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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spring Fever Hits the Farm

One of our ewes gave birth in the barnyard Thursday so it was time to take a closer look at the herd. Sure enough, they were ‘baggin’ up’, developing udders. The Farmer ushered the lot of them into the barn with the help of Chelsea the sheep dog, who truly loves her job, and without whom the job would be very difficult indeed.
The Farmer sectioned off half a dozen sheep at a time, hurrying them down the aisle in the lambing room. Once they were all huddled in the back corner he hooked them around the neck with his crook one at a time and checked underneath for the heavy udder. If no udder was found, he would yell “out” and I would press up close to the wall so the sheep could run past me to freedom. If he yelled “in” I held the gate to the nearest lambing pen open and squatted behind it. If the sheep sees me in her path, she will not proceed. I have to hide. It’s actually a fun game and all the squatting is great exercise. This is what goes through my brain.
I think the calf, who was still in his own pen-suite, thought I really was playing, jumping up and down like that. He started to run in circles around his pen, stopping to kick up his heels and continue in the opposite direction. He did a lot of mooing in response to the bawling of the excited sheep.
Friday morning we had a set of twins and when we got home from work another lamb was lying in the field beside her mother. Obviously that one fooled us and was more ready to go than we thought. Most of our lambs this year are either black-faced and booted or pure white, depending on whether Philip the Suffolk or Rambo the Rideau fathered them. This little lamb has a beige face and socks. I call her Sandy. (Yes I know I’m not supposed to name them). Donkey can’t really be trusted around the lambs that are born in the field, and neither can Misty the horse. They are too curious, large, clumsy and jumpy. So I’m keeping a lookout for new, unexpected lambs on the horizon. When they are born I scoop them up and bring them into the barn, the mother chasing after me.
Friday night I fed my tinier, weaker lambs a bit of milk replacer from a baby bottle, then I went into Ottawa for a girls’ night out with some friends. While I was gone, the Farmer had to move a few more sheep inside, so Baby the calf was ousted. It was only about 5pm so he had a few hours before dark to explore the great outdoors. I was a little miffed when I found out that I had missed his big moment of being set free from the barn, but when the sheep need the space, you do what you’ve got to do.
The Farmer said that the calf ran circles around and around the hay feeder. He stopped to sniff it as if to say, “I know what this is, I like it, and I’m glad they have some for me out here.” Then he took off to join the other three calves, who quickly welcomed him into their group.
Saturday morning I went out to see how the calf was doing and he was off in a far corner of the field, munching fresh green shoots of grass with the other calves. When I called and clucked as I always had before, he just raised his head and looked at me as if to say, “but I don’t want to go back inside. I like it out here.” He is the success story of this year so far. And now he has been integrated back into his herd. I can’t wait to see him running and jumping myself.
Everyone around here has spring fever. I have been chased by the ram twice and he decided to chase the Farmer once too. This morning I saw Donkey and Misty running scared down the field and when I caught a glimpse of what was behind them, I had to laugh. A male turkey with his tail feather fan on display was strutting slowly toward them.
- listen to “The Big Breakfast Show” with Drew and Diana on STAR 97.5fm weekday mornings!

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