Baa Baa Black Sheep

November 6, 2009, Posted by Brio Guy at 12:34 pm

Actually we don’t have any black sheep but would keep one if we did.  We did have a black lamb once but it turned brown or tan or speckled with time.  Maybe it turned white since we have all those colors now.  Our sheep are Katahdins.  Katahdin are hair sheep which means they shed and don’t need to be sheared.  That is good since wool is lucky to cover the cost of a shearer. The meat is mild and quite tasty.

I still don’t know why we raise sheep.  They die if you look at them, they require an extra couple of fence wires to keep them contained and need dogs to protect them from themselves, coyotes, other dogs and just about every thing else that eats meat.  They are the chicken of the range for every omnivore within miles.  They look at the ground and get worms.  They look anywhere else and run and the whole flock runs with them. 

I guess I raise sheep because I love them.  They are miniature camels. If you don’t water them for a few days, they don’t even notice.  Feed them once and they will come to you forever.  They are cattle in fur coats.  They are dumb as a rock but never forget where they were fed or ever found food.  Catch them where they should not be eating and they don’t run away but instead walk to you seemingly to say, “Thank you for such a surprising treat.  Do you have anymore?”  I keep sheep because I like them and because they like me and because my customers like them.  And I keep them because a lamb is between the pig and the cow on our logo on my cap and I would rather keep the sheep and the cap rather than order a new one.

So with this in mind I called Marlene and asked, “When do you want to worm the sheep.” 

“Who am I talking to?”   She responded.

Worming sheep is a tricky thing for a farmer who loves dung beetles even more than sheep.  So it gave me some satisfaction to read “Faeces from sheep treated with albendazole (Valbazen) had no detectable effects on breeding by either flies or beetles”.  I am always fighting an uphill battle so I decided to go for Valbazen as our wormer.

Marlene asked, “Did you order the applicator?” 

Oh well, one more call and a week later we had the applicator to go along with the bottle of Valbazen we had ordered a week earlier.  Derek and James were there and Marlene was the boss.  Normally we would just start grabbing sheep and pouring medicine down their throats but Marlene is a professional and insisted we have a plan.  So the next hour was spent setting up gates to make a chute and agreeing which animals would go where.  What a difference a plan makes.black sheep

We got the medicine and the drenching applicator out and a long discussion proceeded on whether drenching is pouring on the back or down the throat.  A quick check gave us the answer that drenching is “A large dose of liquid medicine, especially one administered to an animal by pouring down the throat.”  The applicator is a metal tube that is curved to fit easily into the sheep’s mouth and shoot a dose of medicine down its gullet by squeezing a plunger connected by a plastic tube to the bottle of Valbazen.  You hold the sheep’s head with one hand, the applicator with one hand and the Valbazen bottle with the other hand.  It can be tricky if you are not quick or do not have three hands.  You do not want to spill the dewormer on you hand and lick it off.

“How much do we give them?” Marlene asked.

A call to Jeffers Livestock Supply told us the dosage was 3.0 ML for a hundred pound sheep and to not worry about too much since it had been tested at dosages 10 to 20 times the recommendation.  We were ready and ran our first 4 sheep in the alley way, drenched, tagged if needed and sorted them.  This was a piece of cake.

“When do we eat?” asked Derek in less than a half hour.. 

I looked at my watch which said a quarter to almost one and bided adieu to Derek while he cooked a couple hamburgers on the George Foreman. 

It seemed the sheep would take a nip and say, “Hey, this is pretty good” as they swallowed the whole doze without spilling a drop.  Knock on wood.  Actually the ewes all looked pretty healthy and it was only this years lambs who needed it the most and even some of them looked “wormless”. 

Derek was back by now and it was James’ turn to eat.  Marlene and I were a smooth running team until I did not latch the gates properly and Derek gleefully pointed out my mistake as 4 sheep ran the wrong way.  Marlene calmly assured me it was no problem and we could get them the next day.  We finished in another hour or so but it never ends.  Marlene announced I needed to de-worm the young wormier ones again in three weeks and then not slaughter them for another week.

I love sheep again and loved the half a chicken I had saved for Marlene and me even more as Derek walk by and asked, “What is that?”

I answered, “Don’t lick your fingers.”

Your Farmer & Agrarian Philosopher Jim

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