- Time for the year to start all over again. We are getting ready to put the rams back in with the ewes. The ewes are doing very well down on the wheat stubble there is a real weed problem so the ewes are getting lots of green feed. I am going to pull the replacement ewes off the stubble and put them on some irrigated ground I have out in front of my house. I think this will help them get bred as ewe-lambs.
- We are using 16 Suffolk rams and about 4 Rambouillet rams this year. I just want enough Rambouillet lambs to use for replacements. Those Rambouillet rams really work hard so I am not worried about having plenty of replacements next year.
- The ewes have a lot of wool on them right now. I have 4-5 cases of fly-strike. I caught the ewes up and tagged them. I lost one of our teaser rams on the stubble the other day. I am sure it was his time to go. He was an old ram, over-weight and trying to chase ewes around 1000acres of stubble. He didn't last two weeks. Too bad really, it is hard to find teaser rams, unless you make them yourself. I think next year I will use teaser wethers instead. I think the rams do a better job but teaser-wethers are easier to make rams.
- Cameron is on his way over here with his sheep-trailers. We are going to clean them out before his next job. Livestock-haulers are the highest paid truckers. If you have ever cleaned out a sheep-trailer you know why.
- I hope to do some sheep-hauling on the side to try to help make ends meet this year. You have to have a herder in the Mountains but the expense of doing so will put my budget in the red.
- Charlie and I fixed my wood panels (added 6" to the height of each panel). We also made another 16 panels at the correct height of 39". You would be amazed to see what a difference 6" makes to a sheep that wants to jump your panel. The extra height adds some weight but also adds a bit of strength as well. We made a new jig and that means we can turn out a panel in about 15 minutes.
- The Border Collies are doing well. Lance and Greg are finally starting to come around. They are a couple basket cases. They didn't get any socialization as puppies.
- I have one female LGD to sale yet. I had a couple more males sold but am thinking I best just keep them.
- We are now off the Mountain. The feed was drying out and it was time to go. My dogs, horses, Charlie and myself are thin. We shipped our lambs on 08-17-07 and we shipped the ewes off the next day. It was a hard but fun summer. Charlie rode up onto a Cougar and I rode up on a black bear. The Livestock Guardian dogs were on the case (with Trooper and Nine in the lead) and I watched them chase that bear down into the bottom of the allotment. I didn't get a chance to do anything so that bear will be waiting for us next year. The company that owns the land are very happy so we will have about 5000 acres more to graze next year. I am bring in at least one herder this year.
- I bought three new Border Collies in the last couple weeks. One is a Border Collie/Cattle dog cross. The other two are from a cattle guy in Boardman, OR. They are named Carl (Border Collie/Cattle Dog). Lance and Greg are the two Border Collie brothers. The Border Collie brothers haven't been out of the kennel very much so it will take some time to get them going. Carl is still a very small puppy but Katie has him going very well. She is great at getting manners on young dogs. It makes starting them much easier for me.
- I am also working on getting a sheep-trailer for my Semi truck. There is a very nice one for sale in Pendleton, OR. I am working on financing at this point. With this many sheep, I really need my own truck and trailer. It is costing me a lot to move my sheep, each time we move them.
- Mick is getting older now. The Mountains were hard on him. He is regaining his shine now with plenty of sleep.
- The sheep are down on wheat stubble. They have a huge explosion of weeds on the field and the ewes are doing very well on it. I have put our teaser rams in and the ewes are following them around the field, this is a very good thing. We are going to buck on Sept. 1st this year. I have 16 Suffolk ram bought at this point. I will also turn out my Super-Fine Rambouillet rams (5). We will pull these rams out when we put the leased rams in. It has been very hard to find any Suffolk producer that is willing to lease rams out. They all seems to want to sale the rams and be done with it.
- I looked at so more Suffolk rams today. They are nice rams, have more muscle then the rams I bought. They are commercial type rams. I think I will look into buying from this producer next year. I plan to use the rams I bought this year and turn them over after breeding them.
- We have one female LGD left to sale. I think I may keep her and get her spayed. She is very nice.
- The lambs are contracted. The price is not as good as I had hoped, but in the sheep business, what is. I feel I got discounted for using the Texel rams. I sold all of those rams so I will not have to worry about that next year. The lamb buyers want Suffolk ram over my ewes so that is what we are doing this year. I bought 16 Suffolk rams from local ram producers. I also have contracted to lease 20 Suffolk rams from a very good ram producer. This should insure we do better next year when the bids on our lambs come in. It seems everyone wants a smut-faced lamb to feed. Why go against the trend?
- We moved the band about two miles on Sunday. It was not easy. I figure we lost half the band in the woods. We are still finding sheep and putting them back into the band. I pray to god, we have all the sheep before the 18th. That is the day we ship lambs.
- Charlie Martin, our Intern for the summer is doing a very good job. I think he now knows how hard the "Sheep business" can be on a person. Gale is working very well for him. I just cannot say enough good things about them as a team and as individuals. They have the vigor of the young. I fear I will not be apart of "The Young" for much longer.
- We are now back to the place where we started in early June. The grass is burned off now but the brush is still very nice and the sheep seem to be getting enough to eat. The lambs are gaining about .5lbs per day.
- We have had some "fly Strike" in the band. The only thing to say about that is "you have to do what you have to do." When you run fine-wooled ewes you expect to deal with this issue.
- I have sold all of our LGD dogs that we want to sale this year. I am getting more calls but I have to stop myself from selling any more dogs. They are very nice dogs but I have to remember that I need them for myself. As I have said, " When a sheep-Guy doesn't have any money, EVERYTHING is for sale. When we have money, Nothing is for Sale."
- I am listening to NPR and they are talking about "Social Enterprise." Something of a disconnect from sheepherding.
- I had a lamb-buyer come look at our lambs today. He is from the Willamette Valley. He is going to bid on my lambs. This is a good thing since we should have at least two buyers bidding on my lambs. It is always better to have multiple bids on any commodity.
- Charlie is gone on a four day weekend. He has a Polo clinic to attend and it is his 20th birthday. Happy Birthday Charlie.
- I will be herding on my own tomorrow and again on Sunday until his return. The difference with herding alone is that you have twice as much ground to cover and twice as much work. Lucky for me, we are on some really nice grass at this point so the sheep are just work their way through it. The more difficult herding will come next week when the grass is getting low and we are trying to clean everything up.
- The sheep are going very well on the brush at this point. As the grass heads out and gets tough, the sheep are turning to the brush instead. It is more tender and higher in protein. "The sheep know best."
- I have been in the market for some Suffolk Rams and talked to a breeder today. It sounds like he may have 9 ram-lambs for me. That may sound like a lot, but ram-lambs only breed about 25 ewes each. When you have a band, 225 ewes getting bred will just not cut it. So, I think I will buy these ram-lambs and also lease rams this season to ensure my ewes get bred. I will have to work on getting more permanent grazing setup to run my rams. I figure we will have around 30-50 rams to run year around. This is what makes leasing rams so attractive. I just wish there were more breeders leasing Suffolk rams. I know there is a good market for it. As it stands, I will most likely run these ram-lambs through breeding and then turn them over. Suffolk rams are not easy to fence or herd. In a perfect world, I would have enough irrigated pasture to run a small flock of Suffolk rams and ewes to breed my own rams. Just another thing to add to the list of things I want.
- Things where a bit less exciting around here today. I am finding that I like days when nothing happens but sheepherding. I spoke to four feeder-lamb buyers today and I think two will make bids on my lambs. I told them it will be a closed bid and I would take the highest bid by the end of next week. Next year I am going to try to get on the video lamb auction. I think there are two types of lamb buyers, ones that want good quality lambs to feed and are serious players and the ones that just want to pick up cheap lambs from wherever they can. I think those are the peopole to avoid. I mean I work very hard all year to produce a quality lamb and then they want to come in and buy it for a song, put 50lbs on it and get fast money. I am looking forward to the day when I have the complete life-cycle of the lamb under my control. From birth to processing. Then I only have myself to worry about.
- The lambs are 95lbs on average now. I have decided to move the shipping date up to August 18th instead of the 25th. This will give my ewes two weeks to dry off before I put in the teaser rams. It will also cost me about $1400 this year in lost gains but I figure we should more then make up for that next year with more lambs.
- Quill (sheepdog) is doing very well. He is now my number one dog since Mick is off recovering from his talk with Trooper about Nine. If I had the money, I would buy Quill from Sue, not as a breeding dog but rather as a good ranch dog.
- We may have a new puppy coming this weekend. A guy by the name of Bill Cline of Hermiston has a weaning, pup for sale. Charlie is going to look at him for me and if he looks good, buy him. I don't really like buying pups from people I don't know personally, but I need more dogs. We will be getting the herder this winter and I want to make sure I have at least one started dog for him.
- We moved camp to a new spot and we have grass that is as green as grass, and as high as the horses back. We got some nice rain the past couple weeks and the areas we have already grazed have started to come back nice. Having good grass in one place is a gift.
- The sheep are into a rhythm now. We have to push them out of the pen in the morning, they like to sleep in. and they are heading home by 5pm at night. In the middle hours we work to keep them off the highway and away trouble. It is amazing what sheep will climb over and through to get to that next better piece of graze or brush.
