Ideally we would have used the North Farms handling system but various components had been drafted here and there when the barn's feeding layout was rearranged. It just so happens the panels that make up the chute are excellent gates. Mike and I were able to piece together a small, though functional, handling system. After all, a small handling setup is better than no handling setup.
Photo: Our small but effective handling setup.
The sheep were brought to the holding pen and we were able to get started tagging. Mike placed tags while I refilled the ear tag applicator. About halfway through we switched and I placed tags while he loaded the applicator.
A few times when refilling the chute, the sheep balked at the entrance and refused to go into the chute. Eventually Mike and I were able to coerce the sheep into the chute but not without a few hiccups. This only occurred when the forcing pen was low on sheep. When this occurred we would fill the pen with more sheep.
Photo: The ewes in the forcing pen waiting to go through the chute.
Eventually the last of the sheep were in the forcing pen. Luckily I saw a crook hanging on a nearby panel and grabbed it. The sheep now knew that I was serious about moving them through the system and they cooperated much more readily than before. I mentioned to Mike that all it took for the sheep to recognize my legitimacy as a shepherd was a shepherd's crook. He humored me by agreeing and went back to placing ear tags in the tagger. I wish I had grabbed the crook earlier, it saved a lot of time.
Photo: The ewe who decided to leave her pen and find the alleyway. We carry buckets of feed down this alleyway and drop feed into the bunks as we walk along.
Once the sheep were tagged we had to bring them back to their original feeding pens. Of course sheep being sheep, one decided to go over one of the feeders rather than around where all the others went. We were able to get her back to her pen without any issue after that.
Photo: Mike and Joe moving sheep from pen to pen. Notice the ewes catching a quick bite from a big bale feeder (far right) while everyone else is walking by the drive by feeders.