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Sabrina and I ran the sheep farm Saturday - 02/22/2020

Discussion in 'The Pet Post (Non Doberman)' started by obbanner, Feb 25, 2020.

  1. obbanner

    obbanner $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber

    Herding is an expensive dog sport. You're not only renting a large area of land, but a flock of live animals for the duration of your lesson. It's not a cost that's shared with other students, as you and the dog work alone. I offset that cost by helping out on the sheep farm whenever I can. I took care of the farm in January a couple years ago while the owners took a two week trip to Egypt. My trainer said, "You'll get LOTS of herding lessons for this!"

    The pregnant ewes are separated out in a flock kept behind the barn. There's basically three flocks that don't normally intermingle. The training flock of ewes, the milking flock for the sheep cheese and yogurt, and the rams. In September, the rams are put in with the ewes for a month to breed, then they're once again separated. In February, the pregnant ewes from the training and milking flocks are kept together during lambing. The farm times lambing in February, which is the coldest month, because the mothers are needed for herding trials. The lambs must be weaned and the mothers ready for trials in April. The newborn lambs and their mothers have to be brought inside the barn in their own pen because it's too cold outside in February for the newborns.

    Saturday I helped out with lambing while the owners were away all day. I would check the pregnant ewes every twenty minutes. When I got there, all was well, so I took Sabrina out to the training flock for some practice. When we were done, I checked the flock and saw a tiny head sticking up above a pile of hay and mom was standing nearby. I prepared for the move by turning on a heat lamp and opening a pen gate.

    When I went back outside, I saw there were two more lambs - triplets! The video below shows mom licking the lamb. They're born covered with an iodine colored mucus. A quick way to check if there's a newborn lamb in the flock is to look for a ewe with an iodine colored nose.

    Getting them into the barn isn't easy. The barn is at the top of a slope and the floor is about a foot above ground level. There's a lip of about ten inches above the floor level. The top of the lip is about two feet above the ground outside. So you enter by stepping on a cinder block, step over the lip down onto the barn floor. The door is a warped piece of plywood that swings in the breeze. Think about trying to get a sheep inside that.

    My first attempt was to pick up the last born lamb, the runt, and try to lure the mother inside. My logic was that she'd want to get to the lamb she hadn't licked yet. An additional complication rose when I couldn't get the mother to cross a four inch black plastic corrugated drain pipe that was across the yard. She kept running back to the two lambs left behind. I put those two in the pen under the heat lamp and tried luring the mother in again. Another sheep got into the act and kept head butting her side and chasing her away from the door. When I got her close to the door, the other sheep met her head to head and chased her away. I got the mother to stick her head in the door and the other sheep came and rammed her good. I got a broom and whacked the other sheep until she left us alone. I was successful luring the mother to put her front legs inside the barn, then the wind caught the door, smacked the sheep in the butt and she was out of there. Several attempts later, she finally came inside the barn and was penned.

    The runt wasn't doing well. I put him in the corner under the heat lamp and he just laid there. He'd move, but he wouldn't try to get up. In the video above, the first born lamb was already standing fifteen minutes after birth. The lamb mom is licking stood soon after. But the runt never stood and mom ignored it. Livestock have a sense of babies that won't survive and it's called 'failure to thrive'. The mothers will ignore them. The runt seemed alert and looking around, but wasn't getting any attention. A couple hours later, he was still shivering from the wet mucus, so I dried him off with paper towels because I thought he might catch cold. It was a sunny forty degree day, so I dried him off on the hood of my car where he'd get the sunlight. The rubbing invigorated him and he was moving more when I put him on the grass. I put him back with mom and she started licking him. Four hours after being born, he started trying to stand. Later when the owner got home, he milked mom and tubed the runt, and he was standing when I left. The owners were thrilled that mom had triplets, two of which are female, because she's their best milker and they hope the two lambs will also be good milkers.

    I fed while there. The ram flock and the camel are easy - throw some hay over the fence and dump a bucket of grain through the fence. The pregnant ewes are lured to another field where grain is put out for them to keep them from being hit by hay bales from the loft. Then throw seven bales of hay out of the loft to be put in hay racks so they can eat it when they're put back behind the barn. The training flock has to be rounded up and penned so the hay and grain can be put out in the pasture.


    This is Sabrina fetching and penning the flock. They started out scattered all over the nine acre pasture, and when they saw us coming, came together and walked up to the far corner. Sabrina fetches them and puts them in the holding pen. Sabrina is an easy worker. She doesn't chase the sheep all over the place. She knows when to put pressure on them and when to back off so they walk to the pen.

    After the food is put out, Sabrina removes them from the pen. Once the sheep were out of the pen, they headed for the grain and hay.

