Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Taking lambs 'down south'

On Friday, we loaded up three of our spring lambs to take to the locker for turning into lamb chops. Anyone who thinks sheep are dumb has never met our sheep. They are ridiculously smart. I think they can actually read minds, or they have incredibly good hearing, and they can hear our conversations a quarter mile away ... in the house!

Jonathan went out to the pasture with their hay just like any other day, but no one wanted anything to do with it. They sensed a trap!

But we did eventually manage to herd them into the shelter area in spite of their reservations.

I was in charge of closing the gate behind everyone when they ran into the shelter area. Jonathan was in charge of standing behind a temporary fence so that the sheep wouldn't knock it down and run out into another pasture entirely. And Mike was in charge of actually catching the sheep and putting them into dog crates on the back of the pick-up. We usually use a trailer, and when Mike suggested dog crates, I thought there was something about the idea that wasn't quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

So, Mike caught the first one ...

and this handsome fellow was watching as his friend was loaded up.

And then Mike caught him. Without another person available to handle the gate between the pasture and pick-up, Mike had to hop over the fence.

And then Mike caught the third one.

And then the third one decided he didn't want to go to the locker.

You see that dog crate? It had a door only moments earlier. The door is now bent up to the point where it is probably ruined. The ram hit it once and shook the whole crate as I saw one of the door's four pins pop out of the hole that is responsible for keeping the door attached to the crate as a door. I yelled at Mike because he was closest, and he stretched across the tailgate of the truck to try to hold the door in place. As the ram hit it again, Mike realized the ram would soon have the door detached from the crate, and he jumped onto the pick-up bed. And it wasn't a moment too soon!

As Mike held the lamb, we brainstormed about how to get him to the locker. We agreed that the ram was able to knock off the door because the crate was big enough for him to back up and get some force behind his head to hit the door. We wound up putting him in a smaller crate, and we put the crate in the cab. Mike turned the other two crates so that the doors faced each other, which we hoped would dissuade the other rams from trying to knock off the doors of their crates. And even if they did try, we were assuming that they would not be able to get out of the crate because when they were end to end in the bed of the pick-up, they were snug enough that the rams would not be able to get out, even if the door was missing.

I was worried from the moment I left the pasture. The last thing I wanted was to hear that our lambs were splatted across I-55. I wasn't even that optimistic about the one in the cab with Mike. What if he busted out of the crate while Mike was driving and then he busted through the window? I have no doubt he could have shattered the window with one hit from his head. Luckily my worst fears were not realized, and all three made it to the locker, and the crates and the truck were still in one piece. Mike said that the two rams in the bed of the pick-up did get a little rowdy when he started to unload them, however. So, he won't be using dog crates again to transport rams. We are just really lucky that the one tried to get out when we were still right there and could stop him.

We have more lambs and goats to take in this Friday, and I'm not sure how we'll do it. Mike is worried about the truck being able to pull the trailer up the slight incline to get out of the pasture. (It's a rear-wheel drive.) Usually we park it on the road, but that's a long way to carry a sheep from the shelter to the road, which is why he liked the idea of using dog crates. Maybe we'll come up with Plan C by this Friday!


Tombstone Livestock said...

Oh so been there, done that, but never had them bust out of the crate. I bunge cord the door back to the crate on both sides and then turn crate around to back of cab or face another crate, and then tie them in bed so they can't slide. Maybe put them in crate to take to trailer would work. I have cut cattle panels to fit pick up bed and hauled goats, just tying panels together, may want to put top on it for frisky critters.

Funny how the ones you want to catch know as soon as you walk up to the herd just who is on your list. Good Luck.

Possum Hill Farms said...

I find that all livestock are smarter than the common opinion. Having raised a buttload of poultry, I can contest to this. Your sheep are so beautiful. I yearn for the day that I can raise my own!

Stopping by from Life With a Possum, possumhillfarms.com

Michelle said...

Obviously you don't shear them before slaughter; do you save the pelts? Such beautiful fleeces; I hope they didn't go to waste!

Spinners End Farm said...

I'm with Michelle...that black fleece is gorgeous!

Deborah Niemann said...

No worries, ladies! The pelts have already been scraped and salted and will be going to Stern Tanning. They do a very nice job with the longer fibers on our lambs.

Marilyn said...

If the trip isn't to long or the animals to large you might try putting more than one critter in a crate. Less room to move around and cause trouble. I have had good luck using dog crates to transport...but I do tie the gates shut ....just in case


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