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The Truth Revealed

Posted 3/15/2012 8:58am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Last Saturday was shearing day.  We hoped that the lull we were anticipating in the arrival of our "surprise" lambs would coincide with shearing so that new-born lambs would not be caught up in the stress of the day. However to our dismay, there has been no lull in lambing adding to our suspicion that a lucky ram lamb sneaked by us in August when we separated them.  The Thursday before shearing we had a new set of twins and a single and we dreaded moving the flock across the road to the barn with confused, stressed, new-born lambs in tow, but Pete was scheduled, our help was lined up, and it it was high time the fleeces came off for the spring. 

Friday afternoon I set up electro-net in the shape of a large funnel to help guide the flock and new lambs towards the gate. We assumed that when to older ewes hit the road and saw the barn they would know where to go and the younger, less experienced ewes and lambs would obediently follow. When Roy came home from work he put Bob out on pasture, cornered the breeding rams into a small pen, opened up a round bale in the barn yard for the sheep, held a brief strategic planning meeting with the girls (who were not happy to be pulled away from their play in the woods!) and, taking a deep breath, we opened the fence for the flock to come out. Our first thought was to give the sheep a lot of time and not use Mac or Pip to pressure them. The lambs kept running back to their familiar paddock while the ewes, happy to be on pasture with early grass sprouting ignored the bleating lambs in favor of filling their mouths. The girls and I gently pressured them from behind while Roy called them towards the gate. Everything was going very smoothly until they reached the gate by the road.  The older ewes moved up to cross then suddenly turn to look for their lambs and the rest of the flock responded as though their turning was the signal to go back.  After several attempts, we called in the expert. Mac was thrilled to have the job.  I was afraid that his tendency to put on too much pressure would create chaos, but he stayed very controlled, gently staying back from the young lambs and only pressuring the older ewes. Within a couple minutes of putting Mac to work the flock was across the road and in the barnyard; every single lamb accounted for.  After that, setting up for shearing was a matter of Roy doing some heavy lifting and by early evening, everything was in place.  

I missed the action of shearing day this year because it coincided with my monthly trip to New Morning Farm's Sheridan School Market, but according to Roy, everything went exceedingly well. Three sheep into shearing and the reason behind our early lambing was discovered; a ram with a feminine young face and testicles that will not win him any bragging rights had cleverly disguised himself in the ewe flock.  Before you think we are total idiots, which may well be true, let me just give you a little insight into animal sexual behavior.  When a ewe is in heat, it is not at all unusual for another ewe to mount her; cows act the same way.  With wooly sheep and saggy udders, sometimes it just doesn't occur to one that more is going on than ewes behaving as ewes often do.  Oh well.  This frisky adolescent did earn some bragging rights now however.  Our lambs look quite vigorous and are growing well.  It's no wonder the little guy stayed so thin, he was quite busy.  Properly identified, he was put in his place among the breeding rams where he was overheard telling exaggerated stories of his months among the ladies.