Containing Grace

I have written several times about the challenges of keeping our Romney ewe, Grace, within the confines of our pastures. Grace is nine — the second oldest of our flock — and she has wisdom beyond her years. She was the first daughter born to our former flock matriarch, Zoe, who lived to the age of nearly sixteen. From this I have to deduce that Grace has the potential to live to a ripe old age. If she survives the challenges of her lifestyle.

You may know from past posts that Grace is very opinionated about her grazing. She doesn’t like overgrazed pastures and she doesn’t like fields contaminated with manure. To avoid these situations, Grace escapes the fence and helps herself to the roadside grass, since our acreage abuts the intersection of two country roads. Grace knows from experience that we have lots of roadside to choose from.

Most of our sheep would never consider going out onto the roadside. All of our pastures are separated by seven-wire high-tensile fences. All of those partition fences have two hot wires among the seven, and our sheep have all been zapped by the voltage at least once. Grace, however, has figured out that we don’t electrify the perimeter fencing — and she makes full use of this fact.

Some time ago, I moved Grace in with the lambs, hoping that the fresher pastures would encourage her to stay within our farm’s boundary fence. But no. Grace not only continues to pass through the perimeter fencing for the roadside ditches, but she is now teaching our lambs to do the same. I cannot allow this to continue.

One obvious solution is to take Grace to the auction. She would be gone, and my problem would be solved. Yet I can’t bring myself to do this to my old friend and Zoe’s first daughter. The thought flits across my mind and is almost as quickly squashed as inconceivable. My heart could not withstand this solution. There must be another.

The only other answer I can find is to keep Grace away from the road frontage. Since we rotate our pastures, each group ends up in a field with road frontage on every second move. This week, the lambs have road frontage, and after the next move, they’ll be in an interior pasture; after that, they’ll be back along a road. It generally works this way all summer long, back and forth through our many fields. By moving Grace from group to group based on the pasture they will inhabit, I can keep her grazing interior pastures. This week, she’ll in with the adult ewes, but with the next move, she’ll go in with the lambs, and after that, back with the adult ewes. By moving her back and forth, I can prevent the neighbors from worrying about my “sheep in the road,” and I can keep Grace from infecting the entire lamb flock with wanderlust.

This option creates a lot of extra work on my part, however. Normally I move my sheep by opening a gate and calling them into the new pasture — and they happily follow. Now I’ll need to move Grace — and only Grace — into a new group before I open the gate and move the rest. It’s an additional layer of work I don’t relish. Moving a single sheep is not an easy task; after all, they are flocking creatures and hate to be singled out. Yet what are my options, since the auction has been disqualified?

In my spare time, I search for other alternatives. At Grace’s age, relocating her to another farm would almost be cruel; she has grown up and grown old here on our farm and would find any move elsewhere particularly stressful. I’ll keep searching for a better option. In the meantime, I’ve begun to move Grace from group to group. It isn’t the perfect solution, but it’s working for now. It’s the only way I can contain Grace where she belongs.

New Fleece Update: Skirting of our ram fleeces is finished and they will be released to our email notification list on Thursday, June 16th, most likely in the late afternoon (between 4 and 5 p.m. CDT). I will also be offering a handful of ewe fleeces at a discounted rate at that time. Stay tuned!

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