Our lambs were weaned over Memorial Day weekend, and it was our plan to collect pre-deworming fecal samples, then deworm them at weaning, and eventually collect post-deworming fecal samples about a week or so later, finally moving them out onto clean pasture miles from here this past weekend. In the end, it all happened except the move – but let’s not go there quite yet. The idea from all of this planned work was to figure out two important things. First, we would find out whether our lambs were clean of internal parasites before we put them onto clean pasture several miles from here. By July 1, most of our own pastures would be clean of parasite larvae, and we didn’t want our lambs to be spreading eggs and larva onto clean fields – either our own or anyone else’s. Since we had made arrangements for our lambs to temporarily graze fields at another farm until July 1, we wanted to make sure we sent them “clean” – and then because those fields had never been grazed by sheep, the lambs would stay clean for their return to our own cleaned-up fields around July 1.
Secondly, testing the same lambs both before and after deworming would tell us how good a job our dewormer was doing in killing off internal parasites in our sheep. If they tested wormy before deworming, we were hoping that the samples collected one week later would show a dramatic decrease in parasite eggs – the way we determine internal parasite levels. If this was the case, then we knew our dewormer was still working – and if not, then we knew we needed to switch to another dewormer. This is critical information when dealing with sheep and their internal parasites.
Collecting fecal samples from lambs is just about as exciting as you would expect. The first samples were easy, since I just walked around among the lambs and any volunteer who began to drop pellets quickly found me behind them with my inverted plastic sandwich bag, picking up their droppings and labeling the bag with eartag number and name. The post-deworming samples were a bit trickier. At that point, I needed samples from specifically those lambs who volunteered the first time, so it involved a lot of standing around behind the lamb-of-choice, hoping he or she took pity on me and dropped a few pellets. Unfortunately, the way I think it really works when I attempt this is that while I am following lamb A around, lamb B drops pellets – and when I give up on lamb A and go to B, lamb A drops what they’ve been holding in! I spent several hours doing this on Friday with only a single success, and then on Saturday when I had help, we caught the rest of the lambs which I think literally scared the pellets right out of them!
Since we didn’t get the samples until Saturday morning, they weren’t processed in time to move the lambs to their clean pasture last weekend – and that got us thinking. Moving them to pastures miles from here would mean a trip out there each day to check on them and make sure they were all doing OK – quite an inconvenience. Yes, pasture is better for them than hay, but their time on hay would be short. Also, although pasture costs a lot less, they aren’t eating so terribly much hay at this point because they are still relatively small. The original plan was to move them out this past weekend in three trailer loads, carrying each lamb individually onto the trailer and then off – and then to do the same thing in reverse when we brought them home two weeks later. The more we thought about it, the more it started to seem like a lot of work to save about $100 in hay. Honestly, just the gas to move them in the trailer would come to almost $60 – plus a whole lot of work!
As a result, the lambs are in our Sheep Barn where they will now stay until probably June 24, when we will move them out onto our own clean pastures. I cannot imagine that one week will make a huge difference in the parasite levels on the fields, and it will likely take at least a week for our lambs to eat enough of the tall grass to get down to where the parasites would hang out, anyhow (since the parasite larvae stay in the bottom 2-3″ of pasture). Our fields are so overgrown, I’m not sure whether we will be able to get them back in shape at all this year!
So, although I would love to put our lambs out on pasture now, they have a bit more of a wait. Because they are inside the Sheep Barn, I can keep a better eye on them, monitoring how weaning has gone, which need a bit extra attention, and just getting them used to my presence in their lives. Before long, they will be out on the fields with Gabby and llama Martin to lead them. But buried deep in their memories will be my presence in their lives providing food and water when they were left without their mothers – and that little seed can eventually grow into something more for those who stay. I can’t say that I’m too disappointed that it turned out this way. I know I’m a glass-half-full kinda gal, but I do think this will work out for the best.