Last Friday I wrote about my frustration with one of our older Romney ewes, Grace, who has been making herself comfortable — and well-fed — by grazing where she pleases around the area. My neighbors have been more than patient, but I must in some way control her movements. Not only is it dangerous for her to be wandering our rural roads, but she is now taking advantage of local planted fields. Although my neighbor has looked the other way as Grace helped herself to the alfalfa field meant for his dairy cattle, I know that straight alfalfa can cause terrible digestive upsets in sheep. I really needed to get Grace’s wandering under control, but I was unsure how to go about solving this very real problem.
Thankfully, a thought occurred to me as I was planning our delivery of Romney sheep to my friends Josh and Emilly’s farm. Quite a few of our adult sheep have been sold to this particular farm in the past few months. Better than that, Josh and Emilly are managing their farm as a “satellite” of our own farm: their sheep all came from here and have no contact with other sheep, and their land hasn’t housed other sheep for many years (if at all). Because of this, any internal parasites or other health issues tend to be the same as our own. Essentially we have a combined flock that is separated by a few miles, which allows us to move sheep back and forth easily.
One advantage of this particular farm is that, unlike our pastures, their entire fenceline is electrified. At our farm, we are unable to electrify the fence along the road, and that is where Grace gets out. I began to think that perhaps Grace would be better off grazing at Josh and Emilly’s with many of her old friends. If they could keep her for the next month, it would get us to breeding season — on or around September 17th — when our flocks will end up reshuffling again.
During the six or seven weeks of breeding season, one of the groups at our farm usually ends up in a paddock near the barn, entirely closed in by board fencing — fencing that would keep Grace confined. By the time breeding season is over, we will likely be feeding hay; and by that point, Grace will no longer be wandering since she’ll want to stay near the barn for hay. That solves my Grace problem for the rest of this year and gives me added time to figure out what to do next year!
As soon as my plan began to take shape, I contacted Josh and Emilly and asked whether they’d be willing to take Grace in for a month. And as quickly as my text reached them, I had a reply: Sure! Just before lunchtime last Saturday, we unloaded five sheep at their farm: one from our trip to Montana, three that they bought from us (including Fern and Jada), and Grace, who was happy for the ride with her friends. We opened the trailer directly into their field, and the girls all hopped off the trailer to join the other ewes already there — all girls that originally came from our farm. With a group that she already recognized as longtime friends, Grace was quite happy to make the move. The new place, has not only friends; it also provides lots of browse in the shrubs and trees of their forested areas. Grace no longer has to deal with other ewes dropping manure on the areas she wants to graze.
It has been several days now, and Grace is still being confined within the fenceline of her new place. Even more interesting, Josh and Emilly have cut down their pasture size by setting up temporary fencing within the larger perimeter — and that temporary fencing is only two strands of electrified wire, about one and two feet off the ground. For some reason, that seems to be keeping Grace in with the rest of the flock. Is it because of the good grazing above the ground? Or because of unfamiliar surroundings that make her nervous to leave the flock? I can’t even begin to guess whether she will continue to stay put until breeding, yet I’m hopeful that Grace will stay in. After all, what other options do I have?