Events Page

Hosting Sheep (January 2023)

In 2021, I sold off most of the equipment we still had after selling our herd of cattle. In the course of those sales, I reconnected with a sustainable farming friend (she does regenerative grazing like we did) who has meat sheep (often known as 'hair sheep' because these sheep don't grow a big wool coat). We chatted (after she stowed the items she bought in her pickup) about many things, one of which was how our pasture was REALLY overgrown since we no longer had livestock keeping the foliage under control AND our tractor was in one of it's "no, I am not going to be working this summer, leave me alone" periods (no matter what my hubbie did to repair it).

I seemed to remember that she had been 'renting out' her sheep to control hard-to-maintain areas and asked if she would be interested in doing that to our pasture and what kind of cost would that entail? She wasn't doing that at the time, but was interested in putting her sheep on our pasture as a way to take the strain off her own land so it could grow a good 'standing grass' for winter (to minimize purchasing hay).

She didn't want me to pay her and I didn't want her to pay me because the exchange was very beneficial to both of us. She lives about 30 minutes away and for her that distance/time was acceptable for her to make daily visits to the pasture to check on the sheep, their water, etc. We would not have to do anything but enjoy having animals eating their way through the tall foliage.

Eventually, we decided that since we are both in the business of farming, we should come to some barter arrangement for legal purposes because, technically, she was renting the pasture from us. We ended up with a lovely amount of processed lamb for our freezer.

This is Bosco. She is a miniature donkey and lives with the sheep. She is very protective of them and we knew better than to enter the pasture until she got very familiar with us and no longer considered us a threat.

Since there was no reason for us to enter the pasture (save an emergency), Bosco tolerated us very nicely.

I've been seeing articles against putting donkeys with sheep because some attack newborn lambs... this was not the case with Bosco. I suppose it all comes down to how someone trains their animals. (Just like it does with guard dogs.)

I am not an expert on sheep, let alone hair sheep. Thank goodness my friend is.

I love the coloring of this breed (not sure the name of the breed even).

The dark bellies with the light brown backs are beautiful.

The sheep had been with us about a week at this point and they had done a great job on this part of the pasture.

We really enjoyed having them around. There is something about the sounds and scents of livestock that is very satisfying.

Lots of young lambs and a few brand new ones as well.

The mommas had ear tags and some had this 'bell' tag as well.

Below are two (2) images of pretty much the entire herd. First one is as many as I could get in one shot and the second is a closer image of part of the herd.

As I recall, there were about 100 sheep on the pasture this time.

During their stay with us, they needed to be gathered, separated and vetted. My friend and her helper did this and we stayed out of the way. It is amazing how easily the sheep got 'spooked.'

Here you see them (or can you see them? LOL) hanging out in the shade trying to avoid being herded anywhere.

The electric woven wire fence is the same as we used for our chickens. Very effective.

We offered the use of our water/field hydrant, but my friend wanted more control of their water (to know how much they were drinking, making sure it was the same as they were used to, etc.).

She brought insulated coolers and filled them with water she hauled. On top of the water sits black hollow balls which the sheep are used to moving out of the way and otherwise act as shade for the water, keeping it cooler in the insulated coolers.

Above you see how trusting of their owner the sheep are, she quietly walked them to where she needed to contain them.

The wire was moved to allow for the truck and trailer and create a 'chute' to funnel them inside it.

We stayed WELL AWAY because the sheep were not thrilled with the trailer and bolted a couple of times before this point.

I used my telephoto to get this image. Notice that the helper is hiding behind the door in order to not spook the sheep (not as well known to them as their owner).

Slow and stead is key.

Once one sheep entered the trailer, all the others followed easily.

Bosco was no help at all, LOL. She is not a sheepdog, she is a guard donkey and hung out in the shade away from the drama.

With all the sheep secured in the trailer -- REALLY BIG TRAILER -- the sheep were moved to the front end and the half-way gate was closed. That gate has a smaller door in it and they opened it enough to get one sheep into the back end at a time before closing it. There they checked for weight, physical condition, applied any treatment that was needed and once finished, let it out of the trailer where Bosco had finally moved close to meet it.

As I recall, this process took a couple of hours. They were happy to be able to do it on-site and the day wasn't overly hot.

My friend DOES have a herding dog, by the way. She did not want to excite the sheep this time and that is why she worked patiently and slowly to herd them herself.

In 2021, the sheep were on the 15 acres of pasture for six (6) to eight (8) weeks (September/October) before my friend decided they had gotten all they could get from our pasture. This was completely her call. We can read our pasture well after having had the cattle, but the sheep and the cattle approach eating through it differently so it was better for us to stay out of that decision. In hindsight, I'd say they did a better job of cleaning up the pasture than the cattle. Could be it was because there were more mouths and therefore more competition for food.

We were both so pleased with the experience that we agreed to do it again in 2022. My friend brought her sheep to our pasture in mid-June this time and, once again, they spent eight (8) weeks on the pasture before it was played out. She had hoped to bring them out again in the late fall but we had drought this year and when she came out to check on the pasture condition she decided the pasture had not recouped enough to support the herd for long enough to make it worthwhile to her. Completely understandable, definitely her call.

Once again we ended up with lamb in the freezer. And yes, I do know what the amount of lamb is valued at because she sells direct to consumer and gave me the total so I could account for it. In case you are not aware, barter is considered a cash-type transaction and the value needs to be assigned to whatever you are using to barter (for tax/legal purposes).

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