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Running with the Sheep

Posted 11/5/2012 12:03pm by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The ewes and ewe lambs have been in the barnyard eating hay since their escape during SuperStorm Sandy, but the hay is now cleaned up and this morning they were clearly discontent and ready to return to pasture.  A few of the smallest lambs have been sneaking through the gate to nibble on clover when we weren't looking and the older ewes lined up at the gate this morning while I was in the barn and simply glared at me like shoppers desperate for the doors to open on Black Friday.  So after Roy and I moved cows this morning, I began to create a new paddock for them adjacent to the wetlands.  Roy is more experienced moving the sheep with the dogs, but I too am learning how to get done what needs doing so after the paddock was set up, I decided I couldn't endure the glare of the ewes any longer and I would just go ahead and move them out.  Mac and Pip were very eager to help; so eager they nearly took out one of the escapee lambs before I even opened the gate. 

Before I tackle these small tasks I generally discuss strategy with the dogs and myself.  This morning the path from barnyard to paddock was pretty direct so my plan was to simply open the gate and run with the sheep.  What I've learned about working with the dogs is that while sheep may not trust me, they trust the dogs even less. I am seen as security as long as Mac and Pip are circling them from behind.  This morning we were only moving several hundred yards and across the creek.  If I didn't run, the sheep would run away from the dogs, past me, and miss the creek crossing therefore forcing the dogs to head them off and just create more stress and chaos.  I'm a little like a border collie in that regard;  I like to avoid chaos when I can,  especially if it involves a flock of panicky sheep leaping at me.

My plan worked perfectly!  I opened the gate and turned around and simply ran, racing the ewes to the best clover across the creek.  As I ran the old hymn from by childhood popped into my mind, "Bringing in the sheaves, Bringing in the sheaves, We will come rejoicing, Bringing in the sheaves." Of course I'd changed the lyrics to "Running with the Sheep, Running with the Sheep...".  Just as I rounded the corner into the creek crossing, the fastest ewes passed me into their paddock. (They were not singing very joyously though or I would have won.) I think Mac and Pip were pleased too.  They didn't get yelled at at all; only praised when we were done.  I have no idea what they were doing behind me, but as long as they didn't pass me, I figured it was a good thing. Now from my office window I can look out on two groups of contentedly grazing sheep; the ram lambs down along the ridge and ewes along the wetlands.  When I went out to check on the pigs, I thought I heard some quiet humming coming from sheep paddock that sounded like a very familiar tune; perhaps it was just the wind.