- Bees are a real problem here. I don't know what everyone is talking about when they say the bees are in trouble. They are going strong on this mountain. Quill gets into bees almost daily. Yesterday, Jackson (my horse) got into some bees and was bucking like a rodeo start. Gale and Charlie never seem to be bothered by bees. I guess, Jackson, Quill and I must have a gift for it.
- It is 10pm. I have to go look for Charlie. I will explain why when I get back.
- OK, I am back. The reason I had to go look for Charlie is that he is now a trained intern. And, they are a valuable thing to have. The other reason causes me to spit. We had a nice day of herding sheep and things where very well. The sheep out grazing new green grass and he and I were sitting around talking about sheep and trying not to let the lamb buyers screw me. I was sitting on the 4wheeler, letting my horse have a few days off, and he was sitting on his horse. Somebody was shooting near by and I didn't know they where shooting in our direction. Before long we herd bullets flying by us. Then Charlie's horse spooked. He was sitting with his leg over the horn in a rest fashion. This didn't give Charlie muck leverage to hold on. It happened slowly at first and I thought he was under control. Then his horse got more and more scared. After a few seconds, Charlie was on the ground the the horse was gone. She took my horse with her (he was off today so didn't have a saddle on). I didn't think about catching her at first I was very mad at the guy that was doing the shooting and my first thought was to kick his butt. I started yelling at him to stop. Then we when looking for the horses. They were gone. We looked for a couple hours. Finally, we stopped to put the sheep to bed. I kept getting more and more mad at this guy. So, I walked up to his property line and called for him to come talk to me. He came down and I let him have it. On the way there, Charlie asked me what I was going to say, I said "I don't know yet" and Charlie said, "as long as their is no violence." I couldn't promise that. At this point I thought he had shoot Charlie's horse because she wouldn't have run away like this otherwise. I got his name and said I would be back when we found the horse. We then took Charlie's truck down to the Chattel restaurant and could see some riders. We stopped them and asked about the horses. Sure enough they found the horses and put them in a pen. They are very good people. I mad, Charlie ride his horse back and trail my horse while I took the truck back to camp. It was over an hour for him to get back and that is why I had to go looking for him. I found him and everyone is safe now. The horse didn't get shoot, she just got scared. This is your average day in the life of a sheepherder. I have decided to never let my herders have horses unless we are on desert ground. I love horses but they are a major pain in the butt. Good dogs and a good pair of boots is all they should need to do that job.
- Nine is in heat again, so this means Trooper is (these are Gaurdain Dogs) is kicking everyone's butt to keep them away from Nine. This includes Mick. I sent Mick around the sheep to help push up and Trooper nailed him to the ground in a big dog fight. This is in part Mick's falt since he has been messing with Trooper all summer. Trooper put two big holes in Mick's leg before I could get there to break it up. Mick is now having a few days off. This also means that Brook is having some time off as well. You see, Brook only really works well with Mick. In fact they are a good team.
- The lambs are gaining about .5lbs per day. This means that we should be shipping 110lb average lambs off this mountain. This makes my banker very happy.
- It is the forth of July. I am herding sheep. I am in Sheepcamp. It is a good thing that I have never been a person to celebrate holidays. However, I sometimes think about all the people with their families having BBQs and watching fireworks. Just having time to sit around and talk. I miss that.
- The sheepdogs have sore feet and beat up legs from running in the brush. We all have beat up feet and legs at this point.
- I am riding a horse call Jackson. He is a Thoroughbred from the racetrack that doesn't run very fast. He just seems to put his feet wherever they fall. This is not good when you are on a cliff-top trying to talk to your dogs and move sheep. He is very tall and thin. He has gotten better of the past couple days. I have stopped trying to protect him from himself and got on with the job at hand. He is settling down from the constant riding and starting to think a bit more. He did pull a shoe on me last week and so got a couple days off. Today, Charlie's horse pulled a shoe and is off now for a couple days too. Thank god it only cost me $10 to get the shoe put back on.
- Sue Wessels has loaned me a couple dogs. That has been a great help. One female named Brook and a male named Quill. Quill is a really good dog. He is really starting to catch on to what we are doing here. Self-Thinkers is very important here. You need your dogs to listen but they have to be thinking about what you want them to do also.
- All the dogs could use a week or more off. As it is, Gale works 5 days straight, for Charlie and I try to give her two days off. Quill and Mick alternate days working for me. Brook helps on the gathers. She is very shy so I don't push her too much to perform.
- I have a new Border Collie pup coming this weekend. He is only 8 weeks old. Not sure what we will do with him during the day but perhaps Katie will take him home for the summer to grow into a big dog ready to work.
- The bugs are getting bad up here now. I caught three lambs with fly-strike. One was near death. We had some rain and that seemed to get it going. I caught the lamb and got the wool off her. We then put some Adtraband on her and she seems to be doing much better now. The other two where early enough that I got the maggots off and sprayed them. They are doing very well.
- I got stung on the arm by a bee today. But, Charlie got stung in the mouth. A bee landed on his lunch and he bit down. Pain.
- We moved camp again yesterday. We move camp every 5 days or so. It is always nerve-racking to move camp because just when your sheep are learning the way home, you move camp on them. The first three days gathering to the new camp is a real fight. I always try to get onto new graze after we move camp so the sheep don't think they know more then you do and head to the old camp. Well, yesterday we found about 50 ewes that made their way to the old camp and were bedded down for a sleep.
- Water is a constant worry. For the sheep and for myself, dogs and horses. We have a couple pond up here for water and it is easy to bring the dogs and horse to water a couple times a day but we are going to be moving onto graze that has little water. This will be hard. The sheep don't drink very much here. About every other day half the band drinks. Mostly lambs. I think their mothers are weaning them off milk. Ever mammal needs water, air and food to do well. Gale and Mick don't drink that much but the newer dogs I have up here seems to drink a bit more. I am sure they are just getting acclimated to being in the mountains.
- All in all we are doing OK. I found a hand full of ewes yesterday that had gone a new way and got them back into the flock. We will only know for sure if we have kept all the sheep together when we go to truck out in August. Wish me luck.
- We are now on the Mountain Allotment. We are at 5000' in elevation. That is something I didn't take into consideration for the first couple days I was here. About the third day I was beat down and my horse and dogs were not able to keep pace. It finally hit me why I was having so much trouble. The air is thinner and you need to get acclimated to it. So I slowed down a bit and things got better.
- The first day we were here I lost half my band of sheep. It was my fault. I had a couple sheep trailers that I borrowed to get my sheep up here and needed to clean them out. I left my sheep for a couple hours with an inexperienced person I hired for the week. When I got back, he had the sheep gathered and when I drove up and I said "where are the rest of my sheep". He had no idea that half the band was gone. I sent him out to find them and a couple hours later, with the help of Gale (my fantastic female Border Collie) he returned with the rest of the sheep.
- It has been one thing after another since then. The horse I borrowed from the University of Oregon @ La Grande got tangled up in her lead rope the first night and about 5am I heard lots of kicking on the trailer. I found her with the rope between her legs and she was freaked out. I cut the rope, in my underwear, and she left the scene. I got the 4wheeler and rounded her up. She has a couple rope burns but other the that she is in fine shape.
- Our summer Intern, Charlie Martin is here now. He works 5 days a week and he is just great. Katie comes up on her days off to help and I could NOT do it without them. They are both very responsible with the sheep and sheepdogs. What would I do without good people to help me?
- The hardest times of day are every morning and every night. Things are getting better each day as I learn and the sheep learn to stay together. Even my sheepdogs have had to learn a lot up here. The allotment is VERY brushy and so they have had to learn to hunt sheep as well as herd them. But, every morning is still a test of patience for everyone, sheep, dogs, horses and people.
- The sheep want fresh graze, everyone of them do. So each morning you turn them out to graze and they bleed out like milk on the floor, each ewe and lamb trying to get fresh graze. Well, if you want them to go in one direction, the ones at the back don't get fresh graze. So, each morning you spend the first couple hours gathering them into the direction you want them to go. Then once you get to the spot you want to graze you spend the rest of the day trying to keep the ones in the back from cutting back to camp. You also need to make sure you have a perimeter setup that you can either walk your horse or ride. You need to make sure the sheep in the front are not getting away from you and the sheep in the back are heading in the right direction. You do this until about 7pm at night then you get to the back of the band and start pushing them to camp. The sheep think I am crazy.
- Once back at camp you have to get them to settle down and feed salt and cook dinner and feed the horses and dogs. The sheepdogs go through twice as much feed up here and they are still very thin. The horses are thin as well, not to mention myself. It seems the only thing that gets fat in the Mountains is the sheep. The sheep are doing fantastic. Much better then I could have hoped. Even the smaller lambs are doing great. At the end of the day, the ewes are jumping around like lambs. That is the pay off.
- The sheepdogs work extremely hard here. Gale and Mick have been great. You know they are working hard because every second that can sleep under a tree they do. When you call them to push in some ewes and lambs that want to cross a road or something, they spring from the brush and come to work. Then they go back to the brush to sleep, just like nothing happened. I have the utmost respect for my Border Collies. They prove to me each day how much I need them. Nothing can put my sheep in line like Mick or Gale. The sheep have no respect for the horse.
- Not that the horses don't work hard. They have the second hardest job here. We feed them as much feed at night as we can.
