Shepherding is cyclic, shifting with the seasons throughout the year. The heavy-duty work of lambing gives way to a period of growth, during which we ensure that each and every one of our lambs remains healthy and happy as they grow into the best version of their genetics. This period is one of evaluating, vaccinating, and constant monitoring — and of making arrangements for sales as the weaned lambs begin to look and behave more like adult sheep rather than the babies they were just weeks ago.
This part of the cycle passes quickly into the season of deliveries, as parts of our flock are sold off to create new flocks at other farms. This past weekend started this process when we delivered a relatively big group — Romneys and Romeldales, adults and lambs — to a nearby farmstead. This kind of a group can be bittersweet, because although it is obviously the beginning of an exciting time for these new shepherds, we also lose several older flock-members who have become my friends. I know they are in a wonderful new home — but I still miss them.
Yesterday’s delivery included Ireland, Jypsi, Millie, and Olivia plus a nice number of lambs. As usual, we put the sheep together in advance of their delivery so that the new flock could become acclimated to one another before the journey. When we arrived at their new home, the girls were anxious to be out in the sun after a day and night in the trailer. We merely had to open the door and out they came, happily escaping their confinement for the large field that would be their new grazing area.
Their new llama, Moose, was delivered less than an hour later. Although the sheep seemed fine without her, my experienced eye could see that they were nervous. After all, they were in a new environment that they did not understand. The growth was thick in some sections, and they knew those areas could hide predators looking for a meal. The small flock stayed tightly together, eating the grass shoulder-to-shoulder, knowing that their safety depended on their numbers.
Moose stood in place for her release from the halter and then quickly got to work. She first looked over the new flock, which had suddenly gathered around her long legs. As soon as the sheep met their llama, they immediately relaxed, knowing that their guardian had arrived. No matter what the threat, they knew they would be warned in advance — they no longer had to be so vigilant themselves. The sheep quickly shifted their focus to eating and exploring their new domain, letting the llama worry about the rest.
Moose, on the other hand, knew she had a job to do. It’s difficult to protect against threats when you don’t know where they might come from, so her first focus after introductions was to check out the perimeter of their new area. She took a good long look at the fencing and the view in each direction, then settled herself at the fenceline along the road, obviously feeling that was the spot where a threat to the flock would likely enter. Not all llamas will begin to guard so quickly (it can take up to a week or two), but when it occurs in this way, it’s impressive to watch. Minutes ago, this llama had never met these particular sheep — and now she was willing to warn them of threats and to fight to keep them safe!
After watching for a bit, Rick and I headed towards home, knowing that there was now one more shepherd and one more flock in our town. As much as I will miss my old friends and new lambs, I know this group is blessed to be in their new situation. They have a lovely, caring family to look after them. They have acres of growth to nibble down and clear over the years. They are the beginning of something new and special — the foundation of a new sheep endeavor. This is as good as it gets for our sheep going out into the world. As with most placements, I wish them well and can’t wait to see how it all turns out!
New Fleece Update: Skirting of our ram fleeces is nearly finished, allowing me to schedule their release 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!