    My day wasn't over. I left my ignition on to recharge my phone. I didn't turn off my headlights when I got there in the morning, so I had a dead battery. Fortunately, I had the keys to the farm truck, so was able to jump the battery. :green:
    • Wow x 7
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  2. MyBuddy

    MyBuddy Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    Wow, what a day being a farmer, ir maybe rancher! LOL Triplets are adorable and good for you for helping that little one. It's totally a different life being in charge of many types of animals. Sabrina is an important part of that! And she loves it.
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  3. Ddski5

    Ddski5 Hot Topics Subscriber $ Forum Donor $

    Cool place, situation and life you have up there.

    Enjoy reading your stories.
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  4. Ravenbird

    Ravenbird Notable member

    Just wondering, what do they do with the camel???
    • I was wondering about that too! I was wondering about that too! x 1
  5. obbanner

    obbanner $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber

    Alexander the camel guards the sheep. Before they got Xander, they lost about twenty sheep a year to coyotes. The field he's kept in is called The Killing Field because they lost so many sheep there. Xander has been there six years and they lost only one sheep.

    He was bought from a pharmaceutical lab where he was used to test drugs. The guy who shears their flock also shears at the lab and told them about Xander. Xander wasn't used for the type of experiments where he'd have to be destroyed, so he was bought for $3,000. The Amish breed camels for sale and charge $30,000.

    Xander likes dogs. Many dogs visit the farm during herding trials and lessons. He's good natured around people, but it's not a good idea to get too familiar with him. A local tv reporter did an episode on the farm, herding and Xander. He started showing off and Xander reached over the fence and grabbed him by the top of the head.
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  6. Ddski5

    Ddski5 Hot Topics Subscriber $ Forum Donor $

    Do Camels have a general disposition for guarding and keep of a flock or is Xander a special Camel?
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  7. obbanner

    obbanner $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber

    It's Xander's presence that keeps them away from the farm. He's so alien to the coyotes, they leave the farm alone.

    If the sheep feel threatened, they'll run to the fence of Xander's field and Xander will come over to them.
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  8. jazzies mum

    jazzies mum Notable member

    Loved the account of the days doing up at the farm. I remember lambing time as particularly busy, and sometimes stressful, with little sleep and a few orphan lambs to feed each year. Sabrina is a great help and I love how low key and calm all the sheep moving was! Bugger about the flat battery.
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  9. MyBuddy

    MyBuddy Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    Wow, that's horrible that they lost so many! But what a godsend he has been! He's worth his weight in gold, I'll bet LOL. I don't think I'd mess with his sheep either!

    Kind of like this? LOL.
    camel eating child.jpg
    • Funny Funny x 7
  10. obbanner

    obbanner $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber

    A couple years ago, Carolyn said that Xander paid himself off for the sheep he saved to date.

    Yes, the head swallow was just like that! I forgot I posted the video on my YouTube channel in 2015. Watch from 3:00 to end. Xander actually did a whole head mouthing just like what happened to the kid, but it wasn't shown. Mike got a serious bite from Xander, but he cleaned it up and laughed it off. My contribution to the episode was videoing Mike when he was in the rings with Lola.

    • Wow x 4
  11. LifeofRubie

    LifeofRubie Active Member

    All very cool stuff! I'm surprised they don't have a donkey? Aren't they typical flock protectors? There's a farm a few miles down the road from my mom's house and they have a donkey in with a couple horses and cows. The sound that thing makes...

    And who in their right mind would pay an Amish man $30,000 for a camel?!?

    One of these days I will buy a nice chunk of land outside of Chicago and have fields and sheep for herding and IPO, indoor pool for dock diving and therapy, rings of mats for obedience/manners/trick training, turf/dirt for agility, and bales of hay for barn hunt. Rent out each section to trainers or individuals and badabing, I'm rich and have a Doggie Chicagoland Empire.
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  12. MyBuddy

    MyBuddy Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    I've heard that for watching cattle from coyotes. In fact, there is one a couple of miles west of us who has donkeys in with their cattle.

    We'll get going! Come down this way! I'm getting old. I want to be able to sit in the Sidelines and at least watch!
    • Funny Funny x 1
  13. JanS

    JanS DCF Owner Administrative Staff Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    That is so cool and I'm always impressed with the way you and Sabrina work together!

    The lambs are adorable and it's great you were able to save the runt to the point of mom taking care of it again.

    My thoughts exactly! I don't know how it is there but around here (well Wisconsin) they are greeders and don't care about the animals at all unless they're serving a purpose.
    Around here many people use Llamas or Alpacas to guard their herds of sheep and goats. I know a couple people who use Pyrenees or Anatolian's to protect their herd from wolves since they are a couple of the few dog breeds who can overtake a wolf.
  14. Tropicalbri's

    Tropicalbri's $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber $ Forum Donor $

    I love the Dromendary camels and the Bactrian. Their requirements for salt and how they utilize it is amazing. Also their hooves are different between the two allowing for long hot sand journeys without it burning them. Such unique and amazing animals.