- The Guard Dogs have kept all Coyotes away including bears and cats. We don't feed the Guard Dogs as much up here. Not that they don't deserve it but if you keep your Gaurd Dogs are a bit thin, they seems to find things in the woods to eat. They "hunt" for for little critters. Don't get me wrong, they are eating me out of a house and home but a little less then when we are in a fenced area. Their weight has not gone down at all. I know for a fact that Jorge has caught one Coyote. It was a feast for all the pups.
- The first couple nights we had Coyote probing our sheep camp but Trooper, Nine, Jorge and the puppies turned them away. I have not heard a Coyote for a week. Rodents are on the run as well as the Coyotes. Nine is a great mouser. Who knows what else she is catching out here.
- We are taking the sheep to a Mountain Allotment tomorrow. I am a little worried. These ewes have never been herdered before. They are accustom to fences. This is a sheep allotment so there are no fences at all. The top of the allotment is at 5000' and the bottom is 1400'.
- I have hired Lee (worked lambing for me) to herd for me and Katie will be herd on horseback to help keep the sheep together. This is a very steep allotment with lots of bears and cats.
- And to top it off, I am driving my semi truck with a sheep trailer on it that I have never driven before. Tomorrow could be a great day or it could be a very hard day.
- I have had the ewes and lambs on peas hay. Hay is very expensive so I look forward to getting the band on new feed.
- Wish me luck.
- We sorted off the fall market lambs today. They will get sold on Thurs. I have them in the yards at the lambing camp now on hay. We sorted them out of the band. I hired Lee (worked our lambing this year). He and I with Mick and Gale ran all the sheep through the sort starting at about 6am. We had the sort done by 10am. I watered down the yards last night so the dust wasn't as bad as it has been in the past.
- The Peas are just about 100% gone now. This has been a very dry spring and it was a dry fall so the peas are not worth much. I would have expected to get 3-4 weeks out of 130 acres of peas and I have gotten 2 weeks. I put the ewes and lambs on the last 10 acre patch today. I expect them to have it gone within 2-3 days. Then I will be chasing feed on the ground we have already grazed. After Sue W. comes to pickup the dry ewes for a dog trial, I will trail the sheep over to 550 acres of stubble we grazed for a couple weeks this spring. From there, we will go graze some cow pasture, about 100 acres. I hope this will last for 2-3 weeks. The down side to this pasture is that it is right on the road, and has cow-fence so I will be herding the sheep fulltime.
- My dogs, Mick and Gale, are getting a lot of work. Not many nights pass that they are not going into the kennel after a long day of work with tender feed and a heavy head. Mick is around 6yo now and his age comes to show after a few hours in the heat. I push him on and he does what I ask. Gale is young but even she has a limit. It will be 96degree tomorrow and the dogs will have the day off.
- One door closes you hope to find another open. I spoke to a very forward looking farmer today about some Austrian peas he had planned for hay. It seems the Austrian peas are not doing that well. He is contemplating allowing me to come graze them off before he turns them back into the soil.
- I also spoke to the owner of the horses for the La Grande University Polo team. It seems she would be happy to loan out a horse for the summer. The horse hasn't been around sheep or dogs so it will take some time to make him into a good sheepherding horse. But I would rather have an inexperienced horse to ride then to walk all day herding sheep.
- Well, the pea deal fell through. I talked to the farmer this morning and he said he was for it and his brother was on the fence, finally, his father was against it. So it goes.
- I have another meeting on Sat. with the farmer I grazed for last year. He has only 170 acres to graze but that would be enough for my lambs for 40 days. Better then nothing during the hottest part of the year.
- I also took a look at some cow pasture to graze. it is very steep and mostly cheat-grass. It has four-strand barbed wire so the sheep will need to be herded. This means, I will need to find a horse as well.
- I am working hard on a new pea-crop residue contract. The farmer is one of the largest pea farmers in this area. He is on the fence a bit so I am working hard to convince him to give the sheep a try. I should know by tomorrow morning if he is on board or not. At our last meeting, I offered to wean my lambs and just bring them onto the pea ground in early July. He seemed more interested in that idea. He and his brother are forward looking farmers and are interested in trying new things to control weeds. But using sheep for the control is a very new thing for them and they are reluctant. They are very interested in using the sheep on stubble, that is no problem. They have seen how good the sheep are on that but the pea thing is different. They make about $25 per acre for taking the peas as hay, and I feed that pea hay so I know it is good. I am competing with making the peas into hay. There is no way in hell I can afford $25 per acre so, I have to hope they can see the weed control benefits out weigh, cash in hand. I know they will be happy with the sheep, but I just got to get my foot in the door. If I don't, then I will have to start calling other farmers until I find somebody who is interested.
- Things are moving forward with the summer internship. We even have a couple horses lined up to help with trailing the sheep and herding. I have some ground to graze but it has only cow-fence and the sheep will need to be herded during the day. So, a couple good rented horses will sure help out. However, I haven't sent 14 hours a day in the saddle, well never.
- We have two pups left to sale. They are both females.
- I decided not to breed Gale this summer. I want her to be whelping her pups during lambing or winter when the sheep are out on circles. If I was to breed her, then we would have summer pups and I just need her too much right now.
- I was strip grazing the peas but it seems to not make much sense now. We want to get the weeds down before they go to seed so I have turned the band out onto the peas, all at once. I expect they will get through it in about two, maybe three weeks if I am lucky. On the up side, the lambs are looking very good at this point.
- We have started to graze the Austrian Peas. We have about 130 acres of peas we are paying for that were planted in the fall. It was a dry fall and winter and the peas have not done very well. So, it has turned into a cleanup job and not the 4feet high peas I was hoping for. Now that is sheep farming for you. It would have been just too easy if the peas had come in nice.
- I brought in 69 replacement ewe-lambs and long yearlings today. I have them on a custom grazing contract from a women out of Hermiston, OR. They are Rambouillet and Rambouillet/X. Most are a little on the thin side but they are extremely framy. Long legs. They look like models. A few of them look like they much have some Columbian in their background. They have never been run behind electric fence and within two second of getting off the trailer, they where figuring out what it was. We have a big storm moving through here tonight and I just hope they are calm enough not to do anything too stupid tonight, like run through the fence. They are up on the stubble with my ewes at this point and my ewes are very well broke to the fence so I don't think there should be a problem.
- If you shear your flock twice a year and have good records of weights, etc. please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. With the price of wool being so high right now I am considering shearing my ewes again with 6 months of wool on them. A shorter stable will not bring as much money but one does wonder if shearing twice a year will pencil out financially.
- We finally got that damn coyote that was hanging around my paddock. He was over 5 years old and was trap wise. After a week of trying, the Federal trapper finally had to go out and call him in. I had moved my sheep off to 70 acres of cheat-grass right next to the paddock. We figured with the Guard dogs over with the sheep, perhaps that Coyote would get a bit closer to where we had the traps set, but he was a very smart old Coyote. In fact, when the Federal Trapper, his name is Ken and he is the single best trapper/hunter/etc I have ever seen. Ken is a no-bull type of guy. You have to do what he says when he says it and damn-it he will get whatever is bothering your livestock. He is very well respected in this county and nobody with livestock, cattle, sheep, horses, chickens, whatever would disagree with me when I say, he is very good at his job. Ken is the only Federal trapper in this county, there was at one point three, so he is in very high demand. Anyway, back to the story. Last week, I called Ken and told him we still had not got that coyote in the trap and the sheep were about out of feed on the cheat-grass. He was there the next day just after noon like he said. Noon to one is the best time to call a Coyote in. I wanted to go with him but I had spilled gas on myself while I was filling the generator and I knew that Ken wouldn't even want to shake my hand much less, allow me to follow him on a hunt. Personally I think Ken has a better nose for human smells then a Coyote does. He is understandably very strict about getting smells on him or his truck. So, I stayed at the bottom of the paddock as Ken drove off in his Federal, white, Ford F350 pickup. He had a plan. He said, I will be back in an hour at most. So, I put the radio on NPR and sat back to take a nap. We had been working early each morning just about every day for a couple weeks and I needed a nap. About 20 minutes later I could see dust coming down the trail and I thought, shit he didn't see him and gave up. Well, Ken pulled his truck up in front of mine and as I walked up to his window, he held up an empty cartridge. A smile came across my face so big it hurt. At that moment I knew why Ken is so good. He does his job in order to help save lives. Lambs, chickens, dogs, calves, piglets. And in saving the lives of lambs and all the rest, he helps to save the lives of shepherds and farmers.
- One must remember, once you have lost a lamb, you are already too late. It is the same as doing nothing. We do everything we can to prevent having to kill wildlife (Llamas, Good Livestock Guardian Dogs, Herders, electric fences, etc). But, we do even more to prevent wildlife from killing livestock.
- Fly-Strike, If you don't know what Fly-Strike is, thank god for that. If you do then you know how fast is can happen. Some of the lambs we marked last week had it on their tales. We ran them all back through he yards/marking cradle yesterday and it was a long, hard and stomach turning day. I will not get into details but, I will never look at white rice in the same way again. I think we got it all under control. Part of the issue was that we used a hot-knife for the first time this year. Some lambs where just too big to use the knife on.
- Today we marked half of Cameron's lambs. We didn't use the knife, needless to say. Once bitten, twice shy.
- We will be running the lambs back through the cradle again on Tuesday just to make sure that we got them all fixed up.
