared to my stock. She's a newcomer. She never had any family to stick up for her here. Silvy has learned to be a sweetie-pie, but she has to constantly watch her back. At any moment one of the other ewes might get jealous and knock Silvy out of the prime spot with me or at the feeder.
Can you see how alert Silvy is to the look on Delyth's face? Delyth has her ears flattened and she's looking right at Silverthorne. Only predators make that kind of direct eye contact...or grouchy sheep that are about to butt somebody. Even though there is quite a bit of distance between the two sheep, Silvy is prepared to scamper away if Delyth comes toward her. You'll notice the feeder is empty. Delyth, being higher up on the status ladder, is not about to let a lower creature stand closer to the feeder if it will soon be filled by the shepherd. So she's asserting her personal space. And Silvy is paying attention.


Nancy K. said...

Poor Sylvie! That's why I don't like to sell only one ewe lamb ~ they need a buddy to hang out with...

As much as I love sheep ~ sometimes they are mean.


Garrett808 said...

Silvy is looking GORGEOUS!

Did you get a chance to take fall fleece samples for microning? :D

Kara said...

Beautiful pictures, I love this series of posts. The black and white photos give it such a dramatic effect. Silvy is beautiful.

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Hi Nancy,

I agree that it is hard for the single sheep to make friends in a new flock. Anna Belle is an exception: she and Rachel liked each other from day one.

When I hold back ewe lambs from breeding they seem to bond quite a bit too. They are so lonely without their mothers for the first time. Silvy doesn't get pushed around by the other three ewe lambs now. But the bred girls that were brought back to the ewe pen only 2 weeks ago are still pestering her. (I never did get ewes moved over Christmas like I hoped.)

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Hi Garrett,

I'm glad you think Silvy is looking good. She is amazingly correct in conformation. She's absolutely wide in the hind legs even though her proportions are so delicate.

I did take fleece samples last fall. Then I read the directions and it said I needed a two-inch square section. It was already cold out so I thought I would just gather the samples off the fleeces when I shear. Then do it again next year to get an idea of lamb vs. 2nd year fleece. Is that good enough or should I try to send in the smaller samples that I have?

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Hi Kara,

Thank you so much.

Becky Utecht said...

Yes, Silvy is GORGEOUS! Our little Lana is in the same boat as Silvy. I sold her mom this fall and now she has to scramble to keep away from the adult ewes at feeding time. I'm thinking I will separate my ewe lambs this spring so they don't have to compete with the pregnant ewes at the feeder.
Are you sure you need a two inch square of fleece? I just send in a quarter size sample for testing at Texas A & M. Bob Padula used to travel with that machine and they only asked for quarter size sample when he did it.

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Hi Becky,

I was just going off the directions on the website for A&M or Yocom or something. If they can do it with a smaller sample I will send it in then. I just couldn't bring myself to cut off a huge chunk of fleece as winter broke. Thanks for the tip.

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