    I read a while back about an ordered kill of both Dromendary and Bactrian feral camels in Australia due to heat and fires. Did this actually happen @jazzies mum?

    Sabrina is awesome, I would love to see her work herding in person. I am jealous of you getting to help birth and care for the ewes. I loved going to my grandmother’s farm just to help with all the livestock. She had Collies that were amazing herders. Course I wanted to play with them and make them house dogs. Granny did not allow that so I had to sneak around to pet and give them treats. They tolerated me. :D

    How do they feed Xander? Does he get a diet of plants that contain salt?
  15. obbanner

    obbanner $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber

    In my early herding lessons, my teacher would scream, "Help her, help her!!!!!". I got screamed at a lot for that and other reasons. Sabrina doesn't have a strong eye and is tiny, so I have to help her more than is required for other dogs. I recently realized I never saw a smaller dog than Sabrina in a herding trial, or even one close to her size. If she loses the flock, it can be impossible to get it together again and move it along the course within the time limits. The flock can also lose respect for her, which means I may as well retire from the course.

    That's not as bad as it sounds because it was imperative for me to learn to be a better herder. I had to learn what was going on in the minds of the flock so I could anticipate problems before they started. In trials, I'd look at the course and see where the draws are that attract the sheep. If I'm not first, I watch the runs before me to see where sheep are drawn and where the flock is lost. I had to learn the small little signs that show sheep are thinking about going someplace I don't want them so I could sent Sabrina to cut them off before they made their move. Sometimes a large flock will break in two because they want to move at different speeds, so Sabrina has to keep on the back of the slower moving sheep.

    I went to a Christmas party and was talking to a man with national championships with his border collies. He was explaining to a woman how his border collies weave back and forth (called wearing) behind the flock because the sheep go back and forth along the course. Because I can't always get the sheep back on line without wasting time, I can't let them weave back and forth and we go down the course in a straight line. I later asked him about reading the flock so he could keep the flock on centerline, and he had no idea what I was talking about because his border collies can correct any mistake. He never learned to read a flock. That's not uncommon. I was a judges scribe at a trial and a woman who had a sheep farm and a very good dog entered the highest class (there's no requirement for predecessor titles in herding). The judge was watching her and remarked that she doesn't know sheep. At home, her dog could clean up all her messes, but she got dinged unnecessary points in the trial.

    It took about five years before I felt comfortable reading the flock. Sabrina and I now work very well together as a team. Sabrina is well balanced and keeps one eighty degrees across the flock from me. A slight move in either direction will get her moving in the other direction to keep that balance unless I tell her otherwise. She doesn't need to be told to bring the flock to me and keep them following me. So when I see a sheep start looking anywhere but straight ahead or drifting off to the side, I can move my body or give her a command to get that sheep thinking straight again. What I developed was an instinct, a feel for what the flock will do based on the little things I see going on in the flock.

    Sabrina's only fault is I can't get her to do the 300 yard outruns for the B Course. On a good day, she'll do a hundred yard outrun, but usually she'll stop and look back at me. I think she doesn't feel comfortable being that far away from me. She's only fourteen pounds, so I'm glad she works as well as she does.
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  16. MyBuddy

    MyBuddy Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    Wow, is that all she is!? :wideyed: She IS tiny, my goodness. Kali is 11 lbs. I can't imagine that Sabrina is that small!
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  17. obbanner

    obbanner $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber

    Her coat makes her look bigger than she is! :D:D:D

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  18. obbanner

    obbanner $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber

    Your granny is old school like my parents. They grew up on farms and my dogs weren't allowed in the house when I was a boy.

    Xander doesn't get anything special to my knowledge. He has a salt block along with the sheep. He eats grain, hay and crackers. He also eats junk in his field such as bramble bushes and thistle. He's quite a mowing machine.
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  19. Tropicalbri's

    Tropicalbri's $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber $ Forum Donor $

    I have a cat that is 6lbs heavier than Sabrina. :eek: Trust me he looks bigger wet than he does dry.:rofl:
    Sabrina is a Mighty 14lbs!
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  20. jazzies mum

    jazzies mum Notable member

    Sorry, am just catching up with things. I am not sure if they did a cull but most of the feral camels are out in the central desert regions where fires are rare. I do know they sell many back to the Emirates as they are healthier animals than their own. And there is a camel meat industry too.

    Wow, a wet Sabrina really is tiny! Makes her herding even more impressive! :thumbsup2:
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