- It has been a hard couple weeks, we have had something going everyday. Gale is in heat and I was planning to breed her to Don Helsley's Cap but I just don't think I will have the time to get her out there before it is too late. So, she is locked up in the kennel and Mick is my only dog right now. He is holding up well. Working the yards just about everyday and then gathering sheep each night. I have a lot of respect for him, even more then before, if that is possible.
- Taxes. I look forward to the day when I make money and therefore can pay a huge tax bill. ;-) I finished the taxes for Harlow's Hills and Fine Lamb LLC. Thank God for Turbo Tax.
- We are looking for help to support our summer intern. Please let me know if you can help or have ideas about Grants that we can apply for to help support him through the summer. We have selected Charlie Martin as our summer 2007 intern candidate. Now we have to make sure we can support him and put a little money in his pocket while he is working his butt off learning the sheep business. Please let me know if you can help.
- We have marked the lambs and trailed the first group over to the stubble that the late lambers are on. So, we now have the the band back together in one place. We have all the LGDs together again and the Coyotes have taken notice. I mean, you work your ass off in the lambing shed only to have coyotes stealing from you. It is enough to make you cry. We have excellent Guardian dogs but even they cannot be everywhere at once in a 600acre paddock. But now they are all together and can back each other up.
- Nine's pups are doing very well. We also have a new pup out of Nine's sister, Sal and fathered by Trooper. His name is Travis. The other male LGDs are putting him in his place but he is learning a lot from everyone.
- I have put an ad in the paper to sale a few of Nine's pups. Let me know if you are looking for a really good LGD puppy.
- Gale is coming into heat. I am planning on breeding her soon. I hope she has 10 pups. She is such a fantastic dog that I already have several people in line to buy puppies. The bad part is she will most likely be gone for a couple weeks while she is being bred. I will miss her.
- We had three ewes lamb yesterday and today. We had two single and a set of twins. The ewes are mothering well in the night pen so I opted not to put them in jugs right away.
- Lambing will takes it's toll on a person. 6 weeks of worry and no sleep is a long time. We have been running a dry lambing-camp but I am about to break that rule. We started lambing on the first of February and haven't stopped. I laid-off our night person about two weeks ago, it seems like a year ago. I laid-off our full-time day person about one week ago. It is just Katie and I now. At what point do you say, "OK girls we are done lambing. Please just hide your lambs from me so I can get some sleep."
- If my records are correct we have around 850 lambs on the ground. I was talking to my good friend, also a shepherd, tonight and he said: "don't count your lambs, until marking." Good advice I imagine. Since I don't want to put a number in my head and have a smaller number at marking. I think they call this "Managing expectations."
- As I checked the ewes we trailed up to the stubble, I noticed that most are doing very well with their lambs and seem to like being on 550acres instead of 10, on feed. Their lambs are doing well. I put a molasses lick up there for them to help with the transition. The lambs have learned how to use the lick (it is three wheals that the sheep lick and rotate back into the molasses) and I think, are eating as much molasses as the ewes are. The LGDs, Trooper and Jorge are up there with them. I have not found any dead lambs yet so I think the LGDs are covering some ground.
- On the second day, Katie and I were on the 4wheeler and did come across a Coyote a long way away from the sheep but, I couldn't resist trying to run it down. We had Katie's Zack and Gale with us. I dropped the dogs and we were off. I chased the Coyote to the fence, about a half mile. Katie was unhappy about leaving the dogs behind but I knew they would find the water-point and sure enough they where waiting for us when we got back. I think I could have caught the Coyote on a normal day but with two adults on the 4wheeler I just couldn't get enough speed to run him down. I tried turning him into the where last saw the LGDs but he wouldn't go there. I assume he knew the LGDs where there and so did whatever he could to stay away. Even with one person, it is difficult to run down a Coyote on a 4wheeler.
- Getting the water setup was a bit of a chore. We originally were going to set it up behind a friends house. The guy who owns the house didn't like the way the water tank looked and left me a note. Thank goodness I found it before we filled the tank. That would have been a mess. I ended up moving the tank to the top of the stubble. Well away from any houses or people. I prefer to have the water, therefore the base of operations, away from any homes near by. The sheep bed-down near the water, it was actually better not to have it by any houses. Anyway, I had to put the wheels back on the tank and move it up to the top of the stubble. I then filled my water truck and drove up the long steep hill of grave to the top to fill the tank. That old water truck did it, I am proud to say. I don't think it will do it week in and week out but it did it this week. I put her in third (low) and kept my foot near the floor. Yes, I did have flashbacks to when the truck did NOT make it to the top of a steep climb on gravel. It stuck in my mind like mud. 5600 gal of water weighs about 44,800lbs. That is right, over 20 tons. Your average car weighs about 1800lbs or 1.8 tons. Imagine pulling a fully loaded Ford Expedition with a Honda Civic. You would be close to how I felt.
- We still have a couple hundred sheep in the lambing camp. I have started to get things cleaned up and cleaned out. We emptied the black-water from the trailer today. We hooked it up to the truck and pulled it down to the local RV park. We have an outhouse setup but you cannot expect everyone to make it to the outhouse when it is below freezing now can you.
- We have about 12 ewes left to lamb.
- It has been a very good experience. I want to thank those of you who attended our lambing school. We hope you learned a lot and can put that knowledge to good use on your own sheep. Thank you Lana, Marty and kids, Lynn and Anna, Dave and Trudy, Lora and Sharllota, Katie, Rob and Family, Joe Hanes, Sue Wessels and Karen.
- I would also like to thank our 2007 lambing crew: Katie, who worked her fulltime job while working in our lambing camp each morning and night. Lee, our fulltime day person. I think Lee averaged about 6 hours of sleep each night for days on end. Justin, our fulltime night person. Justin worked from 10pm to 2pm the next day, day in and day out.
- Thank you all, without your extra effort we surely wouldn't have been so successful.
- We trailed the main band of ewes and lambs up to the stubble it was about 2miles away. Sue Wessels and Karen were a great help. Thanks to Lee and Katie as well.
- Please click HERE to see our lambing records and updates during lambing.
- Today was a very productive day. I showed Guy to a cattle rancher and he liked him enough to buy him. I think it will be a very good fit since this guy has sheep as well as cattle. Guy is a very easy going Kelpie and very trainable. I'm not saying that all Kelpies are hard but I have had many Kelpies at this point and so I feel I can say that as a rule they are harder to train then a Border Collie. Guy on the other hand is very eager to please and listens very well. I am sure that I will regret selling him but, Lambing is coming and the extra money will help.
- I also got our septic system to start draining again. That has been a long project in the works. I ended up buying a gas-powered water pump and putting a rag around a 2" hose and pumping about 500gal up the drain pipe. This created enough pressure to blow out the pipe and let the water start to drain from the holding tank. This was a most unpleasant task. For obvious reasons.
- The furnace got fixed today as well. The oil pump on the furnace was out. Of course it happened over the holiday weekend and we didn't get a new pump until today. This meant we went without the furnace for 5 days. We do have a fireplace but it doesn't put out much heat. The house got down to about 40degrees at night.
- Lastly I got an accurate count on how many jugs I will have and how many pallets I need to make those jugs. I am having a difficult time getting the pallets I need to make the jugs. I want to get pallets at a discounted price or free. I have been calling around to many pallet companies. I hope to get something worked out by the end of the week.
- Happy New Year to all. I have been taking it a little easy these past few days. This means I haven't gotten very much done and I am feeling guilty about it.
- I did manage to get the rest of Mark's Paddock (winter wheat stubble) fenced. It is 550 acres of stubble but it is laid out in a long almost strip. This means it took me 7 miles of fence to fence 550 acres. Now, a section (640 acres) is 1 mile by 1 mile square. I tried to explain to one of the guys I had helping me why it took almost twice as much fence to fence a rectangle then a square but my geometry failed me and I couldn't remember how to explain it. I just said, "Keep Going" when he asked me where the fence ended.
- I had two guys help me for about two days. I finished the rest on my own. I also fixed some of the fence they did since it wasn't exactly the way I like my fence to be. Nothing against them, but once you have run sheep behind electric fence and know how they think and you have had sheep out and gotten that call at 6am, you tend to want your fence EXACTLY the way you want it. And I consider myself to be a laidback type.
- I have a guy from the UK that would like to come work for me. He is interested in getting into the sheep business. He is just out of school so I am a little worried about him being so far away from his family for such a long time. I mean, I went to Army basic training right out of school and did fine but I can remember missing my family and the farm. The other thing about Basic training is that you are constantly doing something so you don't get much time to worry. I plan to talk to him on the phone as soon as I get an international phone card and see how it goes.
- The ewes are getting VERY fat now. I found one "cast" the other day. It wasn't even a very big hole just a small dip in the field. She got on her back to rub herself and couldn't get over again. Her belly was just too fat for her. It had her pinned. This was on a day when I wasn't going to go up there. I had talked myself into not needing to check my sheep ever single day when they are on the grass-circles. This would have been the first day I didn't check on them, but I went up anyway to feed the LGDs since Nine has a litter of pups in her. Sure enough I found this ewe on her back. If I didn't go up there she would have been dead by the next day. Now, if you sit down and figure that out, $150 for the ewe, $85 for the lamb inside her, $170 if she has twins. Well, you can buy a lot of diesel with $300. Remember that, you MUST check your sheep EVERY single day no matter what. Just when I forget that rule, my sheep remind me.
- Photos of Taco, Robbie's Kelpie. Click HERE.
