Saturday, October 26, 2013

More Building

Breeding season for the flock has finally arrived.  While our plan is to breed fewer ewes than last year (OK, it was almost 80.  Clearly I was delusional and the only thing that saved the situation was that many ewes only had singles.  I won't play that particular version of Russian Roulette again!) we still felt the need for more floor space to reduce crowding.

Short of building an addition onto the barn - NOT going to happen and if it did it would be because I would be living in it - the only direction to go was deeper into the main part of the dairy barn which we've been using for hay storage.  The project actually got started last spring.  If we had had a repeat of 2012's drought we would have had to have the whole flock in the barn again and there just wouldn't be room.  Thankfully the weather and pastures provided the flock with abundant forage so the task was set aside as more pressing things came to the fore.

The approach of breeding season and the multiple rams we use brought the need for the extra space back to the top of the priority list.

Andy is a wonder. In the past two weeks he has cemented in the gutter and built a space 24' by 32' that can be divided into two sections.  All the lumber came from trees from our woods that he ran over the sawmill to get the material he needed.  He also had to replace the long flourescent lights in that part of the barn with new fixtures and incandescent/halogen bulbs.  We have some early-version CFLs in other areas and hate-hate-hate them....but they're paid for so we're going to use them till they die, which can't be soon enough.  The new lights are a hundred times better but it's still wonky to take photos so apologies in advance for the quality.

The center panel is removable.  We decided to try using the same metal gridwork for this divider as we use for the hay feeders.  It's very strong but lighter in weight than a similar panel made all of wood.  If there are any drawbacks to the design I'm sure we'll discover them.  The large posts sticking up are set in the concrete that fills the old gutter and help anchor and stabilize everything.  I told Andy he ought to use a chainsaw and carve them into sheep totem poles.  I got "a look" for my suggestion ;-)

The panel bolts into place rather than working on hinges.  If we need to have groups separated we don't want to trust the latch of a hinged gate to keep them apart.....

The hay feeder is the same design as we've done previously and we added an upper board to keep chaff from falling down on the sheep's heads and necks.  And.....drumroll...... Andy built swinging gates in strategic places to manage traffic flow.  Seen above, the gate is folded back flush to the front of the pen.
Swung open, it shunts the sheep to the left and toward the open gate of the pen which in turn blocks the alleyway and gives a sheep no choices about taking a more scenic route.  It's a given that they would do that.  (Pardon the pile of debris - it will get picked up before any sheepies head this way.)
Since he was in full building mode, Andy also made two other gates down in the older section of the barn which function to make an alley between the east and west sections of the barn. They are folded back flat to the feeders when not needed....

....but swing and latch to make a quick conduit between the two areas.  Gone are the days of having to go find 2 sheets of plywood or four small lamb jug panels to make a passage.  Woot!

Tomorrow we have some finishing up to do and then the ewes have to be divided.  Later in the afternoon when they've settled in a bit we'll bring the rams down and put each in with his harem. 

Once the sheep are all organized for the duration we can get back to work!


  1. VERY nice! I wish I had a big open barn like that, I can think of ten things right off that I would like to do with it:)