Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tuning the Flock…

For those interested in adding a little pizzazz to their pasture, consider bells. Their attractive tones add a sense of musicality to a pastoral scene while also having a practical use (or two).

Longtime Premier consultant Gordon uses bells with his own flock of Ile de France ewes and lambs. On using bells, if the ewes are in his thick timber pasture, he can go to the front of the pasture, sit and listen for a minute. The bell tones will tell him exactly where his flock is located in the timber paddock.  

An added benefit is the angst it causes in coyotes. "Anything (that maintenance free) to disrupt or make a predator nervous is worth doing,"

Pete Arambel, co-owner of The Shepherd Magazine runs a flock of 6,000 head in Wyoming. He too uses bells—about 1 per every 25 ewes.

  • When grazing forested areas—it's easier to find sheep with bells than binoculars. 
  • The guardian dogs become accustomed to normal bell tones, but when a different sound is heard (such as a ewe being bothered by a predator) the dogs charge forth to investigate. 

Premier's 3 bell options. Ram, steel and brass. 

Per Pete—bells go on ewes in the Spring after shearing. Ewes new to bells dance around a little bit but eventually become accustomed to the bells.

How tight should the bell's collar be? You should be able to slide your hand under the collar. Too loose and the collar may come off.

A final benefit—your family and friends will think they look cool on the sheep (at least that's what Gordon says). 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ewes rejecting lambs?

Ewe placed in an orphan head gate. Ewes that reject their lambs may be placed in the head gate to re-bond them with their lambs. Can also be used to graft lambs onto ewes. 

It's not uncommon to have a ewe reject her lambs. There are a variety or reasons that this may happen.
  • First time mothers may be afraid of what just came out of them. 
  • If group penned close together, some ewes become nervous. This is an opportune time for granny ewes to come and steal lambs. 
  • Sometimes a ewe having multiples will lose track of the first lamb (while focusing on birthing the second or third, etc). She then cleans off the later born lamb(s) meanwhile the 1st has wandered off. 
  • Sharp teeth. This causes discomfort to the ewe during feeding so they prevent the lamb from feeding in order to avoid the pain. This is fixed with a quick pass with a tooth file. Check the lambs teeth before doing so to ensure this is the cause of the neglect. 
For most cases (other than sharp teeth), rejection can be remedied by placing the ewe in an orphan head gate. 
Lamb with sharp teeth. Filing the teeth prevent the lamb from damaging the dam's udder.