- I spoke to a lamb-buyer last night from the Willamette valley. I put an ad in the Capital Press for my feeder lambs as well as for Guy (started Kelpie). He called about Guy but I don't think Guy is what he is looking for. We got to talking about lambs and the fact that the grass on the Westside isn't very good this fall. So, a lot of the feeder lamb guys are sending their lambs to the feed lots and shipping the smaller lambs to slaughter for Hala. It seems I may find it difficult to sell my feeder lambs at this point. Unless something changes, I will end up keeping them on the grass-circle until we are kicked off in Feb.
- I have had some good interest in our lambing school as well as from people who are interested in coming out to give a hand. As I tell everyone, we can use all the help we can get. I will post the current schedule for lambing soon.
- Katie is in the process of preparing our Xmas dinner. She is working for the next few days and on Xmas day. So, we are having our dinner tonight and exchanging gifts. We opened a couple gift just a few minutes ago. I got her some slippers, always a great gift in a house that you don't want to fully heat. Yes, our house is never more then 60 degrees. This is what a sheepfarmer can afford. Besides it makes going outside not such a big deal. It does make is hard to get out of bed in the morning when it is 45 degrees outside of the covers. We have the heat running now. It will be warm in the kitchen for dinner.
- Put the ewes on a new quarter of the circle. They have been on cleanup for about week on the old quarter. They where happy for the new feed.
- I finally broke down an bought a Semi-Truck. It was an ordeal to get bought but I figure it should pay for it 'self in about two years. that is if I only haul my own sheep with it. If I pickup some hauling during harvest time, it could actually make me some money. Cameron has a set of double sheep trailers so I will rent his trailers from him when I go to move my sheep into lambing camp. The truck is a Cab-Over and so shifts is a little difficult to figure out. Thankfully it is only a nine speed so there are not that many gears to get through. I will take it out and practice driving it a bit once I get license plates on it. It was a big investment for me but it is an old truck, 1988 and so it didn't break the bank. Considering will cost me $800-$1000 every time I move my sheep when I hire a trucker. Anyway, it is a done deal at this point. I am very nervous about hauling my sheep the first time. I have driven my water truck a lot at this point but still Semi-Trucks can be very difficult to drive. if you don't believe me, come on over and get in the drivers' seat.
- The sheep are still on the first quarter of the grass-circle. They have eaten it down a lot and so I am going to fence a new quarter tomorrow. I am not sure if I will move them onto the new grass tomorrow. I will have to take a good look at it and decide.
- My fall lambs are really looking good. The Texel-cross has produced some very meaty little lambs. The Rambouillet lambs are doing well also. They are very tall, almost as tall as their mothers. I can see that they will be a little harder to fatten on grass then the Texel cross.
- I still have my wool stored in the shed. I am having a hard time getting a core testing rod so I can pull the core and sent it in for testing. I talked to the wool buyer today and he has shut down buying wool for the year. That is no problem since I plan on holding my wool until Feb. anyway. That reminds me, I should have gotten my LDP payment by now. I better check my account. The LDP payment will just about pay for shearing.
- I currently working on fencing, as per usual, and getting the lambing camp in order. They fixed the road that got washed out and so I now have full access again. I will cross my fingers that it doesn't get washed out during lambing. I have gotten some good responds for our lambing school. I will be putting together the work schedule in the next couple days. If you have anyone you think my be interested, send them my way.
- We are looking for people to help out during lambing. Even if you don't have any sheep or experience and just want to come out and give me a hand. Please email or call me. email@example.com or 541 215 9109
- Another Birthday has past. I turned 31 yesterday and man I am starting to hate Birthdays. I don't feel like I have misspent any of my youth, perhaps I should have.
- The ewes are starting to look pregnant. You can really start to see it now that they are sheared. I am crossing my fingers, as I think all shepherds do, for lots of twins and good mothers.
- You wouldn't believe the amount of wool those ewes have put back on already. I guess the New Zealand study was right, they sure do add some wool when you fall shear.
- The ewes are on Blue-Grass and they have been on 45 acres for over a month now with another two or three weeks to go. The grass was very tall when I put them on it. There is no way they will get through even half the circle before lambing. It feels really good to know your sheep have more feed then they can get through, but I also whish we could have been on the circle sooner so we could finish it all for the farmer. Timing is everything in the sheep business. When to go onto new feed, when to leave and when to lamb. We had to finish the circles we were on before we could go onto new feed. That and the fact that the farmer didn't call me until late in the fall is the reason we didn't get to the grass-circle sooner.
- The ewes haven't been drinking much water now that it has warmed up a bit and we are getting a little rain. I guess they are getting most of their water from the grass and rain. I haven't had to water them for three days now. I will dump their water out tomorrow and give them fresh water just to make sure. A sheep needs two things to live, grass and fresh water.
- I am looking for helpers for our lambing this year. I have two positions to fill. We provide food and shelter. We also require that our helpers stay at the lambing-camp 24 hours a day during lambing. If you know of anyone that needs a job this Feb and March. Point them to me.
- The following is an email conversation I had with Lana, who bought my started LGD (8 months old) Frank. I feel it may help answer some questions for other LGD owners and new owners. Please note, the messages are listed from newest to oldest, you may want to scroll down to see the original email from Lana.
I am not sure what to say about the barn issue. We don't have barns or shelters as a rule around here. Last year, during Cameron's lambing the LGDs never came into the barn or wanted to. I can only guess that Frank is confused by the barn. I wouldn't worry too much about it. I may try to feed Frank in the barn. But not at the same time as the sheep. The LGDs learn to protect their feed from the pushy ewes and in a closed space he may not feel calm enough to eat while the ewes are eating. But once he associates the barn with food he should calm down about it.
Subject: Re: Frank
Eric, thanks for the tips on Frank. We will keep him thin i hate a fat dog. I am still in MT but plan to talk to the neighbors about his bark i think they will be ok with it. Any ideas about how to keep him from chasing the sheep out of the barn? They eat in the barn this time of year and Marty says it looks like he is going in to play and they freak and run out. I am guessing he has not been in a barn before? Thanks again for the reply you may use what ever you like of this mail. Lana
ps congrats on setting a wedding date my wedding day was the best day of my life :)
Subject: RE: Frank
Would you mind if I publish part or all of this email on my BLOG? I think it would be helpful for some people. I am happy to omit your name, etc if you would like me to.
I am very happy to hear that Frank is doing everything that a good boy is suppose to. They say that you cannot fully trust a LGD until they are at least two, but Frank has been on his own for a while and I haven't had any losses. He had a rabies shot this spring and had all of his puppy shots.
I hope your neighbors understand that Frank is not just barking for no reason but because it is his job. I found that it really helped my neighbors to accept the LGDs barking when I explained to them why they are barking and when. I also explained, for the environmental people, that the LGD barking is a non-lethal way to protect my sheep (so I don't have to trap and shoot). Before I take my sheep onto graze that is close enough to somebody that I know they will hear the dogs, I stop by their house and explain everything to them. I have NEVER had one complaint about the LGDs barking. In fact I had one person call me because she was worried about my sheep, she heard the Coyotes and didn't hear the LGDs barking back. I had moved the sheep, therefore the LGDs and she didn't know they where gone. She was sad they where gone, sheep and LGDs.
Yes, he should be very submissive to the sheep when they come up to him. With young dogs you will want to keep an eye out when you have young lambs that like to play. Sometimes the young dogs seem to want to join in the lamb-races. If you see this, don't take him away from the sheep but rather, put a dangle on his neck or on a chain to a tire. It is VERY hard to correct a LGD. They just are not very smart and so, I don't try to train them via corrections but rather try to do something to discourage bad behavior, the daggle and tire solutions help fix a lot of problems. When I use my voice the LGDs are like sheep, they assume you are talking to your sheepdog and not them. ;-)
As for sheepdogs, I find it helps if you formally introduce the sheepdogs to the LGDs. But as I told Marty, Nine will still run Gale off, if Gale is in heat or if Nine is. I have never had a problem with the males not accepting the sheepdogs. I tend to think the male LGDs are a little more relaxed... At least compared to Nine.
Food, DON'T FEED the LGD. I think that should be a sign. ;-) Like I told Marty and I know you guys don't need me to tell you about over-feeding dogs, but I feel better having said it. Don't feed him very much. I sometimes let my LGDs go for a couple days without feed. When I do feed them they get low protein dog food and only about 3-4 cups per dog. This will keep them lean and mean. I don't feed them at all during lambing or when the lamb tails start falling off. There is plenty to eat in the pasture during these times. You are a dog person and already know what I am talking about.
I would take Kell out on a lead and let Frank come up to him and see him before you send him around the sheep. If Frank doesn't know him and he starts in on the sheep, Frank will do his thing and if Kell fights back, it could get ugly.
Anyway, good luck and please keep me updated. I am always excited to hear the good, bad and ugly of the LGDs that I sell. It helps me in my own breeding program, and gives me a better idea of what is the best situation for my LGDs.
- Very cold this week. All the water tanks are frozen and getting open water to the sheep is a daily chore. Water, I have never appreciated water so much as when the sheep don't have it. How nice life would be if the sheep where at home with Frost-free outlets. Just turn the water on and it flows. That would be a perfect world, this is the real world. I am hauling water up to them, 30 miles one way, in my small (300gal) water trailer. This way I can water them and then empty the water tank so ice doesn't stop up the valve. The only sheep that seem thirsty are the ewes with fall lambs on them.
