At last, the snow is beginning to melt. Since the December update, we have received a lot of additional snow. The sheep have handled it well. Mostly, they avoid it if they can and otherwise try to ignore it. While the snow is falling, they find a place where the wind eddies around them, turn their backs and wait it out.
We have also had pretty low temperatures on several days reaching down to 9 below zero Fahrenheit. Not cold if you are someplace like Minnesota, but colder than our sheep have ever experienced. It did not seem to faze them much at all. Primarily, they spent more time lying down with their feet and legs tucked in underneath.
For the nine younger sheep, the shed helps. (We revised the shed to be shorter so it no longer tends to blow away.) It is not quite big enough for all of them to lie down, but at least once they chose to all stand inside it. The protection extends beyond the interior due to the wind shadow created.
The older sheep just depend on finding the least windy spot with the least snow on the ground. One unfortunate effect of this behavior is the accumulation of manure in these favorite spots.
The sheep have established trails between their hangouts and with the snow reaching above their backs do not venture very far off the trails. It is interesting to watch when two groups of sheep traveling in opposite directions meet on the trail. They do not go around each other; they wait until the more subordinate sheep backs up.
The snow means that most of the head butting has stopped; there is not enough room to get a running start. There is still a lot butt-butting, which is pretty tame by comparison.
The electric netting we are using to confine the sheep into their respective areas is 32 inches high. Know what happens when there is 36 inches of snow on the ground? When the snow is soft, there is not much difference; the sheep continue to stay on the trails. But, last week we got warmer weather plus rain and freezing rain followed by a drop in temperature creating a nice, firm crust. The sheep quickly found that they were no longer confined to the trails and started cavorting around on the crust. The next morning we awoke to find our carefully separated flocks mingling together as they explored the previously off-limits areas. We had been trying to decide when we would bring them together. That question is now moot.
Yesterday, the weather warmed and we were concerned that the crust would soften and immobilize the sheep where we did not want them to be. Warmer weather is supposed to continue for a few days so we will see what happens. We might try to reestablish a fence with the electric netting by tramping down a fence line so the sheep cannot just walk over the top, but that sounds like a lot of work.
The snow has been slowly melting, but the sheep continue to shuttle back and forth crossing the electric netting with aplomb. The netting is sagging where the snow has dragged it down as it melts so it poses no real barrier. When the time is ripe, we will try to erect additional netting stuck into the snow. We need to keep the sheep off the newly seeded pasture as the ground begins to soften or else they will unroot all the new grass. That will take several more weeks.
The smaller sheep have learned an annoying trick: They are using the hay feeders as shelters, laying down on the hay and resting. This wouldn’t be so bad except they contaminate the hay with excrement making it unpalatable for all the sheep. Reducing the size of the openings may help, but we haven’t done anything yet except to not use the feeders and putting the hay on top of the snow instead.