A lot has happened since our first sheep arrived in early May. Because renovations at Breton Meadow Farm were not complete, we had to care for our sheep at a distance. We stopped by once or twice daily for several weeks on our way to and from work.
As newcomers to the sheep raising business, we didn’t always know what to expect. The weather turned cold and rainy the first weekend after they arrived. With forecasts of near freezing temperatures and the fact that our sheep had been shorn only a week earlier, we turned to Betty and Ellen, who have been caring for sheep in Lincoln for many years. They advised providing shelter. We considered piling some bales of hay around the pen to provide a windbreak, but the sheep saw this as the basis for a game of king of the mountain and started gamboling up and down the bales knocking them apart. We turned to plan B, which was to move them into the garage.
The garage has a screened sitting area in one corner about 9 by 20 feet that would provide shelter from above and on two sides that we decided would do the job. We moved a somewhat reduced version of the pen inside the garage, set up electric netting around the area so the sheep wouldn’t escape and got out a small container of corn. The sheep needed no additional convincing to leave the pasture and enter the pen in the garage. They spent three days there until the rain stopped and the temperature rose into the fifties.
The sheep returned to a new area of the pasture with no problems; they followed us like, well…, sheep. The area they had started in was pretty well eaten down and the sheep seemed happy to have new grass. This second area had a considerable amount of curly dock that they carefully ignored.
We decided to enlist the expertise of a veterinarian to check out our sheep. We left little to chance. Famacha scoring, teeth and hoof examination, body condition assessment, fecal egg count, booster shots, and probably some I have forgotten. Generally, all the sheep were in excellent health. One of the wethers showed an elevated coccidia level so we will probably treat him for that. We also determined that lice were present so we treated them for that.
We finally moved into our renovated home during the second week of June. Ray is happy that the sheep care is now a mostly routine affair so that we can focus on unpacking and finding the missing parts of our household.
We face a common problem with pasture management — too much grass in the Spring. We only have six small sheep and the grass is getting way ahead of their needs. The sheep are selecting their favorite bits and leaving the woody stems behind. Leaving them on a particular area longer means that other parts of the pasture don’t get eaten and become less palatable for the sheep. We will have to clip most of the pasture soon so it can return to producing grass the sheep will eat.