Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Catching sheep

It has taken us awhile, let's see, about 10 years but we now have evolved to the point where we have a wonderful system for catching the sheep. I hate rodeos, especially where my sheep are involved, but it seems that is how it has been up until this year. Yes, periodically you do need to catch the buggers; to shear, to worm, to trim hooves. And yes you need to catch ALL of them, not just the super friendly ones. One thing about sheep is that they have an innate sense of when you want to do this and suddenly they scatter, wanting no part of you. Our dog, with some border collie genetics, is no good; after being pummeled by one of our precocious ewes he no longer likes the sheep and avoids them at all cost. So it is up to us humans to find a way to catch the sheep and preferable not in rodeo style.

Things I have learned about sheep. Sheep easily go uphill; it is much easier to coax them to go up rather than down. It is easier to get sheep from a big space into progressively smaller spaces rather than going from a big space to a very small space; they just don't like it and will scatter in many directions no matter how many helpers you have. Sheep like to follow fence lines and like to go around blind corners. I have no idea why, but it is quite easy to herd them to a wall that they can go around and then be out of site.

With all these factors put to good use we have finally come up with a system for enticing our crafty little sheep into the barn and putting them on lock down. We start with a little food, sweet cob is always good. The sheep go in the barn to eat. I carefully sneak around the side, close up the corral outside the barn. At this point a few nervous Nellies come running out of the barn to investigate, usually scaring the lot of them into doing the same. I calmly continue to step closer. To avoid me they go uphill into the fence, around the solid barn door, around a set of feeders, and meanwhile I close the barn door and, what do you know, all sheep are now safely locked intside. I can now singlehandedly get ALL the sheep trapped in the barn ALL by myself in about 3 minutes flat, and no rodeo!

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