- Gale is all but trained at this point. I have been using her to gather the sheep to the water and salt. She isn't too sure about working alone yet but I think she likes it. She feels a bit more pressure when she is the only dog on the sheep. Sometimes I have to remind myself that she is not even a year old yet. You sometimes see that, a young dog that is coming on so fast and you have to put the brakes on and remind yourself how young they are. You don't want to burn them up.
- I sold Frank today. I put him on this website last night and he was sold this morning. I would say there is a big demand for well started Livestock Guardian Dogs. I understand why. When I first started looking for good Livestock Guardian Dogs, I couldn't find any that where older then puppies. I finally had to go to Texas to find started dogs that where raised with sheep their entire lives. You can sometimes from older LGDs that have been with sheep part-time. Meaning, living on the front porch while the sheep are out in the back pasture. It is very difficult to find good LGDs. I sold him to somebody I have known via the sheepdog trials for a few years now. I think he will be a good fit. However, I will miss him. With my luck the first night he is gone I will lose a lamb.
- It seems like I didn't get much done today but in fact I got a bit done. I checked my sheep in Pasco. It had snowed a little and I wanted to make sure they still had full access to graze. The snow melted by this morning. I may have also sold a bale of wool to a processor down south of Salem, OR. I like selling as much directly as possible but we can only sale the wool in whole bales 550-600lbs. So, it takes the right buyer to buy it from us directly. This is usually a wool-buyer but I will be happy if we can sell directly to a process who is interested in super-fine wool.
- I am also considering sending a bale of our wool out to a processor and having blankets made to sell directly on-line. I will have to work on the numbers to see if it pencils but how cool would it be to have blankets made out of Natural Wool from Natural sheep raise humanely on forage. It will help to provide another connection for consumers back to the farms that produce the things they buy.
- You should have seen the people that stopped by while we where shearing. We had families with kids pull up and wonder around in amazement. They could see the sheep go into the truck with full fleece and then see the ewe come out the side with no fleece and see the fleece come out the other side and get skirted. I really enjoy being able to show kids where wool comes from and how we get it. Sure, the younger kids just wanted to play in the pieces-pile but that is OK too.
- I was correct, it was a big week. This past two weeks we sheared the band, trucked them onto a new grass-circle near Pasco, WA and got the old-crop lambs and rams sorted off and onto new alfalfa pasture.
- We didn't get started shearing until 9am on Nov. 17th. Over 2.5 days we sheared 856 ewes, 12 rams and 2 wethers for a total of over 10,000lbs of wool. It cost me about $3000 with the added laborers for the skirting and pushing the sheep up the race. But the wool market is red-hot right now and I expect it to go even higher by Feb. and March when I go to market my wool. Until then I have it stored in a clean/dry shed. I have decided to pull the core-tests on the wool myself. I am contacting the wool buyers and will have the results faxed to them once they are back from the lab. I am hoping to average 21-22 micron. If the wool comes back at 23 micron I will have each bale tested individually to see how many I have at the finer result. Your wool results usually come back like a bell shaped curve and your average is in the middle. I ran several lines, the main-line and a second line of fleeces we felt where not as fine. We also sorted off all the cross-bred wool (the few Texel rams I have and a couple Shetland ewes) to it's own line. We then packed all the bellies, necks, pieces and locks into their own individual line and bagged separately. Each fleece was skirted as it came off the shearing board. I will also get a length and strength test done on a grab-sample so I may have those results for the wool buyers as well. It may seem like a lot of work, but when you have 10,000lbs of fine-wool to sale you want to made sure you get top dollar for it. This means going the extra mile to prepare your wool to Australian standards. Thankfully I had Cameron there for the weekend to over-see the preparations, skirting, sorting and packing of the wool. The wool buyers know what you mean by having a clip prepared to Australian standards.
- Three shearers sheared 350 ewes that first day. Not bad for fine-wool ewes. The shears said they really like these ewes. Nice and fat and easy to handle, I wonder if they tell that to everyone... But I like to hear it.
- During shearing we setup a pen off the side of the shearing truck to catch all the ewes that got sheared the first day. This allowed us to let all the non-sheared ewes go at the end of the day and be back on graze. I don't like keeping ewes off graze for more then 12 hours whenever possible. These ewes are plenty fat and it wouldn't bother them to be off feed for longer but I like to see my sheep out grazing. The next morning we trailed the shorn ewes up the road to a 25 acre paddock of Alfalfa we had fence the day before. The Alfalfa was 12-18" high and the ewes where very happy. It being fall and a little cold, you want shorn ewes on good feed ASAP to prevent any problems.
- The second day went on fine. We go an earlier start and got threw 360plus ewes. At lunch time we moved newly shorn ewes over to the Alfalfa with the first-days ewes. That evening we let all the ewes out to graze.
- On the third morning we gathered all the unshorn ewes along with a few that got sheared the second day after lunch into the yards. We also trailed the ewes that had lambs on them as well as the rams over from their paddock of peas to the shearing paddock. We put them all into the yards and simply sorted off the shorn ewes as they came up the race and before they got to the shearing truck. This took a bit more work then just leaving them in over-night but again, I don't like doing that.
- We put the rams and cross-bred ewes into the shearing truck last to prevent any contamination of the fine-wool. I had somebody stop that wanted to buy some fleece directly out of the shearing truck, the only problem was he wanted me to shear a black lamb I had so he could buy the fleece on the second day of shearing. I turned him down flat. We don't shear cross-bred ewes/rams or black-wooled sheep until all the fine-wool ewes have been through. This is one of the most important standards. It only takes a few black fibers getting into your clip and your name is mud to the wool-buyers.
- So, shearing was just as fun as it sounds.
- Then on Mon. and Tues after shearing I hired a guy to help me get my fencing finished on the new grass-circle and take down a bit of fence on some old paddocks.
- On Wed. we trailed all the ewes and ewes with new lambs down from the alfalfa paddock and into the yards to prepare for loading the semi-truck. Mike Dorhedy from Pendleton was hired as the trucked. Mike has many, many years experience trucking sheep. To be honest, a lot of truckers don't like trucking sheep and will not do it. So, if you find a good trucker that will truck sheep, pay him well and buy him lunch. Mike's semi will hold about 405 ewes before hitting maximum weight. We figured since they were shorn we could do a little better and get the band on the truck in two loads. Loading a sheep onto a trailer is an art and you have to know your trailers, how many per gate and your sheep, how they will handle being hauled. If you have thin sheep with lambs on them, you pack the trailers differently then if you have fat ewes with full-fleece or shorn, fat ewes with lambs, etc, etc. You have to think about these things if you want all your sheep alive on the other end of the line. Pack them too tight, dead sheep. Pack them too light, dead sheep. I was thankful Mike was doing the hauling since he is very well known for having no dead sheep. But you have to listen to what he says and give him the number of sheep for each compartment that he asks.
- The way it works is like this. You have your yards setup with a large pen in the back and two smaller pens inside of that. In the smaller middle pen you have enough room for about 100 ewes. You then have a small pen in the front that holds about the number of ewes his truck holds in each gate, 25-58 depending on the gate. So, you load the middle pen and the trucker yells out the number, you count that number of sheep into the small front pen and push them up the race and onto the shoot. The person loading the truck will also count them as they come up the shoot and into the truck. As he counts he is also pushing the sheep to the back/front of the compartment. Sheep are great at all balling up at the exit and not wanting to be the first one to see what is at the back/front of the bus. Like a kid on his first ride to school, they want to take the first seat and stop there. Or, even more descript, like the jerk in the aisle while boarding a plane that is convinced his oversized carry-on is going to fit in the over-head compartment while the rest of us stand behind him and curse. Sheep can be like that.
- So, we get the sheep loaded on the first load and unload on the grass. I put Jorge, the LGD in with the sheep on the first load. I had a Coyote run past me while we fenced up there and didn't want to take a chance of leaving the sheep alone for even a couple hours on new pasture. So, Jorge got his second trailer ride with sheep under his belt. Long story short, we got the sheep moved to the new grass-circle.
- I put Nine, Jorge and Trooper with the ewes on the new grass-circle. Trooper hasn't run with Nine and Jorge for about 5 months and Trooper was really dominating Jorge. I guess he forgot that Trooper is the main man.
- The rest of this week was spent taking down fence and putting up new fence, just your average couple weeks, really. I do have to start getting the lambing camp setup soon. Lambing is coming, lambing is coming.
- This is going to be a BIG week. We are going to mark my Sept. lambs on Wed. then trail my ewes home from the grass-circle and onto some Alfalfa on Thurs. morning and start shearing on Fri. If any of you out there would like to give a hand, contact me 541 215 9109.
- I attended Robbie's Memorial today. He donated his body to science. Even in death Robbie is giving. That is the true story of his life. He gave of himself and each piece of himself lives on in each of us that received it.
- I am remiss. There was a point in the services with a kind of "Open Mic" People stood up and took the mic in their hand and spoke of Robbie. I didn't have the courage to raise my hand and say all the things I needed to say about him. The reason I didn't stand up, I was afraid to break-down in front of all those people. I am remiss.
- Many people spoke of Robbie and talked of the same things I experienced with him. That told me he was much more then just my close friend mine. Robbie was a close friend to many people. To be loved so much by so many is truly a testament to a mans worth.
