Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Promised Land!

We have had a miserably cold and wet spring, and pastures are about 2 weeks behind where they should be.  (Note to really can't have too much hay in the barn.)  While I was away at the MD Sheep and Wool Festival, Andy started fixing pasture fence.  Snow load, clumsy deer, falling trees, time, rot.... all those things conspire every year to make the fences tip, sag, or get squashed flat.  The rams went out the day I left, and the ewes and lambs got their first taste of grass on Tuesday.

Sheep are not stupid, although they can make very bad decisions under pressure.  Their strong suit is memory.  Everyone over a year old knows perfectly well that when people are in the pasture they are Doing Something.  The last few days they have been really agitated any time you walk toward the gate, toward the fence or into the feed bunk (it goes to the big pasture).  And yesterday was the Big Day.

GRA-A-A-A-A-S-S-S !!

This is the Baby Pasture.  It's only about an acre and a half in size and is the closest one to the barns and barnyard.  It's a good one to start the flock in each year because of it's ease of access, ease of rounding the flock back up, and lack of serious clover.  After not seeing fresh grass for 6 months, everyone needs some time to acclimate to it to avoid serious digestive problems, including fatal ones.  We allow the sheep 20 minutes only for the first 3-4 days, and that's in the afternoon after they have eaten all the hay from morning chores.  No one OD's on lush pasture and it gives the rumen microbes enough quantity to work with that they can start switching over to processing fresh forage. After that initial few days, the most lush and problematic plants have been eaten down and the sheep can stay out longer each day.  By the time the Baby Pasture is thoroughly eaten down, they can start safely going out to the Big Pasture for a couple of hours in the afternoon, after all the hay has been eaten inside.

I don't know what you call it...but I LIKE it!

Most of the older lambs go right to grazing.  The younger ones nibble, but also do races and jump around a lot.  They have all. this. space.!  

And then the time's up.  It's astounding how much grass they can chow down in 20 minutes of frantic eating and they are actually not too hard to shoo back through the gate.  

Go in??  We just GOT here!

   Don't worry, another 24 hours and we'll let you out again.

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