- The pastor said something very interesting. He spoke of the fact that Robbie never spoke of his faith but lived it. Robbie didn't talk the talk, he walked the walk. He set an example of giving and caring.
- The world does truly keep turning even after we have gone. I used Taco, Robbie's old Kelpie to move Cameron's band of sheep yesterday. It was emotional for me to work Taco but he appreciated the challenge. We vaccinated 1200 ewes in about 4 hours. Not bad for a days work.
- What do we smell like? I just asked Katie what do I smell like. I asked because the day Robbie died Pearl gave me three of Robbie's vests. I am wearing one of them now and I can see Robbie because I can smell him. Robbie smoked a pipe and liked Black Velvet Whiskey. The vests he wore are wool. God bless him they are made of wool. Wool seems to hold a sent.
- Grown men that knew Robbie have called me and couldn't speak to me for the tears came. We loved Robbie, like a brother, like a father, like a friend. It's almost too much to describe him. Everything you say sounds so plain. Like "he was a great friend" I feel like we say that about people who die. But DAMN IT, Robbie was a GREAT FRIEND. Robbie was an individual. Robbie was MY FRIEND and I loved him like a father, a brother, a friend.
- You don't just meet people like Robbie every day. You don't meet them in your work or at the park. The earth is a lesser place now that Robbie is not on it.
- Friends, it saddens me to announce the passing of Robbie Agard on Wed. Nov.1st 2006. Robbie and his wife, Pearl have been involved in Kelpies for more then 20 years. They enjoyed working their dogs during cattle round-ups as well as local sheepdog trials. Robbie will be remembered as a great promoter of the working Kelpie and stockdogs in general. Moreover, Robbie was a very good friend to anyone who knew him. He truly was always there whenever a friend or stranger was in need. As Pearl said "He lived his life as he wanted and had no regrets." If you would like to be notified of the services, please email me. firstname.lastname@example.org Robbie is survived by three Kelpies. I am keeping his older dog, Taco. Pearl is keeping the older female, Fern. We have one 6 month old female Kelpie that is in need of placement. Pearl will not be able to keep her. I have her at my house in Milton-Freewater, OR. I will begin to put some basic training on her with sheep. Please email me if you or somebody you know would be interested in her. email@example.com
It has been very cold here this past week. Not by Wisconsin (where my parents farm) standards but by our standards. It was down in the teens last night and for the past couple nights. This means breaking the ice on the water and disconnecting all the hoses, etc. It doesn't seems to be bothering the sheep at all. I moved them off the last grass-circle and onto 40 acres of 10" alfalfa. Very nice feed. It had frozen a couple times but I was still very worried about my sheep bloating. I talked to one of the local long-time sheep man about it and his advice was:
Put them on full and get in your truck and leave. Don't watch them, don't bother them.
Once they are on it don't move them off.
Put laundry detergent in their salt for three days before you move them.
Don't give them any water that day you will move them and for two days after you move them.
If you leave them alone they will eat and then lay down and burp up the gases that cause bloat. If you don't they will not relax and bloat will hit.
So, I almost followed his directions. I moved them on it about 5pm last thurs. night. I then watched from a distance to see if any fell over. Lucky for me they where all fine but I don't know what I would have done if some started to fall over. There isn't anything you can do for a bloated sheep and if I would have moved them with the dogs it could have upset more ewes causing more bloat. It would have been a test of nerves. Anyway, they are doing very well and are very fat and happy. I am hoping to get two weeks graze out of this paddock.
I got a new puppy, Bill. Click HERE to see his photo. He is out of Sue Wessels Jax dog and a Border Collie female from a cattle ranch. I guess the female has a lot of push and Jax is a very good dog as well. Bill has a lot of white on him but I'm not too worried about that.
I have started working on the lambing camp. They kidded out 1500 goats there about five years ago and their hasn't been anything done since. I am getting rid of the old drugs and generally cleaning the place up. I figure I should get an early start so it is done and waiting when the time comes.
We moved the sheep again on Sunday 10-15-06. The 20 acres of grass they where on was all but grazed off and the sheep where ready to go. They are now grazing 30 acres of grass about 2 miles north of where they were. Just outside of Touchet, WA. The prier Thursday, Cameron and I put up the Prattley's and wormed and Vaccinated my ewes for Verbroses. We started about 9:30am and where finished by 1pm. Once we got the ewes running it went fast. Click HERE to view photos. We used a double race about 50' long. I then walked up the race from the outside and vaccinated and Cameron came from behind the ewes in the race and drenched them. You can work a lot of sheep with this method. What you do is, fill the race and then open the race from behind. You then work your way through the sheep as you drench. After you drench a ewe you turn her head and she runs out the way she came in.
A very important part of moving sheep is the lead ewe. How do you know the lead ewe in a 1000 ewes. Well I went about figuring that out this past 4 weeks. I started by shaking a scoop of corn in a bucket each day. After about a week the lead ewe presented herself. I figure the lead ewe is the first to hear the bucket and come running from anywhere in the paddock. The lead ewe came in handy for bring the sheep into the yards on Thurs. She came in handy again for walking them down the road on Sunday. She isn't the biggest but she sure has good hearing and can run like the wind when you shake your bucket. Three cheers for the lead ewe.
Gale came back into heat this week. She had her normal heat and then was out for a few weeks and came back in. I took her to the vet for a check-up and he said not to worry. She is young and her body is figuring it out. Of course the down side is that I really needed to use her this week.
We vaccinated and wormed Cameron's ewes today using the same method as we did mine. It took a little longer but he has a few more sheep them I do. Also, his Rambouillets don't work through the yards as easily as my Debouillets do. Just different type of sheep I guess. We have three semi-trucks coming tomorrow to haul Cameron's ewes down to the grass circles. This will be my first time loading out these trucks, including the doubles so it will be an interesting experience for me.
I used Mick all day in the yards today. He got a taste of what a Rambouillet ram's horns feel like. I didn't see it but Cameron said that he got plowed from about 10' away. Mick just got back up and kept working. I did notice that Mick kept an eye on those rams with horns for the rest of the day.
Since Gale is in heat I didn't bring her with me today but I did bring my new dog, Guy (6 months old, Kelpie). I used Mick and Guy to gather the band into the yards. Guy has a very strong fetching instinct but after a little while he realized that I needed him to help drive the sheep and not fetch them. Guy is a very thinking sort of Kelpie. I look forward to training him more. I put him in the truck once we got the sheep into the yards. I should say I put him in the stock-trailer and of course he escaped and came back to work. You have to love the work ethic of the Kelpie.
I have three new dogs coming. Two puppies and an older dog (Kelpie) I will work and train through the winter. The Kelpie (Taco) is the father of the new Kelpie pup I just got. One puppy (Border Collie) is from Sue Wessels and out of her Jax dog. The other puppy is a Border Collie from Jack Richartz (a near by cattle rancher). I figure I better have another couple pups ready by this time next year. I could have a full-time shepherd working for me by next spring and they will need some dogs to work.
Robbie and I went to look at semi-trucks today. Don't know if I want to own one of those bastards but it may become a necessity for hauling sheep soon. You can either pay somebody to haul your sheep or you can take that money and buy your own setup. Either way, it cost a LOT of money to haul a 1000 ewes anywhere. I don't care if you are moving them a mile away, you pay for the loading and unloading, the actual driving time is free, or so it seems. Robbie knows a lot about heavy equipment and machinery in general. I was happy to have him there to shoot questions at the salesman. I just love used-car salesman. Don't everyone.
My condolences go out to my very good friend's Pearl and Robbie. Pearl's father passed away this week. Thou I never had the pleasure of knowing Pearl's father, I can see by his daughter's character and compassion that he must have been a fine father and man.
You can tell it is getting closer to winter now. The sun is setting too early and I have time to write more on this log.
We did manage to move my ewes with new lambs on them over by the house on a 10 acre pasture of orchard grass. Louie has been putting water on it for me so I am hoping this will last them for the rest of the winter until they go back onto stubble. I also had Cameron bring Trooper back up here from his "date" with Cameron's LGD, Sal. I guess it didn't take long for Trooper to settle her and the rest of the time we spent with him beating up on the other neutered LGD. I think Cameron was a bit hesitant to bring Trooper back since his lamb losses stopped when Trooper got there. I told Cameron that if he starts losing lambs again I would start penning them up at night. It only takes about an hour or less to bring your sheep in and pen them at night but it could save your lambs. Sometimes you just get one Coyote that has your dogs figured out and keeps killing on you. Usually, this happens when you have some ewes that don't want to flock together at night.
I also got 4 ton of small bails of third cutting alfalfa. I HATE small bails. We took my 8-ton truck over to a stack of hay and loaded off it. Cameron and Katie came to help out. It didn't take very long at all. But, I hate small bails. The thing about it is that you need small bails for feeding out in the jugs. I think you could get away with big bails but some people don't like having to break the flake in half. So, I bought some small bails.
I am still looking for 3-4 ton of straw in small bails. I think I will use it for bedding in the jugs but also to make myself a little room in the lambing barn to sleep in. This way I don't have to buy a new trailer. If you put up walls with straw bails it will be warm and somewhat sound-proof.
Thank you to Katie, Robbie and Cameron for your help today.
We moved the entire band today. Well not all of them. The ewes that I lambed out this month are still at Melinda's house on irrigated grass. So on offense, we had 786 ewes, 25 rams, and about 65 lambs (April Lamb Crop). On defense we had three experienced cowboys/girls on horse back, three people with dogs on foot, me on the four-wheeler with Mick, Cameron on foot with no dog but a bucket of corn and my very good friend Robbie in the truck with a trailer attached following us from behind. The route we took was a straight shot about 1.7 miles long.
Thankfully it is fall and so all the crop land has been cropped for the year and it is before any re-cropping has been done (new seeds up in the ground). We had to trail past many acres of Alfalfa, some wheat stubble and a very short stretch of freshly planted onions.
When trailing sheep down the road you need:
As many people to help as will show up.
Radios. You need to be able to talk to each other without yelling or driving through the sheep.
Four-wheelers AND horses. I have never see a sheep outrun a four-wheeler but I have see them outrun a man on horse. On the other side, sheep will follow a horse down the road but they will not follow a four-wheeler. Experienced horse-people can save your butt. I also believe in the calming effect of having a person on horseback. It is almost like the sheep feel the horse there and if the horse isn't worried they don't seem to feel the need to be. It is something you feel in the air. The four-wheeler can make sheep excited and move but a horse seems to be able to calm them down a bit. Then again, watch out for the rodeo types.
It is nice to have a truck with a trailer behind you, not only to slow traffic coming from the rear but also to load any sick or injured sheep into for trailing. I thought we may need it for the 2, week-old lambs we had in the band but they did very well keeping up with the band even if they did lose their mothers along the way (found them in the new paddock).
One person in charge. Everyone who comes to help out needs to know that the person who owns the sheep is in charge unless otherwise stated. Sounds simple, well too many Chiefs can ruin the soap, or something like that. When I go down to help Cameron or Sky work their sheep, I do what they say.
Have a plan and let everyone know what your plan is. Walk through the trail with them and talk about who is doing what. We would all love it if everyone could read our minds but they cannot. I learned this in the National Guard. Before each training we would walk through what we where going to do and what what going to happen. Then everyone could make decisions without talking to the leader about how to best achieve the objective. I know, I know, we just moved some sheep down the road but I tell you it helps.
Finally, keep it light. Don't yell if you can avoid it and never criticize somebody in the middle of a job or in front of others. It is fine to talk to them if there is a problem but keep things positive. REMEMBER, they can all go home and leave you with 1000 ewes in on-coming traffic if they wanted to.
So, I cut the fence in the far northwest corner of the paddock and the game was one. Cameron, the bucket man, was out front shaking his bucket of corn with all his heart. Finally, one ram came past there the fence had been. The rest of the ewes followed him with wild abandonment. We started at 9am because I thought they would be full and a bit calmer. Well, it has been cooler around here as of late and the ewes where feeling good. They started out of the fence and ran into the adjoining wheat-stubble field. I had to wait at the gate on my bike until all the ewes had gone through the gate. I didn't want to cut any off and leave them behind. So, as the last of the sheep came through the gate I sent Mick around to the left to head them and keep them from getting out of control. Pearl, Robbie's wife, was at top speed on her horse trying to get around the sheep and head them. Mick ran past her horse and got the sheep stopped. I caught up on the bike and started to push them back onto the road. These ewes acted as if the road was made of lava. They just kept wanting to move from side to side of it and never stay in a straight line. I felt like we were too worried about keeping them on the road and not moving in the correct direction. You see if you stop the ewes from coming across the road it is very easy to head them too much and stop the band from moving ahead. You see, these are yearling ewes and don't know there ass from their elbow yet.
I yelled ahead to Dave, one of the cowboys on horse to not stop them but rather just keep them going in the right direction. Just keep them in the correct general direction I said, don't head them too much or they will stop and it is hard to get them going again. You see, once you start something like this, it is like a cake in the oven, you have to keep going or thing will fall in on themselves. Just keep the sheep in the general direction of the new field. Mean-while the Guard dogs (LGDs) didn't know the fence was down and didn't follow along with the sheep at first. Katie, on her horse, was trying to push the LGDs past the new gate but they wouldn't go. I yelled back to Katie to leave them and come ahead to get control of the sheep. She did and once we were about .5 mile down the road the LGDs showed up. First Nine and then Jorge. Jorge is only a puppy and so wasn't too sure about what was going on but Nine followed along with the band and Jorge followed Nine. I must say I was very happy to see them coming with the sheep. The last thing I wanted was to have to try to catch Nine in the middle of an open field and load her into the dog-box on my truck. That would have been interesting at best.
Keeping sheep on-line is something we work hard at in sheepdog trialing but when you have 1000 ewes it just isn't possible to keep them in a straight line unless they are well trail broke. It makes a lot more sense to keep the band moving in the general direction of your goal then to fight them every step of the way and therefore keep a straight line. Most of the time you will find yourself standing in the middle of the road with sheep that have no idea of what you want. You cannot train any animal to do it perfect the first time. And you must remember that you are training your sheep. Every time you do anything with your sheep you are training them. You can either train them to move ahead or train them to just stop and look at you.
Things went very well. A couple days before we moved the sheep I stopped by each of the houses we where to pass on the way and informed them that we would be trailing sheep and so they should lock up their dogs and close any gates on their gardens. An advantage around here is that most families have a history of sheep, even if it was 3 generations ago. They like seeing sheep being trailed down the road.
Long story short, we got the sheep into the new paddock and everyone was happy. I did have to rake up some things for people along the road but I figured I should leave things as if the sheep where never there. One guy had a pile of weeds in front of his house and the sheep walked through it and so I raked it back up. Tread lightly, leave only tracks.
Thanks to everyone who made it over to help. The next trailing of the sheep should be in about a week, so if you are interested, give me a call or email.
Good news, I found 140acres of grass to grass down on the Indian Reservation. I am not sure about the Coyote situation down there and how the Indians feel about shooting but that is something I plan to find out this week. It is one thing to have grass to graze but it is another to have graze where you loss ewes and lambs. It adds ups when you start having losses to Coyotes.
I move my entire band (1000 ewes) to the first of three 20 acre grass pastures. I didn't have a truck lined up and decided it would be cheaper for me to just move them with my diesel pickup and double-deck 30' trailer. I could get about 65 ewes on each load and so it took me about 15 loads or so. That was over three days. Just hauling sheep from sun-up until dark. With Diesel, it cost me about $300 to move my sheep. If I had hired a sheep-hauler it would have cost about $800 so I saved a little money. However I didn't save any time. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it yourself. In fact most of the time this is true. Katie did help me for the first day so it wasn't that bad. After a while Mick and I had it down rather well and loading only took about 15-30 minutes and unloading about 12-20 minutes. The rest of the time was spent driving. The other time consuming part was getting the sheep into the yard.
I have decided to grain-bucket break several of my ewes. This should help to get them through gates. These young ewes are rather clueless about gates. They run behind electric fence so much that they never really want to go first. They fear the fence is there and they just cannot see it. I realize that they will learn gates some day but I figure a nice little cheat would be to have a few that come to a grain bucket and then I can lead the first few into the yards and down the roads. As I have said in the past, it isn't that hard to keep sheep moving but it can be very hard to get them started when they haven't been someplace before. With my type of grazing, they will have to learn to move to different places without fear. This will come naturally has they get a bit older.
We are moving the band down the road about 2 miles on Tues. I have another 20acre paddock fenced. I have Sue Wessels, Cameron and my friend Robbie coming over to help me move them down the road. Of course there are NO fences all the way and fresh Alfalfa growing in fields along the road. Lucky for me the farmer who I am grazing for owns most of the fields between here and where we are going. We are going to start about 9am. This should give the girls time to graze in the morning so they will not be so hungry when we are moving them. That is the plan anyway. I just hope it doesn't turn into a rodeo. This is a very small town where I live and have my sheep currently. One rodeo and every farmer will be talking about it and that could adversely effect my ability to get graze around here in the future. One hopes things look efficient and professional. I have put a lot of time into trying to remain calm and efficient when working sheep but things can get ugly when you have sheep on peoples lawns and gardens. They get a little upset with you. The Guard Dogs should just follow the flock but then again this is a worry. Nine will for sure follow along but her song Jorge is still young and a bit of a bully at times. My nightmare would be for one of the neighbors, who I have all met and instructed about us moving sheep on Tues, doesn't put there dogs up and they come out after the sheep. I can just see Jorge killing somebody's family pet on the side of the road. What do you say to somebody after that happens. "I warned you", doesn't seem to cover it. I plan to ride down the road before we start moving sheep and look for dogs that are lose. If I find one, I will chain it to a fence or put it in my truck dog-box. Just cannot think of anything else I could do.
My Sept. lambing is just about done. The ewes look good and the lambs look great. I had about 3 sets of twins that the ewes are mothering. The ewes that lost their lambs will be put back with the rams in a couple days. No point in giving them any time off. However, I don't think they will breed back right away. Maybe I will get lucky.
I have been training on this new little dog I got. He is a Kelpie and comes with all the steam that Kelpies have. He has a great natural gather and I look forward to getting some control on him. I can see him becoming a good little worker for me. I have also been training Gale (Border Collie). She is very smart and has a lot of push to her. She hasn't figured out the team thing yet but I expect she will start to get it any day now. I used her in the yards to load sheep a couple times and she has nerves of steel and the power to back it up. Unshakable.
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